Months after interviewing them in 2021, we checked back in with some of the investors who went all-in on so-called meme stocks during the pandemic—or bet against them—to see how they are adjusting as the market deals with a new round of turbulence.
One thing’s for sure: 2022’s volatile stock market isn’t the same rising tide that pulled in millions of amateur investors over the past two years.
In It for the Long Haul
Joanna Burns is playing the long game.
The Ventura County, California resident became interested in investing last January when Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum shot to prominence. She made her bet on AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.
Now Ms. Burns is holding her stock, believing the shares are undervalued and will rocket higher when the price begins to rise and short sellers—those betting against the AMC stock—buy shares to cut their losses. She said she is sitting on a profit after initially buying shares at about $13 and adding to that position at higher and lower prices. AMC shares closed Thursday at $14.52.
If the shares do rise as she expects, Ms. Burns would like to use profits to pay off student loans and buy a home.
But she sees her shareholding in AMC as more than an investment: To her, it’s part of a David-versus-Goliath battle between powerful financial institutions and everyday retail investors.
“It’s really capitalizing on this opportunity to gain financial freedom as well as to finally win in a rigged game,” she said.
Meanwhile, she is earning her living in the gig economy—writing, copy-editing, making videos for a CBD company, giving tarot readings—after finding that the corporate world wasn’t the best fit.
“With Covid, it allowed a lot of introspection,” she said. “I’ve decided to just step out of I guess what you would call a rat race.”
Earlier: An Oral History of WallStreetBets (Feb. 11, 2021)
Done With the Meme Scene
Sam Daftarian has called it quits on trading meme stocks.
“The whole meme stock saga—it’s not a sustainable way of trading,” Mr. Daftarian said.
Last year, he relished trading and scored some profits riding the viral stock sensations. Mr. Daftarian, 45, even pondered making a full-time job out of it.
Since then, he’s decided it isn’t for him. One turning point? When he got burned on an investment in the e-commerce company ContextLogic Inc. After hearing about the stock from his cousin, he poured thousands of dollars into the shares starting in June. The price tumbled after, and he says he sold out of the investment with a steep loss.
“That was the one that made me realize, ‘Hey, all your gains on GME and AMC were probably just luck,” Mr. Daftarian said, using the tickers for GameStop Corp. and AMC Entertainment. “They weren’t based in fundamentals and research. It was based on emotions and sentiment.”
He says he wishes he hadn’t sold out of tech behemoths like Tesla Inc. and Apple Inc. in favor of meme stocks. He’s also dabbled in cryptocurrencies, but recently cashed out of a position in dogecoin.
“If I’ve learned anything, it’s that buying and holding is the smartest thing to do,” Mr. Daftarian said.
Earlier: GameStop Mania Reveals Power Shift on Wall Street—and the Pros Are Reeling (Jan. 27, 2021)
He Doesn’t Need to See It to Believe It
Thushira Kumarage has never been to a GameStop retail location. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland—where the closest store is located across the Irish Sea, hundreds of miles away.
But Mr. Kumarage has still become a devoted GameStop investor. Last year, the 21-year-old student studying math, statistics and actuarial science started scooping up shares based on a tip from a WhatsApp trading group. He managed to buy in January 2021 just before shares soared as high as $483. And he kept scooping up more throughout the spring. He currently holds 180 shares—an amount he hasn’t added to or subtracted from since May.
He’s had a strong stomach as the stock has zigzagged. His gains have fluctuated by tens of thousands of dollars, and he’s currently sitting on a modest profit. He doesn’t plan on selling.
“I think that investing for a short squeeze is different from seeing the long-term potential of this company,” he said. He puts himself in the latter camp.
Mr. Kumarage said he remains optimistic about GameStop Chairman Ryan Cohen’s vision and was encouraged last year when former Amazon.com Inc. executives Matt Furlong and Mike Recupero joined, respectively, as chief executive and chief financial officer.
“Why would they jump ship from a successful company to a company that is supposedly dying and supposedly going out of business?” he asked.
