Do I want a financial agreement?

HOSTS Carmel Moorhead & Zoe Moorhead|26 February, 2021

Meet your hosts

  • Carmel Moorhead

    Carmel is in a relationship of three and a half years with her partner, and they own a house together and a dog called Ruby. She says, 'despite my partner also being a lawyer, I still win all arguments'. Carmel loves gardening and can tell the difference between a cucumber pant and zucchini plant just by looking.
  • Zoe Moorhead

    Zoe is in a relationship with her partner of two years and they've lived together for the past 6 months. They have a cat fur baby named Dumpling, he’s a sweet boy with a fluffy face, but according to Zoe, 'he’s currently fighting with his plant brothers and sisters in the form of digging warfare'. In her spare time, Zoe is an amateur potter and has recently discovered the world of yoga and essential oil diffusers (would recommend).

We all woke up to the news this week that Kimye is no more. But thanks to a clean-cut prenup that both Kim and Kanye agreed to two months before the wedding, it’s rumoured to be a clean-cut divorce. That’s not the case for most Aussie couples though – only 6% of couples have a prenup or financial agreement in place.

This week, Zoe and Carmel talk to Clarissa Rayward, from The Happy Family Lawyer, and ask the questions: what’s the point of a financial agreement? Can you get one at any point in the relationship? How many people actually even want them?  

Have a relationship question that’s got you stumped? Don’t know how to talk about money with your partner? Or just want to say hi? Send Zoe and Carmel an email – carmel@equitymates.com or zoe@equitymates.com

Don’t forget to follow us on insta for memes and details between the episode.

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If this has brought up any concerns or triggered any personal feelings for you, always seek help.

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If you’ve got a question for Zoe or Carmel then go ahead and send them to mpl@equitymates.com

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Meet Pay Love is a product of Equity Mates Media. 

All information in this podcast is for education and entertainment purposes only. Equity Mates gives listeners access to information and educational content provided by a range of financial services professionals. It is not intended as a substitute for professional finance, legal or tax advice. 

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Zoe Moorhead: [00:00:20] Welcome to Meet, Pay Love, a podcast where I talk all about money and relationships and everything in between. My name is Zoe and I'm here with my sister Carmel Hi Carmel. [00:00:20][0.0]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:00:30] So as always, we'd like to start off by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land in which we are recording and listening to this podcast. Today we pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. [00:00:41][11.0]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:00:41] So we are now in our fourth episode and we have covered everything from a de facto relationship to financial red flags. And so today we are talking about financial agreements. Now, I don't have a huge understanding of what a financial agreement is in my head. It's just like a prenup, the ones that we see in the movies where there's all these arguments around them. But I would you know, what a financial agreement is. [00:01:03][21.3]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:01:03] I do have a little bit from my time working in the court. But I do want to say from the outset that I don't think that they're very common. I don't think that many people in mid 20s to mid 30s would consider getting one. But we had some people from the community reach out and say they'd really love to hear an episode on financial agreements. And I think it's quite difficult to have a podcast on all things finance and money and relationships without addressing it. [00:01:31][28.3]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:01:32] So we did do a little bit of research before we jumped into this topic. And according to Canstar, six percent of married couples in Australia currently have a prenuptial agreement. So that's only six percent. Well over 91 percent admit that they don't have a prenup with their partner. A further three percent were unsure if they even had a legal document in place when it comes to finances or marriage. I guess [00:01:53][21.5]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:01:54] so. A member from our community, James, reached out. And here's a little bit of audio about his current situation. [00:02:00][5.9]

