What are NFTs? Mapping the NFT Ecosystem
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What are NFTs? Mapping the NFT Ecosystem

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The following content is sponsored by Next Decentrum

What are NFTs? The NFT Ecosystem, Explained

Mapping the NFT Ecosystem

NFTs have been the hottest topic and frothiest market of 2021, with sales volumes increasing by 100x while also becoming a topic of discussion on evening talk shows.

It took crypto nearly a decade to really penetrate the mainstream, but NFTs only needed a couple of years to capture people’s attention. As brands like Budweiser, Visa, and Adidas have purchased NFTs and entered the space, it’s clear that NFTs are more than just another hot new trend.

This infographic sponsored by Next Decentrum defines NFTs and explores the flourishing ecosystem that has quickly grown around them. Discover what non-fungible means, where NFTs are being minted and traded, and what the future holds for this asset class.

What are NFTs, and What is Fungibility?

NFTs are non-fungible tokens that have their history of ownership and current ownership cryptographically secured on a blockchain. These tokens can represent anything, whether it’s a piece of digital art in the form of a jpeg or a song as an mp3 file.

By storing transactions of these tokens on a blockchain, we can have digital proof of ownership and markets for these digital goods without the fear of double spending or the tampering of past transactions and ownership.

Figuring out Fungibility

This all sounds pretty similar to cryptocurrencies, so what makes NFTs so special? Their non-fungibility. Unlike cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or ethereum, non-fungible tokens represent goods or assets with unique properties and attributes, allowing them to have unique values even if they are part of the same collection.

Fungible: A good with interchangeable units that are indistinguishable in value. Examples: U.S. dollars, bitcoin, arcade tokens

Non-Fungible: A good with unique properties, giving it a unique value when compared to similar goods. Examples: real estate, paintings, NFTs

The most popular NFT collection, Cryptopunks, is a collection of 10,000 pixel art “punks”, with varying attributes like different hats, glasses, hairstyles, and more. The random combinations of attributes with differing scarcity results in each punk having a unique value.

Scarcity and subjective aesthetic preferences drive valuations for cryptopunks and other NFTs, with other factors like their historical significance, and even the blockchain they’re hosted on affecting their value.

The NFT-Capable Blockchains Compared

There are many different blockchains that are able to mint and host NFTs, with Ethereum currently the largest and most used by market cap and transaction volume.

Ethereum uses the energy-intensive proof of work consensus method but the network is planning to transition to proof of stake next year which should reduce energy usage by about 99%.

BlockchainMarket CapConsensus Method
Ethereum$526BProof of work
Solana$63.93BProof of stake
Avalanche$26.22BProof of stake
Polygon$12.41BProof of stake
Tezos$4.57BProof of stake
Flow$4.07BProof of stake

Source: Messari.io
As of Nov 29th, 2021

Along with concerns around its energy intensity, minting and transacting on the Ethereum blockchain incurs significantly higher fees compared to other blockchains.

The average Ethereum transaction fee varies between $30-80 (depending on the specific transaction) and the current NFT minting fee is ~$130, every other blockchain in the table above has transaction and minting fees that remain below $1.

While these high Ethereum fees have driven many users to explore other blockchains to mint NFTs, many secondary marketplaces help cover a portion, or even all gas fees, when minting on Ethereum.

The Secondary NFT Marketplaces

Alongside the primary blockchain networks where NFTs are minted and hosted, there are a variety of secondary marketplaces for NFTs where the majority of NFT exchanges take place.

These marketplaces enable users to more easily mint, buy, and sell NFTs, with OpenSea having emerged as the leading secondary NFT marketplace. It’s estimated that OpenSea had $1.9 billion of traded volume in November 2021, making up over 95% of NFT trading volumes.

