Cryptocurrency Investing: A Primer for Non-Crypto People

Disclaimer: Nothing in this post is financial or investment advice in any respect. Technical accuracy has intentionally been sacrificed for the sake of simplicity and relatability.

One of the biggest news stories over the past few years has been the rise of cryptocurrency and its impact on the economy, technology, and, frankly, all of humanity. This article will give investors a high-level view of various income opportunities in crypto.

Making the case for crypto

I promise we’ll get to the fun bits about making money, but first I want to highlight how disruptive and innovative this technology is. It will change every industry, and, in a few years, we’ll all be using it whether we know it or not.

First, the terms cryptocurrencies and blockchain are often used interchangeably, but are two separate technologies. For the sake of our discussion today, we’ll use some simplified definitions.

Blockchains are persistent, transparent, append-only, public ledgers. Think of a blockchain like a spreadsheet that anyone can interact with. Blockchain technology answers the question of “who did what when,” while preserving the integrity of that data via complex math. In practical terms it facilitates direct trade at scale.

Cryptocurrencies are digital assets that circulate on the internet as a medium of exchange. They use blockchain technology to operate. The first iteration, Bitcoin, started as a “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.”

A helpful analogy is me handing you $100 in cash at a restaurant. I gave the money directly to you. We didn’t have to both go to a bank to process a withdrawal from my account, exchange the cash, and deposit it into your account. 

Cryptocurrencies let me give you $100 directly from anywhere in the world no matter where either of us are, almost instantly, and without any middlemen involved. The Blockchain allows the direct trade, and the cryptocurrency provides the monetary value.

Only thinking of the basic peer-to-peer digital cash applications, think of the real-world implications of this innovation:

  • We are no longer limited to banker’s hours for access to our money.
  • The 3–5-day settlement of transactions is now just a few seconds.
  • Sending money internationally is simple, quick, and almost free.
  • No more credit card transaction fees for your business.
  • Those without bank accounts only need a smartphone to participate in the modern financial system.

And this is just with Bitcoin! We haven’t even touched on the potential of Smart Contracts, Decentralized Finance (DeFi), Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), Oracle networks, integration with AI, automation, or other decentralized systems (like Airbnb or Uber)!


So how do you make money with cryptocurrencies?

There are a few different ways to make money with crypto, each with degrees of management, technical skills, and risk. I’ll give a high-level overview of them here. I will not be discussing rates of return because they fluctuate daily. Suffice it to say that a range of returns between 8-20% are considered normal for lower risk strategies. The aggressive and highly speculative returns can bump into the 80-110% range.


Approach: Passive
Risk: Low-to-Medium
Tax Treatment: Capital Gains

Buy and hold crypto for years passively. As with all investments, perform sufficient due diligence on any cryptocurrency you plan to buy. In your exchange account, you can set up recurring weekly or monthly purchases. With this “set-it-and forget-it” method, you don’t need to check in on your account more than two or three times a year.

This simple strategy applied to Bitcoin (BTC) has outperformed every other investment opportunity on the planet. Also known as “Hodling” after an accidental misspelling on the Bitcointalk forum.


Approach: Active
Risk: High
Tax Treatment: Capital Gains

This is exactly what you think it is. You buy and sell crypto on exchanges much like you would trade stocks. Similarly, you can use either technical or fundamental analysis.

One key point to remember is that crypto prices move much quicker and with higher volatility than stocks. It is not unusual to see 5-10% movement per day. Smaller cap coins will often have even more volatility.

Advanced strategies employ exchange price arbitrage, leverage, Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and automation.


Approach: Passive
Risk: Low-to-Medium
Tax Treatment: Ordinary Income

When you own crypto, you can lend it to a third party to receive interest income. Your crypto is then used by the borrower for more profitable activities, such as issuing higher rate loans or facilitating trades on exchanges. There is a massive volume of trading and borrowing in Decentralized Finance (DeFi), and many decentralized exchanges require cash on hand to fulfill those trades.

For those just getting started, I recommend you stick with U.S.-based centralized exchanges (CeFi) like Gemini and their U.S. Dollar backed stablecoin “GUSD.”

More advanced strategies are automated yield farming and using compounding leverage.


Approach: Active
Risk: Low-to-Medium
Tax Treatment: Ordinary Income + Self-employment Tax

This is more of a business than an investment and requires a significant amount of specialized technical skill and in some cases, specialized hardware.

This strategy encompasses mining via Proof of Work (PoW) as well as Masternodes via Proof of Stake (PoS).

Proof of Work (PoW) mining is what Bitcoin uses to validate transactions. Operators purchase and configure specialized hardware and provide value to the network in the form of computing power, which is used to validate other users’ transactions.

