Grandma wants in on the bitcoin action: Why does the WSJ think that’s pathetic?

Better hope Bill is running the Coinbase account?
Better hope Bill is running the Coinbase account?
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
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Search for a grandma memes on the Internet and the first result offers the always hilarious image of a white-haired woman with a look of confusion and worry on her face:

Image for article titled Grandma wants in on the bitcoin action: Why does the WSJ think that’s pathetic?


Search for grandpa memes, and the first item you’ll find is a no-nonsense, gun-toting man who looks meaner than Clint Eastwood:

Image for article titled Grandma wants in on the bitcoin action: Why does the WSJ think that’s pathetic?

When did grandma get so pathetic?

Just how pathetic? Well, today, the Wall Street Journal blared on the front page: “Bitcoin Mania: Even Grandma Wants In.”

Obviously, when grandma wants in—not grandpa—it’s stupid time. With just one word, the Journal editors telegraphed to readers that only fools would invest in cryptocurrencies now.

To be clear, my personal rant is not about whether bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are in bubble territory. This piece is about what happens to women when they get too old to be the objects of sexual harassment.

It isn’t flattering.

Let’s take a closer look at the WSJ feature, which leads with a woman named Rita Scott, a 70-year-old grandma. Her grandson convinced Scott to invest in bitcoin, which hilariously—really rib-splitting funny—she thought “was a big coin.” Unlike her grandson who was born knowing what bitcoin is because a) he is young and b) he is male, she had to learn about it because a) she is old and b) she is a woman who likes to play poker at a local casino in Las Vegas.

At the behest of her grandson, Scott invested a “few hundred dollars” in early November. Then the pair sold the investment on Monday when the price neared $10,000 for a profit of nearly 45%—which I estimate would work out to close to $150. Grandma, really?

The Journal quotes Scott: “Believe me, I didn’t have this much fun with T. Rowe Price.” Wait. Grandma has investments? Yes. Scott has saved money and invested in some mutual funds.

She didn’t bet her life savings on bitcoin.

She didn’t mortgage her house. And it wasn’t even her idea initially to invest. Her grandson CONVINCED her to do it.

Scott took some play money—perhaps money she would otherwise have used at the poker table—and put it into bitcoin. If that’s Grandma Wants In On the Action, sign me up.

In that same story, 78-year-old retiree Tony Horsely of Atlanta tells the Journal he began buying bitcoin last summer (July 1st price: $2450). He eventually dedicated 5% of his portfolio to Bitcoin-related investments and started an informal newsletter sharing what he had learned about bitcoin.

Grandpa is obviously a much bigger investor in cryptos then grandma but “Grandpa Wants In On the Action” just isn’t clickbait. Unlike grandma, he has a portfolio—not just some mutual funds. That’s a subtle but critical difference. One description suggests a strategy, the other a random act (oh, look, I have savings!). And we don’t get some hilarious send-up about how Horsely had initially thought the cryptocurrency was something you might find in a cemetery.

“Students Want In on the Action” might be more accurate headline for the story, based on the reporting. According to the Journal, 30% of the members in a fintech class at the University of Hong Kong said they had invested in cryptocurrencies. Students and technology would be unlikely to signal a top, even if they aren’t earning any money. These students are visionaries, the future risk-takers of the start-up world.

But older women and technology? Did you hear the one about the grandmother who accidentally texted a stranger to come to the house for Thanksgiving dinner? A true story!!! Grandmas and texting—such wacky stuff. Never mind, that it turns out the grandson had changed his phone number and forgotten to tell his grandmother.

Older women, technology AND money? Please. Never mind that women are usually better with budgets and investing. Yet grandma wants in on the action is not shorthand for wisdom when it comes to money. Just the opposite. Which would mean that we should hope that Bill and not Hillary is in charge of their finances—who knows what grandma might do with the Coinbase app.