MarketplaceTrading Volume (November)Supported Blockchains
OpenSea$1.9BEthereum, Polygon
Nifty Gateway$31.79BEthereum
SuperRare$18.77MEthereum
Foundation$15.33MEthereum
Hic et Nunc$4.48MTezos
MakersPlace$1.09MEthereum
Async Art$131,000Ethereum

Source: The Block

Although some of the marketplaces (like OpenSea) allow anyone to easily mint and offer an NFT for sale, other platforms like SuperRare limit the art and artists on offer, resulting in a more curated marketplace. Similarly, some marketplaces like OpenSea host NFTs from multiple blockchains like Ethereum and Polygon, while other marketplaces like Hic et Nunc are faithful to one blockchain (Tezos).

While OpenSea currently dominates the secondary market, cryptocurrency exchanges are likely to offer some fresh competition soon. Coinbase is currently building out its own NFT marketplace, and FTX’s marketplace with Ethereum and Solana NFTs is up and running.

Digital Art, Gaming, The Metaverse, and The Future of NFTs

NFTs made a huge splash in 2021, giving creators digital and decentralized networks where they could host and exchange their work.

Currently, digital-first use-cases are at the forefront of NFT development, with ownership of in-game assets or goods in the metaverse two of the primary use-cases being explored. However, NFTs can be used to tokenize physical assets like real estate, physical artwork, and much more, opening up near endless possibilities for their application.

From removing the friction of paperwork and bureaucracy in today’s real estate exchanges to allowing for easy fractionalization of asset ownership, the tangible real-world use-cases of NFTs are just starting to be explored.

To learn more about NFTs, visit Next Decentrum.

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Retirement Spending: How Much Do Americans Plan to Spend Annually?

Retirement expenses can vary significantly from person to person. In this graphic, we show the range of expected retirement spending.

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Retirement Spending

Americans’ Expected Annual Retirement Spending

Planning for retirement can be a daunting task. How much money will you need? What will your retirement spending look like?

It varies from person to person, based on factors like your health, outstanding expenses, and desired lifestyle. One helpful trick is to break it down into how much you estimate you’ll spend each year.

In this graphic from Personal Capital, we show the expected annual retirement spending of Americans. It’s the last in a three-part series that explores Americans’ spending and savings.

The Range of Retirement Spending

To determine how much people expect to spend, we used anonymized data from users of Personal Capital’s retirement planning tool. It’s worth noting that these users are proactive regarding financial planning. They also have a median net worth of $829,000 compared to the $122,000 median net worth of the U.S. population overall.

Here is the range of expected annual retirement spending.

Expected Annual Retirement SpendingPercent of People
$10K1.3%
$20K3.3%
$30K7.5%
$40K9.8%
$50K5.2%
$60K12.7%
$70K10.2%
$80K6.4%
$90K9.1%
$100K5.4%
$110K1.5%
$120K9.7%
$130K1.5%
$140K2.8%
$150K2.2%
$160K0.9%
$170K0.4%
$180K2.7%
$190K0.7%
$200K0.8%
$210K0.5%
$220K0.2%
$230K0.1%
$240K1.6%
$250K0.3%
$260K0.2%
$270K0.1%
$280K0.1%
$290K0.1%
$300K0.7%
Over $300K2.1%

Users are a mix of single individuals and people in a relationship. In all cases, expected retirement spending is what the household expects to spend annually.

The most commonly-cited expected spending amount is $60,000. Interestingly, this is roughly in line with what Americans spend annually on their credit cards. This suggests that people may be using their current bills to help gauge their future retirement spending.

Median spending, or the middle value when spending is ordered from lowest to highest, falls at $70,000. However, average spending is a fair amount higher at $100,000. This is because the average is calculated by adding up all the expected retirement spending amounts and dividing by the total number of users. Higher expected spending amounts, some in excess of $300,000 per year, skew the average calculation upwards.

Of course, given their higher net worth, it’s perhaps not surprising that many Personal Capital users expect to spend larger amounts in retirement. How does this compare to the general population? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans age 65 and older spend about $48,000 per year on average.

Chances of Retirement Success

Once you’ve determined how much you’ll spend in retirement, your next step may be to wonder if your savings are on track. Based on an assessment of Personal Capital retirement planner users, here is the breakdown of people’s chance of success.