James: [00:02:01] I am 32, currently residing in Melbourne, and I've been in a relationship for four and a half years. I owned a property prior to being in a relationship in South Australia. It was really my first major investment. So I knew my partner when we were back, Yenisei. It came up that I owned the property. So I was probably the first discussion, albeit nothing financial. It was just that I owned the property. My partner didn't own any assets during the relationship aside from her car. I've never thought about putting a financial agreement in place. We're both relatively easygoing people, relatively trusting and sensible people. So it was never something that kind of came up personally from a relationship standpoint. I've never seen the need for that. But I owned a number of assets and I would probably stop thinking about that. [00:02:54][53.8]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:02:56] Thanks so much for sending that in, James. It's great to hear from someone in this position who has brought assets into a relationship, and I think it's really common to say, oh, we're both reasonable people. We're both on the same page at the moment. [00:03:09][13.8]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:03:10] Well, the thing is, is that I find it funny that people are so against it. And I want to know what really is a prenup or a financial agreement, whether they're the same thing. And if you can have one when you're already married, like, do you only have to sign one before you go into the relationship or can you do it at any stage? [00:03:28][18.3]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:03:29] So to answer all these questions, we're really excited to have on the show Clarissa Raywood. She's a family lawyer, wife and mom who is passionate about relationships, people and family. She is known in the legal community as the happy family lawyer as she believes that your divorce can be something that you can look back on with pride in 2013. Clarissa started writing her thoughts on how to have a happy divorce on a simple blog called The Happy Family Lawyer. What began as her weekly ramblings has fast become a popular resource center for families, navigating the legal aspects of their divorce and separation, who are seeking an amicable and dignified divorce, the kind of divorce they can look back on with some pride. [00:04:09][40.5]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:04:10] We recently talked to Clarissa over Skype about financial agreements. [00:04:13][2.9]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:04:14] what percentage of your clients would you say, come to you seeking advice on financial agreements? [00:04:18][4.2]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:04:20] It's actually really low. So out of all of the types of work that I do, this would be a really small nasch space. And so it's not something that I'm doing on a daily basis and really regularly. And I think that is because financial agreements or prenup says they're often more commonly referred to as they come with a whole lot of stigma. And it's interesting that you've asked me to talk about this topic today, because it's a really powerful thing to talk about. Money is such a conflict driver in relationships and how we manage money and how we learn about money and how we deal with money can create such power imbalances and balances in relationships. And you see it play out in the work that I do all the time. [00:04:56][36.8]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:04:57] Well, that's the things. So I always thought of prenups as like the American movie Prenup, where it's outrageous to even ask me for that. And it wasn't until we started this podcast where I was really learning about what a financial agreement is. And so what would be your definition of what a financial agreement is? And is it the exact same as a prenup or are they kind of different things? [00:05:16][19.3]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:05:17] A prenup is one form of a financial agreement, and a financial agreement in simplicity is a contract and agreement between two people on how they might manage their property, their assets, their finances in the event that their relationship ends. And we can do them prior to commencing a de facto relationship or beginning a marriage. You can do them during a relationship and you can also do them at the end or after separation. So they have a, you know, a purpose at different stages in our relationship. The legislation slightly different for each of those stages. But in a simplistic sense, they're a private contract between two adults about how they're going to manage their money. [00:05:58][41.3]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:05:59] And when would you normally say that a person should consider getting a financial agreement, if at all? [00:06:05][5.9]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:06:06] I don't think it's for me to say anyone should consider it, but I think it's helpful to think about a financial agreement as a tool that gives you some certainty. And they're great planning to what I think is important, and particularly for young people starting relationships. And I guess this is the now 40 something year old woman reflecting on her own life and maybe learning along the way. I think having conversations about money is a really difficult thing to do, but a really important thing to do. And if you are in a situation where you might have some wealth, which we're seeing a lot now, we're seeing people that have had careers for 10 or 15 years before they're committing to a relationship, before they found the person that they wish to commit to in a relationship. And they've worked really hard to achieve those things. Where a financial agreement can be really helpful is it gives you a framework to talk about what would happen if our relationship ended with the things that I already have, with the things that you already have. How do we want to manage our money when we're together? How do we see that we're going to acquire assets? What might happen if one of us was to take time away from work to raise children? And these are really important conversations to have in any relationship, whether you're entering into a prenuptial agreement or not. And they often the conversations that we steer well away from because they're hard, you know, they bring up a whole lot of issues around values and beliefs that can be really hard to tackle. But if you can tackle them, your relationship will be in an immediately better place than if you don't. [00:07:34][88.8]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:07:35] And