Planet Money Summer School 6: Crypto & Commencement : Planet Money In the last class of Planet Money Summer School Season 2, we cover one more important market — cryptocurrency. If you're thinking about investing in crypto, do you know exactly what it is that you're buying? Or how it should (if at all) fit alongside the rest of your investments? | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here and take don't forget to take the Summer School Final Quiz.

Planet Money Summer School 6: Crypto & Commencement

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SYLVIE DOUGLIS, BYLINE: This is PLANET MONEY from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARDIFF GARCIA, HOST:

Hey, everybody. We made it. This is the sixth and final episode of PLANET MONEY Summer School this year, the graduation episode. By the end of this class, you will be ready to ace the final exam, which we have now posted online at the Summer School homepage. And you'll get to graduate with your diploma, which is a real thing. You'll get an actual diploma. I mean, it's not real like it'll get you a sweet job at a bank real. But it's real enough to print out, maybe frame it, hang it up on your wall, take a selfie with it for your online dating profile, whatever you want.

But before we get to that, we do have one final investment lesson to share with you. And it's all about what you need to know if you're thinking about investing in cryptocurrencies. Crypto has become impossible to ignore, not just because of the hype it gets but also because the total value of cryptocurrencies has shot up in the last few years, and more and more people are now investing in them. But if you're thinking about investing in crypto, do you know exactly what it is that you'll be buying and how it should fit alongside the rest of your investments, if at all?

We are going to start answering those questions by listening to an excerpt of a classic PLANET MONEY episode about Bitcoin, the biggest cryptocurrency in the world. And after that, our Summer School professors will have some context to add. This PLANET MONEY episode first aired in January of 2018, and it was hosted by Kenny Malone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

KENNY MALONE: One day around Thanksgiving of this year, Syl Turner noticed that it seemed like suddenly everybody was talking about Bitcoin. And he thinks to himself, huh, Bitcoin - I haven't thought about that in forever. I definitely used to have some of those. And so he goes online and holy crap. The price of Bitcoin was up to $10,000.

SYL TURNER: Hello?

MALONE: Hey, Syl.

TURNER: Hey, Kenny.

MALONE: Hey.

It's three days later. It's a Saturday. Syl's at his house outside of Atlanta. And he's starting to get anxious because the price of Bitcoin is now up to $11,000. Syl wants to find his bitcoins. And he says there's, like, a chance that maybe they're in his attic on an old hard drive in an old computer. But I'm 900 miles away. I can't get there to search with him.

TASNIM SHAMMA: Testing three, two, one.

MALONE: So I called my friend Tasnim Shamma...

SHAMMA: Hello, Kenny. OK.

MALONE: ...Who lives closer to Syl. And I asked her, can you please drive over there as soon as possible? And hopefully we can record the moment Syl Turner finds a fortune.

TURNER: Hold on. There's knocking on the door right now, so - hey. Come on in. Nice to meet you.

SHAMMA: Nice to meet you as well.

TURNER: You want me to just go straight up to the attic?

MALONE: Yeah. I mean, I guess so. It's kind of what we're here for, right?

TURNER: Yeah. We'll go up to the attic now.

MALONE: Tasnim sent me pictures of Syl throughout this process, and he's got a big bushy beard. He's wearing a black T-shirt with a picture of a rainbow-colored astronaut kitten. Now, Syl can't remember exactly how many bitcoins he has, maybe 1 1/2, and they were worthless when he got them. But today, they are worth tens of thousands of dollars.

TURNER: All right. So, yeah.

MALONE: Are you in the attic?

TURNER: Yeah, we are in the attic. Luckily, it's not super-hot.

MALONE: I'm, like, kind of nervous for you, man. This is the biggest sum of money I've ever been hunting for.

TURNER: I'm a little nervous, too. I can't believe this is happening. All right.

MALONE: Syl is a software developer, but like the rest of us, he doesn't really understand how Bitcoin works. He heard about it right when it launched in 2009, and he figured it can't hurt to have some of this stuff. But it was worth pennies. And so he treated it like loose change, never kept track, didn't really know how many coins he had and then eventually let it fall between the virtual couch cushions or whatever.

TURNER: All right. So I think it's one of these computers.

