NOTE: In October 2017, Charlie Shrem sat down with Anna Sale to be interviewed for her show, “Death, Sex, and Money.” The following is a transcript of that interview, but if you’d like to watch, you’ll find the link here.
Eva: Good evening everybody, how’s everybody doing tonight? Good, awesome my name is Eva Vieira Osmond and I am the education and public programs manager here at the Annenberg space for photography. How many of you this is your first time being here today? Welcome but sadly our current exhibition, which is actually that part’s not sad, is Lauren Greenfield’s Generation Wealth. The sad part is it’s closing tomorrow. So if you haven’t seen it yet, you have one more day to do it. So, wealth, it got me thinking, what is my favorite thing that I think about when I think about the angst, complications, and tough questions that come up when we talk about money. And obviously, as I’m sure it is for a lot of you, that’s death, sex, and money. It’s one of my favorite podcasts out there, and it felt like if there was ever a time to try to convince my bosses that podcasts are a thing, now was the time.
And so here we are and I’m about to introduce Anna Sale. Anna Sale is the host and managing editor of Death, Sex and Money, WNYC’s interview show about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. Recently named New York Magazine’s #1 podcast of 2015, the show has also has also even been featured by New York Times, The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, the Guardian Fast Company, and Real Simple. Before developing Death, Sex, and Money Anna covered politics for many years. She has contributed to Fresh Air with Terry Gross, This American Life , NPR News, Marketplace Studio 360, PBS Newshour and Slate. A West Virginia native, Anna is now based in the Bay Area. Please join me in welcoming Anna to the stage.
Anna: hello I’m Anna Sale. I’m the host of Death, Sex, and Money. And thank you for the proof of concept that podcasts are a thing, yes! Our show is about the things we think about a lot and need to talk about more. And I don’t know about you all but when I went through the generation wealth exhibit here at the Annenberg Space for Photography, I felt that deep in my gut that money is something that we need to talk a little bit more about. Have many of you seen the exhibit? Hands up, okay, it closes tomorrow so if you haven’t seen it go tomorrow.
But it’s what it’s about it’s about the ways that our trappings of success and our status symbols are becoming less and less subtle. Restraint and frugality are out. Gold jewelry is in, even as social mobility is declining or perhaps because social mobility is declining. We all want to make sure that we personally look rich. So I wanted to talk about that a little bit with a guy who has thought a lot about money and how we use money. Charlie Shrem was one of the first people to make money with Bitcoin. He makes real money with Bitcoin. He was a co-founder of BitInstant, and it was a huge success, and along with that success, then came the rationalizations and compromises that we make when we want to make more and more money. And in Charlie’s case, that led to federal prison for his role in enabling illegal transactions including the buying and selling of hard drugs on the internet. He’s been out of prison now for a little over a year, and I want to talk to him about how he thought about money before prison and how he thinks about it now, so please welcome Charlie Shrem.
Charlie: Thanks for having me
Anna: Of course and welcome Courtney Charlie’s fiancée. They’re getting married in four weeks
Charlie: Thank you
Anna: This conversation is gonna be recorded. Charlie and I are gonna talk for about 45-50 minutes and then there will be audience questions, so as you listen think about what you want to know more about and we will take your questions before we leave tonight. But Charlie I want to start with the day you got out of prison. Can you just walk me through that day?
Charlie: Oh my god, that day do you remember that day. That was a crazy day. So basically, what happens is you prepare for this day like you kind of know about it for a few weeks in advance. You don’t know when you’re getting out until like a few weeks before you kind of as you get closer you kind of know like around the day and then it changes, and then they don’t give you a hard day until a few weeks notice and then two weeks before they said all right you’re gonna be released on this day, and I think it was like March 31st. And we were all very excited we on the phone and everyone was like super excited, and I got ready, and the night be a few days before that all my friends had a like a little party for me, we had pizza and wraps…
Anna: your friends in prison?
Charlie: yeah my friends in prison
Anna: you had pizza and wraps?
Charlie: yeah, we can make you. I can make you a cheesecake in the microwave. Like we don’t have ovens. We have microwaves, so you take like you take all these wraps and you put them together with fake cheese and you can make a good pizza, and you’ve like shelf-stable tuna fish, and make it a tuna wrap. It’s pretty good actually. It was pretty good… We used to make like crackheads too and things like that out of mackerel fish. But so the day I was released…
Anna: we’ll go back to that…
Charlie: Yeah I have a whole prison like recipe book that I put together of all my favorite foods. I can make anything the microwave. So basically what had happened was leading up to that day, super nervous. I don’t know. When you’re in there for more than six months you have to kind of institutionalize yourself. You have to forget about the world on the outside. You have to forget you have no internet. You have no communications. You’re limited. You can only talk on the phone for 10 minutes a day, and obviously, I’m using that to talk to Courtney for 10 minutes. It’s all you get, 10 minutes a day on the phone. And you get to write letters, and that’s pretty much it, and so you’re cut off from the whole world, and when you’re about to get out, you’re like the battle to enter back into society. And it was one of the scariest things in the world because even though I was only in there for a year I became accustomed to prison life. I was used to it. I had my friends, I had my daily routine. I had my workouts, my food. I worked at landscaping. I drove a snow plow and a street sweeper. Like I had. This was my life now that was it. Anything else on the outside I just forget about it. It doesn’t matter. The world that I knew existed, existed in Lewisburg federal prison, that’s that’s what my life was, and that’s the only way to survive. So when you’re getting released, like I had a friend who actually got released a few months before me, and he was in there 26 years, so he was in there longer than I was alive. Like he cried on my shoulder, the night before. The guy was he’s like Charlie I don’t know where I’m going, like I don’t know what’s the Internet, what’s Tinder he’s reading about these things in magazines, what’s a cell phone like. He doesn’t know what these things are so that’s what he was dealing with. But when you get out what happens is, you wake up early in the morning they take all your stuff, you go into processing, so it’s there’s this room that you only see when you walk in and when you leave. It’s it’s called R&D; receiving and processing, I don’t know what it stands for. And you walk in when you in use like that room when you walk into prison is you’ll only ever see that room when you’re leaving. I remember like imagining like what was it gonna feel like to walk through those doors, those double doors to the front. And so I was released with like three or four of my friends that day, and we were all we went through processing we just were in this big room waiting for our people to pick us up. And one by one, they guy walked in and my friend’s name got called, and he started crying, and his parents, family came in, and he left. I was left alone like like Courtney I guess they were late early on the highway or something and and I was like freaking out. Like I’m not getting out, or the government’s arresting me again. I didn’t know what was going on. And then finally they said that they’re here and they pulled up in the parking lot had a box of stuff. It’s not a box I don’t even know what was in it. It was papers and all this stuff, and I walk out and my like prison uniform cuz you get to keep it, like in my sweatpants and a t-shirt and I’m all jacked up and like
muscles and stuff, and I have my box and I log on in the parking lot, and I’m like let’s get out of here before they change their minds.
You know and and then we drove off and I’m like…
Anna: when did you change clothes?
Charlie: So I went to a gas station. I was like can I use your restroom please. And I was weird. I was a weird person like the first few days I got out. I don’t know how to communicate with people, and the first thing I ever ate was coffee. That’s the first thing I had was like I just want a real cup of coffee and had a goat cheese salad with chicken. I remember it was awesome.
Anna: okay so I went to. We’ll get to how you came to prison sure, but I want to go back to what when you were first learning about money as a kid you grew up in an orthodox community. Your dad was a jeweler, your mom, stay-at-home, how would you describe how you were taught about money when you were a kid?
