By Michelle Singletary | The Washington Post

Even in the currently roaring stock market, people are looking for higher returns. And an investment that has jumped more than 40 percent in one week can seem like just the way to make a lot of money.

“What do you think of bitcoins,” a number or people have asked me.

Bitcoin is an electronic currency that exists only on the Internet. There are not any actual coins. It’s not backed by anything except the hope by investors that that other folks will continue to want to buy it. Yet, it has become one of the most talked about investments of late. Why?

“Supply and demand. People are buying up bitcoin, driving up the price of the 16.7 million coins in circulation,” reported The Washington Post’s Thomas Heath.

Bitcoin is going mainstream. Here is what you should know about it.

In January, the cryptocurrency was trading at just under $1,000 per coin. Last week, it reached a high of $17,000 on one exchange and just over $19,000 on another. By Friday it was sliding down.

It dropped to as low as $14,566.81 Friday just after 1:30 p.m.,” reported CNB’s Everett Rosenfeld.

Bitcoin plummeted just hours after setting yet another record CNN tech writer Seth Fiegerman wrote about buying $250 worth of bitcoin. In writing about the volatility of the currency Fiegerman said, “a key reason the price of bitcoin keeps going up is, well, because it keeps going up. Small investors like yours truly have a fear of missing out on a chance to get rich quick. And when the value of your bitcoin doubles in a week, as it did for me, it’s easy to think you’re a genius. But you can get burned assuming it will keep skyrocketing.”

For the average investor, folks with mortgages, student loans, credit card debt or regular jobs they can’t afford to lose, bitcoins are highly risky — more akin to gambling than investing. Stay away unless you have the stomach for speculative investing and cash to lose your money without tears. But don’t take my word for it.

Jack Bogle: “Did I make myself clear? Bitcoin has no underlying rate of return. You know bonds have an interest coupon, stocks have earnings and dividends. There is nothing to support bitcoin except the hope that you will sell it to someone for more than you paid for it. Bitcoin may well go to $20,000, but that won’t prove I’m wrong. When it gets back to $100, we’ll talk.”

A roundtable of experts at NerdWallet answer questions about bitcoin: Is Bitcoin Safe? Bitcoin may be soaring lately, but there are plenty of reasons to steer clear of the digital currency

Here’s how the NerdWallet writers answered this question: In 20 years people will hear ‘bitcoin’ and say. . .

Anna-Louise Jackson, investing: “That’s so 2017.”

James Royal, investing: “Vanilla Ice? Pet Rock? Beanie Babies?”

Tina Orem, taxes: “Didn’t bitcoin date one of the Kardashians?”

Dayana Yochim, investing: “Why oh why didn’t I sell at $16,000?”

Andrea Coombes, investing: “Bit-what? I actually tend to think cryptocurrency is here to stay. But it’s probably going to be regulated, and it’s probably not going to be bitcoin.”

The meteoric rise of bitcoin and its buying frenzy have regulators and big banks concerned.

Then there was this: Hackers made off with $70 million in the digital currency after targeting NiceHash, a cryptocurrency platform.

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