MALONE: So Syl is hoping that inside of a computer up here is an old hard drive with an old file called a bitcoin wallet. That would give him access to his bitcoins, which he would then sell immediately, make something like $25,000 and then probably put that in a college fund for his 1-year-old son. So he starts taking these computers apart.

TURNER: I think we should take the hard drive out of this one anyway, just in case. But I don't think it's...

MALONE: He's pretty sure that is not the right hard drive. So he pries open the second computer.

TURNER: Let's see. OK, oh, good. There is a hard drive. There are two hard drives in this one. Oh, my goodness. Oh, man. This is actually really shocking to me because I actually did not think that this hard drive was going to be in here.

MALONE: I mean, should we just check - should we just check that one now?

TURNER: Yeah, let's look at this one.

MALONE: So Syl heads back downstairs with the hard drive. His baby wakes up.

TURNER: Hey, buddy. Hey.

MALONE: He boots up this old hard drive, and Syl is worried that he erased this at some point and use it for video games. But he's hoping, searching, for any sign of this wallet file.

TURNER: All right. So I got to where I believe this would be. There is a bitcoin directory in here where it should be.

MALONE: Oh.

TURNER: So we're going to see if it's in there. There's stuff in here. There's a wallet. There's a wallet, and there's blocks.

MALONE: OK.

TURNER: I don't know what this means, but I'm going to copy this out to my hard drive.

MALONE: Syl is pretty sure this is it. And to find out how much bitcoin is on there, he explains that he needs to wait while another piece of software downloads the entire history of every single bitcoin transaction in the world onto his home computer. It is going to take hours. And unfortunately, there's just no way Tasnim and I can stick around for that.

So I think what we should do - like, when it's ready, I think you and your wife should just record yourselves figuring out how much is in there.

TURNER: OK.

MALONE: Does that sound good?

TURNER: Yeah. That sounds like a good idea. We can do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA: What was in that wallet and the rest of the story from PLANET MONEY'S Kenny Malone after a quick break.

MALONE: Lost bitcoin has been this legendary thing within the bitcoin community, but it's also been kind of anecdotal. And I wanted to get a sense of the actual scale of this. And of course, there were economists already on this question.

Are you - oh, I guess I didn't ask if you - either of you are individual bitcoin holders.

JONATHAN LEVIN: I hold a very small amount of bitcoin.

MALONE: OK.

KIMBERLY GRAUER: I was writing a paper in 2012, I think, on bitcoin. I bought a couple, also a very small amount. But...

MALONE: Mm hmm. Oh, is it my turn?

GRAUER: Yeah.

MALONE: I don't have any bitcoin...

GRAUER: (Laughter).

MALONE: ...Nor did I take it seriously at any point until about three weeks ago.

GRAUER: Yeah.

MALONE: This is Kimberly Grauer and Jonathan Levin. Kimberly is senior economist at a company called Chainalysis. Jonathan is the co-founder. The company makes software that can dissect bitcoin transactions to spot money laundering, detect illicit behavior, but also just to learn about bitcoin.

What do people actually say - bitcoin, bitcoins?

LEVIN: You can have bitcoins, and Bitcoin is, like, the currency unit.

MALONE: OK. To understand how the Syl Turners of the world can lose - or maybe nearly lose - bitcoins, we need to clear up a common misconception that I totally did not understand either. There are no bitcoins, which - I know, duh, it's digital; it's not real. But no, no, no. There are not even digital things being traded back and forth with unique serial numbers or whatever. That is not how the system works.

LEVIN: Yeah.

MALONE: Yeah.

LEVIN: So if I send you bitcoin, I send bitcoin to your account on the Bitcoin blockchain.

MALONE: Blockchain - big word, sure - but here is a very non-technical way of understanding what it means. Imagine with me, if you will, a massive auditorium filled with bitcoin bookkeepers. Now, Jonathan wants to send me one bitcoin. He walks onstage in front of all these bookkeepers, steps up to a microphone. And he's like...

LEVIN: Hello, entire bitcoin universe. As all of your books show, I, Jonathan, have three bitcoins to my name.

MALONE: Of course, it would not be a name. It would be an anonymized account number.

LEVIN: I would like everyone here to know that I am giving one bitcoin to Kenny.

