After more than a decade as a mortgage underwriter at USAA, Brenda Gentry resigned in October 2021. Rather than continue in traditional finance, she pivoted to crypto full-time. Now, Gentry runs a crypto consulting firm, which she launched after leaving her job.
The San Antonio resident sees crypto as a way to accumulate and pass on generational wealth. She and her family are excited about the "unprecedented opportunities offered by crypto," Gentry, 46, tells CNBC Make It.
Before going "all in" and leaving her steady 9-to-5, Gentry began investing in cryptocurrencies during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. She started small, but gradually began investing more.
By early 2021, she had garnered substantial returns. "My investment portfolio surpassed my 401(k) — which had taken 11 years to get to $200,000 — in six months," Gentry says. She acknowledges that cryptocurrency is a risky investment, but her experience in finance and process of due diligence helps her feel comfortable investing in the space.
Now, Gentry is widely known as the "crypto mom" online. She continues to personally invest in digital assets, but mainly runs Gentry Media Productions with her daughters, Cynthia, 23, and Imani Gentry, 19.
The firm advises decentralized finance (DeFi) and nonfungible token (NFT) projects, and Gentry typically makes between 10 and 20 ether, which is around $40,000 to $80,000, from the business each month. In comparison, she made about $75,000 annually in her past job.
Gentry sees crypto as a way to provide a better future for her family: "NFTs and DeFi are breaking down generational curses of poverty."
"Crypto is about financial freedom," Gentry says. "Most people who couldn't access loans with traditional finance because of credit limitations can now invest in crypto and be able to borrow from it."
DeFi protocols provide interest rates that are typically more attractive than with traditional banks, and the barrier to entry to borrow is low compared with that of a traditional system. In most cases, the only requirement to take out a DeFi loan is the ability to provide collateral with other crypto assets.
For Gentry, getting into crypto has led to tangible changes for her family. In September, Gentry says she was able to help her parents retire.
"This is something I always wanted to do," she says. "My dad retired before but had to go back to work — the pension wasn't cutting it for them. My mom had been working as a cleaning supervisor for many years. The hours were brutal and taking a toll on her health."
Her next goal is to help her siblings retire.
Though cryptocurrency is volatile, Gentry plans to build wealth by holding her assets long-term. The market is "not always going to be bullish," she says.
Experts warn that you should only invest what you can afford to lose, but they do agree that a long-term holding strategy in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is best practice.
Overall, Gentry and her family see crypto as a way to build generational wealth. They're all involved in different crypto projects, including gaming and DeFi. "We're very interested in play-to-earn gaming and how that is positively affecting people in developing countries," with users earning income from playing blockchain-based games, Gentry says.
Gentry has been successful in the space, but what she has accomplished isn't necessarily easy or typical. When it comes to investing in cryptocurrency, financial experts recommend being careful. Though some digital coins and projects can surge in value quickly, they can also crash down just as fast.
Gentry and her family get many messages from people wanting to learn about the space, she says, and "we have to let people know that there are days when the market is red."