Dad had a point, both with regard to the likelihood of her being called in to deal with any game-related shenanigans, and about the thousands of reasons to do as she was told that were sitting in her bank account. Maybe it wouldn’t come to that, though.
Now that he’d brought it up, though, she was curious to see how much money she had.
“Can I borrow that to check my bank account,” she said to Mum, indicating the tablet.
Mum pushed it towards her. “You can look but don’t touch.”
It wasn’t like she was going to rush out and buy herself a sports car. She checked her balance. It was a ridiculously large amount just sitting there doing nothing. She could actually go buy herself a sports car.
Britta sat down next to Mum at the kitchen table, perusing her account details. She’d always had a savings account with a few hundred pounds in it that she wasn’t supposed to use. She had a card to get the money out that she no longer remembered the PIN to.
This was a separate account, set up after APE began paying her, and needed either Mum or Dad’s permission to withdraw funds. A sixteen-year-old wasn’t supposed to be able to throw around several hundred thousands of pounds whenever they felt like it, even Britta understood that. It was nice to know she could have bought anything from just about any store in the world. It was an uplifting feeling.
“We should pay off the mortgage,” said Britta. Nice clothes and a car for her seventeenth birthday would be nice, but it was time for her to start making the responsible grown-up decisions.
Mum leaned across and looked at the screen. She shook her head. “You’ll need more than that.”
“Really? How much is the house worth?” It was a semi-detached property in the suburbs of London; it was hardly a palace.
“I’m not sure,” said Mum. “A house down the street sold a few weeks ago. Went for one and a half million.”
“What?” Britta was shocked. She looked around the small kitchen. “This place is worth over a million?” It did not look like the sort of place a millionaire would live in.
“It was eight hundred thousand when we bought it. A bit more after fees. House prices tend to be a bit mad, especially in desirable areas.”
Britta would never have thought of this as a desirable area. Even if she waited a whole year — assuming APE kept her employed that long — and spent none of her money, she still wouldn’t be able to afford a house on her own unremarkable street. How much money did you have to earn to be able to afford a mansion with a swimming pool and stables to the rear? Did rich people just get bigger mortgages and run up higher debts?
If you earned a million you were supposed to be set for life, at least that’s how it had always looked when that kind of money was out of her reach.
“And don’t forget you still have to pay taxes,” said Mum. “We need to get an accountant, a good one. They’re not cheap, either.”
Britta was starting to think she should have asked for more.
She realised she didn’t really understand finances. It had always seemed unnecessary. Even after she got a job and earned her own money, she expected it to be all taken care of by her employer. She would get money in her account at the end of every month and spend accordingly, no need to fill out any forms.
It was undoubtedly a naive outlook. Adulthood was all about filling forms.
She also had no idea how stocks and shares worked or what significance different money markets would have on her earnings. Lin would know. Lin would probably be able to affect those markets by buying and selling shares of various companies she owned. There was so much to learn if Britta wanted to be able to make wise choices concerning her future.
The game economy was also a mystery to her. What if she managed to collect a million gold coins? Would she be able to buy a castle, or only have enough to put a down payment on a cottage close to local shops and handy for the daily carriage service to the city centre?
Britta had never intended to have an extravagant lifestyle, in the game or IRL, but even a comfortable life without debt seemed out of her reach. She needed a lot more money to be able to not have to worry, which seemed ridiculous. It would be fine while she had money coming in, but once it stopped, her savings wouldn’t last long no matter how much money she put away.
And it wasn’t like she had another career to fall back on once the gaming world no longer had a use for her.
It was troubling.
“I think I should get an economics tutor, too,” said Britta.
“But you don’t take economics,” said Mum. She didn’t seem against the idea, just curious.
“I know, but it feels like something I should know more about. Perhaps I’ll take it as one of my A levels.”
“Well, I’m sure it would be of benefit. Everyone should know how the financial world operates, if they can stomach it. I could teach you. Put my degree to use for once.”
Mum had studied economics at university, even though she didn’t use it for work. Did that mean she’d be a good teacher? Britta could always find another tutor if it didn’t work out. She would have to fire her, though.
“Great,” said Britta. “Good.”
Mum smiled, looking like she was pleased to be included in Britta’s party of teachers and sages.
Britta had already decided to use her newly acquired wealth to hire tutors for her GCSE subjects. She was already feeling the benefit of that, even though it had only been a couple of weeks.
She would have to make sure she remained relevant as an employee, at least for the short term. One year was what she was looking at as her minimum investment. One year of being indispensable to APE, solving any issues they gave her to take care of. She saw it as a fair exchange.
She planned to use this window of wealth opportunity to make sure she had a sustainable future. One where she controlled how much she earned. Computer gaming was a very profitable industry, but her role in it was something of a fluke. It couldn’t be relied on, but it could be exploited.
What she would do was gather as much information as she could, decide on a course of action for her future, and then use her money to give herself the best possible chance of achieving that goal.
Those who were in competition with her would probably not have the same resources as her. The playing field would not be level. It wasn’t like she was cheating, though. She was theorycrafting.
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Afterword from Mooderino