At 25, I didn’t realize how wealthy I was, or how free. I had a good job and no debt, living in Manhattan at the beginning of a tech boom.
My hometown banker told me I had over $6,000 in cash.
“What do you want to do with it?”
“Well, I may need that money next year for business school.”
“How about a Certificate of Deposit at 4.5%?”
“Sure, sounds good to me.”
I’m not a huge fan of counterfactual history, which is why I’m not going to put myself through the trauma of finding out what that $6,000 would have done had I invested in Apple stock. It might have happened. It was 1995 and I was a big fan of Apple. I even had an eWorld account. And one of my colleagues, an even bigger Apple fan, had an Apple Newton and bought shares in the company. The idea was definitely in my head.
Okay, it’s $1.1 million.
All I needed to do was buy-and-hold. And keep working.
A recruiter from JP Morgan found me. We met at a café. She said I was a perfect fit for an IT job paying $55,000, 10 percent more than what I was earning at the time. I countered $80,000. No deal.
I had serious reservations about working on Wall Street, which meant I’d have to wear a suit, commute to Lower Manhattan, and become enmeshed in the work-hard, play-hard culture of a big-city bank. I was trying to take it easy and keep my balance. Unless there was a big bump in salary, I was ready to stay with the job where I could dress casually and show up on my own schedule.
I was working for a mom-and-pop company, engrossed in an intense database migration and other Very Important Projects. I hadn’t yet become disillusioned with my job. That would happen soon enough.
In counterfactual history or the multiverse, there’s an Ivan who happily accepted the JPMorgan offer. He made himself invaluable to the bank, making full use of all the in-house training resources to become an expert in some area or another, augmented by a company-sponsored business degree. Today, he manages a data center in Jersey City.
But would it really have happened like that, such a smooth career path uninterrupted by metamorphosis or destiny?
In the days following September 11, I thought I saw my own name in the obituaries. It was a near match: Ian Schneider, 45. Brooklyn native, like my father. Little League coach in the New Jersey suburbs, not far from where I grew up. Left behind his wife and three young kids and a twin brother and his mother. Worked over half his life at the same company. No relation. I won’t forget him.