MALONE: After Jonathan says this, all of these virtual ledger keepers sort of scribble this transaction down - you know, deduct one bitcoin from Jonathan's account; increase Kenny's account by one. And that is a bitcoin transaction. Nothing is really transferred. It's more like an instantaneous adjustment across a whole bunch of ledgers. When people talk about the blockchain, they're talking about this system, where there is no central bookkeeper. And here's where losing bitcoin gets interesting because bitcoin never disappears. All of those computers keeping all of those books all show that my account now has one bitcoin, the one that Jonathan gave me. However, if I lose the key to that account, there is no customer service line to call. There's no bank I can plead with. There's exactly one way into this virtual vault, and it is with my private key.

What does a private key look like?

LEVIN: It's a string of letters and numbers that's pretty long, actually.

MALONE: Can you give me an example?

LEVIN: E9873D7C6D87DC0FB6A5778...

MALONE: Yep, 64 randomly generated numbers and letters. This goes on for a while.

LEVIN: ...33262. Have you got that?

MALONE: Virtually impossible to remember. And if you lose this key and never find it again, the bitcoins inside your virtual vault will sit there for eternity. So when we talk about lost bitcoin, what we really mean is eternally frozen bitcoin accounts.

OK. So now we know how bitcoin transactions are recorded. We know about the private key and how you can lose bitcoin. The next big question is, how much bitcoin is lost forever?

GRAUER: This ended up on my plate on my first day.

MALONE: Again, this is Kimberly Grauer, senior economist at Chainalysis.

GRAUER: We were sitting around brainstorming some of the most interesting economic questions that we could tackle, and this was something that came up right away.

MALONE: Bitcoin is not like other currency. There's no government that is going to just print more of it. The system was created so that for the rest of time, there will be a finite amount of bitcoin. We even know this number. It's about 21 million bitcoins. And people are now buying and selling bitcoin because it has this scarce resource property, but we don't know exactly how scarce because some of those 21 million bitcoins are already lost forever. So that's why Kimberly and Chainalysis and really anyone even thinking about bitcoin is interested in this question.

And Kimberly was able to work some fancy analytics and identify millions and millions of bitcoins no one has touched in a long time. And she thought, OK, there are two main reasons those may have gone untouched. The first is that maybe the owners of those coins are just really savvy investors. They bought in early, and they are still holding on, waiting for the right time to sell.

GRAUER: Yes. So these are essentially - if you're in the know, in the bitcoin community, they're called HODLers - H-O-D-L-ers.

MALONE: (Laughter).

GRAUER: It's an acronym for hold on for dear life.

MALONE: Hold on for dear life coins.

GRAUER: That is an investment strategy where...

MALONE: HODL is like a mantra for early adopters of Bitcoin who believe the sky is the limit for this digital currency. Yes, the coins you bought for 2 cents are now worth $15,000. But hold on for dear life because - remember - you believe they could be worth 50 or even $100,000. So some percentage of those out-of-circulation coins that Kimberly identified are being HODLed. What is the other chunk, then?

GRAUER: Well, a chunk of those are going to be lost.

MALONE: What - do we have a name for those people?

GRAUER: I don't have a name for those people.

MALONE: I'm going to suggest...

GRAUER: Losers (laughter)?

MALONE: Losers is not bad - mean. What about OGWIMB, which stands for, oh, God, where is my Bitcoin - OGWIMB?

LEVIN: Yeah.

GRAUER: OGWIMB. It's not that catchy of a word, but...

MALONE: What? No, come on. It's - like, HODLer is not...

GRAUER: I like it.

MALONE: OK. We're all on the same page here?

LEVIN: Yeah.

MALONE: All right, good.

Kimberly was able to estimate that of that finite chunk of bitcoins - remember; there will only ever be 21 million of them - there is a painful amount locked away forever.

So this brings our grand total to between...

GRAUER: Two-point-seven and 3.7 million lost bitcoins.

MALONE: I feel like we should just let that sit for a second.

GRAUER: That's right.

MALONE: At current prices, that's more than $40 billion of forever-sunken treasure. And on one hand, it shows the most obvious problem with a ruthlessly decentralized money system. There's no pity. There's no option. If you lose your private key, you lose your bitcoins. In a centralized system, if you had a sack of U.S. dollars and they caught fire, the U.S. government has an office that will look at your case, maybe even give you new money. We did a whole episode about this.

