The Man Who's Lived on Bitcoins for Three Years
For most of us, Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency are nothing more than futuristic concepts of money used only by a select group of people. For Olaf Carlson-Wee, Bitcoins are a source of life. The 26-year-old Coinbase worker has been living on Bitcoins as much as possible for the last three years.
Olaf was hired to work at Coinbase, a Bitcoin startup, in February 2013. At that time, he opted to get paid in the digital currency as opposed to cash. Bitcoin values have fluctuated tremendously over the years, going from $20-$30 in 2013 to $450 now.
Olaf said he originally tried to negotiate a fixed Bitcoin salary, but the company did not agree to the terms.
“This turned out for the best as it would likely have nearly bankrupted the company.”
Instead of paying a fixed Bitcoin amount, Coinbase pays Olaf a fixed dollar amount that is converted to Bitcoin upon payment.
How could a person live off such an under-used currency? It certainly hasn’t been easy. Olaf says that he refers to Bitcoin as his “default” currency. Anything he needs to pay for in cash requires him to first convert Bitcoin to cash and then pay accordingly. To avoid that hassle, Olaf lets Bitcoin acceptability determine where he lives, eats, shops, and spends his money. If Bitcoins aren’t accepted, Olaf will try to shop elsewhere.
On why he chooses to live on Bitcoin as opposed to traditional currency, Olaf said, “I view Bitcoin as the more democratic version of money and value transfer, because no one controls it…I expect the Internet to be around longer than any nation-state, so a nation-state-backed currency is actually less safe than an Internet currency in my mind.”