A Broker's Son

Already from a very young age, Ben’s father began teaching him about the stock market. At first, it started with the most basic principles of buying and selling, and then the goal of “profit”. It wasn’t long before Ben found himself selling chocolates to the other kids in his class. When the teacher found out, Ben immediately became very apologetic, and didn’t realize or even understand why the teacher wasn’t happy with such an activity. He fully agreed to close the “shop” and to never sell candy at school again.

As he got older, Ben’s father would talk to him a lot about the markets. Portfolios and bull markets, the Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Wall Street and Beijing, there were endless amounts of information and insights and Ben took it all in earnestly. He knew that his dad was very good at what he did, and dreamed of someday doing the same. During the summers, he would go into the city and hang out around the office, playing with the papers and even opening some of the books on the shelves. By the time he was fourteen, he became completely engulfed in the field, and found himself reading textbooks and journals, articles and papers. He had so much access to it all and it interested him in ways that nothing else had. He even no longer wanted to play on the local baseball team, a sport which he had always loved dearly. His father understood this and found Ben a mock stock market game to play on the computer. It didn’t take long until he had mastered it and wanted something better, more real. He spoke to a neighbor he heard was studying economics in the state university and got hold of different activities and more advanced games to play as well.

And then one night, as he walked by his father’s study, he suddenly realized something. His father also worked from home, and would often times sit in front of the computer checking prices and talking with customers. That computer had access to the real thing, to real markets with real investments. Ben knew that the trading systems weren’t easy to manage, but had sat next to his father many times as he watched him punch in numbers and make transactions. He was sure that he could do just the same. The very thought gave Ben a quick burst of excitement, but he immediately realized that to even dare touch his father’s computer without permission would get him in far more trouble anything he or his older siblings had ever done.

Two days later, the thought of his father’s computer came back to him, after looking at the most recent business journals. Ben had a realization. There was an up and coming company that all the analysts just started talking about. It hadn’t yet gotten the full public spotlight, but sure potential was promised and supposedly even endless. Ben soon found himself scouring the internet for any and every bit of information about the company, and came to the conclusion that the potential was all there, and that nothing would stand in the companies way of even reaching the top 100. The idea was crazy, but Ben knew he wanted nothing more than to invest in the company. He could easily access his father’s trading sites, and because he was aware of the amounts of money his father was dealing with daily, knew that a minute fraction would still be harmless, even if somehow lost. He was also aware that with the amounts of business that his father did, any one small action could easily go unnoticed.

After verifying that the rest of his family wouldn’t be home for another few hours, Ben ran to the office and began using the computer. He went through all the familiar steps and procedures, practicing all the acts his father would routinely do. He wanted to be sure that there was no chance he would mess up, and after more than an hour, he felt so. He had already done an exact calculation of what amount he would invest, and that the next day he would sell the shares, just to see what small profit he could make. The plan seemed flawless and Ben was sure that nothing could go wrong. He went through with it, pressing all the buttons and filling out all the forms just as he knew how. It was so exciting and when he finished, he rushed to his room, now glued to his own computer as he monitored the movement of his company. When it was time for dinner, Ben had to pry himself from the desk, only because his mother had shouted for the fourth time and sounded like she was getting agitated. He knew his company had already gained three-quarters of a point, which in that short span of time was a great increase.

After quickly finishing everything on his plate, Ben eagerly got up to return to his room and see what he had missed, when suddenly his father entered the house, while talking on the phone, as he often times does. Only this time, something was very different. His father sounded extremely angry and was clearly yelling at someone on the other side of the line, something which rarely happened, if ever. Within a few moments, Ben was able to understand that something had clearly gone wrong at the office with one of the markets. He was shocked to see his father like that, and knew that clearly something big and very bad must have happened. It seemed like there was an unexplainable computer glitch and a very important stock had been sold right before it went up by fifteen percent. Only because the customer had by chanced noticed it and contacted Ben’s father was any greater damage prevented, but there were consequences. The long-time customer was furious and had even threatened to switch brokers.

Ben’s father sat down on the couch after finishing the phone call, bewildered, angry, and greatly upset. Ben realized that his father was in no mood to be disturbed, and ran back up to his room to check on his company, excited to see how much more it had gained, while completely forgetting about everything else. After about twenty minutes, a horrific thought came to Ben’s mind. Was it possible that he accidently caused the “glitch”? Could this all be his fault? He had practiced the various steps of the transactions endless times, but was more than careful to never hit “send” and finalize anything. And then he recalled that one of the stocks he tested out was the same one that his father had mentioned on the phone. Ben started to change colors when he began to realize that it was too much of a coincidence. Although there was no great financial loss, the highly valued customer was now threatening to possibly find a new broker. Real damage had been done. Ben spent the next half hour in the bathroom, on the verge of tears, both scared and confused. He wasn’t sure whether to tell his father what he had done, or allow the misconception that it was simply a computer glitch to continue. If his father would somehow find out later, then Ben would only be in even greater trouble, but maybe the truth would never be known and Ben would be safe.

Both these thoughts went back and forth, with an occasional voice telling him to be honest and admit his mistake, that it was the right thing to do. Terrified, Ben found himself slowly walking down the stairs, unsure if he had really made up him mind to tell his father what he had done. After standing halfway down the staircase for a few moments, Ben accepted what needed to be done. With his head down and tears in his eyes, he proceeded to his father’s office and completely fell apart while beginning to try and explain what had happened. His father was unable to understand a word he said through the sobbing, and after hugging Ben and calming him down, asked him what was wrong. As Ben explained the whole story, his father sat there quietly, without showing any response, only nodding his head occasionally. After he finished, Ben’s father responded with very cool and relaxed words. He let him know how terrible his actions were, how dangerous they could have been, but most of all, how careless they were. His father had already spoken to the customer and was able to convince him to stay with the trading firm, and reassured Ben that no great damage had actually been done. He recalled how he used to fill out blank slips with different purchases and sales of famous companies when he was still a child and the stock market wasn’t yet computerized. Ben’s father understood how his son felt, but also reminded him how irresponsible his actions were. He decided that punishing him in the normal sense would be less effective, and instead required him to spend the next few months working part-time at a local supermarket until he was able to pay off the money he had lost. It wasn’t actually a sum at all significant to his father’s big name company, but the lesson Ben would learn about being responsible and careful with his actions was far more valuable. 

The End

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