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“Be your own bank.”

That motto gave life to the cryptocurrency movement, with a peer-to-peer electronic cash system representing liberation from banks, and from those who control them (or who they control). However, being your own bank isn’t the political rallying cry it’s taken for. There’s a lot more to the concept than that.

Financial freedom means financial responsibility and risk

The primary offering of peer-to-peer digital cash is true financial freedom. While this is rightly heralded as a precious gift, it’s by no means a simple panacea for all the world’s monetary ills. Every benefit has another opposite side, and in this case liberty necessitates great responsibility. When you’re your own bank, you have to personally see to it that your funds are secure. You assume the risk of theft and misplacement. You deal with mistakes, ensure that transactions are received and accepted by the other party, and manage your own accounts. If anything goes wrong, that’s on you. The freedom to keep and control what you earn also means the freedom to be defrauded or fail.

For many, self-banking will never be the best option

The hyper-individualists may not like to admit it, but absolute freedom isn’t for everyone. Some are simply bad at taking responsibility for their own funds. They may be prone to distractions and mistakes, may not be savvy and skilled at security, or simply may not want the pressure of dealing with large sums of money, even their own. For these people, everyone being their own bank is not of net benefit. They would be much happier and better off with someone else taking care of them.

Centralized services will always have a place, and that’s good

I’ve previously written about how woefully inequipped for financial sovereignty many are who preach the message with confidence. The reality is, even in a field dedicated to creating radically individualistic forms of money, a variety of centralized, bank-like services have cropped up, and cryptocurrency users have flocked to them in droves. That’s because trusted systems form a valuable part of the otherwise trustless world. As we are free to do as we please with our funds, we are free to voluntarily enter into exchanges with those who will help manage our funds in exchange for a fee and some trust. The availability of these services is not only welcome, but crucial, as long as using them is a choice and not the only available avenue.

“Be your own bank” means you don’t need one

In the end, the objective of self-banking isn’t necessarily to have no one use bank-like services, but for no one to need them. In the old financial world, an unbanked person will have significant difficulty operating, with no good means of transfers (especially across distances), no convenient payment methods, and few secure storage methods that are feasible. In short, with fiat currency, you basically need to be banked. Cryptocurrency users can use centralized services, but if they choose not to they can still operate just fine. The voluntary nature of using third parties is the achievement.

The smaller the gap between banking and self-banking, the better

All that being said, after self-banking can be achieved, there remains one final goal to further a financially free world: making self-banking as easy and efficient as possible. Downloading the whole blockchain through a core client, copying long cryptographic addresses, and backing up wallet files on external storage will cause cryptocurrency users to face a significant difference in user experience when using a trusted service. This will invariably keep the number of self-banked at a minimum, and cause many to prioritize convenience over sovereignty. The more that gap is bridged, however, the more will choose total financial sovereignty, and the less of a hardship this choice will be for anyone.

There are some third-party services, such as the Edge wallet, trying to provide a seamless user experience while still allowing users to maintain full trustles control over their funds. The next level beyond that is Dash’s upcoming platform codenamed Evolution, which aims to allow this same kind of smooth experience without even having to use a third-party wallet. If this feat is achieved, the feasibility gap between the banked and the self-banked will be paper-thin, while that of financial freedom will remain oceans apart.