so at what stage in the relationship are people usually tackling this? Like, is it can you do one after you're already married? Can you do one before you're even considering marriage? Like at what stage in the relationship? [00:07:46][10.8]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:07:47] Both is the answer to that. So you could enter into a financial agreement early in a relationship. And when I say early, it might be. Six months in or whatever it is for that couple, you could be married into your relationship and for whatever reason decide actually we'd like to put some structure around what may happen here. I do often see people entering into financial agreements during relationships when things maybe are not looking the way they hoped. So they might be a moment where there's infidelity, there might be a moment where something's happened that's making the relationship feel shaky. And part of entering into a financial agreement is almost resetting it and saying, well, let's talk about what would happen if this doesn't work so that we're on the same page about that. And now we can actually work on our relationship because we're not fearful about what a separation might mean for both of us. So I guess in that sense, really helpful documents because you can use them at all sorts of different places and stages. So we're just going [00:08:44][56.7]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:08:44] to take a break from Clarissa's interview right now to really hone in to the fact that she's talking about communication being vital across all aspects and all phases of your relationship, which I think is something that has come up a lot in our interviews. And it should feel like common sense. But not everyone has the best communication skills. [00:09:02][18.0]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:09:02] So would you get a financial agreement? [00:09:04][1.6]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:09:05] I actually probably would if we sat down and spoke about it in depth and why they were getting it. I don't want to get it with, like, a malicious intent that we're going to break up. I want to go into a relationship thinking that there's going to be an end to it. But I do want to grow my own wealth my way, and I want that financial independence. So it doesn't bother me getting a financial agreement. [00:09:26][20.1]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:09:26] Yes, I really wouldn't want to get one and paid and I don't have one. We did have a really open discussion about if we did break up, what would happen and where you have like a general mutual understanding that we would get the amounts that we put in at the start and then kind of just split the difference. But the thing is, things change so quickly, it's really impossible to predict the future. I don't know if it's something that I would be into. [00:09:52][25.9]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:09:53] Well, I mean, that's the thing. We don't know that much about financial agreements yet. So we might throw back to Clarissa now just so she can tell us a little bit more about them in this next part of our interview. [00:10:02][8.7]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:10:03] One of the challenges that has arisen with financial agreements is that they have been used in circumstances to take advantage of more vulnerable people. And those cases have at times found their way into the courts. So let's say someone signs off on a prenuptial agreement in circumstances where they're in a very vulnerable position. They're often marrying someone who has a lot of wealth. A lot of the cases that have been decided recently in Australia have involved usually women coming from different countries and cultures, short timeframe before a wedding, being asked to sign a complicated document. Often English is not their first language. And in circumstances where you're in a country that it's not your own, where your immigration status perhaps is connected to a wedding, where you're being promised all sorts of things, it's no surprise that they might sign an agreement. And then it's also no surprise that one or two or three or four years down the track when the relationship is not at all what they had thought, that they're seeking some legal advice about whether that document that they signed in that moment is actually binding. And so this is where the Family Law Act kicks in and where the Family Court of Australia kicks in and there'll be challenges around. Is it binding or isn't it? And, you know, that's a really complicated process that I won't bore you with. But as a result, there's lots of case law at the moment around what does make for a binding and enforceable financial agreement. This is what doesn't. And if I was to try and make that, I guess, clear and simple, the things that will make it ultimately binding, common sense things you can't expect someone to enter into a contract. If from the outset that whole negotiation process is unfair and things that would make it unfair would be things like not sharing with them the true extent of your financial circumstances, not being honest in those conversations, not giving them time to think about the consequences of what they entering into, not pondering all of the potential uncertainties of life. And hasn't this last 12 months really demonstrated to us all that life comes with so much uncertainty? And so when you're entering into a contract that may in fact affect your life 30 years down the track, you genuinely need time and the opportunity to speak with professionals like myself about what if what if this what if that and often when we're in the early stages of a relationship where, you know, sort of shocked on romance and we saw that won't happen. That won't happen. I don't have to worry about that. That won't happen. And my job, sadly, is an advisory to say, well, what if it did? What's the impact of this document, this agreement that you're proposing in the event that that happened? How does that affect you? And so that piece is really, really important. When people are entering into financial agreements, they'll often hear from lawyers, good lawyers, that the cost in doing one of these agreements will be thousands of dollars. And often I'll hear from people, well, I found one on Google, I don't understand why, Clarissa, you want to charge me thousands of dollars? I've got a template like this is ridiculous. And the reason for the cost is because you want to ensure that the effort and energy that you're putting into this contract now is going to mean that