20 years from rags to riches?

71 of my army buddies signed up to become millionaires while I chose beer, cigarettes, chocolates and toilet paper.


We were 72 in the bungalow. Foxtrot 2. We’d already had our hair removed twice and our brown overalls were starting to fade from way too much washing powder and the harsh Phalaborwa sun. ALSO READ: The apocalypse is on our stoeps It was our third week of basic training and, I must admit, of all the training I have ever experienced, none was quite as aptly named. Sleep, eat, run, crawl, die, survive, repeat. Then, for one day and one day only, the routine changed. Summoned to a hall we never knew existed, we were given a basic introductory…

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We were 72 in the bungalow. Foxtrot 2.

We’d already had our hair removed twice and our brown overalls were starting to fade from way too much washing powder and the harsh Phalaborwa sun.

ALSO READ: The apocalypse is on our stoeps

It was our third week of basic training and, I must admit, of all the training I have ever experienced, none was quite as aptly named.

Sleep, eat, run, crawl, die, survive, repeat. Then, for one day and one day only, the routine changed.

Summoned to a hall we never knew existed, we were given a basic introductory course to financial planning.

“Do you know that in just 30 years from now, all of you can be a millionaire,” said the only person on the planet not wearing a uniform. Standing on the podium in his jeans and bright red golf shirt, he looked very unmilitary.

He proceeded to explain that by saving just 20% of our salaries, we would be able to call ourselves millionaires before the age of 50. But then, he tightened the noose.

“Yes, 30 years is a very long time, but you can also be a millionaire in just 25 years.”

An audible murmur echoed through the hall, followed by a harsh order for silence. Remarks and questions were not allowed.

ALSO READ: A misread that ended in tears

The broker declared that by saving just a bit more every month and increasing our monthly premiums, millionaire status was just 25 years away.

For the first time in weeks, eyes were glimmering with hope, and not fear. Then the broker said the unimaginable: “Every one of you here, can also be a millionaire in just 20 years.”

Backing up this statement with slides explaining the power of compound interest and growth projections of the stock exchange, his coup d’etat was that he had already taken the liberty of completing all the documentation on our behalf and that all we needed to do, was to decide by when we wanted to be millionaires, and sign the papers.

Well, 71 would-be millionaires lined up and signed. I, on the other hand, decided that my R270 per month would be much better spent on beer, cigarettes, chocolates and toilet paper.

Decades later, I still find it odd to think that Foxtrot 2 produced 71 millionaires and me.

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