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[LONG] My Story of Disillusionment with and Disappointment in the World and Myself

Intro.
This might be a long one. I hope someone reads the thing, I put like 3 hours into writing it. A brief story of my life and how it all led up to this moment, where I am disillusioned with my self-image, my life choices, and certain aspects of the world, and have no idea what to do next. Warning: this whole thing might be a little depressing to read.
Childhood.
I am a 20yo Russian male. During my childhood, I was made to believe that I am capable of doing something great and doing better than anyone. At the same time I developed a very non-conformist life stance and very often rejected things and ideas simply because they were too popular for my taste, and I couldn't feel special whilst enjoying them. Of course, in turn, society rejected me, as it does with anyone who doesn't play by the rules. Oh well.
My only redeeming quality was that I considered myself pretty smart. Which is even easier to assume, when at the same time you think that you're different from everyone else. Now, I know that to some extent, I was indeed smarter than most people in certain areas. Unlike most people I knew back then, often with bare minimum efforts I was able to maintain near perfect grades at school. I was also enjoying learning new things and reading more than an average person. So, let's just say, I had a basis to assume I was a smart dude.
I wasn't happy and content with my life, though. I never had real friends, because I only hung out with people when they were my classmates/roommates/co-workers, and after we parted ways, I rarely if ever contacted them afterwards. I always enjoyed doing things you usually do in solitude more, because when I was alone, I wouldn't be afraid that someone could hurt me for being different. Because of that, I was never in a romantic relationship.
High School.
Still, life was going okay. By the end of school, I kind of accepted my social deficiency and I wanted to focus on improving the world and become a successful person - for myself. I was facing a dilemma, though. Despite the fact that I was doing great in school, the idea of having to invest four years of my time into studying something really specific, and then having to work another 20-30 years on the same job was terrifying, because I had no idea what I liked to do! Nothing seemed interesting to me, I didn't have a passion for doing anything... Thanks to my video game addiction, which made me lazy as fuck, probably. I also needed to meet my criteria for success with my future job, which included being financially successful. I grew up in top 1% income family, so... I always felt the pressure to outperform or at least match my parents' income.
Enter trading. My dad discovered investing several years ago (we don't live in US, so most of the people aren't as financially savvy, so he never thought about investing before then). I was always curious about financial independence and markets, but now I was seeing it all done in front of me, I realized that it might be a good opportunity to make a lot of money and become successful without being socially adept, which is something absolutely required in business or politics. So, I asked my father to open a brokerage account for me in the US, and started swing trading (trading in weekly/monthly time frames). I could only trade slow and small because of the trade restrictions put on accounts <$25k and <21yo in the US. Still, it was going well, but in hindsight I was just lucky to be there during a great bull market.
Even before I thought trading and more importantly investing were the ways smart people make money. I thought simply because I was conventionally smart, I had a talent or an innate ability to pick innovative stocks and do venture investing when I grow some capital. I truly believed in that long before I was introduced to financial markets, I believed that my surface level understanding of multiple areas of cutting edge and emerging technology would give me an edge compared to all the other investors.
US Community College and Return Back.
In the end, I've decided I want to go to a US community college and study finance and become a trader and later an investor, but I didn't want to work for a fund or something like that (lazy ass). I wanted to use my knowledge and skill and my own money to grow my net worth and make a living. I didn't really like the process of trading, I just needed the money to live by while I was trying to figure out what else to do with my life. Because I thought I were smart, I thought this would come easily to me. Boy was I wrong. From the nicest of conditions in my hometown, I was suddenly moved into a foreign setting, on the other side of the planet away form my family and mates, with a video game addiction and laziness that ruined my daily routine and studying as well. The fact that I didn't like my major was not helping. My grades fell from A- in the first quarter to C+ in the last. I gained +30% from my normal weight. I was stressed out, not going outside and sitting at my computer desk for days at a time, skipping all the classes I could if they were not absolutely essential for my grades, living on prepared foods. I never got out of my shell and barely talked to anyone in English, all of my friends were Russian speaking. I wasted an opportunity to improve my speaking, although aside from that my English skills satisfy me.
By the end of community college, last summer, I was left with B grades that wouldn't let me transfer anywhere decent, and the extreme stress that I put myself through started taking a toll on my mental health. I was planning to take a break and go back to Russia for several months, and transfer back to a US uni this winter. Needless to say, you can't run from yourself. It didn't really become much better after a few months in Russia. I didn't want to study finance anymore, because it was boring and I was exhausted. I still had the video game addiction, still was lazy and gained some more extra pounds of weight. I was not sleeping at all, extremely sleep deprived for months. Because of this and lack of mental stimulation I started to become dumber. And all that was happening where I didn't really have to do anything: not study or work, just sit around the house and do whatever I wanted. Turns out, these conditions didn't help me to get out of the incoming depression.