On the other hand, all of this lost bitcoin illustrates something, like, paradoxical, almost, about Bitcoin. We think of it as this ephemeral thing that can just disappear, but it's there forever, and no one's making new bitcoin. There's only going to be 21 million estimated bitcoin in the history of the stuff. And all of this lost bitcoin is a reminder that this is digital, yes; and you could lose it easily, yes; but it is truly a scarce digital resource, whatever that means.

The other thing to note, Kim says, is that the vast majority of these lost coins were lost in the early years of Bitcoin, when the coins were essentially worthless.

TURNER: All right. So I believe this is probably done.

MALONE: This is the recording Syl Turner eventually sent me.

TURNER: So we can see what - how much bitcoin is in this wallet. Oh, our baby is crying. Hold on.

MALONE: He and his wife, Jackie (ph), are sitting next to his computer. Syl's got his digital wallet. He's got his private key. And for the first time in nearly a decade, he is able to open up his virtual Bitcoin vault.

TURNER: Let's take a look. Are you excited about this?

JACKIE TURNER: Yeah, I'm nervous.

TURNER: What do you think it's going to be? How much do you think it's going to be?

J TURNER: Nothing.

TURNER: Nothing?

J TURNER: Yeah, I think there's nothing in there.

TURNER: All right, let's see - 0.02 (laughter). I think - oh, wait, I sent 0.02 from this.

J TURNER: Oh, to where?

TURNER: I don't know.

MALONE: What is dawning on Syl is that his Bitcoin vault is empty. Not only is it empty, he can check the history, and he can see that this is clearly the wrong account. He must have, like, set up a second account - a test account. A friend must have transferred him a little bitcoin, and then Syl transferred it right back.

TURNER: I don't know how this works. This must be my other wallet. Oh, man.

J TURNER: Chase continues.

TURNER: I don't know what to do now. I'm - I don't know. All right, well, this is where we're at right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA: Hey, everybody. Cardiff here again with PLANET MONEY Summer School. Syl Turner kept looking for a bit longer, and he even ended up getting some advice from Bitcoin bounty hunters. Yes, those exist. But the main takeaway is that he wishes he'd backed up his private key.

Now, losing bitcoins is definitely still a risk. But lately, it has also just been less of a problem than it was a few years ago, and that's partly because it's just easier to simply buy bitcoin through a financial institution that offers to keep that private key safe for you. But we thought the episode was a fun way to learn about Bitcoin and about blockchain technology. And now that you know what crypto is, how should you think about investing in it? That's coming up right after a quick break.

Hey, everyone. Summer School is back for one final session, and we are welcoming back two PLANET MONEY Summer School professors - Allison Schrager of the Manhattan Institute. Allison, hi.

ALLISON SCHRAGER: Hi. Good to be back.

GARCIA: And Mihir Desai of Harvard Business School. Mihir, hi.

MIHIR DESAI: Hey - good to be back.

GARCIA: So I want to make something really clear before we start this chat, because people can get really passionate when talking about crypto. This is a summer school class about the very basic principles of investing. It is not about the possibility for cryptocurrencies or crypto technologies to become wonderful, transformative things for the economy, nor is it about the possibility that they'll end up being hugely destructive. We are not here to endorse or to denigrate people who are making those arguments. So with that out of the way, Allison and Mihir, what do you see as the fundamental differences between buying a cryptocurrency versus buying a more conventional financial product like a stock or a bond?

SCHRAGER: Well, with Bitcoin, you know, there's no real fundamental value. Its value is based on the fact it's scarce and people want it, as opposed to if you buy a stock, you own a company. You own its building. You own all its machines. Or if you buy a bond, you have someone promising to pay you a certain amount of money in the future. So what you're really just doing is buying something on faith that other people will also think it's valuable in the future.

DESAI: I kind of agree. I think in everything, though, in some sense, Allison, is a matter of faith - right? - including when you buy Amazon or when you buy Facebook or anything else. The key question to my mind is - whenever you invest in anything - is what is this company or asset - what problem are they solving in the world? So when you think about Amazon or you think about Facebook or you think about Moderna, they're trying to solve a problem in the world. And because they're going to try to solve that problem, they're going to create value.

The question you have to ask about crypto is what problem is it solving? And if you can come up with a good answer to that that satisfies you, then I think it can be a good investment. I have trouble finding an answer to that question, what the real problem is that it's solving. But if you can, then it's just as good an investment as, you know, Amazon or a bond or anything else.

