Not too many people know this about me, but I made and lost millions of dollars overnight. Albeit it was in high school economics, the story is hilarious so I’ll share it here. In hindsight, my actions would have gotten me several years in prison, but you can’t really go to jail for insider trading using an online stock market simulator. My apologies for the clickbait, but since you’re here, you might as well keep reading.
High School Economics
In my high school they had an economics class that is required for all seniors. There were several teachers who taught the course, but the entire senior class was enlisted in a school wide economics simulator. Each class was given a specific currency, wittingly named after the teacher of each class, and each student competed against each other to make the most money.
It was pretty amazing now that I looked back on it – you could apply to jobs like a door holder or a police officer. You could buy and sell desks and rent them to your peers. You could buy insurance companies and insure your peers from the simulator that would leave a handful of unlucky students with crushing medical bills. There was even an online stock market simulator for people to invest money.
The students with the most amount of money at the end of the year could trade their balance in for extra credit, bonus points, dropping low test grades, and much more. So naturally I wanted to make a ton of money.
I Started Out as a Cop
I started out by applying for a job as a police officer. I was an honors student, never got into any trouble, and was generally quiet – so “glorified tattletale” was a great fit for me. Essentially my job was simple; anyone who was late to class would get a ticket. Anyone who failed to push in their seat at the end of class would also get a ticket.
Naturally everyone hated the police officer, but I didn’t care because I got to sit in the back of class rent-free and was getting paid a fair amount of money. There was another police officer who sat on the other side of the class, so we split the duties of being hated by everyone in the classroom.
My Debut Into Politics
A few weeks into the school year they announced that they were holding elections for class senators. These were the people who would write the laws and could change how much people were taxed. This was a paid position so naturally I ran. There were three spots and only three people ran, so I snuck into my second job as Senator of the 1st period economics class.
At this point I had two jobs and was making a fair amount of money. I started out with good intentions, like cutting taxes and reducing the penalties for coming in late. I wanted to change the world and make a difference.
I Was Blackmailed
Being a cop was great and all ,but I felt guilty writing my classmates tickets (even if it was fake money). So I decided to stop writing tickets and hoped nobody would find out. This is when things started to go downhill.
One student confronted my fellow officer and I, and he attempted to blackmail us.
“I’ve been coming in late everyday and you haven’t written me up… don’t ever write me up again or I’m going to tell the teacher you’re not doing your job and you’ll get fired.”
So what did we do? No way we were going to let some low-level criminal push us around, so we did what any great cop would do. We wrote him a ton of tickets and dared him to say anything. He stood quietly and paid his tickets, feeling embarrassed that we called him on his bluff.
To prevent this from happening again, I abolished all penalties for coming in late and increased taxes on everyone – I could do this because I was a senator. Essentially I was getting paid to sit in the back of class rent-free while the rest of the students unknowingly subsidized my job.
Investment Banker/Insurance Broker
With the money I was making as a police officer I was able to purchase a bank and an insurance company. I offered great rates and charged low fees to exchange currency from other classrooms. Life was great! I was a lazy cop, corrupt politician, owned a bank, and sold insurance.
I was able to buy the other bank (only two permits were sold) so any money exchanged from other classrooms into my classroom would have to go through me. This would prove to be a huge benefit for me later down the road.
Each class competed in an online stock market simulator. You started out with a few thousand dollars and the person who ended the class with the most amount of money would get a prize.
So I played around with the stock market and was making some quick cash. I invested in a range of stocks and would do a fair amount of research before pulling the trigger.
But one day something strange happened. I purchased a stock and it showed a 100% loss immediately. “How could this be?” I asked myself. So I did an experiment – I sold the stock short and to my amazement it showed 100% gain. I hit the jackpot! Some glitch in the system allowed me to double my money with every click and I was going to be a millionaire.
But then I thought,
“I could manage people’s accounts for a set fee and charge them a percentage of their earnings”.
Since I knew it was a guaranteed win I would make money every time. So that’s what I did – I was basically Bernie Madoff and was managing half of my classmate’s investments.
I felt like the Wolf of Wall Street – I owned a bank, an insurance company, the government, a hedge fund, and I was even selling paper wallets to hold your paper money (I had serious problems).
It All Came Crashing Down
I got greedy and took too much of a gain on my stock market. What should have been a few thousand dollars ended up being a few million dollars. And it’s kind of hard explaining how I turned $4,000 into $40 million overnight.
So naturally the teacher found out and charged me, as well as half the class, of insider trading and disbanded all of our accounts. I had to refund people their money and I was dead broke.
On top of this, I got ousted as a Senator when everyone found out I raised their taxes to subsidize the elimination of penalties for coming in late and failure to push in seats.
I had some bad insurance losses due to lack of demand from students, and my bank was not profitable at all. I’d like to say the story ends here, but I was not done fighting yet.
One of my friends from another class was the cashier – this meant that he handed out everyone’s paycheck and controlled the money supply for his class. He let me in on a secret: he was stealing money.
So I did what any reasonable person would do. I hatched a plan to embezzle money from his class and flow it into my businesses. There was a posted exchange rate of 1 to 1.5 so 1 of his ‘dollars’ was worth 1.5 of mine. So if he stole $1,000 it would translate to $1,500 after the conversion.
I embezzled thousands of dollars in exchange for writing a few of his papers. This was pretty profitable so I started writing other people’s papers as well for thousands of dollars in school currency. I wasn’t really writing all these papers but was instead copying and pasting from Wikipedia and altering the wording as to not be picked up for plagiarism (I know I had a serious problem).
Since I owned the bank I could freely exchange the currency with the cashier of my class without anyone suspecting a thing. For all they knew I was exchanging the currency for other students.
There was an “IRS” agent in each class and their job was to collect taxes. It was towards the end of the year, and I had way too much money to count. While everyone had a few hundred dollars, I had a several thousand.
But then I realized something; I didn’t pay any tax on any of the money I was collecting. So I did the math on the tax I owed, grabbed $10,000 in cash and walked over to the tax collector.
I handed her the money and she asked, “Is this all your money?” I responded, “No, that’s just the tax I owe.” She looked at me with pure disgust and said, “Good luck proving this.”
The Final Count
So in the end everyone handed in their money and waited for the teacher to tally the results. It was during the final exam and he called us up one by one. I knew I had way more cash than anyone else and I knew he would call me first.
He looked up at me, shook his head and asked the tax collector, “can I see your records?”
I was already way ahead of him on that one. After some time he gave in and realized I was clean (or at least there was no way of proving that I got that money illegally). I assumed he didn’t like me after that whole stock market fiasco and even threatened to take away my job as a police officer (or at least start charging me rent because technically I wasn’t doing my job).
I had won, I got 10 points on my final exam and walked away as the richest man in class. In the process I discovered my “entrepreneurial” side and had a great story to tell. I would never do this in real life; heck, I’m afraid to go over 50 miles an hour in a 55 mile an hour zone. So why am I sharing this story? Well, I’m almost 7 years removed from that class so I figured now would be the best time to share my story.
But ultimately I learned a lot about myself. I would channel these skills to find new ways to study less and get higher grades (legally). I learned how to build up my resume to land internships (legally). I learned the best study techniques to pass all 4 parts of the CPA exam on my first try (legally). You don’t have to follow the traditional model of how things are done, but just make sure it’s done legally.