Finally, around November, when I already sent out all of my transfer applications and already got some positive answers from several universities, I knew I didn't have much time left at home, and I had to leave soon. But I really, really didn't want to go back. It was scarier than the first time. I was afraid of new changes, I just wanted for the time to stop and letting me relax, heal... I was having suicidal thoughts and talked about it with my family and my therapist. They were all supportive and helped me as much as they could. But I was the only person who could really help myself. If I wanted to breathe freely, I had to admit defeat and not go back to the US to continue my education. It was extremely hard at first, but then I just let go. I decided to find a temporary job as an English tutor and give myself time to think. Then I remembered that I had a bunch of money in my trading account. I still thought that I was pretty smart, despite failing college, so I figured, why not try move it to Russian brokers who don't have trading restrictions, and do it full time? Which is exactly what I did. And I started to study trading all by myself at a fast pace. I was now trading full time and it was going sideways: +10% in December, -20% in January. Then, something incredible happened. I was already in a shitty place in life, but I still had some hope for my future. Things were about to get much worse. I'm in the late January, and I discovered for myself that the whole financial industry of the world was a fraud.
Brief Explanation of My Discoveries.
In the image of the financial industry, there are several levels of perceived credibility.
In the bottom tier, there is pure gambling. In my country, there were periods when binary options trading and unreliable Forex brokers were popular among common folk, but these were obvious and unsophisticated fraudsters who were one step away from being prosecuted. There are also cryptocurrencies that don't hold any value and are also used only for speculation/redistribution of wealth. There is also a wonderful gambling subreddit wallstreetbets where most users don't even try to hide the fact that what they are doing is pure gambling. I love it. But the thing is, this is trading/investing for the people who have no idea what it is, and most people discredit it as a fraud, which it, indeed, is. These examples are 99% marketing/public image and 1% finance. But these offer x10-1000 returns in the shortest time span. Typical get-rich-quick schemes, but they attract attention.
Then, there is trading tier. You can have multiple sub levels here, in the bottom of this tier we would probably have complex technical analysis (indicators) and daily trading/scalping. I was doing this in the DecembeJanuary. At the top would be people who do fundamental analysis (study financial reports) and position trade (monthly time frames). Now, there is constant debate in the trading community whether technical analysis or fundamental analysis is better. I have a solid answer to the question. They work in the same way. Or rather, they don't work at all.
You'd ask: "Why you didn't discover this earlier? You were in this financial thing for several years now!" Well, you see, unlike on the previous level, here millions of people say that they actually believe trading works and there is a way to use the available tools to have great returns. Some of these people actually know that trading doesn't work, but they benefit from other traders believing in it, because they can sell them courses or take brokerage fees from them. Still, when there are millions around you telling you that it works, even a non-conformist like me would budge. Not that many people actually participate in the markets, so I thought that by being in this minority made me smart and protected from fraudsters. Lol. All it took for me to discover the truth is to accidentally discover that some technical indicators give random results, do a few google searches, reach some scientific studies which are freely available and prove that technical and fundamental analysis don't work. It was always in front of me, but the fucking trading community plugged my ears and closed my eyes shut so I wasn't able to see it. Trading usually promises 3-15% gain a month.
A huge shock, but surely there was still a way for me to work this out? Active investing it is!
The next level, active investing, is different from trading. You aim for 15-50% yearly returns, but you don't have to do as much work. You hold on to stocks of your choice for years at a time, once in a while you study the markets, re balance your portfolio, etc. Or you invest your money in a fund, that will select the stocks of their choice and manage their and your portfolio for you. For a small fee of course. All of these actions are aimed at trying to outperform the gain the market made as a whole, and so called index funds, which invest in basically everything and follow the market returns - about 7-10% a year. And if I ever had any doubts in trading, I firmly believed that active investing works since I was a little kid (yes I knew about it back then). And this is where the real fraud comes in.
The whole Wall Street and every broker, every stock exchange in the world are a part of a big fraud. Only about 10-20% of professional fund managers outperform the market in any 15 year period. If you take 30 years, this dwindles to almost nothing, which means that no one can predict the markets. These people have no idea what they are doing. Jim Cramer is pure show-business and has no idea what's going on. Warren Buffet gained his fortune with pure luck, and for every Buffet there are some people who made only a million bucks and countless folks who lost everything.
Wall Street. They have trillions of dollars and use all that money and power and marketing to convince you that there is a way to predict where the stocks are going without being a legal insider or somehow abusing the law. They will make you think you can somehow learn from them where to invest your money on your own or they will make you believe that you should just give it to them and they will manage it for you, because they know how everything works and they can predict the future using past data.