it works for you in 10, 20, 30 years, because that's the intention most people don't into prenups with the vision that they're actually use it. Most people are doing it as a bit of a security blanket in the hope that their relationship survives the distance. But we have to think about what might happen in the event that it doesn't go as planned. [00:13:28][205.0]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:13:29] What are some of the risks that you can say or the red flags that you would want younger people to look out for when they're being asked to enter into a financial agreement? [00:13:37][8.0]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:13:38] Just information, I think, is then the second one. So ensuring and particularly, I guess if you're the person that perhaps doesn't have the same level of wealth as the other person that you understand the financial information that's been given to you and that you're able to access and see supporting material, that that gives you more context. And if you don't understand that, which most of us don't, you know, it's not until you encounter something that you actually turn your mind to it, then make sure you're engaging with. Might be a financial adviser, might be an accountant. Again, lawyers to help you to understand what it is that you're being asked to sign and what the impact of that will be in the future. So I think more than anything, it's an education and knowledge piece. For me, that's the most important. And this is probably the case whether you're entering into a financial agreement or a prenup or not. You know, in an early stage of a relationship, having transparency around your circumstances is such an important thing when it comes to trust. And so it's all connected. For me, [00:14:39][61.3]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:14:40] you're listening to meet Pay Love with Zoe and Carmel. We're just going to take a quick break right now to hear this message from our sponsors. Then we'll come back to the rest of our interview with Clarissa. [00:14:49][9.1]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:15:11] we're talking all about financial agreements and we've just heard about why they're not always legally binding, which is scary as hell to me. Well, yeah, because you want to get off on it because I wanted one. I just said I wouldn't be opposed to one end of these conversations with an open mind Carmel. [00:15:29][17.1]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:15:29] I am open minded that I don't want financial aggrement. And so when we interview these amazing people in the fields of finance and money and relationships, I really like to ask them the tough questions of how do you actually deal with this in your personal relationship? And Clarissa was very open with us about the conversations that she first had when she met her husband and how they discussed money at the early stages. Do you remember having these conversations with your partner to early on or. [00:16:01][32.1]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:16:02] I'm to think, yeah, so Oli my husband and I have been married for 13 years now. Look, we've had very similar upbringings with very similar financial circumstances. We met when we were both in our late 20s. I was a lawyer and he works in construction. And yeah, I think we did probably have a pretty clear idea pretty early on on, you know, what we both had at that time. I helped him buy his first house. I remember that that was very early in our relationship. I sent him all these real estate dot com notices like buy a house. You go some very much a typical female lawyer, like, get on with it. What are you doing? So I honestly, I couldn't say, do I remember the moment where we sat down, said, right, let me share with you what I had. But I think I'm a pretty open book and it's not something that I was dancing around or hiding. Did you consider [00:16:52][50.7]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:16:53] entering into a financial agreement at that time? Was that something that was on your mind? [00:16:56][3.2]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:16:57] I guess in some ways, yes. But I really didn't own very much. Yeah. [00:17:00][2.7]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:17:00] So I was like a struggling young lawyer. [00:17:03][2.8]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:17:04] Yes, I was pretty even in this stakes. I'm not overly fast, you know, but I guess I'm at a different stage of life now. Yeah. So if something was to happen with my marriage and for whatever reason I was entering a new relationship, I would answer that question so differently. Now I own a business. I employ 13 people. I own a home. I have you know, I have a very different financial structure than I had in my late 20s. And honestly, if I was entering into a new relationship now, I. I probably would enter into some form of agreement about my assets because I have two children. And the whole consequences of something not working the way you hoped would be really different because of the stage of life that I'm at now. [00:17:47][42.4]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:17:47] So we've discussed financial agreements in the eyes of the law. Are there any other ways you can recommend people to protect themselves financially before heading into a relationship? Or is it mostly just the financial agreements and consent orders? [00:17:58][11.3]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:17:59] I think that's in a pure legal sense. It is really just a financial agreement or a prenuptial agreement. In that sense. You know, you sometimes hear people talking about, I'll put all my money in a trust or I'll set up these clever ways of doing things. None of that will help you in the family law system. The federal system looks through everything. There's no like magic way of hiding money. So none of that's going to help you. I think the best protection is what I spoke about before is honesty and transparency and really thinking about, you know, what are the consequences of this decision now in 20 years time? And if you don't know the answer exactly as you said, sorry, then speak to some people that can help you identify what the consequences might be. [00:18:38][39.1]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:18:38] Is there anything you wish that you knew when you were younger or you want young people in like this? Maybe like the twenty, twenty, twenty, twenty one spot where you were uncovered or anything that they should know before joining finances with their partners? [00:18:51][12.8]

