The Decoder: ‘Have Fun Staying Poor’

Four little words: At best a plea for people to open their minds. At worst, crypto-flavored cyberbullying.

AccessTimeIconMar 3, 2021 at 6:17 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:20 p.m. UTC

If you’ve sold your bitcoin too soon, someone on Twitter is going to tell you: "Have Fun Staying Poor." It's a phrase often attributed to bitcoin and virtual reality enthusiast Udi Wertheimer (who declined to comment for this article) but it has taken on a life on its own.

So, what exactly does "have fun staying poor" mean?

It is a plea for people to reconsider their finances

You’re most likely to encounter the meme as a response to someone that has just sold bitcoin, or has said he or she would never consider buying bitcoin. In this sense, “have fun staying poor” could be uttered as a genuine call to reconsider those decisions. 

As Coin Center’s Neeraj Agrawal explained over email, it’s meant to convey “that failure to open one's mind will make you miss opportunities.” 

Key to the bitcoin mind is the idea that bitcoin can only go up, while the U.S. dollar (and all other fiat currencies) are destined to collapse. “Have fun staying poor” is shorthand for that idea. 

It is a taunt

As Bloomberg columnist Jared Dillian recently experienced, being on the receiving end of the slogan is not always pleasant. After disclosing he sold his bitcoins, Dillian says he heard the four-word phrase for the next three days. “It went a little bit beyond normal Twitter playground trash-talk and crossed over into somewhat frightening territory,” he wrote in Bloomberg Opinion. 

Like all other in-groups, the bitcoin community partially forms its identity around what it is not. If  “hodling” defines being a bitcoiner, then everyone else necessarily has “paper hands.” 

It’s a way to gloat

Over bitcoin’s illustrious 12 years, it has faced no shortage of detractors. Bitcoin’s obituary has been written and rewritten enough times that someone has already written the quintessential story on the “rise and fall” of the “bitcoin is dead” meme. 

Add in bitcoin’s meteoric price rise over the past 12 months, rewarding those that have hodled, there might be reason to gloat. After all, bitcoin is certainly not dead.

It is a show of solidarity

In times when bitcoin’s direction is uncertain (nearly always), or even trending downwards, “have fun staying poor” is a way to rally the troops. Investing is a psychologically burdensome activity, even more so with assets as volatile as bitcoin. But the bitcoiner’s investment thesis is simple: buy, hold and forget about it until the world’s base currency is BTC. So in times of choppy waters, a simple call to action is required.

It is often misread

Agrawal notes the meme reverberates with meaning for those "steeped in the lore." It's a joke, it's a show of force, it's a life raft tossed to those drowning in the sea of "melting fiat," as MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor is wont to say.

"But I don't think an outsider, who is most often the recipient of the treatment, sees that nuance. From an optics perspective it's terrible," Agrawal said. "I get what Bitcoiners are trying to do, but I think it hurts more than it helps."

It is a way to criticize bitcoiners

There are some people who can stomach the abuse of bitcoiners in their mentions. Some may even draw strength from the attacks, secure in their own investment strategies. Take Nick Maggiulli, of the financial blog Of "Dollars And Data" and COO for Ritholtz Wealth Management, who sold half his BTC at $52,013 in February.

Maggiulli, a recent adopter of bitcoin, claimed a comfortable profit – 5x after taxes, he said. Despite this, he was told to have fun staying poor. As he notes in a recent blog, bitcoin's growth is all just numbers on a screen until you realize gains.

"I agree that the U.S. dollar is a terrible investment and that printing more money will make the U.S dollar worth less. However, worth less is not the same as worthless. It’s a slight nuance, but it makes a world of difference," he wrote.

It is a way to say goodbye

Sometimes you must kill your heroes. In February, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, an idol among bitcoin enthusiasts, announced that bitcoin was overheated and he was selling. “A currency is never supposed to be more volatile than what you buy & sell with it,” he tweeted. “You can't price goods in BTC.”

Taleb further chastised the bitcoin community as “[COVID-19]-denying sociopaths [with] the sophistication of amoebas.” For some, this really stung. Taleb, author of “Antifragile,” had defined key components of the bitcoin philosophy, namely that virtue only emerges through struggle.

“You should read 'Antifragile.' Great book,” Ark Invest analyst Yassine Elmandjra replied. “There is no long-term stability without short-term volatility,” he said, quoting Taleb.

For others, it was enough to say the obvious. Have fun staying poor. 


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