Charlie: My father went out of his way to make sure that I always understood the value of a dollar. Like that was. I remember him saying that over and over again my father kind of built his own business and did everything by himself, and he we were we were upper-middle class growing up in Brooklyn, and we had a nice house, and I never like had to struggle for food or anything like that, and I went to a good school and my parents they didn’t do anything to excess they never just said here’s a bunch of money do whatever you want it was always like I had it I had to be accountable for I had an allowance like they gave me like 20 bucks a week or whatever. It was for school, but I had to be accountable for that money, and if I spent it they wouldn’t you know give me more and back then I don’t really think about what is value? What is money that was later in life?
But the value of a dollar was really important at the time, and then what happened was when I was in high school you know computers started getting big and stuff. I started, people had computer issues at home, like printers breaking or routers needed being reset or just things I didn’t know how to fix, and I realized that I can provide a good service just being someone that they could call on-demand. Then I charged with like 20 bucks an hour or whatever it was and I just fix, and I would be like the sy tech guy…
Charlie: Syrian, Syrian Jewish that’s like the the the moniker we call ourselves SYs. I’ll be their SY tech guy, who needs to go around and fix people’s stuff, and one guy like paid me to like put a cell phone antenna on top of his roof, and and I was like 15 16 years old, and I started making like really good money…
Anna: like how much?
Charlie: 200 bucks a week. Yeah it was like for someone you know in high school like that was I remember I bought my first car when I was a junior in high school. My parents didn’t give me any like they really but there was a problem, you ready for this? I got a credit card in the mail when I was like 18, like the day I turned 18, I got credit. I was still in high school, had a six-thousand-dollar credit limit. Now I was I was taking people to Vegas. No not really, but I was I was spent like in the first month I spent it.
Anna: and had it like… where did it go?
Charlie: I don’t know like it’s like pizza stores and just stuff like I just I don’t even know what did I buy, it’s just whatever, you couldn’t drink at a time, right I didn’t start drinking till I was like 21. But I just food and stuff for my friends, and I tried oh I took like lessons on how to fly a plane, so that cost a bunch of money. Stupid things stupid things…
Anna: Was it a secret from your parents, your credit card?
Charlie: Yes and no, so they knew I had it, but they didn’t realize like how much in debt I was getting into. So I got into a lot of debt. I got into like a lot of debt, and I turned around and I was like graduating high school, and I was like at least $10,000 in debt, and it was a lot for kid. I was freaking out, and my father found out because I was actually traveling on a birthright trip, so I went on one of those free trips to Israel, and he I guess he got a letter in the mail, and he opened it and and he saw that and he freaked out. And he said I’m not bailing you out. Like you have to figure out a way to pay for this, and I said, dad I’m making the minimum payments, he’s like but you’re still spending the card like do you realize… I don’t understand how interest worked. I don’t understand what is interest, what is borrowing money, what what does all that mean. I had no idea, so my father did was he he explained. We sat down when I got back, and he was furious, but what he did was this: he helped me get a loan, so we turned off the card, so he took the card from me, and I got a loan for the full amount on the card, and he secured it against the house, so he helped me out in that respect. So the interest rate was lower than that of the card, and I had set payments it was like two three hundred dollars a month and I had to make those payments…
Anna: To your parents?
Charlie: no to the credit card company. My parents didn’t pay it. Like I had to pay it off, and I did. I paid it off after two years. And since I was 18, I swore off credit cards, and even now like I have one card, but my limit is only like $3,000. I keep it really… I don’t like debt. I don’t like debt. I have like this fear of debt because I got scarred when I was younger.
Anna: You pay with debit cards for everything?
Charlie: Pretty much yeah or Bitcoin or cash yeah yeah. I don’t like debt
Anna: So is that what caused you when you’re a student at Brooklyn College to start the, you started a commerce company on the Internet? was that to try to get out of this debt?
Charlie: That was part because I was like freaking out because I didn’t have any confidence in myself as a student. and I didn’t think like college was just another way to like push, kick the can down the road.
I got accepted to Brooklyn College. I wasn’t a great student in high school because I couldn’t… it was just like more high school for me, was like more of us like books, and it was boring, and I wasn’t being challenged enough, so I didn’t really like pay attention. College was different because you can choose your classes. You can choose your hours, and everything you learn is applied. I’ll give you an example. If I told any of my high school math teachers nowadays that I got a degree in economics they’d laugh, because I was the worst mathematics student in high school, like I was like a C student. but now here I’m taking advanced calculus and macroeconomics and microeconomics, and I love it. I love taking math, and I love taking it, and I love applying it to like socio-economic theories and seeing how, and that’s why I got into Bitcoin really like I got into it because I love the idea of using math as a system of understanding how human beings behave, especially when it comes to value and money.
Anna: And when did it become about making money?
Charlie: It became about making money when I wanted, I was like a closet rebel for my parents very early on, and I had realized, because they were very religious, like super religious, and from when I was born, the life was preset out for me. I would have like I’ll go to school I have my father’s company, parents buy me a house down the block. I’d have like pick your wife from these ten girls, like but it would be a good life, a lot of like my cousins my so my old friends they loved it you know. It’s sheltered. You have your whole life set for you. It’s stable.
I realized, you know I had my own moral, my own morals like I saw a lot of moral shortcomings with religion, but that was like kind of to the side. but I wanted to have my own way. I wanted to make my own mistakes. I wanted to learn. I wanted to see where life would go. I wanted to leave Brooklyn. Like I started traveling when I was younger, and I just saw what the world was…
Anna: So was it a ticket out?
Charlie: It was a ticket out, so financial independence was a ticket out, and so one day my cousin over dinner was like hey Charlie you’re really good at computers right, and I said yeah. He said well we have all this extra stuff in our warehouse, what if you build a website, and you just sold it like and you can have it at cost just get rid of it, I said great, I’m not doing anything else right? So I did that. I’d literally went to the warehouse with my laptop. I built a website called dailycheckout.com, and just I would just start like they’d have like a thousand of these like old digital cameras, and I tell them how much it cost, make like two dollars on the shipping right, so I sell it free with five dollars shipping my cost is $1, and the shipping was two dollars, so I made two dollars. And it really took off, and so I found myself getting calls from a lot of other warehouses, saying hey we have all this extra stuff can you sell it for us? So I don’t have to take on any risk. I would just have a list of stuff every day. They’d hold it for me, and I’d sell it and whatever I’d sell they I’d buy from them, and then I would either ship it myself or they would ship it. I’d literally tape the box as myself, and it was really good. I mean for a high school student, I wasn’t for a college early college student I was making like $600 a week, which was which was pretty good money back then, and so it still is good money, and so yeah it was. It was good. I mean I was making this money. I was saving it. I was paying off this debt. I was traveling. I had financial independence except for the fact that I was like living at home. And I could have moved out like I had. It wasn’t about the money, but I needed my parents. I always felt that I needed my parent’s blessing. Like I couldn’t get over that religious hurdle. I couldn’t get over. I couldn’t fully leave and not look back because I knew once you leave my community, you can’t go back. That’s it. I was excommunicated, and my parents had like a funeral for me, legit. I was completely excommunicated, I didn’t go to my sisters’ weddings. My parents won’t be at my wedding, at our wedding, but I made that decision. But it took me a long time to make it, and life has been, every day of life now has been so much better, million times better than the life I lived before. And so I don’t… it’s their loss as I see it, and I had a lot of resentment, I did, I was super angry my parents ,visited me once in prison. They never came back. They never sent me money. They never, and I I held a lot of anger, but I realized that life is too short to hold resentment, and you learn that in there, and so I have no anger. I have no resentment. I forgive them completely if they forgive me. I would I would love if they showed up at our wedding. I would love it. I would love not more, and I would embrace them, but I also have life is about frustrations and expectations here you get frustrated and angry when you have unreasonable expectations about things like you come home, and you expect your wife to cook you dinner, but if she doesn’t,you get angry. Whose fault is that? It’s your fault because why do you expect that, so you have to have reasonable… so I have these, I don’t have these unreasonable expectations about my parents, and everything is good now.