GARCIA: OK, well, I got to say, we're already kind of close to breaking my promise that we wouldn't denigrate the crypto advocates. So let me just tease this out of it, because I actually do want to be fair. One of the original hopes for cryptocurrencies was that they might someday be alternatives to normal currencies like the U.S. dollar, especially if normal currencies collapse or start losing their value. And another hope is that blockchain technology itself could be useful in other ways. Like, maybe it'll make the financial system safer or easier to use, or it might even transform other parts of the economy. Like, it might make it easier to do things like store health care records and share them. And maybe someday that will indeed happen. Again, we're not here to dismiss that possibility. But so far, Mihir, if I'm hearing you right, it's at least not yet clear that crypto is solving those problems.

DESAI: Exactly right. And I think with crypto, you could make the case that it's solving a problem. I don't think we really seriously think it's solving the problem of currency anymore, which is kind of like that store of value and the medium of exchange thing.

GARCIA: Using it the way we use dollars to pay for stuff, right?

DESAI: Right.

GARCIA: Like, some people do use it for that. But it doesn't seem like it's replacing...

DESAI: It doesn't seem like that.

GARCIA: ...The regular currencies.

DESAI: A couple of years ago, that was kind of the story behind it. I think now it is more along the lines of a speculative asset that you might like to punt on in a way that you might like to punt on a lot of other things. There's a possibility of solving some deeper problem about ownership in the digital world. That could be a reason to own it. But whatever you do when you invest in crypto, don't do it because your buddy tells you to do it. Try to think hard about what problem you think it might solve in the future. And if you can convince yourself of that, it's just as good as an investment as in a company where you might think they're going to solve the problem of vaccines or the role of online retail or whatever it is.

GARCIA: And in terms of regular folks who are thinking about adding cryptocurrencies to their portfolio of investments, is it a problem that they might not actually understand just what it is that crypto is accomplishing or might someday accomplish? - because this is actually really hard stuff to understand. It is complicated.

SCHRAGER: Yeah. I mean, you should always invest in assets that you think add some value or, at the very least, maybe bring some risk profile to your portfolio that you're looking for.

GARCIA: What does that mean?

SCHRAGER: So when you add other assets, its value isn't necessarily does it go up and down, but how does it go up and down relative to your other assets? If it goes up when the rest of your assets go down, that provides you some sort of hedge. So you actually have less overall risk. So, you know, the question is not only what's the value of this company or asset and what problems it's solving, but also how does it contribute to risk in my overall portfolio?

GARCIA: So is that the problem then, that people don't quite understand the risk that crypto could be adding to their portfolio?

SCHRAGER: Absolutely, because it is a very volatile asset. I think this is one of the reasons why it hasn't held up well as a currency. As a currency, it has to be a stable store of value. You know that, you know, if you buy milk one day, it's going to be a similar price the next day, as opposed to with crypto, you have so much volatility, it doesn't - you don't really know what it's going to be worth day to day, which is why it hasn't worked well as a currency and works better just as a speculative asset.

DESAI: So I think for the regular person who's thinking about investing in crypto, you want to think about investing in general as being divided between things like index funds, where you're not really thinking a lot about it and you're just saving. And then you have a little pool where you maybe have fun and you buy some weirder assets. For those, you really should understand them. So let's say you love Peloton or you love Kellogg's or whatever it is. Then go and understand that and understand how they're going to create value and transform the exercise industry or transform breakfast cereal or whatever.

But in that context, in that framing, it's hard to make sense of crypto because you have to really then invest the time and energy - not take a flyer, but really try to understand it. And if you can convince yourself that it's really going to do something, just like Peloton did something to the exercise industry, then go for it. But don't just go for it because you think it's the next hot thing and your buddy told you you should.

GARCIA: Yeah, I want to stay on this point of volatility, because back in late 2017, when Syl Turner decided to start looking for his missing bitcoins, the value of one bitcoin was about $10,000. And in the time since, it's been on, like, this roller coaster ride where the ups and downs will just snap your neck. So I want to take everybody on this ride for a second. So it first went from $10,000 at that time, very quickly to almost $20,000. Then it whiplashed back down to $4,000, then right back up to $10,000 again. And then it climbed all the way to $60,000 for one bitcoin earlier this year before falling again to where it is now at almost $50,000. I mean, you don't even have to have followed all that to understand that this has been wild to see. So how should that kind of volatility plan into someone's decision about whether to invest in something?

