It was 2008 when the U.S. economy tanked as a result of excessive risk-taking by banks, causing the national unemployment rate to skyrocket to nearly 10 percent. American families scrambled to protect themselves from potential layoffs as businesses experienced a significant slowdown in economic activity.
Erik Finman and Roshaan Khan may have just been kids when all of this unfolded, but it, nonetheless, left a resounding impact -- one that would shape their future perspectives on financial decisions.
"I remember when I was very young, it was 2007, 2008, and my mom was cooking some food. I don't know how old I was, but I was really young, and then my father came in and said, 'We lost almost everything.' That was a traumatizing, I think, experience for a little guy like me."
The same could be said for Khan, a now-21-year-old senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. He said he remembers feeling helpless in wake of extreme uncertainty.
"We were kids in the collapse, so we had absolutely no control," he told Circa. "We were entirely victims of the system, because you can't do anything."
A few high-risk financial institutions sent ripples across America, ultimately affecting those that couldn't be further from the Wall Street prototype. But in the midst of the darkness surfaced a silver lining for, at least, these two current entrepreneurs: Bitcoin.
In 2009, a mysterious figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto emerged in response to the Great Recession. He developed a nontraditional currency, dubbed "cryptocurrency," as a way to erase the middleman from financial transactions. By eliminating centralized banks, nation stations and regulatory agencies, he says he saw Bitcoin as an opportunity to prevent the world from the corruption that led to the 2008 recession in the first place.
That heightened sense of protection enticed then-12-year-old Finman in 2011 -- just two years after the financial meltdown rocked the world. After receiving $1,000 from his grandmother, which was intended to go into his scholarship fund, Finman decided to buy Bitcoin instead.
"To me, the internet just came very naturally to me," the now 19-year-old said. "It was just an extension of myself. That's what Bitcoin and Blockchain really was for me. I didn't even notice that it was difficult. It was just kind of this is the way it is. I think that's the thing -- it's very instinctive for me in using it and understanding it."
Khan's story is a little different. He didn't invest in Bitcoin until June 2017, just before its worth skyrocketed. As a first-generation American citizen, the 21-year-old said he sees Bitcoin as an opportunity to equalize the financial playing field worldwide and solve a host of problems.
"Maybe not so many directly in America because we're not seeing the effects of it, but internationally, across the world, there's so many underbanked and underdeveloped countries," he said. "People that have money or access to money, but their money has no power outside of their country's borders."
As a result, he added, it's important to create a peer-to-peer economy where anybody can pay anybody, and not have to rely on the American dollar simply because it's the biggest consumer by nature.
"It's a big deal to bring the whole world's money together and move it away from fundamental corruption that traditional money has."
For Khan and Finman, Bitcoin is more than a way to modernize an outdated financial system. It's a platform for young people to create their own wealth, especially in the wake of increasing national debt and depleting Social Security funds.
"There's hope, because cryptocurrencies will allow you to have freedom, allow you not to suffer for the mistakes that previous generations have done," Finman said. "Memorize that code in your head and be free."
And nearly a decade after the financial crash shook public consciousness, Finman and Khan are doing pretty well for themselves. Together they're worth more than $6 million -- and they haven't even graduated college yet.
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