Anna: So it strikes me that your… there’s two things happening in your life at a certain time. You’re in Brooklyn College. You’re trying to figure out your relationship to your family. You’re trying to figure out how much distance you can allow from them, yourself, and you’re also realizing that there’s pathways for you to make more and more money.
Anna: Did making more money and seeing that you could make a lot of money through Bitcoin and through BitInstant accelerate your pulling away from your family?
Charlie: It did. So Bitcoin not only was a way at the time to make money because back then it was not really like it was laughed at. It wasn’t seen as anything viable, but all of a sudden I went from having this one family, and now I have this new family. The Bitcoin community. We are this big family that embraced… We embrace each other, and no matter like what gender you are, the color of your skin, your religion, it doesn’t matter, we’re all just like where you’re from, and it’s just like this wonderful… I grew up in a very, like I was telling you earlier in a very sheltered and closed-off community where it’s it’s like ethnocentric. They believe that they are the best, and everyone else is inferior to them, not blaming them It’s just the way that they were raised, so it’s the way I was raised, and I saw a lot of moral like like issues with that okay. Let’s we’re all equal. We’re all the same. We’re all human beings. How could someone else be less than me. It just didn’t it didn’t make sense to me, and I and I really struggled with that, and I was one of the reasons I had to leave.
But the Bitcoin community was a especially back then when it was still so small it was a real life working example of a community where everyone was equal the we all had our common agenda of revolutionizing the financial system, and…
Anna: just that?
Charlie: just that like that was our agenda, our agenda was that, it didn’t matter who you were, what you were we were all a big family and I became really close with people that I had never met in fact my business partner in BitInstant, till today I never met him. He’s Gareth, he’s a wonderful guy, spoke to him last week. He’s he actually got a new job working for a friend of (unclear) company. He’s doing really well, but he is um he was my CTO, and he’s living in London, in Wales. He’s got autism, severe Asperger’s. We probably spent in total, the four years, we spent 15 minutes on the phone together. Everything was over text, chat, but we ran together this, you know, 100-million-dollar company, with 30 employees and everything. We had a deal.
Anna: I want to know about to your role in BitInstant. You’re not a coder…
Charlie: No… I am but I’m really bad one…
Anna: Okay.. that was not your role at…
Charlie: No, no don’t let me touch any code…
Anna: Okay you were sort of a wheeler dealer. You were getting investors. You were the chief communicator, like explaining what this thing was… that was gonna revolutionize the financial…
Charlie: Chief Evangelist.
Anna: Chief Evangelist…so I’m curious, as like a salesman. How do you think about truth when you’re trying to make someone feel excited about giving you money?
Charlie: How do you feel about truth when you’re trying to get someone really excited. so a lot of times you can get into issues where you have to tell someone what they want to hear, and sometimes what they want to hear, may or may not be the truth.
Anna: may not be the truth?
Charlie: Yeah that’s what happens in our world, and that was the reason that I literally couldn’t get one investor to give me money back then. It was impossible. we couldn’t raise any mone. people I got laughed out of every VC firm in New York, and it wasn’t until I went on like some Internet TV show that this guy in Japan called me up and said I believe in Bitcoin I want to give you…how much money do you need? I’ll sign you a check right now.
Anna: Wait so what was the reason by VCs weren’t giving you money because you were telling…
Charlie: Yeah, I started a BitInstant, no because I wasn’t the valley kid. They the investors wanted me to conform to this like Silicon Valley mold, and I wasn’t really about that. I had a vision and whether my vision, they wanted me to focus on BitInstant, and how to make BitInstant money, I wanted to focus on Bitcoin and how to further this technology.
I was acting as if the company was like a non-profit, and that’s not what they wanted to hear. And you know I had to like I struggled with that because I wanted the money on one end but at the same time I want to like further Bitcoin, and I had a big falling out with my investors, the the Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss over that thing they they would send me emails, it’s like stop going to speeches, stop speaking, stop going on the news, stop giving speeches like focus on the company, be in the office, and I said like I just don’t want to be in the office. I want to be out there and talking about Bitcoin
Anna: During this period before you went to prison and in Fortune magazine, your fiance is quoted as saying during that period you were a little arrogant…
Charlie: More than a little arrogant
Anna: Yeah like in what way like was it, were you arrogant because all of a sudden you felt like you had stumbled upon this thing that was increasing in value and you had a lot of money and you would figure this thing out before other people had?
Charlie:I don’t know if it was like that, I just… picture this: I was like 22 years old. I had half a million dollars in the bank… sitting the bank
Anna: Like in a savings account?
Charlie: Like just in a checking account
Anna: Not even in a savings account…
Charlie: I had no expenses. Like no overhead. I owned a nightclub, I lived above it. I was dating a beautiful girl. Life was great. I act I would walk around like my sh*t didn’t stink. That’s what it was.
Anna: And were you treated differently like socially because people started seeing you as someone with money?
Charlie: Yes! yeah, in prison. When you get arrested, you really learn who your real friends are. And I had friends that I thought were friends never called me back, never called me after that. I still haven’t seen him till today, but there were other friends who I ignored when I started, you know, got wealthy and like I kind of sidelined them because they weren’t the cool kids in town, but they were visiting me every few months in prison. Driving out 3 hours from New York and you know like I have no resentment towards anyone but there’s a special place in my heart for those people who are there for me. And forever those people, I’m in debt to those people and if they ever need anything, they know they can call me for anything We’re like blood brothers because I was at the lowest point of my life, I had nothing to give anyone. I was in federal prison, I couldn’t give you a dollar. I physically couldn’t give you a dollar, like I couldn’t even touch money. If Courtney would come to visit, she would have to put money in the vending machine. I literally couldn’t give you a dollar but you were still there you were still coming to see me, for me, and those people are my real friends.
Anna: What did you spend money on when you had a half a million dollars in a checking account, you said you’d had no expense, what did you enjoy spending money on?
Charlie: Food, traveling, at least a BMW… What else what do we spend money on? Private jets.
Anna: Private jets?
Charlie: I introduced this guy at Bitcoin who had a private jet, like chartering company, so he allowed me to like charter jets through him for Bitcoin. So we’d go to like Miami and stuff like that and just spend weekends there. A lot of traveling a lot of traveling and food. I already said that and that’s pretty much it.
Anna: I want to talk about Silk Road now.
Anna: Was there a moment when Silk Road was this part of the internet where people were buying and selling things that are not legal to buy and sell and using Bitcoin to do it. Was there a moment that you can remember, where you could have not, you could have stopped what you ended up doing and you decided I gotta do this for the company, I got to do this to make more money.
