There’s been a lot of buzz online about the Gamestock retailer and its stock price, pushed up against all odds (and data) and the doomsday talk of short-sellers to 1700% (or more) of its value thanks in large part to an active Reddit group called WallStreetBets. This situation shook the big storied hedge funds, created a tsunami of losses (over $6 Billion, some say $19 billion!) for their short-selling investments and a rethinking of the collective powers of the small guy investors (itself an interesting life message).
To appreciate this life message, we first have to make sure everyone understands the basic elements and economic fundamentals of how this whole thing works. If you understand this stuff, you can scroll down to the life message. But while so many students are aware of the story, not sure everyone understands how this works. So first this intro.
FIRST, THE FINANCE BASICS:
First, the terms “short” and “long” are misleading. They do not refer to the length of time one holds a stock (that’s a different criteria: long-term vs. day-trading etc), instead these two terms refer to the direction of the stock investment. Most people purchase stocks for their “long” which means you are investing in their growth. You buy a certain company or sector because you believe in their growth potential. “Long” stock investing profits from the increase between when you bought the stock and when you will sell it. While profits are never guaranteed, the most you can lose is the amount you originally invested.
“Short-selling” can possibly be long-term in duration, but the “short” has to do with the direction of the investment. Short-sellers invest with the hopes the stock will actually lose money, the company will decrease in value. How they accomplish this is complicated but the bottom line is that they make their profit on the loss of the stock. They are basically betting against the company (based on careful analysis of data and all that), they are rooting for it to fail. Hedge Funds do this to create a hedge, as in hedging their bets, as they invest both on the “long” and the “short” side of various stocks, to make money on both successes and failures. There’s also a reason why big rich hedge funds are more likely to do this is because of the exposure to risk. While “long” stock investing can only lose its original investment, “short” investing has no ceiling or bottom to its losses, if the stock suddenly skyrockets, the losses can be endless, because they have to cover the difference between the fail-point they determined and where it rose to. Most investors can’t fathom that type of risk exposure, but hedge funds can (or think they can…) Yes, short-sellers sound like vultures or sharks, indeed – that’s part of the life message below. But it should be noted that while most investing is long-style, there’s some role to play for short-selling, there are some benefits to the overall market, actually akin to the role predators play in the food chain, short-sellers can help keep high-flying overvalued stocks in check, it helps keep things in balance.
Some people noticed that the big hedge funds were shorting the company GameStop (which may have been a childhood favorite of many). After all, of late, less and less people are going into a retailer at the mall to buy their games. Even though many current students have memories going to GameStop as kids they all said they haven’t been there in years. While some turnaround was attempted, the hedge funds smelled blood and shorted their stock, investing in GameStop’s failure. But this Reddit group rallied, and many thousands of smaller investors, buoyed by tweets from Elon Musk and others, invested in the growth of GameStop, skyrocketing its stock, as much as or higher than 1700% and nearly bankrupting big finance firms like Melvin Capital and Citron brought to their knees. Remains to be seen how long this rally can last on a stock of a company that probably doesn’t have what it takes for the 21st century, and is certainly not worth its exaggerated current stock price, most small investors will lose if they don’t sell in time, but the big anti-Wall Street drama has played out already.
NOW FOR THE LIFE-MESSAGE:
I learned this on Twitter from the one-of-a-kind @DBashIdeas Dovid Bashevkin (a blend of humorist and scholar, insightful observer of and commentator on contemporary Jewish communities, former Top-5 columnist at Mishpacha Magazine, a director of education for NCSY Youth, and now running a media company interviewing and exploring big (Jewish) questions titled 18forty.org). I very much enjoy his stuff online. Now usually I like to think of original creative connections but this was too good and too true to pass up. I’m adapting his life-message commentary of this situation to campus life…
We all give and invest of ourselves in our friendships and community. But there are two ways to invest – the long and the short.
Some people invest in their friends success. They are hopeful and eager for others to do well, they are invested in the growth of others. They try to find other people’s strengths and opportunities, they envision ways for them to blossom. The long investors put their time and effort, energy and resources into helping others grow.
Others are short-sellers. They thrive and profit from the failures and shortcomings of their fellows. They seek out the flaws of others. The short-sellers in life pick themselves up by putting others down. And remember, the risks of short-selling is endless. It can have drastic effects far beyond the short-sell. The effects of this approach are sadly boundless.
The Rebbe Maharash had two sons, the older was shorter than his younger brother. Once when the boys were little, the older one pushed the younger into a hole, and said, “Now I am taller than you.” The father, the Rebbe, observed this exchange and taught them a lesson: “When you want to be taller, don’t push the other down into a hole, stand on a chair instead.” My grandmother Bubbe Rishe Piekarski would often share this message as well in her own way.
One last point. And if there are short-sellers among us, what can be done? We need a Reddit group. If someone is being put down, looked down upon, if someone feels given up on – we all ought to rally behind and support that person. We need more and more people to counteract it and lift him up! We don’t have to be institutional investors, we don’t have to have the deepest pockets or greatest wisdom. It takes a lot of small investing, believing in people, building that network of support to counter that short-seller. Everyone’s small investment can buoy and uplift this person’s stock, can change their whole trajectory.
While there may be a role for short-sellers in the stock-market, it is a much smaller role than the long-investors. And in life, in relationships, in friendships, in community – let’s all be long-investors. Let’s not short-sell one another.