In the early 1990s,18-year-old Maksymilian Levchin, a Ukrainian-American student at the University of Illinois and a Chernobyl nuclear disaster survivor, maxed out on his credit card, co-signed by his immigrant parents with a mere US$200 spending limit. Upon graduation, he co-founded a successful payments firm with a bunch of friends, many of whom are now among the wealthiest people on earth. Yet, just as their firm was readying its IPO in 2000 he wanted to celebrate by buying a new car. To his horror, he found that while he was incredibly wealthy on paper, he was not considered creditworthy enough to buy the car even with a hefty down payment. So, he paid cash.

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