Disclaimer: I own stock in all of GameStop (GME), AMC Entertainment (AMC) and Nokia (NOK).
A few years ago, I think it was 2017, I started a Roth IRA because a handful of people I work with told me that I should start a retirement savings account. I began contributing the maximum, which at the time was $5,500 annually but it has since been increased to $6,000. That roughly equates to a little over a couple hundred dollars per paycheck.
The thing that drew me to a Roth IRA, aside from the fact that it pre-taxes all contributions — as opposed to a 401K that taxes you when you take the money out — is that it gives you the option of trading individual stocks. That creates more risk, but as a young person it’s a more worthwhile gamble to take those risks compared to watching your money rise at lower volatility.
Anyway, after I started my Roth IRA I got obsessed with the stock market. A poker dealer I worked with used to be a day trader, and one night after work I went over to his house and took like four pages of notes on what seemed to be a foreign language. He explained to me what shorting stocks meant, what going long meant, what options were, what puts and calls were. That’s just some background on how I got into trading stocks, but the truth is I am an amateur and don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
On Wednesday morning I had a tough time sleeping, for whatever reason. So around 5:30 AM I went on Twitter just to see what was going on with the world, and stumbled on a few different accounts talking about GameStop and r/wallstreetbets. I got off Twitter and opened my Reddit app and searched for r/wallstreetbets, and it was a fucking madhouse. There were over a hundred thousand users and the forum was moving at like 50 comments per second. I had never seen anything like it.
I won’t try to explain how shorting stocks works — we have YouTube for that — but the main point is that a massive hedge fund named Melvin Capital bet against the brick and mortar video game store, and an army of Reddit posters turned around and bought up a shitload of GameStop stock. In turn, that drove up the price of the stock and cost Melvin Capital billions of dollars.
That is an awesome story in its own right, one that makes winners out of ordinary people and losers out of the billionaire hedge funds, but I was more drawn to the larger meaning of r/wallstreetbets mission than making serious money off the 25 shares that I bought. After all, no one forgets the financial crash of 2008, that saw an unconscionable $20 trillion in household wealth disappear, with the worst part being that none of the bankers who crashed the economy were ever tried in court or made example of. Instead they got multimillion dollar severance packages, a bailout that was paid for by the American taxpayers.
So I saw this as an opportunity to, in my own small way, join the party and get back at them. I went into my Roth IRA account and bought 25 shares of GameStop at around $250 per share. I then bought 100 shares of AMC at a little over $15 per share, and 400 shares of Nokia at $5 per share. Fuck it, I thought, I’ll either make it happen or I won’t. Let’s gamble.
Many Reddit users have already made a ton of money off the GameStop stock because they got in when it was a measly 5 or 10 dollars. I wasn’t in it to make millions like some of them — I’ll take my small profit and be happy with it — because at this stage it’s more about the mission than it is the dollar amounts.
I talk a lot on this blog about how every struggle in the United States, er, the world, is about us versus them. It’s about poor and working and middle class people against those at the very top, the people who make a living on the backs of everyone else. They exploit labor at every turn for profit. They have their tax loopholes. They have an entire economic system working to their favor, and to our detriment.
I wasn’t personally affected by the crash of 2008 because I was off at college, blinded by the ways of real world consequences. But I know my parents felt it. I know most Americans felt it. And the people who felt it the most were my people. They were workers who had bought houses and saved for retirement. They played by the rules. They did what they thought was best. And in the end they got given the middle finger, not only by the banks and bankers but by the American government who failed to deliver them any justice.
So even though I wasn’t personally affected, it’s still personal to me. If those at the very top are winning it’s at the expense of everybody else. If everybody else is winning, it’s at the expense of those at the very top. I see the world through this simple lens. It’s not necessarily smart, or proper, or right. But it’s the way I see everything.
The fact that regular people can band together and basically bankrupt a multibillion dollar hedge fund makes me happy. And further, it gives me hope for the future.
We are all chasing the American dream, even if for most of our lives it feels like both hands are tied behind our backs and blindfolds drape over our faces. The rules of the game have forever been rigged against us. I don’t use that as an excuse, but I’m not naive enough to believe that isn’t the case. It’s just a fact of life that the rich will get richer and the poor will stay right where they need to be: in place.
Even if just for a brief wrinkle in time, before the rules change to ensure that this type of thing never happens again — where normal people can win, and the richest of the rich can lose — it at least makes us dream. It reinforces the mythical cliché that anything is possible, that we too can have all the material possessions we aspire for, and that the little guy is capable of outmaneuvering the big bad wolf.
To be honest, I want it to hurt them. It isn’t good enough for GameStop’s stock to shoot through the roof, I want billionaires to lose billions and billions and billions of dollars. I want them to stay up at night sweating and crying like so many regular people who worry about keeping a roof over their head, or putting food on the table. I want this major transfer of wealth to continue bleeding from the very top to the very bottom, instead of from the bottom to the top as it has been ever since I’ve been alive.
Millennials have been sold a bill of goods about the power and effectiveness of trickle down economics ever since we took our first breaths, but really it’s all a bunch of bullshit. Lower taxes mean more wealth in the pockets of the billionaire class, and it’s a proven fact that when they have more money they save it in offshore tax havens. It doesn’t create more jobs. It doesn’t put more money in the hands of low-wage workers. It’s saved in their banks — not to be put back into the economy — and it’s used to speculate on the demise of the American worker in the New York Stock Exchange.
I am just another dude on the Internet. My opinions should not be taken seriously and my financial advice is nonexistent. I don’t recommend anyone do what I did and buy 25 shares worth of a stock that I know nothing about, other than the obvious good feelings of helping to screw over a bunch of billionaires who decided to short GameStop.
With that being said, I am chasing a better future just like the next person. I want to retire in dignity one day and live comfortably. I want a nice house and a nice car and nice things.
This rush in the stock market, where regular people like me are making money and hedge fund billionaires are losing it, is not going to last forever. It won’t last more than another week or so, if I’m being realistic. But what I do know is that for all of us at the bottom of the economic ladder, the only way we are ever going to realize our dreams is if those at the top are losing something. Whether that comes politically, through higher taxes on the rich giving the working class more universal programs, or whether that comes from people coming together and buying stocks that have been short sold, doesn’t matter.
What r/wallstreetbets and I, in my small way, have accomplished here is retaliation for 2008. Had I been at a different stage in my life, and not fucking around like a dumbass 18 year-old without a care in the world other than Virginia Tech football, I would have been affected. I might have lost everything. What we are doing here is making them lose — not everything, but something — and when we win and they lose the world is a better place.