A writer discovers a new way to understand her father’s endless, and dangerous, forays into get-rich-quick schemes.
This issue's Life in the Data column is available to subscribers—in print or digital formats—now, and will be posted online in full on Friday, January 02. Until then, an excerpt:
Several years ago I visited my father one afternoon to confront him on what I had long seen as terrific financial gambles. Decades earlier, when I was eight, my mother died, and, looking back, it seemed to me, that moment transformed my father, too: Afterward he changed jobs habitually, became a rabid Evangelical, and spent every dollar on speculative business deals. His retirement now loomed, and I felt obligated to rein him in.
I saw him as a fool for money wed to get-rich-quick schemes. He tried selling Amway, Herbalife, Shaklee, Bestline, and water purifiers. He once bought a case of no-run pantyhose and tried to cajole me into wearing them; they were sweater- thick polyester the color of Barbie skin. He bought non-existent land in California from a huckster. He invested in a company that built round houses. He got a broker’s license and gave financial seminars at local libraries to audiences of three and four. And long before the financial crash, he taught himself commodities and currency trading.
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