They won't. They don't. They can't. There are studies and statistics to prove it countless times over the span of a 100 years. But they will still charge you exchange fees, brokerage fees and management fees anyway. And they also manipulate certain studies, lobby where and when they need it, and spread misinformation on an unprecedented scale, creating a positive image of themselves. And everyone falls for that. Billions of people around the globe still think it's all legit.
Passive index investing is the last level. You just put your money in the market and wait. Markets will go up at a predetermined rate. If there's a crisis, in 10 years no one will even remember. Markets always go up in the end. But passive index investing can only give you only 7% inflation-adjusted returns a year. Not enough to stop working or even retire early, unless you have a high-paying job in a first-world country. I don't.
Despite all that, to put it simply, this is the only type of investing that works and doesn't involve any kind of fraud or gambling. It's the type of investing that will give you the most money. If you want to know why it is like that and how to do it, just go to financialindependence. They know this stuff better than any other sub. Better than investing, trading or any other sub where non-passive-index investing is still discussed as viable strategy.
Back to me.
My whole being was fucked over, my hopes and dreams and understanding of success and how this world works were shattered. I realized, I had no future in financial industry, because only middlemen make money in there, and I quit college needed to get there. Frankly, I wouldn't want to work there even if I had the opportunity. The pay is good, but the job is boring and I wouldn't want to be a part of this giant scheme anyway. But even if I wanted to go back, I also couldn't. Russia is in a worsening crisis and my parents could no longer afford a US university and now with coronavirus it's even worse. Good thing I quit before it all happened. I learned a valuable lesson and didn't lose that much money for it (only about 10% of my savings). God knows where it would lead me if I continued to be delusional. But now that my last temporary plans for the future were scrapped, I had no idea what to do next.
The future.
With the reality hitting me, I would lie if I say it didn't all come full circle and connect to my past. I realized that I was stupid and not intelligent, because I was living in a made-up world for years now. But even if I were intelligent, pure wit would not give me the success and fortune that I was craving, because trading and active investing were a no-go for me, and business/politics require a very different, extroverted mindset, different education and interest from my own. My only redeeming quality in a hopeless introvert world, my perceived intelligence was taken away from me and rendered useless at the same time.
Besides, failing at that one thing made me insecure about everything and now I think of myself as an average individual. So, if 8 out of 10 businesses fail, I shouldn't start one because I will probably fail. And if most politicians don't get anywhere, why should I bother? If average salary in my country is X, I shouldn't hope for more. I stopped believing in my ability to achieve something. First, I failed at education and now I failed... Professionally? I don't know how to describe it, but my life recently was just an emotional roller coaster. I just feel like a very old person and all I want calmness and stability in my life. I was very lazy before just because, but now I feel like I also don't want to do anything because I feel I would just fail. It feels better now I don't have to worry about trading anymore and I got rid of that load... But I am still miserable and perhaps worse than ever, maybe I just don't understand and feel it because I've become slow and numb. The only positive thing that happened to me recently, is that I finally started losing weight and about 1/4 of the way back to my normal weight.
As for my future, am looking at several possibilities here. So far the parents are allowing my miserable life to continue and they let me live with them and buy me food. I don't need anything else right now. But it can't go on like this forever. The thought of having a mundane low-paying job in this shithole of a country depresses me. I will probably temporarily do English tutoring if there's demand for such work. My old school friends want me to help them in their business and my dad wants me to help him in his, I and probably should, but I feel useless, pathetic and incapable of doing anything of value. And business just seems boring, difficult and too stressful for me right now. Just not my cup of tea.
I am also looking at creative work. I love video games, music, films and other forms of art. I love the games most though, so I am looking into game dev. I don't really like programming, I have learned some during school years, but the pay would probably be higher for a programmer than an creator of any kind of art. However, I think I would enjoy art creation much more, but I don't have any experience in drawing and only some limited experience in music production. And I am not one of these kids who always had a scrapbook with them at school. Having to make another life choice paralyzes me. I am leaning towards art. I don't feel confident in my ability to learn this skill from scratch, but I think it's my best shot at finding a job that would make me happy.
So perhaps, when this whole pandemic is over, I'll go to Europe and get my degree, get a job there and stay. American Dream is dead to me, and Europe is cheaper, closer, safe and comfortable. Just the thing for a person who feels like they are thrice their real age.
Outro.
Thanks for coming to my TED Talk. Special thanks if you read the whole thing, it means a whole lot to me, an internet stranger. But even if no one reads it, feels good to get this off my chest. I actually cried during writing some parts. Holy shit, this might be the longest and smartest looking thing my dumbed down head could manage to generate since college. I hope that you're having a great day. Stay healthy and be careful during this fucking pandemic. All the best.
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