Clarissa Raywood: [00:18:52] This is like potentially a six hour conversation. But what I would say you really do need to think yourself about what you would expect of yourself and what you would expect of someone that you were in a relationship with. And I think you need to allow your head to go to worst case scenarios. And the most common example I see floating around me is someone, you know, a couple former relationship, and then they have children. And one person in the relationship steps back from their work to take on the role of caring or supporting or raising children. And that has a whole lot of financial consequences. It has consequences. And often it's women that take on this role has consequences in terms of contribution to superannuation, for example, in terms of income, in terms of getting back into the workforce. And we live in a society that doesn't value those roles well. And so I do think you should be having conversations with your partner around, well, what is life going to look like for us as best as we can ever protect it? But what are your expectations of me? If we were to have a family, what are your expectations? If I couldn't contribute, what are your expectations? If we had a sick child and one of us couldn't work, what would we do? And they had things to talk about in those sparks of romance moments, but they are very important. Two things to think about and be able to at least have a conversation about, he may not have the answers because you haven't had delivered yet, but at least if you can have the conversation and if the answers you hear from your partner, meet your expectations. And I think that is the basis of a successful relationship. [00:20:25][92.5]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:20:26] Thank you so much, Clarissa, for your time and your expertize on financial agreements. For more about her, please visit happyfamilylayer.com . [00:20:32][5.7]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:20:34] So, Zoe, I'm interested to hear from you, given that you didn't really know much about this area before the interview. What has been your key learning? Well, I [00:20:42][8.1]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:20:42] think it's quite funny that people are trying to download these documents off Google, which are obviously quite complex legal documents and claim that as like a financial agreement. [00:20:53][10.7]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:20:54] Yeah, definitely avoid that. [00:20:55][1.7]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:20:56] I feel like that would trigger you as a lawyer. [00:20:57][1.6]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:20:58] Yeah, it is a very good point. It is a pressure point. I think it's really important in this area, just like all areas of law, I suppose. But just get advice that's tailored to your situation. Please don't do a Daiwa thing that I find interesting. And it's very similar to the advice that we receive from SAP Beer in our first episode, which is that you can use financial agreements to be like a timestamp of all our assets, individual or combined, depending on where you're at in the relationship. And then you've got a document that details all of that, which I think is really helpful. It's just like you said, send a letter to your future self. You attach all the documents and statements of your assets at the time. That's the same thing with a financial agreement. But the issue that I have with financial agreements just and the reason why I don't want to get one is that I think things just change so quickly and so complicated in terms of, you know, what if I have kids in the future, what if we sell our house? Things are just going to keep changing. And I don't want to keep having to update it. I'm I feel more comfortable knowing that I generally on the same page about what we would do if we break up. [00:22:10][72.0]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:22:11] Well, the other thing is, is that financial agreements are not always just married couples. You can have them at any stage in your relationship, even if you're not intending to get married. It's not like prenups which are really thought about just before marriage. And so as we talk to stop it, you still have rights as a de facto couple, regardless of the fact you've got a financial agreement written up. [00:22:33][21.7]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:22:33] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And