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Finding Bitcoin In The Sofa Cushions

Rapper 50 Cent at a promotional event
50 Cent in 2013. Photo courtesy TigerDirect.com on Flickr.

Finding unexpected money is always nice, whether it’s a $20 bill left in last season’s coat pocket or a few bucks of change in the couch cushions.

It’s even nicer when that forgotten money is worth millions.

Rapper 50 Cent, whose given name is Curtis Jackson, made the fateful choice to accept bitcoin as payment for his album “Animal Ambition” back in 2014. At the time, a single bitcoin was worth about $662, and the album cost was a small fraction of that. The musician left his bitcoin account (or “wallet”) untouched for years and discovered in late January that his cryptocurrency was worth between $7 million and $8 million.

It must be nice for 50 Cent to find out that an album that sold modestly compared to his earlier studio albums, especially 2003’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” may prove to be among his most lucrative. In his social media post confirming the bitcoin story, the rapper commented, “Not bad for a kid from South Side, I’m so proud of me.” (In the now-deleted post, he also good-naturedly confessed to forgetting that he had accepted bitcoin as payment in the first place.)

50 Cent isn’t alone in forgetting his past cryptocurrency acquisitions. As bitcoin’s value skyrocketed last year, many people started doing the digital equivalent of emptying their pockets before putting their jeans in the washing machine. Their stories, which often end with the searcher coming up empty-handed, suggest that 50 Cent wasn’t only lucky to accept bitcoin in the first place, but also to remember where to find his earnings. Pity those like James Howells, who threw out a hard drive holding about 7,500 bitcoins back in 2013. He now lives with the frustration of knowing that millions of dollars in value is lost among tons of garbage in a Welsh landfill.

50 Cent’s story represents something of a turnaround for the rapper, who filed for bankruptcy in 2015. The case was discharged in 2017; it is not clear from publicly available details whether the bitcoin discovery will affect this proceeding, though it is not impossible. Regardless, 50 Cent is far from the only music industry star to run into money trouble despite lucrative album sales and steady performance income. Nor is this his first major windfall. His stake in Vitaminwater reportedly earned him about $100 million in 2007 when Coca-Cola purchased the beverage brand. We can only hope 50 Cent is now getting solid advice for how to handle his rediscovered digital riches.

For reasons my colleagues have already discussed in this space, I hope that his first step is to convert his reported 700 or so bitcoins into a more stable form of value, if he hasn’t already. (Even TMZ, not usually known as a source of financial planning advice, commented “The market has steadily declined over the last few weeks, so 50 might wanna think about unloading soon while the gettin’s still good.”)

If you do find a forgotten bitcoin or two lurking on your old hard drive and decide to cash out, it’s smart to think about the proceeds like any other windfall, from a winning lottery ticket to an unexpectedly large tax refund. Make a plan before you spring for big-ticket purchases. Try not to think of the new money as separate from the rest of your financial resources. And if you receive a life-changing amount – for most of us, $7 million would certainly qualify – take the time to find a trustworthy team of professionals who can help you make a sustainable long-term plan.

50 Cent may not be about to change his name to “700 Bitcoins,” but I still hope he enjoys his unexpected “Animal Ambition” success.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Shomari D. Hearn, based in our Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters, is among the authors of Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55. He contribued Chapter 2, “Relationships With Adult Children”; Chapter 9, "Life Insurance"; and Chapter 17, "Retiring Abroad." He also contributed a chapter to the firm’s book for young professionals, The High Achiever’s Guide To Wealth.

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