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To Stake or Not to Stake:The Pros and Cons of Ethereum Staking

By:
Paul Sazan
| Editor:
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Updated:
July 19, 2024
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9 min read

Understanding Ethereum Staking

Investing in cryptocurrencies like Ethereum is more than just buying and holding. One way to potentially increase your holdings and contribute to the network's functionality is through a process called staking. If you're wondering, "should I stake my Ethereum?", this article will provide some insights.

Meaning of Staking

Staking is the process of actively participating in transaction validation on a proof-of-stake(PoS) blockchain. This is done by holding and “staking” a certain number of cryptocurrency tokens. In the context of Ethereum, those who stake their Ether (ETH) tokens participate in the network’s consensus mechanism, validating transactions and securing the network.

Image source: financemagnates.com

This process requires individuals to lock up a certain amount of Ether in a specific wallet or smart contract for a predetermined period. During this time, they cannot access or transfer the staked tokens. In return, stakers earn rewards like additional Ether (ETH) tokens.

Traditional ETH Staking 

Traditional ETH staking, also known as Protocol Staking, is a way to support the Ethereum network and get rewards. Your Ethereum is locked to aid with transaction validation and block creation. Imagine it as investing in an exclusive savings account that supports the proper operation of Ethereum.

To get started with traditional ETH staking, you need at least 32 ETH. That’s the very minimum needed to qualify as a validator. In addition, you will need to set up a validator model which are computers that are linked to the Ethereum network constantly. The actual work of generating new blocks and verifying transactions is done by this node. Remember that your ETH is locked for a while after you stake it. It is not something you can just take out whenever you choose. You receive additional ETH as compensation for your assistance. You can earn greater rewards the more Ethereum you stake and the longer you keep it staked.

Pros

  • High Rewards & Passive Earning 

Investors can only profit by engaging in active trading or managing their assets. Over time, validators will receive full staking rewards. Earning these rewards can increase your overall ETH holdings.  

  • Reduced Market Exposure

Investors are given a chance to profit while reducing some of the market’s short-term volatility because traditional staking allows it.

  • Network Support 

Token locking helps create a more secure and stable network environment because of its contribution to the decentralization of the Ethereum network.

Cons

  • High Entry Barrier

A significant amount of ETH (32 ETH) is needed to begin staking.

  • Limited Liquidity

During the period when ETH is staked, it cannot be used.

  • Technical Complexity

Technical know-how is required to set up and maintain a validator node.

  • Validator Selection & Lack of Diversification

Using a single validator could be risky, if the validator acts maliciously, rewards and the ETH staking capital could potentially be at risk.

Pooled ETH Staking

Pooled ETH staking is like collaborating with fellow Ethereum holders and Enthusiasts to reap profits from staking cryptocurrency. Instead of staking on your own, where you need 32 ETH, you can contribute whatever amount you are comfortable with. This is perfect for those who want to participate in staking and don’t have a fortune lying around.

Here is how it works: Your ETH is added to a pool, a big collection of funds from different persons. The total ETH in this pool powers the validator nodes on the Ethereum network. Everyone who contributed receives rewards the pool receives for keeping Ethereum operating efficiently. The best part is that the technical aspects are unimportant to you. Setup and upkeep of the validator nodes are among the many intricate details the pool operators take care of.

Typically all you need is an Ethereum wallet and some ETH to begin pooled staking. An extremely accessible feature of many pools is that you can join with as little as 0.025 ETH. It’s advisable to look into several pools to see what they offer, as there can be differences in reward rates, fees, and potential lockup periods for ETH. Some pools even give you special tokens that represent your staked ETH, which you can use in other cryptocurrency spaces while your original Ethereum is accumulating rewards. 

Pros

  • Low Entry Barrier 

Unlike staking solo, which requires 32 ETH, staking pools allow you to stake almost any amount of ETH by teaming up with others.

  • No Technical Knowledge Needed

No technical expertise is required when it comes to pool staking because you don’t need to set up or maintain a validator node.

  • Staking Tokens

A claim on your staked Ethereum and the profit it yields is represented by a token that several staking pools offer. This enables you to utilize your staked Ethereum, for example, as collateral in DeFi applications.

  • Flexibility

It is easier to join or leave the pool when compared to traditional staking. 