Earlier: GameStop’s Most Loyal Shareholders Are in It for the Long Haul, Not the Memes (June 6, 2021)
Winning Over His Parents
Jake Sandhu started investing in 2020, using £7,000 in savings (the equivalent of about $9,360) he’d socked away from a business venture reselling sneakers. After some wins on stocks like AMC, the 20-year old U.K. resident pumped about $76,000 into natural-gas exporter Tellurian Inc., which he found through YouTube.
Mr. Sandhu bought around $4 a share, confident that Tellurian would rise to $10 or $15 at the end of 2021. It never closed above $5.32, and these days is trading below $3.
But Mr. Sandhu won something greater: His parents, who had told him that his investing was too risky, asked to join in. They gave him £1,000 to invest in Tellurian for them when the stock stumbled after Mr. Sandhu took his initial stake, then cashed out when its value doubled.
Still, Mr. Sandhu said he has turned his initial £7,000 into £82,000, thanks mainly to meme stocks. He’s also convinced his parents, at least for now, that he doesn’t need a 9-to-5 job.
“They do still see it as risky,” Mr. Sandhu said, “but they are happy as long as I’m making money.”
His portfolio lost some value in the recent market rout, but he still plans to hang onto his meme stocks.
“At this moment in time, I’m staying put and will look to buy when the market sentiment has changed,” he said.
Earlier: A Fledgling Natural-Gas Exporter Has Become a Meme Stock (Aug. 27, 2021)
He Sparked the Ire of the Reddit Crowd
A year ago, meme-stock investors picked a fight with Andrew Left. He’s still licking his wounds.
Among Wall Street’s best-known short sellers, Mr. Left held a live stream presentation in January 2021 arguing that shares of GameStop would fall by 50%. Unhappy fans of the company shared Mr. Left’s personal information, hacked into his social-media accounts and threatened his children.
GameStop bulls also drove up the stock, costing Mr. Left tens of millions of dollars. Within days, Mr. Left, founder of Citron Research, said his firm would no longer publish short seller reports. Today, Mr. Left continues to focus on companies he thinks investors should buy.
“Things have changed for short sellers—you don’t want to be in a crowded short,” he said, referring to stocks with heavy short selling interest.
Mr. Left, who has moved from Los Angeles to Florida, says high-priced stocks are in a more precarious position now that interest rates are set to rise, but he’s not about to rejoin battles over stocks.
“I’ve spent more time being a dad and a husband,” he said. “I don’t need to be a public face and spark the ire of the Reddit crowd.”
Earlier: The GameStop Short Squeeze Shows an Ugly Side of the Investing World (Jan. 27, 2021)
Converting a Skeptical Spouse
In the Misener household, Shari calls the financial shots. The elementary-school teacher, 51, keeps a careful watch on expenses and closely inspects bank statements and receipts. Her husband, Robert, says he would “never write a check without running it by her first.”
But when it comes to GameStop, Robert is the one in the driver’s seat.
Together, the couple owns 198 shares of GameStop stock in brokerage accounts that Mr. Misener controls. He’s added to the position steadily over the past year, buying as recently as November.
“I feel good about the company,” said the 51-year-old Florida resident, who is a manager at a technology-services company.
He said he’s even made his wife more of a believer in the stock, too.
“She checks the stock price a couple times a week and if it has a down day and it happened to be a day that she checked it, she’ll kind of rib me a little bit. She’ll be like ‘Oh, so where are we today?’” Mr. Misener said.
“She probably has hope, or maybe guarded optimism.”
Mr. Misener said he trusts in Mr. Cohen, who co-founded pets-product retailer Chewy Inc. before wresting control of GameStop.
For now, he doesn’t see himself selling, he said, and believes the stock could ultimately vault past last year’s high of $483. Recent volatility in the shares hasn’t shaken Mr. Misener.
“It’s kind of a faith thing. I just trust that based on his experience with Chewy…that he and his team are doing the right thing to take the company where they want to go,” Mr. Misener said.
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