Going from $6,000 to $3,000,000
My journey as a college student investor in the wake of pandemic and what I learned.
Table of Contents:
- Nikola and the HTML5 Supercomputer
- Penny Stocks, and ESG
- SPAC Craze
- The cost of Costco
- ESG makes a comeback
- GameStop and the potential short squeeze
- What I learned, main takeaways and advice/pitfalls.
Preface: This blog isn’t going to be about financial advice, or how to get rich quick.
In fact, If you bought Apple, Microsoft, Zoom, or Tesla leap calls (Call options that expire in over a year) in March 2020 and held until January 2021, you’d have made nearly as much, if not even, more than I did.
With this in mind, what I did isn’t all too ridiculous. The market crash on March 2020, coupled with the subsequent bull run all throughout 2020, is by all means completely ridiculous. Even an ETF, ARKW, from March 2020 to the end of the year quadrupled in price. ETFs, which are known to only have 10–15% growth per year.
In all seriousness, what happened between March 2020 to now was a huge shift towards momentum and sentimental trading instead of a pure focus on fundamentals.
Things like Tesla started soaring in price because public sentiment toward Tesla became incredibly popular, and thus, people started wanting to buy Tesla stock. This was true for a lot of the market. In spite of the US Economy taking huge hits thanks to the pandemic, the stock market began rapidly increasing. Some of this can be attributed to fundamentals, as Amazon was doing well, as well as Zoom, but a lot of it was many new retail (regular everyday people) investors entering the market.
A new paradigm began as much more new traders flooded the market thanks to Robinhood and commission-free trading.
The intent behind this blog is to detail my own personal journey as a complete novice retail investor, and the pitfalls, mistakes, and successes I learned along the way. To talk about investing as I learned from scratch with no finance background.
I hope that by showing my successes, as well as grave mistakes, I can let people know that the road to the moon isn’t straight, but to use the ultimate power of the internet to their benefit. And while I was lucky with my timing in the market, I think if you never understand investing, you won’t be equipped to ride the next wave if it ever happens.
I share this blog because I simply want to let my journey be known to those who care to read about it. But enough of that, let’s start from the beginning.
Chapter one: Nikola and the HTML5 Super-Computer
On May 11, 2020, as the Spring semester was ending and summer was getting near, my friend sent a rather simple message into our group-chat. “VTIQ.”
Since I knew him for several years and I trusted him as an intelligent person studying finance, I decided (In a pretty dumb fashion) to throw all of the money I had at the moment into that stock, which happened to be around $5,000. As the days went by, I began realizing that VTIQ, which was a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company), merging with a company called Nikola had some major potential. I petitioned my dad to loan me $1,000 to “learn how to invest,” and I threw it all into this stock.
I want to emphasize a major point here. I was just beginning to invest, I had little to no experience at this time, so the actions that I took in hindsight worked out, but in reality, this was a really bad decision and not one I would suggest doing again.
I want to urge the readers at this point to avoid a results-oriented thinking approach, and that while this ended up being successful for me, as we will see later on, I’ll learn the hard way about throwing everything into something I don’t understand.
I ended up selling my VTIQ right before the merger and then decided to buy right back in since I was heavily indecisive. Since Robinhood doesn’t show my transactions with VTIQ, I can only show when I bought NKLA. This has something to do with SPACs becoming completely different companies when they merge. I’ll explain more about SPACs in the next section since they’re heavily important in my personal investing journey.
A few days later, NKLA does the impossible, and soars to $90+, which is when I make the move to sell everything, leading my account to hit $18,000 only a few weeks after I just started.
Later, I learned that the CEO of NKLA said this:
“The entire infotainment system is a HTML 5 super computer,” Milton said. “That’s the standard language for computer programmers around the world, so using it let’s us build our own chips. And HTML 5 is very secure. Every component is linked on the data network, all speaking the same language. It’s not a bunch of separate systems that somehow still manage to communicate.”
Now, I’m a programmer, but it doesn’t take a programmer to know that this was a bunch of hogwash, so I was really glad that I sold at that moment and was pretty happy to learn that NKLA tanked right after I sold, and it hasn’t come close to the $91 that I sold it at. I only sold initially because it was a lot of money, and I wanted to cash out at the time. It was pure luck that $90+ was the peak, and it tanked right after.
Thanks to this whole endeavor, I was hooked. I wanted to know more about stocks, and I started straying away from my friend’s advice and started doing things my own way. I wanted to be much more active, and I couldn’t keep relying on him solely. This was when I discovered penny stocks and began fully using margin. This, of course, was not wise in hindsight, but as a beginner, I really didn’t know any better.