Charlie: Yeah that moment came in like July of 2013. My lawyers basically said, well like you know the company is getting to a point where a lot of people are you know, not a lot of people, but this one guy’s buying bitcoins and reselling them on Silk Road. And because that’s what it was, this guy was a customer of ours, and he bought Bitcoin, and then he would then resell those Bitcoins on Silk Road. Then those people would then go buy drugs and stuff like that. And I knew about it. I did and I didn’t really care enough. I was a young kid. I didn’t really care enough to stop it because I was making money. And my lawyers eventually sent me a letter. They said if you don’t shut the company down right now we can’t represent you anymore. So we shut down the company that day. It was like July 3rd 2013. We put a site, we put this thing up on BitInstant, and we said sorry like we’re shut down. No one lost any money it was it. And so I thought I was good because we shut down the company. We might you know whatever. My hand wasn’t caught in the cookie jar, and then it wasn’t like eight months later, is when I got arrested. And it ended up like being a good thing because my hand wasn’t caught in the cookie jar. Like I wasn’t like continuously doing, and I did it for like a six-month period where I allowed this guy to buy a Bitcoin from us and then went on Silk Road, but it wasn’t like over like a multi-year period.
Anna: It was just six months
Charlie: It’s just six months.
Anna: How did you know what he was doing? Like how did you…
Charlie: So I was the only employee at the time, me and Gareth. I was the CEO, I was the janitor, I was the chief compliance officer, I was customer service head. I did everything. I was a bookkeeper, there’s only two of us and so even though CEO, I was also customer service and there were times when this guy’s, like orders would fail and he was doing a lot of volume, and so I did like research, and I googled his name came up as he had a listing on Silk Road. And I don’t remember like a you know like when or what, but it was like hypothetical. I don’t remember when that happened, but I wrote an email to to him saying like I know you’re on Silk Road. I know you’re reselling these Bitcoins on Silk Road. Like you better stop or else you know you better calm down. That’s what I sent to him, and that email was the smoking gun because in that email, I admitted that I knew what he was doing. I was telling him to like calm down because he was being really annoying.
Anna: Calm down?
Charlie: Yeah like chill out…
Anna: And you were arrested eight months later at JFK airport?
Anna: When…I do want to know a little bit about your time in prison…
Anna: Who are your friends in prison?
Charlie: I had… there’s no such thing as friends in prison. It’s like people who have aligned agendas to you. That’s what it’s more like because how the other day like everyone is in it for themselves. Everyone wants to go home to their family. So you’re you don’t really have friends, but you’re living with a guy for a year next to him in the same bunk. Obviously, you’re gonna be, you’re gonna you know become like have like a relationship with a guy, like you’re gonna become friends with him, and when he has issues with his family or you do you confining each other.
And it was funny when I got in there, the administration played jokes on me from the first day they trolled me hard. They actually put me this like religious Jew with the Muslim Imam. The leader of the Muslim community and me and a cell together and and I walk in there, and he’s on his on his on his he was praying and I was like I don’t know what to do like do. I just say excuse me like I need to get to my bed or do I go wait on the bath, like what do I do. I waited, and we ended up becoming really good friends because I wasn’t religious anymore at that point, but being religious is really difficult it requires a lot of faith and discipline in something that you don’t understand, so I have like a soft spot on my heart or respect for people who are religious, so you can be religious in any religion it doesn’t matter if you if you’re a religious person if you follow a set of beliefs, faith-based, I have a lot of respect for you just right off the bat, so I had a lot of respect for him, and he saw that the way I treated him and he had a lot of respect for me and there was a mutual kind of respect for each other. And we played cars together, we talked about our families and each other’s religions.
And that helped me because because him and I were cool. I instantly became cool with a lot of other people in there like almost automatically and not that there was like a threat of violence or anything, but when you first get in there you’re like at the bottom, you’re seen as like this kind of outcast, no one wants to talk to you but because him and I are cool, a lot of other people helped me out. Like there’s one guy I remember every cell has a light, and I like to read. I read 137 books that year I read a lot. I was reading, I don’t have a book light, so I kept my cell light on, and he wasn’t. I forgot where he was, so I had the cell light on and all of a sudden it’s like huge guy, just like he’s known as like a leader of some crew, walks into my cell and walks up really close to me, and I’m laying on my top bunk right, and he’s just tall guy, comes up right to my face and he says hey Shrem, you know we’re trying to sleep right now and your lights on really light really bright and I’m like shaking right he goes, here borrow my book light give it back to me when you get your own.
But he was so not like… there’s you watch like orange is the new black and you watch and yes it’s a really bad place because you’re away from your family and a lot of people there are childish and immature and really just crappy people, can I curse on okay… really shitty people and but there are a lot of really good people in there who made mistakes. and when you’re in prison it’s not like TV where everyone’s like oh I’m innocent. Everyone tells you they’re guilty. I’m guilty, because to say you’re innocent minimizes all that hard work you’re doing to get out. I hate when people come to me now, and they say oh well you know you shouldn’t have been convicted, and it was you know stupid crime and the government did say that I was guilty. I did my time. I worked my ass off to do that time, and I moved on. Now I’m over it, like don’t minimize my… thank you…don’t minimize my work, my hard work. Right? Like what if you studied really hard for a test and someone and you got a you know 100 on the test and someone coming, oh that test was so easy, it was a BS test. You’d be like no it was a really difficult test. I worked my ass off for that test. That’s how I feel if people say that to me
Anna: Was it hard to walk away from being able to watch the valuation of Bitcoin, to know how much money you had and what your net worth was?
Charlie: Well so, I didn’t have much because I got like the best, I got Dominique Strauss-Kahn lawyers. I got the best lawyers you can possibly get, but they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. A lot of money, and I gave all. Between the money I gave for the government and the money I gave to my lawyers, I walked into prison with $16,000 to my name. I was almost wiped clean, and so when I was in there, I told people like don’t tell me what the price of Bitcoin is. Like don’t tell me that stuff. I don’t want to know. You could tell me news and things but don’t like some people were telling me yeah every day I’ll email you or I’ll send you a letter what the price of a Bitcoin is. That don’t do that. Sometimes I would ask, but other than that, I don’t want to know.
Anna: Did you still have Bitcoins that you owned when you went into prison?
Charlie: Very few, like three or four
Anna: How did money work in prison.
Charlie: Interesting. So I’m probably one of the very few people that studied economics heavily and then went to prison. So I had a very unique
Anna: A lot of the people who study economics don’t go to prison
Charlie: Yeah. A lot of financial guys do go to prison. You know there were a few guys who were really smart in there, Like I had I was in there with like a state senator I was in there with a former judge…
Anna: Did the financial crimes guys hang out together?
Charlie: So there was there wasn’t a lot of us out of 500 inmates. It was maybe 40 of us. There’s no such thing as a white-collar prison. It was mostly low to mid-level drug dealers and things like that, but we did we did it did associate with each other. Especially because having an intellectual conversation is like rare, so you want to have like… I learned a lot about how certain industries work. I had this guy who was who got convicted of bribery because he paid some fine in Mexico but like in Mexico that’s the standard to get acompany launched there. I just would nod and say yes. I didn’t like look into these people’s histories and things like that.