SCHRAGER: I think it shows how risky this asset is. I mean, yeah, it's great it went up over time, but what if you need money when it's down? So you have to bear those losses. And so, you know, I think this is the big lesson of how you should think about investing in any crypto, is, yeah, you know, for now, it has really high returns, but you're taking on a lot of risk if you're doing that.

DESAI: Yeah, and I think that volatility also tells you about what fraction of your overall portfolio should be in something like that, which is - those kinds of ups and downs are hard to bear, and they're almost impossible to bear if it's all your wealth. And so it's a lot easier to bear if it's 5% of your wealth. So that really, I think, has implications for the portfolio share. And in some ways, crypto is also entertainment. And that volatility also becomes a feature, not a bug, because people have come to find it addictive, to watch it and to see it and to find excitement in it.

GARCIA: I also want to ask about the notion of regret, because I think a lot of people are looking at the markets for cryptocurrencies now and they're wondering, oh, my God, this all seemed so silly. But now everyone who invested in these things is super-rich, and I totally missed it. And I don't just mean Bitcoin, by the way. There's even a cryptocurrency called Dogecoin that was actually created as a joke. It was based on an internet meme. And that has also gone through the roof and made millions for some investors. And so I think there are people out there who have not invested in crypto before who might be looking at all this with regret and might be tempted to jump into these markets now because they don't want to keep feeling regret. And that seems like it might be a bad or even a dangerous motivation to jump into these markets.

SCHRAGER: I think it is 'cause, you know, you never know the future. Investing isn't about trying to outguess the market. It's about building value over time. And, you know, you can always find something you should have invested in or not invested in, but you just really want to take a very long-term perspective. Remember; this is a very long game.

DESAI: Yeah, I'm so glad you guys - you brought up regret 'cause I think it's such a big part of what is going on here - some version of FOMO or other versions of regret. So I - in general, I think it's a bad way to think about the world because you will end up kind of fighting last year's battle.

GARCIA: Yeah. And finally, it has become easier to buy and sell crypto through these online trading apps in recent years, like Robinhood and some other ones. How should we see that development and its potential effects for ordinary investors?

DESAI: I mean, there's a lot to like in the sense that as all these transaction costs have come down, you can invest in crypto so easily, and you won't lose it so easily either (laughter) as a consequence of that. There's something wonderful, which is kind of the democratization of finance and the democratization of investing, and more people caring about saving, more people caring about investing. And I think that's all great. I think the worrisome part is if it's - there's going to be blood on the floor at the end of this, then there's going to be people who are disaffected. And there are going to be people who are not very well-informed about any of these assets who will lose a lot of money, and there will be big transfers of wealth to the people who knew enough to kind of get out at the right time.

GARCIA: And that note of caution, I think, is a good place to close our lesson on crypto, which was also the final lesson, meaning that after the break, we are going to put the finishing touches on this season of Summer School. Allison and Mihir are going to offer up their final thoughts, and we are going to tell you how to take the final exam and get your diploma and, for those who want it, a way to get extra credit.

(SOUNDBITE OF EDWARD ELGAR'S "POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE")

GARCIA: Well, folks, this is it. We are nearing the end of PLANET MONEY Summer School Season 2 about investing. And as you prepare for the final exam, I want you to think back on all that we've learned. We learned two different theories on how a stock gets priced with the help of some cute animals. We learned about the risks that apply to investing in the bond market. We also learned that investing is not just about making money, it's also about having the money you need when you need it. We learned about financial bubbles and why our behavioral biases for running with the herd can make them worse. And above all, we learned that investing is about finding the balance between risk and reward that is appropriate for you - limiting the risks and, when possible, increasing the chance of rewards.

And now Allison and Mihir are going to each step up to this proverbial podium to give not exactly a commencement speech - more like a commencement piece of parting wisdom, what they wish they'd known when they first started investing.

SCHRAGER: I would say this is a lot easier to get involved in than you think. You don't need any sort of fancy apps. You can just go to a website of a brokerage company, transfer money from your bank and get yourself in index funds. For years, I didn't invest because I honestly just didn't know how. I have a lot of friends I give advice to, and they just don't know where to get started. And then I take them online, and they're shocked that they can be in an index fund in five minutes. And so this is easier than you think, and there's really no excuse to put it off.