  • High Rewards, Lower Intermediaries

On the blockchain, direct staking guarantees higher rewards by reducing middlemen’s fees.

  • Passive Income

You can get passive income with your cryptocurrency investments by participating in staking pools.

Cons

  • Unbonding Period

A certain amount of time must pass before funds taken out of a staking pool can be accessed. Therefore, you will not be able to sell to benefit from a price increase or offset a sharp price decrease until you are given a liquidity token.

  • Counterparty Risk

If you adopt the custodial approach, your funds might be in danger if the exchange experiences a hacking incident or declares bankruptcy.

  • Slashing Penalties

A process called “Slashing” may occur if a validator in which your stake is pooled violates the blockchain’s consensus guidelines. You might have to cover some of that with your team.

  • Tax Liability

The income from a staking pool may be subjected to taxes in your area. You must maintain some documentation and provide your tax authority with accurate information.

  • Protocol Hacking

Utilizing a non-custodial staking pool puts you at risk of money loss due to smart contract exploitation.

Liquid Staking

Liquid staking allows you to stake crypto and gain access to it for other purposes. It involves locking your tokens into a staking protocol, which generates a liquid staking token (LST) to reflect the assets you have staked. This LST can be traded, transferred, or used in decentralized finance (DeFi) applications providing the liquidity and flexibility that traditional staking lacks.

To participate in liquid staking, choose a staking website and add your tokens to the platform. There is usually no minimum requirement for the tokens you can stake. LSTs are gotten as soon as your tokens are staked, which you can use for lending, trading, or supplying liquidity for DeFi protocols, among other financial activities. This way, you maximize your potential earnings without locking up your assets and earn rewards from the staked tokens and the LSTs.

Pros

  • Unlocked Liquidity

Tokens staked on networks like Ethereum are locked, meaning they can’t be exchanged or put up as collateral. Liquid staking tokens unlock the inherent value that staked tokens hold and enable them to be traded and used as collateral in DeFi stakings.

  • Portfolio Diversification

While earning staking rewards, investors preserve asset liquidity enabling them to take advantage of market moves and ensure an annual percentage yield (APY) while diversifying their portfolio.

  • Ease of Management

Liquid staking is a straightforward process because it doesn't involve technical expertise. 

  • Composability in DeFi

Staked asset receipts are represented as tokens, allowing them to be utilized in different protocols within the DeFi ecosystem, including loan pools and prediction markets.

Cons

  • Slashing

The maintenance and running of a validator node are largely outsourced by liquid staking services which exposes them to having their funds slashed if the service provider decides to go rogue.

  • Deppegging Risk

The price of staked tokens may vary from the original price due to the lower market price of the new token.

  • Smart Contract Risk

Smart contracts are used by protocols to disburse funds to validators, and smart contracts can be prey to attacks. It’s prudent to use smart contracts that have been thoroughly tested before deploying funds.

  • Reduced Governance Rights

Users who stake their tokens on platforms facilitating liquid staking may forfeit important governance rights attached to their tokens, such as voting in on-chain governance procedures. This could limit users’ ability to participate in network governance decisions.

General Risks of Staking ETH

Potential stakers of Ethereum should be aware of the many hazards involved in this process. Market volatility is one of these hazards. During the staking phase, the value of ETH is subject to large fluctuations. A smart contract locks up your ETH when you stake it, preventing you from accessing or trading it until the staking time expires.

You can suffer losses if ETH’s market price falls significantly while your funds are frozen. You also risk losing your earnings from staking when these price fluctuations occur. This implies that the value of the rewards will decline along with ETH’s value.

Vulnerabilities and difficulties with technology are another significant concern. Smart contracts on the Ethereum network are not impervious to vulnerabilities or hacks. Validators essential to preserving network security, risk fines if their nodes stop working or don’t correctly validate transactions. They may lose some of their staked Ethereum to this penalty, also called slashing.

Final Words

As our exploration of ETH staking draws to an end, it is evident that risks are associated with this intriguing prospect and rewards. Whether you go all in with traditional staking, team up in a pool, or opt for the flexibility of liquid staking, there’s a path for every Ethereum enthusiast. Remember, the crypto world is always evolving, so stay informed and only stake what your pocket can take. Even while the possibility of passive income is alluring, it’s important to weigh your own goals and risk tolerance against technical challenges and market risks of staking.

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