Impermanent Loss is the unrealized loss that occurs when your share of a liquidity provider position becomes uneven compared to its original position. 

If you know what all that meant, great! You don’t have to watch this video. However, if you were as clueless as we were a few weeks ago, stick around and you’ll be able to explain the concept of impermanent loss to your grandmother. Here at whiteboard crypto we spent a lot of time and resources creating these amazing animations so you can sit back, relax, and understand the topic with the help of our analogies, stories, and examples. 

Let’s dig in. 

First off, Impermanent Loss only happens to people who provide liquidity to a liquidity pool. If you have no idea what a liquidity pool is, you’ll need to watch our video on liquidity pools to fully understand how this works, because it can get complicated fast. 

Secondly, Impermanent Loss is easiest to explain through examples, so we are going to go through 2 examples of situations in this video. 

Let’s say you put up 100 ETH and $10,000 into a liquidity pool. Most liquidity pools want there to be a 50:50 ratio when you deposit, so we can reasonably assume the price of 1 ETH is $100 in this example. So there is $10,000 worth of a stablecoin and $10000 worth of ETH.

So you take that total $20,000 and put it into the liquidity pool hoping to gain a profit on some of the fees that happen within the pool. Time for our first example. 

[ETH price rises to $110] 

Let’s say a trader comes along and realizes he can buy ETH at your liquidity pool and sell it to coinbase for $110. He keeps buying more and more and the algorithm keeps charging him more until he stops making money. That’s how these decentralized exchanges work – you pay more and more for each asset you want to buy so it never runs out of that asset to sell you. However, in our case, the asset was much cheaper than another exchange, so it created an arbitrage opportunity for a trader. You can watch our Automated Market maker video for a better explanation about how this algorithm works, but if we do the math, we figure out he was able to give $488 and buy 4.652 ETH until the liquidity pool price was also $110. If he bought any more eth, he would be losing money. So he immediately sold this cheaper ETH for $511.82 to Coinbase, making a profit of $23.82 by buying and selling to two different liquidity pools. 

Now, let’s take the stance of the liquidity provider. This means there is now $10488 in the pool and 95.347 ETH in the pool (at least in terms of his share). 

If we take 95.347 and multiply it by $110 because that’s the going price of ETH we get 10488. So 10488 + 10488 gives us a total value of $20976. 

So the liquidity provider now has a total value of $20976, making a nice $976 because ETH went up. He made some decent money today!

However, to calculate impermanent loss, we need to calculate how much money he WOULD’VE had if it didn’t give money to the liquidity pool and just held it instead. 

So he would’ve still had his initial $10,000, but what about if he held his 100 eth? That 100 eth is now worth $11,000, so he would’ve had a total of $21,000. This means he has a total impermanent loss 21,000- 20976, which is $24. In short, this liquidity provider would’ve made more money if he had just held onto his ethereum and stablecoin. This might not seem like much, but imagine a similar scenario where the price jumps 20% instead of 10%, or where the price dropped by half. 

In short, impermanent loss is caused when the price difference between two assets in a pool is changed. As the change increases, so does the impermanent loss. If ETH goes back to $100, then the impermanent loss is basically cancelled and there is none, because both assets would be the same as when the Liquidity Provider initially invested. 

They call it impermanent loss because it only becomes permanent whenever you cash out your liquidity. Until you do that, there is still an opportunity for the loss to normal itself out. 

Impermanent loss is the loss you get when you have less money compared to the value of our assets that you had if you would’ve just held them, compared to investing them in a liquidity pool.

Let’s consider another example. This time we start off with 100 eth and $10,000 in a liquidity pool, however ETH price drops from $100 to $60 on Binance. So a trader comes along, buys ETH at binance and sells it to the liquidity pool, starting at $100 and then keeps selling at lower and lower price until the liquidity pool can’t offer anything higher than $60 for each eth. 

I know how the algorithm of a Constant Product Automated Market Maker works, and so can you if you watch our video on it, but using the math, we find out this means the trader gave the pool 30 Ethereum. So they bought 30 ethereum for $60 each at Binance, costing them $1800. 

Let’s see how much they made. 

1,000,000 divided by 130 ethereum, gives us $14285, which means the pool should have 7692, however it has $10,000. This means the trader received the difference for giving the pool 30 ethereum. This is the math behind the algorithm, so if you don’t’ get it, don’t pay too much attention to it. 

In short, the trader bought ethereum at $1800 and sold for $2307, earning $507. 

Let’s take a look at our liquidity provider now. 

They have 130 ethereum at a market price of $60. This means the value of ethereum in their portion of the pool is $7800. The cash value in the pool is 7692. This means the value of the assets in the liquidity pool equals $15292. A sharp loss from the initially invested $20,000. 

Now, let’s calculate their impermanent loss. If they didn’t invest their assets, they would’ve had $10,000 cash, and 100 ETH, which would be worth $6000, which means their initial investment would only $16000. $16000 – $15292 = an impermanent loss of $708. 

We hope you’re understanding how this works. 

Essentially what you need to know is that it’s good for any liquidity provider when two assets stay roughly the same price. When one goes up and the other stays the same, the liquidity provider starts to experience impermanent loss and can only recover if the first asset starts to come down to equal out the liquidity. 

It gets really tricky when both asset’s prices start moving. In short, if they go in opposite directions, the liquidity provider starts to lose money really fast, however if they increase the same or decrease the same, the liquidity provider may not lose money due to impermanent loss at all, and may reap the rewards of profits from the trading fees. 

Here is a neat little chart you can look at to see how much impermanent loss a liquidity provider may experience in terms of how much that asset changes in price. As the price of an asset increases past 100% of it’s value to the other asset, the impermanent loss grows, and as the price of an asset decreases less than 100%, the impermanent loss grows. 

[IL chart]

As we end this video, we want to let you know we are working on a second video that explains how to reduce or mitigate your risk as a liquidity provider, and if you’d like to see, that consider subscribing and leaving a like – if you are watching this in the future and we have already created the second video on how to avoid risk when investing in a liquidity pool – check the link in the description. 

We hope you enjoy this video, but most of all we hope you learned something. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you in the next one!

About the author 

Whiteboard Crypto Team

We are a team of blockchain enthusiasts dedicated to creating high-quality resources for anyone wanting to learn about the space. In fact, what inspired us was our grandparents - they didn't understand crypto. We aim so create all our content so that even they can understand it!

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