Striking it big: the story of Investing

Aman Sankineni, Staff Writer

“I will tell you the secret to getting rich on Wall Street. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy,” Warren Buffett.

When you were younger, your parents might have often told you that money doesn’t grow on trees, or that you will never win the lottery. This might be true, but what is stopping you from making millions in one go? Rather than relying on luck, some investors have made millions researching and investing in the stock market, a risky investment where investing anything has a chance of failure. Although you can make a spectacular amount of money, it is not without its risks. These people knew and understood those risks, put it all on the line, and came out on top.

Many of the investors on this list earnt million by shorting the market. Going short allows you to borrow high-priced shares from a broker and sell them. When the stock price falls, you buy the shares back at the lower rate and return them to the broker who lent them to you. The difference in price is your gain. Essentially, you reverse the order of the basic transaction and profit from the decrease in value. This lead to them benefiting off of stock market crashes.

In the 1920s the US seemed to be perfect. Stocks kept going up, people were buying on credit, putting their life savings into the market, and making thousands. But in 1929, this dream came crashing down in the infamous Great Depression, harkening back the saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” But some people saw this as an opportunity instead of a tragedy. Jesse Livermore was one of these people. In 1929, Livermore shorted the market after the 1929 crash, making a staggering 100 million dollars.

Another famous crash was in 1987, also known as Black Monday. Using technical analysis and historical S&P data, Paul Tudor Jones correctly predicted that the market was going to crash in 1987, and proceeded to massively short stocks. The market plunged 22%, and estimates put his gains from that trade at around 100 million dollars.

Shorting stocks is not the only way of making millions. You can also short the value of a currency, which is invariably more risky, but at the same time, the rewards are much higher. These people guess that these currencies are overvalued, short the currency, and when the price drops, they make millions, if not billions.

Back in the ‘90s when Britain was thriving, not only did George Soros short the pound, he borrowed heavily to do so. This was when pound was being traded on a fixed exchange rate. Soon after Soros’s short bet, the British government realized that it would lose billions if it continued to artificially prop up the pound. They withdrew from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, and the pound plummeted. This short bet bagged Soros at least a gargantuan $1 billion, much more than stocks.

Money does not necessarily have to be made gradually, over the course of  a lifetime. One major decision could set you up for life, or put you deep in debt. These people took a risk, the right risk, but for every person that makes a million, there are a million that lose everything. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “money often costs too much.”