I used to own a hovercraft.
Yes, I know. That sounds mighty out of character.
I can't say I loved my time with said hovercraft, but it taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life. A lesson that brought me to America and ultimately enabled the life we get to live now.
The year is 1986, springtime.
It's one of the first vacations our family was able to afford. We drive up to the North Sea in my dad's VW Golf. The German coast isn't known to be much of a tourist attraction, even less so in the spring.
Nevertheless, I am excited—my first real vacation.
My grandma gave me 20 marks as vacation money, which was a big deal. I hadn't handled that much cash in my life, so these 20 marks (equivalent to maybe $10) felt like a million bucks.
We're walking up and down the promenade on our first vacation day. We were vacationing in a tent, so we were likely up very early, looking for food and warmth.
Of course, I was looking for opportunities to spend that vacation money. It was burning a hole in my pocket.
So I spent the entire amount on a miniature toy hovercraft (something like this), which seemed like a terrible idea to everyone but the shady toy hovercraft salesman and me.
I remember my parents warning me that I wouldn't have any more vacation money and couldn't buy anything else I might want for the rest of our vacation.
Screw it, I am buying that hovercraft.
It was a terrible idea. It broke that same day, and now I had to spend the rest of the first vacation of my life without any spending money.
I still cringe as I type these words. It still hurts me to think I was so wasteful with that money.
My parents were good, and based on my memory, they didn't bail me out, and I didn't get any more spending money for the rest of our vacation.
I obviously can't remember the details, but I must have sworn never to be this wasteful with my vacation money again. Or, for that matter, any money.
From then on, I saved every mark I was ever gifted or made. And I made it abundantly clear to all my family members that I didn't want gifts other than cash. So, for the next decade, I saved like a crazy Mensch.
By the time I turned 16, I had saved up a (very) low 5-figure amount. That was also the year I came to America as an exchange student. It was 1997, and I felt the need to get better returns than whatever my savings account was bearing.
So I became an investor.
Half my money went into some industrial fund.
The other half went into a technology fund.
When I returned from my year in Montana, my money had doubled. The dot com boom could be felt all the way to Plettenberg.
That money helped pay for my college, as did my parents taking on second jobs and me becoming a janitor.
Regardless, I could go to college in the US because of that money.
To this day, I have a tough time spending money on things that I don't need. And I still love investing.
All thanks to owning a shitty hovercraft at a very young age.
The vacation got cut short because of a nuclear disaster. Chernobyl happened, and it wasn't safe to be camping anymore.
Funny enough, to this day, I only remember my terrible hovercraft purchase.
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