Growing Up Nate: I Ran A Third Grade Ponzi Scheme
My elementary school got it’s first soda machine when I was in the third grade. It was kind of a big deal at the time, since we were kids and this was yet another way for us to mainline sugar. It was $.45 a can and it was wonderful.
I soon realized that most kids brought two quarters to school to get a soda, which meant that they all got 5 cents back, and a shiny nickel would jangle around their pocket for the rest of the day. Five cents, even back in 1988, was a piddly sum to most people and I figured that there had to be a way to get those nickels from the other kids and accumulate enough of them to be able to buy myself another soda. But how?
I came up with a club, aptly named the “Soda Club,” which I would let other kids buy into for the low, low price of a nickel, which they just happened to have in their pockets after buying a soda. I don’t remember exactly what the benefits of joining the Soda Club were, but given that most of my ideas as a child were half-assed, they probably weren’t that great. Regardless, I still managed to get ten other students to hand over their nickels on the first day. I promptly went back and bought myself another soda. Probably a Minute Maid Orange. Those were awesome.
I managed to keep this up for a couple of days, but I went to a small school, and I wasn’t too bright (remember, I was eight), so I started asking the same kids again. That’s when the bottom fell out. Some of them got suspicious and eventually, one of them went to the principal about the whole thing. He called me into his office and explained that what I was doing was essentially stealing and made me pay back all of the kids I had taken a nickel from. Since I had already spent all of the money, I had to go home that night and empty my piggy bank, lesson learned.
This, I think, was my earliest lesson in why I should never aspire to be a Wall Street Investment Banker. I wasn’t too good at pulling off schemes to extort money from my peers. Maybe it was conscience that didn’t allow me to get all of my ducks in a row. Maybe it was just a gross misunderstanding of the mechanics of extorting money. But, in the end, I came to the realization that my time would be best served finding a career that didn’t involve earning the trust of my fellow citizens.
A mini-Madoff in the making, I wasn’t.