Retirement Spending Chance of Success

The good news: more than half of people have an 80% or better chance of meeting their retirement spending goals. This means they have sufficient financial assets and are contributing enough, regularly enough, to meet their expected spending amount. The not so good news: one in five people has a less than 50% chance of meeting their goals.

This problem is even more troublesome in the overall U.S. population. Only 50% of people have a retirement account, and the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates half of today’s workers are unprepared for retirement.

Setting Your Own Retirement Spending Goals

While seeing the goals of others is a starting point, your annual retirement spending will be very specific to you. Not sure where to start?

Financial planners typically recommend that you should plan on needing 70-80% of your pre-retirement income in retirement. This is because people generally no longer have certain expenses, such as commuting or childcare costs, when they retire. However, keep in mind your expenses could be higher if you still have a mortgage, encounter unforeseen medical expenses, or want to splurge on things like travel when you retire.

It requires some upfront planning, but being realistic about your retirement spending can give you confidence in your financial future.

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Navigating Market Volatility: Why ETFs Are Critical Tools

Historically, the trading volume of ETFs has spiked during market volatility. We explore why ETFs are preferred by institutional investors.

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ETFs During Market Volatility

Download the ETF Snapshot for free.

Why ETFs Are Critical Tools During Market Volatility

Investors experienced record-breaking volatility in 2020. During COVID-19 market turbulence, the CBOE Volatility index surpassed the previous peak seen in 2008.

In this infographic from iShares, we explore how ETFs rose in popularity during this time—and the characteristics that make them particularly useful during market volatility. It’s the first in a five-part series covering key insights from the ETF Snapshot, a comprehensive report on how institutional investors manage volatility.

The Methodology

To assess how institutional investors navigated this volatility, Institutional Investor published a report in 2021 based on a survey of 766 decision makers. Respondents were from various types of organizations, firm sizes, and regions.

For instance, here is how responses broke down by location:

  • 21% Asia Pacific
  • 36% North America
  • 29% Europe, Middle East and Africa
  • 14% Latin America

Here’s what the survey found.

Rebalancing During Market Volatility

In total, 90% of institutional investors said they rebalanced their portfolios between the first and third quarter of 2020. How did they do it?

Among all financial tools, ETFs were the most popular vehicle for rebalancing. For instance, ETFs were used by 70% of investors globally, compared to the 51% who used mutual funds or derivatives.

The popularity of ETFs was evident in market activity. From January to March 2020, ETFs as a proportion of total equity trading volume increased.

 January 2020February 2020March 2020
VIX142058
ETF trading volume$95B$136B$240B
ETF as % of equity volume26%27%36%

Based on an average of daily values. Reflects all listed U.S. ETFs across all asset classes.

This trend is true historically as well, as ETF trading volume has typically spiked during periods of volatility.

Want more institutional insights into ETFs?

Global Forecast 2022

Download The ETF Snapshot for free.

The Attributes Driving ETF Usage

Why are ETFs preferred by institutional investors? They offer three key characteristics:

  1. Liquidity: ETFs make it much simpler to buy and sell large portfolios instantly, instead of trading individual securities.
  2. Transparency: Among multi-asset managers, transparency of holdings is the top reason for using ETFs. A clear holdings breakdown helps these managers achieve exposures to particular asset classes, sectors, and styles.
  3. Efficiency: ETFs can be traded quickly. They typically also have lower transaction costs relative to the underlying basket of securities.

Based on these key benefits, ETFs were an invaluable tool during extreme market volatility.

Growing Momentum

ETFs are also poised to help institutional investors navigate the market going forward. Globally, 65% of institutional investors plan to increase their use of ETFs in the future.

In fact, this is already coming to fruition. As of September 2021, the average daily trading volume of ETFs was up more than 5% compared to 2020.

Evidently, ETFs play a critical part in helping institutional investors achieve their goals.

Download the ETF snapshot for free.

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