But how did money work in prison? Very good question. So there were… there was something called the commissary and a commissary you can actually go to bop.gov and see the commissary list. The commissary is kind of basic necessity – soaps, shampoos, toothbrush, things that you need, ramen soup, noodle soup and then everything’s shelf stable. So shelf stable packs of tuna fish, shelf-stable packs of chicken, like those pouches. Here in a supermarket you can buy tuna fish in like the single pack, mackerel, you know powder Gatorade , anything that shelf stable, Spam, fake cheese. It was like this shelf-stable cheese you can leave, literally, leave it out… not in any plastic or anything for like days it would still be good. A weird, but you know wraps things like that rice, Minute Rice, anything you can make with hot water in a microwave. It’s a big commissary list, energy bars, and the way that would work is your family can you basically your family could go to westernunion.com or moneygram.com, and they can click, send money to an inmate and they can type in your your inmate number and mine was 92164054, and they can send me money. And a lot of Bitcoiners actually sent me money too, including Courtney and everyone, and so people can send you money.
And then every Tuesday you can… you get the list, the menu and you check off what you want how many you want and you can buy things from commissary, but the thing is, you’re limited to how much you can spend per month so you can be a billionaire on the street and people can send you a million dollars on your books but you can’t spend more than three hundred and sixty dollars a month in the commissary. you could only buy a limited amount of certain things, and so everyone was equal. that was the what I would call the ARM, the administration run market that was them, imagine like North Korea or Cuba that’s like the government market. then you have the IRM as I called it the inmate run market, I created like you know…
Anna: I’m following you
Charlie: yeah so you have the the administration are marking the inmate run market so the inmate run market is where you can really get anything you need, and there was no currency because they weren’t allowed to handle actual cash. and the government market well ran on the books like there was no money account or ledger, so naturally something that they sold in commissary that had a stable value would have to become money, and since the government bans cigarettes in 2004 that needs to be something else. but why cigarettes and eventually it became for us it became packets of mackerel, so these mackerel. and the reason it is the reason that became the the money was because it was the, for a bunch of reasons. it was a most widely accepted form of value, so everyone accepted it, further than that if you were transferred to another prison, everyone in that prison accepted it too..
Anna: mackerel it’s like a cross currency?
Charlie: exactly oh I can get into the whole IPX, the inter prison exchange system, that’s a whole another thing, I coined all these terms… yeah and so you can get stuff from other prisons because, so not all so this is number two not all commissaries are the same, every prison sold different stuff, but for some reason every prison sold mackerel. and so this was like a common thing…
Anna: was it then like a little packet?
Charlie: it was in soybean oil, yeah okay another reason was it was the best source of protein on the compound, so if you wanted to work out, it filled you up the cheapest way possible. and you can make as much stuff out of it, I think it held sway over tuna fish because tuna doesn’t have like texture and mackerel fillets kind of have like the immediate looks like a mini steak or whatever…
Anna: when you had mackerel would you ever eat it?
Charlie: yes yes so it’s another thing, so the inflation rate was set, because the inflation rate was 500 inmates times 52 weeks cuz there’s only you only go to commissary once a week, times 14 because the Fort 14 with a maximum amount of mackerel every inmate could buy per week. so there’s a finite amount of mackerel that can come into circulation every day, every week.
And so that then you have natural consumption. bad money is being taken out of the system. I’m describing how our current economic system works right now. so people eat them, so there’s a certain amount is being taken out so you have whole system where money’s being taken out of the system and so it becomes a store of value. so now and this is where it gets really crazy, now you have these mackerel packs and things are denominated in mackerel, like a haircut is to macks if you want to buy a pie a pizza, this guy makes you pizza in the microwave, it’s six macks, anything you know…
Anna: what else tell me some more
Charlie: you can a higher a personal trainer…
Charlie: yeah you can hire a personal trainer for like a Mack a week, or two macks a week, you can get wraps made for you, you can have someone reserve a certain chair on a TV room for you, for a certain amount of macks, you can…
Anna: would anyone hire personal security?
Charlie: you don’t really need it, so where I was, it was like the lowest level, so everyone… a lot of guys were in my prison worked their way down from bigger institutions like more secure so where there is a lot of violence, and if you do even like threaten violence where I was, you get kicked out to a higher… so no one even like in fact if there was an issue with two people and other inmates knew about it they put you in a room and say work your sh*t out because we don’t want to get all like it’s screwed over so then you have actually like so you have that’s like the money Mack, right and an interesting thing happened so one day I’m watching a TV show and I was like hey Yuri can I get a cold soda and he goes yeah that’s one Mack or two money macks said what the hell’s a money Mack and why is it different than a real Mack and he showed me and it was basically expired mackerel. and I said why what is basically, what happened was you have these inmates who are in there for years and mackerels and they’re using as a savings account as a store of value yeah like gold, but mackerels expire like after three years they’re just mush you can’t eat them it’s disgusting, but they lose their nutritional value you can’t eat them here but they still hold like 75 like 50 to 75% of the value of the regular Mack. they’re literally a currency with no value it’s like the dollar. yeah there’s no value to them and so it was a it was so freaky like and everyone’s like any of currency exchangers you have people that would trade it for you and then you have like credit systems, guys who would act as your like creditors and if you owed someone money they would pay them for you and you can pay these, there’s like the banks you know and it worked in the system of trust and credit… crazy you leave a bunch of inmates in prison like they will develop a whole economic model in there it’s insane.
And then something really crazy happened, so one one day, so I know guys who literally have hundreds of money Macks in their lockers. Like these guys are like saving for…. and that’s a lot of money in prison, like I worked in landscaping, I drove a snow plow, and I made good money. I made like $90 a month, that’s a lot of money in prison because that goes a long way, remember because the max you can spend is 360, and so what happened was I forget how it happened but some guy had thousands and thousands of money macks, and don’t forget money macks can only come into the system from expired mackerels so it takes three years for mackerel to become a money Mack and so what happened was this guy was hoarding them. he must have owned like 30% of all the current supply of money macks in the prison system,
Anna: The 1%
Charlie: no he only 30% he was the 1%… Enrique, he was the 1% yeah crazy guy, so all the sudden so one day, he disappeared. we never heard from him again, no one knows what happened to him rumors are always… that’s what happens there, it’s like it’s like you know like Communist Soviet Union likes people like in the middle night he gets a knock on the door and you disappear and so he we never heard from him again, but the next day there was a huge like kind of like ever you know those Postal Service bins where they have all the mail, there was like a big one just sitting in the cafeteria, in the administration building with all of his mackerel just piled up there and the government’s like we don’t want it, take it… like it’s going to the garbage. they didn’t know that it’s money to us so people just started taking it it was free and they literally, the government not realizing they debase the currency the increased the money some auditory supply by 30% over night. I saw people’s life savings get wiped out, because no one was accepting money macks anymore. Yuri who would do the soda so I don’t want more of these I’m done I have too much, so you can’t buy soda, no one else is accepting anymore because it’s not a transactional currency anymore, overnight it stopped being a store of value, and people were begging from food, like you we saw it, was done money macks cease to exist overnight.
Charlie: very bad monetary policies…
Anna: okay so you come out of prison, you change your clothes at the gas station..
Charlie: yep, got a chicken salad and a cup of coffee
Anna: when did you look at your bank account? like to see…
Charlie: I didn’t actually turn on a computer for two months, two and a half months, I didn’t get a cell phone and I turn on my iPhone I didn’t tell anyone I was out, I told you I was weird… like I wasn’t ready…
Anna: why the hesitancy to engage?
Charlie: I just wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready to tell the world I was out, I wasn’t ready to go on the computer check my email tens of thousands of emails waiting for me, like I just I wasn’t ready. I enjoyed waking up every morning having the coffee living a weird like a nun you know we go for hikes, and I worked as a dishwasher at a restaurant, I had to maintain a real job for six months.
Anna: and what counted is a real job?
