Dream comes true for 17 year old Tesla investor

James Lanska, April 22, 2016

Plan a test drive Zero emissions. Zero compromises

Growing up, soccer was a huge part of my life. I started playing at age 3, when my older brother’s coach took an interest in me. As my skills progressed, I “played up”, playing on teams with older kids. My Dad would drive hours to take me to games in neighboring states.

Disaster struck early in the season when I was 12. I had just recovered from a stress fracture in my foot; at soccer practice, I attempted to take a ball on a volley; the ball caught my foot wrong and snapped the growth plate in my leg close to my foot. I was out for the season. I was devastated.

How to get rich

Leg trussed up in an AirCast, there wasn’t much I could do, so I sat at the computer and contemplated my future. There were so many things I wanted to do: top of my list was to learn to hang glide, but lessons cost thousands of dollars that I didn’t have. So, I did what any self-respecting 12 year old would do: I Googled "How to get rich.”

The eighth search result was a webpage describing basic stock market investing and the famous value investor Warren Buffett. I thought to myself, "This could work." So I spent every moment of my newfound free-time learning everything I could about stock investing. Researching potential companies, I discovered Tesla, Solar City, and Elon Musk.

I started pitching the idea of investing to my parents. Initially they were skeptical; after all, I was only 13, but after a constant barrage of information for several months my parents relented. It was all I would ever talk about: Tesla, Solar City, SpaceX, and Elon Musk.

I opened my E-Trade account and invested my entire life savings in Tesla and Solar City. That was 2013, right before Tesla and Solar City exploded into Wall Street's consciousness.

Impressed with my success, my mother funded an account for me to manage.

On a Model S mission

When I started driving, my family began the discussion of another vehicle. As was the family tradition, I would drive the hand-me-down vehicle, at this point, my Mom’s aging minivan. My Mom thought she needed another minivan; my Dad thought she needed an SUV like his; I knew she needed a Tesla Model S. The idea of a $100,000 car was completely out of the question for both of my practical parents. So I extracted an agreement from Mom: If I made enough money in the investment account she funded, we would purchase the Model S. I reasoned, if I made the money in the investment account, it really wasn’t costing her anything. She agreed. I was ecstatic. I immediately got to work.

I made it!

In April of 2015, I approached Mom. “Hey, Mom! I made enough money in your account to buy the Model S.” She was astounded, she wondered how she was going to explain this to Dad, but an agreement is an agreement. In May, the day after I completed my series of 4 Advanced Placement exams, we took a “field trip” to Minneapolis to test drive a Model S. The Minneapolis Tesla group are wonderful people. Libby Sullivan and Nathan Cummings took an interest in me, and never dismissed me because I was only 16.

Meet “Alfred”

In June, 2015, we took delivery of "Alfred" (yes, named for Batman's butler), with piano black interior, particularly fitting as Mom, my brothers, and I all play piano. Although I am still officially in high school, through a special program, I attend University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I commute the 45 miles to UW-L. Mom and I have agreed that whoever has to drive the farthest drives “Alfred” as he is the safest vehicle we own. Pretty sweet for me that Mom’s commute to work is a mere 2 miles.

And I’ve proposed that as soon as the investment account reaches our next milestone, we can purchase another Model S.

Mom agreed.

Tags: Model S, Investing