How My Grandmother’s 1998 Chevy Lumina Made Me Over $2 Million Dollars

Joseph Meyer
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A Valuable Life Lesson

I still remember the day my grandmother came to me and said, “Nathan, I want to give you my car.” I was only 15 years old, and back then I didn’t even have a learner’s permit. But she was insistent, so I claimed it and began driving her 1998 Chevy Lumina.

It soon became my prized possession. So much so that whenever I let my friends drive it, they would always damage it in some way or another. This caused me to push my friends away, refusing to let them drive my car. Needless to say, I actually came to like having my car.

But I wondered what my grandmother was thinking. How could she be so excited about giving away her car? Before she could explain, my mom and I joked “What is it with the women in this family that we’re always giving our cars away?” We laughed and agreed that we’d probably never own a new car again. The truth was that my grandmother was being generous with her vehicle, and she really wanted one of us to have it.

So What About This Lumina and $2 Million Dollars?

My grandmother inherited a 1998 Chevy Lumina in November of 1998 from my grandfather, who passed away.

Although the Lumina was a hand-me-down, it wasn’t your average grandpa car, it was a 6-speed V6 with leather seats and sun roof. My grandma loved this car, and she still misses it today.

Her figure was more like a hatchback than sedan, and it was not her dream car during her younger years. But driving that car gave her freedom that she had never experienced before.

She became inspired every time she opened the car door. She would describe the first initial feeling of the rush of the wind in her hair. She would describe the warmth of the sun as it touched her face with zero force. She would feel the grin spread across her face as the world opened up before her. A smile that came from the inside out.

Because of the power of her car, she felt free, like her dreams were possible. She felt young again. The day that she began driving drove her to complete her dream of going to college for fashion design. My grandma wanted to pass this feeling and freedom on to all of us.

She would tell us that it’s never too late in life to pursue our dreams, even after you’ve been through heart wrenching experiences.

Tempting Decisions

In 2011, I was sitting on the floor of my Grandmother’s 1998 Chevy Lumina, trying to decide if I should get an MBA or start a company. I was convinced that to really change the world, I needed to do both. It wasn’t until much later that I understood that I had had it backwards.

To be successful in business, there’s no doubt that you need to have a strong technical understanding. But what was more important to me was learning the art of human behavior. I was tired of the way that startups were trying to sell to people. Marketers were ignoring how actual customers would react to their products.

I knew there was a better way, and I was convinced that the best way to learn what I needed to learn, was by getting a business degree.

Only weeks away from starting my MBA application process, I still wasn’t sure if I should go. Then, one night, I was up late playing with my grandmother’s old Chevy.

The car was an absolute nightmare. But it gave me the idea.

I would run a series of experiments on it to figure out what people really wanted. Once I knew that, I would build it.

I was convinced that I could use this idea to build a company faster than I could if I got the MBA.

What Does $400 a Month Really Mean?

My grandmother, who had an engineering degree and taught me how to build models and do math as a kid, had a simple living philosophy.

No Car Payment

During most of my 20s, I did not have a car payment. This allowed me to spend each month exactly how I wanted to. I didn’t have to put money into my car, so I didn’t, and I lived below my means.

I did not buy a super expensive car either. My 1998 Chevrolet Lumina was paid for, and I kept it during college. It had 118,129 miles on it (the odometer stopped at 120,000). I could have bought a newer vehicle, but I wanted to keep the one I had. It was paid for! Many stories come with this car – my grandmother’s 1998 Chevy Lumina.

A Valid Argument?

What if you bought a used 1998 Chevy Lumina without realizing it was my grandmother’s old car? And what if your potential classified ad was viewed by my grandmother, who’s a lawyer? And what if she thought the ad was making fun of her car and decided to sue? Is that something you’d worry about? Definitely not an end most people would want their ad to have.