Charlie: anything that’s not on the internet like a physical job that they can come and see you in rural Pennsylvania. the only job I can get was a dishwasher at a restaurant.
Anna: why did the internet not count?
Charlie: I don’t know, ask the government. I understand why, I do understand why, because it’s very easy to walk out of prison and like fall back into your bad ways especially for like drug dealers and and things like that you can easily just kind of like your family can embrace you back in and you can start selling drugs again. so what they wanted, it to prevent you from doing that was like force you to get, and that goes for me too, like you you know as they saw it it’s very easy for me to go back into my evil Bitcoin ways, so they wanted me to get a real job. and at the time I was like this sucks, but in hindsight it was one of the best experiences, like I thought Prison was humbling, being a dishwasher 11 hours a day going being from a millionaire to set literally washing dishes for $8 an hour, and you couldn’t quit if I quit I’d go right back to prison. I had to be there and they would come visit me they call the job, is Shrem there? I had to call in, I had to be home at certain times, that a call in for the first six months I was still accountable to the to the to the government, and I had to, they would call me in the middle of the night, are you home? you had a curfew nine o’clock every night they would call you, where are you, are you home, you had to be countable and I loved it.
Anna: was there behavior when it came to money that you didn’t want to resume when you were reentering that you felt like was destructive or immoral before you went into prison?
Charlie: in prison, everything is given to you, you have shelter, you have food, you have a shower, you have water, you have your friends, you don’t need to spend a dime. everything you need to spend money on a prison is like extra but it’s like life you have health and you great health insurance, it’s all free you don’t have to pay for anything so you just kind of like go about your day and do your job and hang all your friends and play cards and eat and work out and you don’t have to worry about money. you know if they’re worried about paying bills, you don’t have that electric bill coming, you’re part of a social collective in there, where you’re all the same. I guess part of me didn’t want to resume that normal life of like paying the bills, paying rents, paying a cellphone bill, being a slave to money again. I didn’t want to go back to… I’d be moreover in prison then even when I was wealthy before, I became financially independent in prison, because I didn’t have any dependencies. I don’t have people that I had to pay for, and I don’t have anything to pay for myself so I was as rich as you could possibly be when I was in prison because I don’t have any expenses. so guess I don’t want to resume that, I didn’t want to like go back to that Bitcoin guy, I just liked being Charlie, I just liked being, in prison the more of a celebrity you are, the less, you look like less respect you get, you’re judged on who you are as a person and how you act towards other people. and I want and I like being judged like that because I feel like I’m a I’m a pretty okay person and I had friends in there and people liked me and I was judged on that not on the Bitcoin stuff. and when I got back out and I was a dishwasher at that restaurant, in rural Pennsylvania, no one knew about like who I was too so I was treated like crap, but I was treated like crap because I was the dishwasher not because I was Charlie or anything. no one knew who I was, no one knew my story or anything like that and I guess I didn’t wanna go back to it and I hesitated. I had written this blog post, I didn’t publish it for like an extra month. I just… we would talk about a Courtney and I all right I’m gonna do it now I’m gonna let the world know again and I just I kept hesitating and I kept not wanting to do it I just wanted to be in my shell in my bubble for a little while longer in Pennsylvania, where no one knew who I was and life was just easy and good and not stressful.
Anna: so now you were back working for a digital currency transaction company, how many times a day do you check the value of Bitcoin?
Charlie: probably once, I noticed that when I check it less, it goes up… so I and I’m only in these trading groups, so we went to Las Vegas a few weeks ago and I didn’t check it often and the price kept going up and now I’m here and I check it much all day and the price is going up and I’m like they’re all like Shrem, go away like don’t come back into my trading groups because the price keeps going up when I’m not looking, but I do check it often. right when I wake up in the morning during the day, I’m an active trader too I traded between all the different bitcoin and and altcoin, so I’m constantly watching the markets and the charts and things like that. but I make a career out of it too so…
Anna: so what’s your financial objective when it comes to Bitcoin right now?
Charlie: someone asked me like what happens when Bitcoin hits a million dollars? and my answer is buy the dip. like you just, Bitcoin will get to a point where it’s like so high you don’t need to ever sell Bitcoin anymore that’s like my objective, to that to that extent. That’s like the running joke is that it’ll you sell Bitcoin when you don’t actually need to sell Bitcoin anymore. The whole world is denominated in Bitcoin a lot of people are very far-fetched ideas about this currency. it’s really crazy. my whole thing is like, I don’t I’m not one of those anarchist or in the Fed type people, what I want to do is I like to call myself a voluntarist, I think the world should be voluntary, everything you do is voluntary like you shouldn’t have to be forced with violence or aggression to do anything, so right now there’s no like we’re forced to use the current financial system because there’s no alternative. and a lot of people really get screwed by especially the lower income people. so my idea is like let’s create an alternative let’s create a better system that’s freer and fair, based on tech… tech that can’t be… technology is transparent and doesn’t have the ability for corruption and people to screw other people over because the technology’s independent and so let’s build a system that removes the ability for corruption and remove the ability for governments and corporations to have an upper hand over everyone else. let’s build an alternative system and hopefully the system is good enough for other people decide to use it as opposed to use the other system.
Charlie: I’m not trying to like end things just create an alternative and if people want to use it great, if not, then we did a bad job.
Anna: choice. I asked you backstage how many bitcoins you own… the current value is $4000, you wouldn’t tell me…
Charlie: yep I’d put a target on my back. I have Bitcoin on my finger I don’t call me four finger Charlie now
Anna: when you think like when you’re like thinking in the back of your mind, like how much money do I have, like when you’re thinking you know in one of those moments where you’re like doing the math what’s my net worth, what percentage is in actual dollars and what percentage is in like bitcoin?
Charlie: good question…so I’m trying to do where it’s, I’m investing I’m taking a lot of Bitcoin and selling it as the price goes up and putting it into real estate, especially down in Florida where we live, trying to get like rental properties to rent out, to renters obviously… and so I would… I’m comfortable where it’s like 33% Fiat 33% Bitcoin 33% property and real estate
Anna: that’s where you’re comfortable?
Charlie: that’s what I’m trying to get to… I’m about… that I’m about that because then if Bitcoin goes to zero which it’s an experiment it could, I won’t be on the street a lot of people have like 95% of their wealth in Bitcoin and great for them, I’m happy but I gotta be smart I’m getting married or have children eventually I can’t you know I can’t do that, I can’t take I can’t speculate with my rents.
Anna: you described your family growing up as upper-middle class how do you describe yourself now?
Charlie: probably the same but I don’t have like I don’t have a family yet just Courtney and I. and I live I live a lot less materialistic than my parents did, and I’ve although I have the value of a dollar like we had like three cars in a big house and stuff like that Courtney and I care more about experiences good food, traveling, things like that I rather stay in a really nice hotel or fly first-class than have a big mansion that’s just for us, we live in a really nice little condo on the beach and we pay less for that than we did our one-bedroom apartment in New York.
Anna: I have one more question and then we’re gonna take audience questions. But, one thing I have thought a lot about when I’m trying to understand Bitcoin and blockchain and all these things is just the way that it might transform, the way you think about money in your head, like for me when I think about my financial situation I think about what’s in my savings account, what’s in my checking account, what’s my credit card bill, what’s my mortgage payment what’s the money coming in and chunks or if the money coming out in chunks, part of what you own is something that’s…
Charllie: very volatile
Anna: yeah varying in its value so does that make you more neurotic or more zen about money?