Chapter 2: Penny Stocks, and ESG
As with many beginners, I had no idea at the time that stock price was rather unimportant, and that percent gains are what mattered. A stock going from $50 to $100 versus a stock going from $1 to $2 were identical in gains, but to me, I thought going from $1 to $2 was more reasonable (Completely untrue). Because of that misunderstanding, I assumed my only way to grow my account was to buy penny stocks using margin.
For those that are unaware, penny stocks are stocks that are really cheap (Not necessarily pennies) that appear to have lots of room to explode and grow.
Margin is essentially a loan that your broker gives you to purchase more shares of stock. The more money you have in your account, the more margin you can get, and the total amount are dependent on the type of stock that you’re trying to buy. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/margin.asp
Investopedia is a pretty handy resource for any stock terms that I run across that I’m confused about.
I decided to buy and trade several penny stocks such as IDEX, KTOV, and MYT. In hindsight, these were mistakes, and penny stocks are not something I suggest any of my readers do, but at the time, I truly didn’t know any better. I was trying to learn, and I decided at the time that jumping straight into the river was the better way to learn how to swim.
There were three penny stocks, however, that I ended up buying and holding as they started to see incredible growth, and started escaping the penny stock territory (meaning, they were no longer cheap shares). They were a Micro-grid company, an electric vehicle company, and a green energy company, CleanSpark, NIO, and Plug Power, respectively.
The question is, how did I find these stocks, and why did I decide to buy them?
In my mind, I knew that Electric Vehicles and Green Energy stocks (ESG, which is shorthand for Environmental Social Governance) would be huge. I would browse Reddit, Twitter and was slowly learning how to read SEC filings, but I still didn’t understand most of the finance terminology and fundamentals at this point, so this was purely an emotional buy. I found a few Reddit threads that discussed these stocks, and since what the posts discussed seemed viable, I decided to go with my gut intuition and go into these stocks.
As a note: NIO exceeded $60+ PLUG exceeded $70+, and CLSK exceeded $40+ in price at their peaks.
Chapter 3: SPAC Craze
My first ever buy in the stock market was VTIQ, which was known as a SPAC. a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) is a shell company that goes public with the sole purpose of finding a private company and bringing them public.
I believe it’s appropriate to dedicate a paragraph to explain SPACs because they’re rather complicated at first, but something I started falling in love with the more I learned about them.
A SPAC’s entire goal, is to be a means for a private company to go public. Typically, a SPAC is run by a few people who will end up joining the private company in some form as board members or executives, as well as offer large sums of money. In my head, I viewed them as Shark Tank but on a much bigger scale, typically giving hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to a private company to help them with debt or asset purchasing.
Once a SPAC finds a target, and all goes well, the SPAC will merge with the target, and the ticker on the stock exchanges will change. An example of this is VTIQ becoming NKLA.
https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2018/07/06/special-purpose-acquisition-companies-an-introduction/ and https://www.reddit.com/r/SPACs/comments/h0bxbk/the_beginners_guide_to_spacs/ give a good introduction into SPACs.
VTIQ brought NKLA public. At the time, I didn’t understand any of this, but I could still remember the gains and happiness I felt from buying VTIQ.
Of course, at that time, I set myself on a mission to understand how SPACs better and how they worked.
My SPAC journey was filled with minor escapades with several different SPACs. OPES, FMCI, GRAF, GMHI, HCCH, SHLL, CCH, DPHC, IPOB, etc. I could go on a giant naming spree as I’ve most certainly traded hundreds of different SPACs as I started looking more into management teams and potential sectors.
I found all of these SPACs through a few Facebook groups that I was in, the subreddit /r/spacs on Reddit, and discord groups (https://discord.gg/spacs), but they were all rather tame since I either entered late, or sold too early before some of them went high in price.
The main SPAC that gave me my first huge boost after NKLA was one called SPAQ. I saw a post on reddit mentioning this SPAC that was near $10, and honestly, I put all of the money that I could into this SPAC. I knew that thanks to how SPACs operated, buying at a low price was no issue, and this one was set to announce something soon. (Apparently, they updated their website recently at the time that I decided to buy into them).
The next few weeks, a rumor came out, along with a DA (Definitive Agreement, a statement confirming that the target company and the SPAC are indeed in talks about merging) that SPAQ was merging with an electric vehicle company called Fisker (Now called FSR on the stock market), causing the stock to move from $10 to $20, leading my account to hit the coveted $100,000 mark.
