How it Started
In the summer of 2015, my best friend and I had gone for lunch in a local restaurant. Little did I know I was about to be served the most life-changing dish ever.
We were both 18, back home for our college vacations. “Life has been different.” – this was common to both of us.
For him, it was the college experience. For me, it was dropping out of a ‘prestigious’ university and not telling anyone about it. (but that’s a story for another day.)
Since dropping out, I was looking for ways to earn more than I would have if I took a job after college. That was my frame of mind.
Lucky for me, he had the perfect opportunity for me. I remember the moment like it happened yesterday. This is what he told me – “My dad is looking for talented, smart, and hard-working people to work with.”
I thought I was all 3 of them, so I pressed further. My best friend told me how his dad (I’ll refer to him as uncle from hereon) has been in the stock market for the last 15 years and wants to expand his team.
He told me what kind of profit is possible in the market, and it’s almost as if we are ‘minting’ money.
I was excited. I couldn’t wait to finish lunch and meet uncle to learn more about this ‘minting’ business.
My First ‘Business Meet’ With Uncle
Uncle and I had already met – he was a super friendly guy and always treated me well. This is the first time we were meeting for business.
As an 18-year-old, you don’t really know how to behave in a business setting. So, while uncle showed me what kind of trades he made and stocks he traded in, my eyes were stuck on the money he was making from it.
He, too, told me that the stock market is where you can ‘mint’ money.
I was sold. I was supposed to get ₹5,00,000 ready, get a trading account, and we would start trading. I had no other sources for the money, so I asked my dad for it – which was one of the scariest moments of my life because this was a massive amount. (This, too, is a story of its own but for some other day.)
After a couple weeks, he agreed, and my minting business was in place.
How I Became Richer than 99% of Humanity
The first couple of weeks, I was under his training, so we didn’t trade much. He explained how certain stocks direct the entire market. How there are people who control the movement of the stock price. They were insightful lessons and I penned all of them down. I still have that notebook with me.
Uncle and I had a deal that he would take 40% of the profits we make, and he would share the losses with me. He assured that losses would never really happen, but if they did, we’d share them too.
I thought his cut was relatively high, but I didn’t want to sound greedy, so I agreed. In hindsight, that was one of the worst partnership deals in the history of partnership deals.
The first few months were great. I made humongous profits – enough to be able to buy my own house.
I recently looked back at my ex-stock portfolio. ↑
An 18 Year Old Middle-Class Kid Went from No Money to Big Money
Let’s stop for a moment and realize the gravity of that situation – an 18-year-old middle-class kid looking at enough money of his own to be able to BUY a house. I thought I had achieved financial independence. I wouldn’t have to work another day in my life.
Surprisingly, the first thing I did with some of the only money I could touch was to walk around and donate to homeless people. I fulfilled my childhood dream of buying a cricket kit, bought a couple of beers, and ate delicious food to celebrate with the little left.
Before I explain to you what really happened, here’s a little stock market lesson that’ll help you understand what I did better –
Regular stocks represent direct ownership in the company. What we traded in was called Futures and Options or F&O. F&O is an entirely imaginary concept that runs on perceived value. Here’s a simple way to understand how it works-
Let’s say 1 share of Tesla costs $100. To own that share, you need to pay $100, and you can hold that for life.
If you wish to own 1000 shares, you need to have $100 x 1000 = $100,000. Now that’s a lot of money.
In F&O, there is a minimum purchase quantity set where you get the entire ‘lot’ of stock at a lower price but with an expiry date.
So, if the stock exchange has set a minimum purchase quantity for Tesla F&O stock of 1000 shares, then you would probably have to pay a fraction of it, say $5,000.
You get to own it until the last Thursday of the month (in India.) Beyond that, you have to sell/buy it regardless of the price.
To add to that, if you have only $1000 in your account, your broker has the authority to give you a higher margin to trade. So, you can effectively buy F&O stocks worth $5000 with only $1000 of your own money.
High risk. High reward.
Yes, you can sell first and buy later. That’s your mini stock lesson.
We were earning shit tons of money. I had gotten surprisingly good, too, and was making profitable trades of my own.
Things were going great until the excitement of newness was there. Then I started to see the reality.
Reality Always Hits Different – I was rich, but still 18.
Here’s the deal – when you buy/sell a stock, you only have limited time to close it. Our trades often ran into losses, but uncle would never let me close it at a stop loss; he’d expect me to hold it for long. To do that I would need more money.
Ideally, according to our deal, he was supposed to share my losses, too, but I did not have the guts to say so back then. He used to refer to me as his son and that he was taking care of me personally.
I trusted him.