DESAI: Yeah. So I think, first, make it a habit that you do without thinking. So whatever process you do for doing that, make sure that you're doing it all the time. Second, be humble and stay humble because investing is a humbling field. And then finally, make it something where you're learning. Try to really find out about companies. They're not just little pieces of paper you're buying. You're buying, really, hopefully valuable companies that do things in the world. So make it part of your education to not just trade stocks but learn about what's going on in the economy. Learn about what these companies are doing and how they're creating value.

SCHRAGER: Oh, yeah. And also, don't look at your asset balance every day.

(LAUGHTER)

DESAI: Excellent.

SCHRAGER: You'll fill yourself with...

GARCIA: Drive yourself crazy.

SCHRAGER: ...Needless regret.

DESAI: Exactly.

GARCIA: OK, well, we kind of went in reverse order there because the commencement speech was more like an inspirational speech because you technically have not yet passed the class. So before you leave the stage to celebrate graduation with your family at some fancy restaurant, go to the PLANET MONEY Summer School homepage, and there you'll find a link to the final exam. Afterwards, you can get your diploma with your name on it. And after you've printed the diploma out, maybe framed it, we would love to see it. So please take a pic and post it to social media, and tag PLANET MONEY so we can help you celebrate.

Also, check out the PLANET MONEY newsletter, especially if you want some extra credit that maybe you can put towards a postgraduate summer school degree or something because in this week's newsletter, we have included some additional things to read and watch that complement the lessons we learned in summer school. Speaking of extra credit, by the way, stick around until after the credits of this episode, where we've left a little treat waiting for you.

And finally, thank you for joining us this season. Really, this has been such a treat. And I especially want to thank our PLANET MONEY Summer School professors, Allison Schrager, Mihir Desai and Vicki Bogan, all of whom took lots of time out of their own summers to participate in these episodes.

One last time, this has been Season 2 of PLANET MONEY Summer School. And if you loved it and you happen not to have heard Season 1, search for PLANET MONEY Summer School in your podcast app, where we have set up a separate podcast feed just for Summer School Season 1 and 2.

PLANET MONEY Summer School is produced by Audrey Dilling with help from Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi, Dave Blanchard, Isaac Rodrigues, Gilly Moon, Andy Huether, Darius Rafieyan and Serena Golden. And thanks also, by the way, to the entire PLANET MONEY team for their notes and comments as we put together the series. And double thanks to intern Serena Golden, who was invaluable throughout this process. Summer School is edited by Alex Goldmark. Our project manager has been Devin Mellor. And special thanks to Liana Simstrom, Alyson Hurt and Michele Abercrombie and also to Suharu Ogawa for our episode illustrations and to Jack Corbett and the PLANET MONEY TikTok team. And finally, thanks to Digital Island Studios in New York, where we recorded so many of our episodes.

I'm Cardiff Garcia, signing off. And if you want to hear more from me, I'm also the host of my own podcast called "The New Bazaar." That's B-A-Z-A-A-R, you know, like the marketplace, not the word for strange. And you can now subscribe to "The New Bazaar" at all the usual podcast places. PLANET MONEY is a production of NPR. Thanks so much for listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

GARCIA: OK, so earlier this season, we asked our listeners for some bond market jokes because I was convinced that there were no good ones. And I'm going to be honest. A lot of people did get in touch with us to say, well, I was going to send you a bond market joke, but I didn't think there'd be enough interest in it, OK? So we went a little meta.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: But we were looking for some good bond jokes, and I picked a couple of favorites. So let's listen to those. The first comes from Karthik Sankaran, who is following us on Twitter. And here's what he sent in.

KARTHIK SANKARAN: Do you expect me to die, Goldfinger? No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to yield.

GARCIA: And here's the next one from listener Jason Sims (ph).

JASON SIMS: Why are bonds such good drivers? Because you can always count on them to yield.

GARCIA: And the final bond market joke comes from PLANET MONEY's own Mary Childs, who was somewhat offended, by the way, on behalf of the bond market when I said that there weren't many good bond market jokes. So she sent in a joke of her own. Here it is.

MARY CHILDS, BYLINE: What's the difference between a bond and a bond trader? The bond matures.

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