In 2010 Ashley Foster, a financial advisor in Houston, was asked by a man if he had ever heard of bitcoin. Foster said he had not, and after the man explained the cryptocurrency to him, he thought: That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
But the conversation left Foster a little curious, so he arranged to meet a man at a nearby Starbucks to try it out. There, Foster handed the man $300 in cash, who in turn opened his laptop and sent him two bitcoins. As Foster drove away, he thought: That was a little sketchy.
Today, with bitcoin crossing the $16,000 mark, those two coins are worth more than $32,000. And cryptocurrencies are more mainstream.
Foster and many other financial advisors are fielding more and more questions from their clients about cryptocurrencies. There are dozens of exchanges where people can buy the digital coins. The Internal Revenue Service has classified bitcoins as property, like stocks, and taxes them accordingly. Earlier this fall, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the world's largest derivatives exchange, announced it will allow investors to trade and short bitcoin. There is even a custodian service that will protect your digital fortune. About 40 percent of people believe bitcoin is a "world-changing technology," according to a new survey by LendEdu.