Strangely enough, the day we made a profit, he would call me and ask me to send him his cut.
So, of the 30 days in a month, I would be stressed for 22 days where our stocks were in jeopardy, and he’d ask me to hold on my own accord.
As soon as we made any profit, he’d get his 40% cut in his account. When I asked, should I take some in my account too, he said, hold it for now as it’ll help us make bigger trades in the future.
I was too naïve to make sense of that back then. I was just happy that we ever made a profit.
This went on for a while. I was uncomfortable, but I was rich, so it didn’t quite matter.
How an iPhone 7 Cost Me 7-Figures
Before we started our trade day, he had called me and told me that he wants to gift an iPhone to his son (my best friend) for his birthday. I was more than happy to accept. So, he planned for us to make more massive trades.
I had called my broker to double my margin for the day. We were going all-in—5x of all-in, in fact.
We locked in 7 trades. Each and every trade was under losses. He asked me to hold. I did.
This went on for a month until my portfolio could hold no further. Uncle asked me to arrange further ₹2,00,000 from somewhere. I told him that was impossible. He got pissed, saying that is not how we can continue trading.
Like an idiot, I still didn’t have the balls to say that you were supposed to give me the money if we were under losses—my fault.
A few weeks later, we closed these trades, and my account was back to where it started—₹5,00,000.
He had encashed a lot of money from my trading account, and I was left with 0 profits – and somehow – it was all my fault. My fault that as an 18-year old I couldn’t arrange another 2 lakhs.
I let out all my frustration on him. He said, be careful who you’re talking to.
And that’s that. We never really spoke again until recently. My best friend, who I was about to buy an iPhone for, was suddenly not my best friend anymore.
I didn’t know what to do. I thought that I needed to take matters into my own hands. I made emotional trades, lost the rest of what I had left.
That was one of the worst days of my life. I couldn’t feel my existence. I did random things to start feeling something again. I shaved my head as if to mark the death of something inside of me.
Somewhere during this time, the love of my life decided to start loving someone else. She thought that I was not giving her enough time… while I was in a completely new city, all by myself for the first time ever.
I couldn’t talk about this with anyone because I didn’t know how or what.
While I write this, I still feel the tremors I felt that day – like an earthquake had hit my very core.
I knew something inside me had changed. I am grateful to whatever voice inside me there is which said – “life is never happening to you; it always happens for you.”
It took me over 3 years to fully recover from that incident and come to terms with what happened. It took me another 2 years to share that with my dad, who didn’t take too well to the news (I don’t blame him for it.)
I blamed uncle for all of it for a long time, and I still think he could have done things differently. More ethically, to be precise, but to each his own. He has his way of doing business – crude and selfish.
Good for him, but not my style. I realized, though, that what he did was probably nothing personal against me. I still have a hard time understanding how he could call me his son and take away from my profits in the same breath. But it doesn’t matter anymore.
In the 3 years of my recovery from this incident, I had to deal with-
- Loss of the love of my life
- My college friends treating me as a loser because I dropped out
- Locals bullying me in Pune because I didn’t “look like a localite.”
- My family member ignoring me after I invested in his MLM business
- Having to borrow money from my friend who had come to India for the first time (we were planning this trip for a year and I lost all my money a month before he arrived)
- Lying to my parents about my stock portfolio (this was the hardest thing to do)
- Saying goodbye to my short-lived financial independence
- Coming face to face with my dark side
- Complete loneliness as I had 0 people with who I could share this with
- A cunning business partner (city local) who had me live in a tiny room while he and his girl shared a much bigger room while paying the same rent money
These are stories on their own, and I’ll probably share them some other day with you.
There is one thing I am still proud of. Regardless of whatever I went through, I never stopped trusting people. I am warier, yes. I am also smarter in my business dealings.
I have more balls now than ever. It’s almost shocking to me.
But, I STILL TRUST. Nothing can take that power away from me.
Every hit teaches you. It molds you into what you need to be. Initially, I thought that this hit would kill me. The tremor would shatter my heart.
I kept telling myself—just one more day. It’ll all make sense someday.
To be honest with you, some of it still doesn’t make sense, and I need to leave it at that because I know that if I keep thinking about the past, I’ll miss out on what my present has to offer.
I learned. I grew. I pivoted.
This incident really got me face to face with myself. I appreciate that. I would never know what I am capable of. All my fear of talking was gone.
Maybe that was the entire purpose of this. That is what the universe wanted to teach me. All the answers are within me, and sometimes tremors are needed to shock the sleeping beast inside you.
I couldn’t keep the money I minted back them, but I have kept something more valuable – my true self.