Charlie: it’s a good question you being involved in everyone who’s involved in crypto has I would say like a default degree in personal finance. We’re a community that lives all over the world that has to manage your own expenses and their own bills and things like that we’re not
paycheck-to-paycheck people. that means that we have to pay our own taxes, we have to pay our own bills we have to understand how to balance a checkbook, and you said things are volatile how much money did I make, how much money did I lose, should I sell, should I buy, how does the bank account work. bitcoiners know how to send a wire transfer, most Americans have never sent a wire transfer before every Bitcoiner is sent or received a wire. so it makes you more vigilant in money and it taught me to be more, that value of the dollar, it taught me how to like really appreciate that and no matter how much money I will ever have or have or whatever. I’m not gonna spend… like I’ll be not cheap but I just will… like say some that’s not worth it I want I always want the best bang for my buck, if I’m gonna spend money on something which I’m okay doing I want to make sure that I’m getting the best value that I could possibly get. I don’t wanna be ripped off.
So bitcoiners and blockchain people now have a really good understanding of personal finance and it’s that like work hard play hard mentality. going to like Vegas with a bunch of bitcoiners is a lot of fun because these are guys who work their asses off like crazy and stressed out about money, and they go to Vegas they can just kind of let loose and have a good time and just enjoy the fruits of their labor. and I don’t know that live life to its fullest, a lot of my cousin’s grew up in Israel and we’re in the army, and it’s like for them, like every day it could be your last. so you have to live life like that, you have to live like every day could be your last day and and will you go to sleep at night saying like that was a really shitty day like try to take every day and know that you treated everyone the right way, that you’ve made no new enemies, you’ve done something nice to someone, and that’s really it… that’s really it.
I tip well for some reason I don’t know what it is like I just like to think people… even if I don’t have the money, just because like, I know how hard these people work and I was I was a dishwasher to restaurant. so guys listen to this we split the tips so if you have a bad waiter or waitress please still tip because the dishwasher gets some of that and he’s working really hard please, so that’s you know what I mean like there’s other people who are working like you don’t realize who worked really hard and they deserve if you have it you should give it. so the maid knocked on our door today and I was a here 20 bucks she’s like thank you and I said well you deserve it.
Anna: so we have microphones that are going to be in the crowd, one over here to the left, one over here to the right, you’re right in your left… so raise your hand, he was the first hand I saw
Crowd 1:t hank you… so Charlie there is you, talked about that prison was the most humbling experience that possibly could happen to you, however when I’ve read accounts from people who have been in prison, whether from low collar crimes, to ones have been maximum-security they always talked about they had a lowest point, what was the lowest point for you during your two years and also what was crackheads stew?
Anna: thank you for the follow-up…
Charlie: crackhead soup was basically rice, mackerel, jalapenos, adobo, and saison saison …whatever that stuff is and olives… I don’t know why they called it that was really good.
what was my lowest point, so obviously prison was my lowest point, I feel like or the moment I was I was being escorted in handcuffs from the airport when I was arrested that was definitely one of my lowest points? but my lowest point in prison, I don’t even remember my lowest point in prison was when I got punished for doing something I don’t remember what it was maybe think I talked to someone the wrong way and what they did it was in prison they had these like town halls, where you just kind of like this, where you sit you have all the inmates every morning at 7 a.m. and it says weird like experimental like therapy bs thing, and you sit in every morning at 7 a.m. in a cynical community and you sit in a room and what happen is, if I if I didn’t like you or if I had something against you I would say good morning my name is mr. Shrem today I’m pulling out Anna Sale. I’m pulling up Anna Sale because yesterday I noticed her use the microwave and it got dirty and she didn’t clean it.
Anna: oh so it’s public shame
Charlie: it’s public shaming and you have to be in order for you to actually leave prison you have to pull up once in a month and you have to be pulled up one so then I would get up and you have to say good morning my name is miss is Mrs. Sale, thank you for pulling me up, you’d have to say literally to this script, thank you for pulling me up I appreciate it, (unclear) you have to mirror what the person said, if I understand you correctly you said that yesterday I used the microwave and I didn’t clean up after myself, you are absolutely correct, I did do this, I’m sorry community, I displayed, like there’s like a list of things that you did wrong, I displayed super optimism, criminal mentality I displayed all these things, and the worst part is then and the case officers would sit in the back on these chairs with there smirks and they’d watch us all go down and then everyone would pass around a microphone and then give you feedback and every inmate had to give one feedback a week, and there were some guys who loved it, they would do feedback every day you had these guys vicious. it’s one guy raised his hand they would give them I go into him you know Shrem you are a piece of sh*t…I saw you the other day and you lie… I saw you the other day doing this and doing that, I saw you the other day you pissed on the floor, or you treated me the wrong way, you’re an arrogant kid, no one likes you, your fiancee is cheating on you, like all these things they just like put you down and you can’t you got to stand there thank you you’re right absolutely right. thank you I’m so sorry.
The only solace you had was that it is happening to everyone too, not just you like everyone had to go through this. and I saw guys literally like say f*ck you, you’re wrong, I never did that…escorted out, escorted. you never saw them again. they would have guys, there was one guy, this guy I know we’re going over our time, there was this one guy… never he was such a nice guy, this guy, let’s just call him Ted because I don’t want he’s his real name. Ted was like he had did some issues I don’t know what they were he had like he had a very short fuse, but he went through a lot of things in his life and I’m not excusing it but he’s but his temper went off easily especially when people were telling he did something that he didn’t think he did, so the whole point of it is to accept it people would say. I did the craziest thing. some guy said I was running the kitchen mafia, I don’t even know what that is but I accepted it. I did it because as long as you accept it you can’t get in trouble for it that’s the one thing so basically if you get caught smoking cigarette and someone pulls you up and you say yes I did it that you can’t get in trouble for it that’s the catch-22 right? so you have – there was like it’s like your safety net so that was kind of a good part. but so this guy Ted, people like it just started he got riled up and then feedback after feedback it brought his fuse and it brought him up and he was crazy and he
just he went nuts he like was yelling and screaming it’s like I hate all you guys are all brain washed this old system the government like he just he went off on this crazy thing and he got like not violent but he got all shooken up escorted him out.
I know what happened was someone claimed that he was like you know he was like making a penis joke or something stupid, like it was just small trivial thing, he could have easily said like I accepted it I’m sorry never happened again but he couldn’t and we never saw him again.
Anna: quick follow-up, are you now less defensive when you’re having an argument with your fiancé?
Charlie: I hope she can answer that… I try to be…
Anna: I could use this training…
Charlie: definitely a lot more, it used to be where I would get really defensive over things but now I find it easier to just accept it and some things…
Anna: some…correcting the record…
Charlie: the whole point is, the hardest part I think we have is mirroring people. so if I’m coming to you and I’m giving you feedback whether you like it or not or I’m saying something to you, and I don’t think you’re listening, I’m gonna say to you, to repeat back what I said and a lot of people can’t do it because they’re not listening they’re just going in one ear out the other and for them to respond and I’m guilty of that myself lord knows I’m guilty of that myself but I try to like be more aware of it and be a lot less defensive and just kind of like let things slide off my chest a lot better no I don’t sweat the small things anymore there are bigger things that I definitely get defensive about, but we don’t we’ve never went to bed angry at each other in our whole relationship… know knock on wood if it’s as real wood… we don’t we never have a fight that lasts more than overnight, it never lasts overnight, we’ve never gone to bed angry each other, we’ve never had a fight that lasts more than two days. we have any issues happen it’s resolved that day. and that’s it so I definitely credit prison for that ability to like work out issues that day and it’s definitely helped us because communication is everything, it’s never gonna be perfect, there are gonna be things that annoy you about your partner, there gonna be things right like there are things that I do that annoy you but she tells me, and whether I like it or not at least the communication is out there.