Proof of Stake (PoS) accomplishes the same function as traditional PoW mining, but does so in a more elegant, efficient, and democratic way. Operators purchase and commit a significant amount of crypto to ‘buy’ the network’s trust to validate transactions with weak computing power. Operators no longer need cheap electricity, a datacenter, or a hardware supplier to profit from mining.



There are tailored options to participate in cryptocurrency for various levels of involvement, risk, and skillset. If you do nothing other than the “Holding” strategy, you will most likely thank yourself in a few years.

Many news outlets claim that we have missed the boat on crypto, but I disagree.

By taking the time to educate yourself, you are already in the top 1% of the population on this subject.

With mainstream adoption rapidly approaching, I believe we are at the precipice of another Internet revolution and the accompanying earth-shaking transfer of wealth that came along with it.

Of course, we all wish we could have bought Bitcoin back in 2010 but as the saying goes, “the second-best time to plant a tree is today.” We have plenty of runway left.



A crypto veteran and enthusiast, Patrick Will’s passion is helping non-technical people use crypto in their daily lives. In 2010, he read the Bitcoin white paper, mined his first block, and was hooked. As crypto evolved and matured, he started educating friends and family about the new uses of peer-to-peer electronic cash.

With mainstream adoption rapidly approaching, he wants to prepare as many hard-working W2 earners as possible to take advantage of this massive transfer of wealth to the new financial system.

Patrick is an Infielder in the Left Field Investors Community and he can be contacted at

Nothing on this website should be considered financial advice. Investing involves risks which you assume. It is your duty to do your own due diligence. Read all documents and agreements before signing or investing in anything. It is your duty to consult with your own legal, financial and tax advisors regarding any investment.

Chris Franckhauser

Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner

Chris Franckhauser, Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner for Left Field Investors, has been involved in real estate since 2008. He started with one single-family fix and flip, and he was hooked. He then scaled, completing five more over a brief period. While he enjoyed the journey and the financial tailwinds that came with each completed project, being an active investor with a W2 at the time, became too much to manage with a young and growing family. Seeing this was not easily scalable or sustainable long term, he searched for alternative ideas on where to invest. He explored other passive income streams but kept coming back to his two passions; real estate and time with his family. He discovered syndications after reconnecting with a former colleague and LFI Founder. He joined Left Field Investors in 2023 and has quickly immersed himself into the community and as a key member of our team.  

Chris earned a B.S. from The Ohio State University. After years in healthcare technology and medical devices, from startups to Fortune 15 companies, Chris shifted his efforts to consulting and owning a small apparel business when he is not working with LFI (Left Field Investors) or on his personal passive investments. A few years ago, Chris and his family left the cold life in Ohio for lake life in the Carolinas. Chris lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina with his wife and two kids. In his free time, he enjoys exploring all the things the Carolinas offer, from the beaches to the mountains and everywhere in between, volunteering at the school, coaching his kids’ sports teams and cheering on the Buckeyes from afar.  

Chris knows investing is a team sport. Being a strategic thinker and analytical by nature, the ability to collaborate with like-minded individuals in the Left Field Community and other communities is invaluable.  

Jim Pfeifer

President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Jim Pfeifer is one of the founders of Left Field Investors and the host of the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast. Left Field Investors is a group dedicated to educating and assisting like-minded investors negotiate the nuances of the passive investing landscape and world of syndications. Jim is a former financial advisor who became frustrated with the one-path-fits-all approach of the standard financial services industry. Jim now concentrates on investing in real assets that produce cash flow and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others who are interested in learning a different way to grow wealth.

Jim not only advises and helps people get started in passive real estate syndications, he also invests alongside them in small groups to allow for diversification among multiple investments and syndication sponsors. Jim believes the most important factor in a successful syndication is finding a sponsor that he knows, likes and trusts.

He has invested in over 100 passive syndications including apartments, mobile homes, self-storage, private lending and notes, ATM’s, commercial and industrial triple net leases, assisted living facilities and international coffee farms and cacao producers. Jim is constantly looking for new investment ideas that match his philosophy of real assets producing cash flow as well as looking for new sponsors with whom he can build quality, long-term relationships. Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Chad Ackerman

Chief Operating Officer, Founder

Chad is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Left Field Investors and the host of the LFI Spotlight podcast. Chad was in banking most of his career with a focus on data analytics, but in March of 2023 he left his W2 to become LFI’s second full time employee.

Chad always had a passion for real estate, so his analytics skills translated well into the deal analyzer side of the business. Through his training, education and networking Chad was able to align his passive investing to compliment his involvement with LFI while allowing him to grow his wealth and take steps towards financial freedom. He has appreciated the help he’s received from others along his journey which is why he is excited to host the LFI Spotlight podcast and share the experience of other investors and industry experts to assist those that are looking for education for their own journey.

Chad has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a Minor in Real Estate from the University of Cincinnati. He is working to educate his two teenagers in the passive investing world. In his spare time he likes to golf, kayak, and check out the local brewery scene.