the Family Law Act aims to protect people who are in de facto relationships. And we should say that there is a time and a place, I think, for prenups, some financial agreements, just like Kim and Kanye. [00:22:47][13.3]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:22:48] Yeah, well, apparently their prenup means that the divorce is going to be easy peasy. Walk in talk not compared to Kim and Kris Humphries, [00:22:55][6.9]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:22:56] not just going off news articles for this, but [00:22:59][3.9]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:23:00] we've got no personal connection. I don't know them personally. But, Kim, if you want to reach out, please, I would love to have you on the podcast. [00:23:07][6.6]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:23:08] I would drop dead. But I think what's interesting about Kim and Kanye is exactly what you said, that they obviously would have spent a lot of time and money having lawyers look over their assets and accountants and all those kind of things to draw up a really solid agreement. And now that their split is quite easy and amicable because they thought about that in advance. So maybe and this is what Clarissa said to maybe if you are coming in with significant assets, definitely have the conversation and maybe then consider writing up an agreement. [00:23:41][32.9]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:23:42] Well, like a prenup or financial agreement is spending money on lawyers now so you don't have to spend an excess of money on lawyers later. [00:23:49][7.2]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:23:50] True. But I think there's one flaw in what you're saying, which is still, if one person in the relationship wants to have a fight, that will be a fight. And of course, this podcast may pay. Love is not intended to be legal advice or financial advice and plays. If you are thinking about getting a financial agreement or even if you're just entering a serious relationship and you want to be sure of your rights to make your own independent legal advice, because we don't know your situation. [00:24:16][26.0]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:24:17] And that's it for this episode of Meet Pay Love. If you'd like to reach out to us, please feel free to do so at Karmal or Zoe at Equity Mates dot com or via Instagram page at Mapei Love. We'd also love to hear from you in a write or review on the platform that you're currently listening to this podcast on. Thanks to all those who already have, we really appreciate all your feedback. If this is your first venture into the world of finance, please go check out our friends over at Equity meIt's podcast. They cover everything from getting started to investing to recommendations around what to invest in. And there's a whole lot of other podcasts that are currently covering a few more topics. [00:24:53][35.5]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:24:54] Next week we're going to be talking about contraception. We're going to be speaking to Emily Deng from one 800 my options. And he is a little something of what you can expect. [00:25:02][8.3]

Emily: [00:25:02] There's been research that basically suggests that switching from something like the pill, that's a short acting contraception to. Long, long acting contraception would actually save women a few hundred dollars every year and for all Australian women over five years, something like 93 million dollars. So that's a huge amount of money that women potentially don't need to be spending on things that might not be working that well for them. [00:25:26][23.6]

Zoe Moorhead: [00:25:27] If this topic is something of interest to you, please feel free to reach out to us again with any questions or any stories you might have. Thanks again for listening. Until next time later. [00:25:35][8.5]

Carmel Moorhead: [00:25:36] Thanks for listening. Bye [00:25:36][0.0]

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The world of cryptocurrencies is a fascinating part of the investing universe these days. Questions abound about the future of the currencies themselves – Bitcoin, Ethereum etc. – and the use cases of the underlying blockchain technology. For those investing in crypto or interested in learning more about this corner of the market, we’re featuring some of the most interesting content we’ve come across in this weekly email.