Charlie: okay we’re gonna take two more questions from the crowd…
Crowd 2: So two questions the first one is, did you have any interaction with Ross at Silk Road?
Crowd 2: the second one is, what do you see as the future of cryptocurrencies with this proliferation room what, over 900 now and where do you see it going?
Charlie: good question so there used to be just Bitcoin, and now you have all of these social app tokens, or different platforms that do different things. so Bitcoin is really great because it does one thing really well, but there’s a lot of other uses for cryptocurrency. you can create smart platforms and applications that are autonomous and so there are other new ones have developed like Etherium and there’s a cool one called steam, and steam is cool because I was telling you before but the social network, it’s a cryptocurrency that pays instead of Bitcoin miners pays content creators and content curators so there’s definitely all these different ideas for cryptocurrencies and social app tokens and stuff like that.
Anna: okay how about over here…
Crowd 3: hi Anna, I listen to you all the time by the way really excited to meet you…
Anna: thank you
Crowd 3: my question is and I wrote it down, has a prison system changed the way you view society or hasn’t made it more confirmed after this whole experience, like did it confirm your view as in yes this is why I was doing what I was doing, or has it really changed the way you view monetization I mean obviously in some way it has but any more elaborations or any thoughts on how you view the global economy?
Charlie: can I answer that it’s like an hour to answer that so I’ll take I’ll take the first part of your question did it change my views it didn’t it did in a lot of different aspects. when it came to people, I firmly believe that all people are good, even evil people there’s some essence of like at least to them they’re rationalizing themselves in some way. I used to be of the belief that I used to be of the belief that if a law was wrong or I saw law is wrong, then I’m gonna break it and you know do what I can to change it by breaking it. you can’t do that obviously. so my view now is like ok I’m allowed to have my opinions on a law or not, but if I choose to live within the borders of this country I must follow those laws. so now I have to follow those laws but that doesn’t mean I can’t work to try to change those…
Like Gandhi did right Gandhi, didn’t resort to violence to change the future of his people all the people that he represented. he didn’t resort to illegal things he tried to to keep it you know sit-ins and non violent confrontations and things like that and I try to follow that methodology now where I don’t believe in certain things, but if there’s a law in that country, because laws are supposed to be consensus. Laws are supposed to be we are people, we elect representatives, those representatives create laws and those laws are basically what we wanted, now you can have your qualms about that and whether or not that true or not blah blah blah but that’s the way the system was supposed to be, supposed to be like some form of democracy, not direct democracy but it’s supposed to be like consensus. so whether, if I don’t agree with the law but I’m living in this country an overwhelming majority of the country agrees that this law, I have to follow it cuz I choose to live in the country that’s what I believe now when it comes to that
The global economic system is a house of cards. our whole ,large part of our global economy is based on debt and derivatives and futures and all these different things, like for example there can be one parcel of land but you have derivatives and futures and you could have thousand people that own that piece of land and as long as not all those people collect on that land then we’re good, it’s like bank runs, right? banks are run on fractional reserve they only keep a certain percent of the money, the most people don’t know this that when you actually open up a bank count and you put money in a bank you don’t own that money anymore. that money is now money that you are going to loan the bank. now the bank gives it back to you if you would on an ATM machine and want it, but technically speaking that’s not your money anymore that you keep at a bank. and if everyone went to the bank nowadays the government would just print more so if banks fail government prints more money and makes the value of all of our money worth a lot less and that’s not fair to me I don’t believe it’s I don’t believe it’s fair I don’t believe it’s fair for someone like me and I don’t feel like it’s fair for someone who’s super low income who’s struggling to make ends meet, who has to not only deal with the gangsters in his neighborhood who are trying to make his son join the gang, but it’s also not fair that he has to now compete with inflation. he has to make enough money to just compete with the price index because prices go up every year so if he’s making less money than the rate of the increasing rate of prices and inflation, he’s losing he’s losing money and that’s not fair so that’s just my belief.
Anna: okay it’s 8:18, I think we’re gonna take one more question who has one more question.
Crowd 4: you mentioned for a while about the economic system going on in the prison so what from that system did you then apply to your job
Charlie: it’s a good question, so that whole system that we saw in prison was a free market. it was completely free. there was no Federal Reserve, there was no market manipulators, there was no upper hands, there was no one printing money, there was it was a completely free market .there was products, that were services, people were providing the services based on trust and rating, so if you provided a bad service no one would use you it was a completely free market. and it didn’t fail, it failed when someone came in and debased the whole currency so I am of even a stronger belief, I’m a free market economist, I’m a free market person markets need to be free we need to have regulations and laws that protect basic human rights like murder and freedom of the press and freedom of religion and things like that. but there are other things that we can rely on the overall market, see, markets are efficient but they’re not optimal and as human beings we want instant gratification. we want things now. Unfortunately, markets don’t always act within a few minutes it takes a while front to play out and usually when they play out, it’s the best and most fair solution, but because and we are guilty of this as humans, because we don’t allow them to play out we want our government to deal with it. government deal with this now and they may not have the best solution and they just end up kicking the can down the road of making it worse. but we have to let things play out we have to let a free market emerge that we have to let a system based on… if we had a system of fair and ratings and maybe I’m like a Wonder child maybe I like yeah my head is in the clouds a little bit I know I know you’re gonna have scammers and I know you’re gonna have people that try to cheat the system and I know you know I understand there’s no perfect system right, communism doesn’t work all that violence doesn’t work it doesn’t work but I do believe that if we have a more freer economy and freer market we are all a lot better off and you see it in a lot of other countries there are a lot of other countries that have a lot freer markets than us and people are not in poverty it’s a lot it’s a lot better.
Anna: one final question for me before we part, you’re getting married in four weeks, do you plan on combining your finances as a family or keep them separate.
Charlie: we already have joint accounts. yeah we already that’s our money we know people who, we know we have friends who are like engaged in stuff and money is like a huge taboo they’re afraid to talk about it they don’t know how to deal with it between each other joint bank accounts like whose money is that my money is your money, it’s a it’s a reason for a lot of divorces and so we are completely open with each other about it she knows how much money we have at any given time she has access to all of it if she needs it god forbid…
Anna: she can track the value of Bitcoin?
Charlie: she has her own bitcoin. yeah so like we have accounts, we have savings accounts together she has her own account and then I have my own account, even though they’re both joint but that’s why because she’s an actress so she makes money a lot she makes more money but more sporadically, so it’s not consistent so this way she can put that money in an account save it and then she’ll give me money that’ll go towards bills, something and we have a good system and it works and so there’s no it’s all fair and it was equal and we’ve we don’t worry about it and but she’s great though she’ll go into a store and spend $100 and get 15 outfits. I don’t know how she does it.
Anna: congratulations on your upcoming nuptials Charlie Shrem, thank you very much
Charlie: thank you
Anna: and just one more note about our podcast, Death, Sex and Money, if you’re not subscribed and you’re interested in conversations about money and also death and sex, please subscribe. we also have a newsletter where we talk about what we’re working on also recommend other podcast episodes. if you text the number 70101 right now, and type in the word newsletter we will get you subscribed again that’s 70101 text newsletter thank you all for being out here on your Saturday night. Thank You Charlie!
Charlie: thank you for coming!