Ryan Steig

Chief Financial Officer, Founder

Ryan Stieg started down the path of passive investing like many of us did, after he picked up a little purple book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The problem was that he did that in college and didn’t take action to start investing passively until many years later when that itch to invest passively crept back up.

Ryan became an accidental landlord after moving from Phoenix back to Montana in 2007, a rental he kept until 2016 when he started investing more intentionally. Since 2016, Ryan has focused (or should we say lack thereof) on all different kinds of investing, always returning to real estate and business as his mainstay. Ryan has a small portfolio of one-to-three-unit rentals across four different markets in the US. He has also invested in over fifty real estate syndication investments individually or with an investment group or tribe. Working to diversify in multiple asset classes, Ryan invests in multi-family, note funds, NNN industrial, retail, office, self-storage, online businesses, start-ups, and several other asset classes that further cement his self-diagnosis of “shiny object syndrome”.

However, with all of those reaches over the years, Ryan still believes in the long-term success and tenets of passive, cash-flow-focused investing with proven syndicators and shared knowledge in investing.

When he’s not working with LFI or on his personal passive investments, he recently opened a new Club Pilates franchise studio after an insurance career. Outside of that, he can be found with his wife watching whatever sport one of their two boys is involved in during that particular season.

Steve Suh

Chief Content Officer, Founder

Steve Suh, one of the founders of Left Field Investors and its Chief Content Officer, has been involved with real estate and alternative assets since 2005. Like many, he saw his net worth plummet during the two major stock market crashes in the early 2000s. Since then, he vowed to find other ways to invest his money. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave Steve the impetus to learn about real estate investing. He first became a landlord after purchasing his office condo. He then invested passively as a limited partner in oil and gas drilling syndications but quickly learned the importance of scrutinizing sponsors when he stopped getting returns after only a few months. Steve came back to real estate by buying a few small residential rentals. Seeing that this was not easily scalable, he searched for alternative ideas. After listening to hundreds of podcasts and attending numerous real estate investing meetings, he determined that passively investing in real estate syndications was the best avenue to get great, risk-adjusted returns. He has invested in dozens of syndications involving apartment buildings, self-storage facilities, resort properties, ATMs, Bitcoin mining funds, car washes, a coffee farm, and even a Broadway show.

When Steve is not vetting commercial real estate syndications in the evenings, he is stomping out eye diseases and improving vision during the day as an ophthalmologist. He enjoys playing in his tennis and pickleball leagues and rooting for his Buckeyes and Steelers football teams. In the past several years, he took up running and has completed three full marathons, including the New York City Marathon. He is always on a quest to find great pizza, BBQ brisket, and bourbon. He enjoys traveling with his wife and their three adult kids. They usually go on a medical mission trip once a year to southern Mexico to provide eye surgeries and glasses to the residents. Steve has enjoyed being a part of Left Field Investors to help others learn about the merits of passive, real asset investments.

Sean Donnelly

Chief Culture Officer, Founder

Sean holds a W2 job in the finance sector and began his real estate investing journey shortly after earning his MBA. Unfortunately, it could not have begun at a worse time … anyone remember 2007 … but even the recession provided worthy lessons. Sean stayed in the game continuing to find his place, progressing from flipping to owning single and multi-family rentals to now funding opportunities through syndications. While Sean is still heavily invested in the equities market and holds a small portfolio of rentals, he strongly believes passive investing is the best way to offset the cyclical nature of traditional investment vehicles as well as avoid the headaches of direct property ownership. Through consistent cash flow, long term yield and available tax benefits, the diversification offered with passive investing brings a welcomed balance to an otherwise turbulent investing scheme. What Sean likes most about the syndication space is that the investment opportunities are not “one size fits all” and the community of investors genuinely want to help.

He earned a B.S. in Finance from Iowa State University in 1995 and a MBA from Otterbein University in 2007. Sean has lived in eight states but has called Ohio home for the last 20+.  When not attending his children’s various school/sporting events, Sean can be found running, golfing, shooting or fly-fishing.

Patrick Wills

Chief Information Officer, Advisory Partner

An active real estate investor since 2017, Patrick Wills’ investing journey began like many others – after reading the “purple book” by Robert Kiyosaki. Patrick started with single family rentals, and while they performed well, he quickly realized their inability to scale efficiently while remaining passive. He discovered syndications via podcasts and local meetups and never looked back. He joined Left Field Investors in 2022 as a member and has quickly become an integral part of the team as Vice President of Technology.

An I.T. Systems Engineer by trade, he experienced the limitations of traditional Wall Street investing firsthand in his career and knew there had to be a better way to truly have financial freedom.

Unfortunately, that better way is inaccessible to those who need it most. His mission is to make alternative investments accessible to everyone who seeks to take control of their financial future and to pursue their passions in life.

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