At this point, I was beyond excited and made my first post on Facebook talking about it to my friends, happily sharing that I made 100k.
Chapter 4: The cost of Costco
Things were going well, I transferred around $40,000 into a TD Ameritrade account to try out warrants and kept the rest in my Robinhood account. What are warrants? They’re a type of security for a stock that lets you convert them into a share of stock for the cost of $11.50 after a certain time period.
Essentially, if you think a SPAC will do well, then buying a warrant makes the most sense since typically warrants start off as a few cents and can end up becoming a few dollars if the SPAC does well.
Since I heard that if you’re bullish (Meaning you think a stock will go up), that buying warrants was the way to go.
And of course, I’m still incredibly bullish, so I thought warrants were a must transition. Since Robinhood doesn’t let you buy warrants, I needed to make an account with TD Ameritrade.
I put most of my TD Ameritrade account into GIK warrants and patiently waited on them as I started focusing on my Robinhood account. They were incredibly cheap, and I thought I didn’t mind sitting and waiting for them to do something.
Unfortunately, this is where my major mistake occurs.
I’ve made several minor mistakes on the way. I lost some money on KTOV, I ended up not getting maximum profit on IDEX, I held OPES and FMCI a bit too long and missed out on my maximum profits. But so far, nothing that set me that far behind, until now.
At the time, Zoom recently had an earnings announcement, and they did amazingly well. I was upset, because to me, this felt like it should have been such an obvious buy.
“Why didn’t I buy Zoom calls? Am I an Idiot?”
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) consumed me. I thought, “Well, there surely must be plenty of stocks that are doing well from the pandemic, like Costco!”.
Their earnings report was coming in a few weeks, so why wouldn’t I buy some calls and play it out.
The gravest mistake I’ve made in my investing journey. I never knew what IV Crush was, I didn’t understand options, and I didn’t understand how options interacted with earnings calls. I lost a majority of my Robinhood account and confided in my friend in secret. I never told anyone else until now.
I’ll be completely honest, I was destroyed mentally. If it wasn’t for my ridiculously incredibly friend who was also investing with me who helped spur me back on, this would have been the end of my journey. I would have turned $6,000 to $50,000 and have called it quits.
And I did. For the entire month of October and even most of November, I didn’t look at stocks. I still followed along in the chats I was in, but aside from that, I mentally called it quits, despite my friends pushing me along.
I still had NIO, PLUG, and CLSK positions in my Robinhood account, but aside from NIO, they weren’t doing super great at the time. I held onto what little positions I had on there and mentally tapped out.
When Palantir had their direct listing (Going from private to public on the stock market, https://www.investopedia.com/investing/difference-between-ipo-and-direct-listing/), I bought some shares of them, but at that point, I was too hurt to really care that much.
Chapter 5: ESG makes a comeback
Then one day, I’m told by a friend on Discord that GIK found a target, and it’s with an EV company called Lightning Emotors, and the price rocketed. I wasn’t following the news, but I remember buying GIK warrants awhile back, so I opted to check back into my TD Ameritrade account.
I’m back. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I was beyond ecstatic. This was my chance to redeem myself. Luck really was on my side, and was pushing me to give myself a shot again and really get serious again.
I began browsing more Reddit and Discord servers learning information (Reddit.com/r/investing, /r/stocks, /r/spacs, and unfortunately /r/wallstreetbets).
I started getting my Mojo back, I decided.
And started looking into SPACs and Warrants again.
SPACs never let me down before, they were always amazing, and I have no idea why I ever decided to turn my back to them.
I started looking into more and more SPACs, SBE, KCAC, PIC, STPK, IPOB, I couldn’t even begin to name them all. This was the SPAC revolution part 2, and I was back on my feet.
The year was wrapping up, while October and half of November was when I was mentally tapped out, the end of November and December was when I came back.
Not only were SPACs going crazy, NIO, PLUG, CLSK as well as Palantir all decided to pop off at this moment, and the other stock that I was holding in TD Ameritrade, OEG also started doing amazingly well, going from $2 to $10 in the span of a few weeks. It was almost like the grand return of the king.
It was at this point that I decided to make another post on Facebook to give a wrap-up of my current status at nearly $500,000. I had wanted to cry and thought that this was the peak of a return.
Little did I know of what January would bring.
Chapter 6: GameStop and a potential short squeeze
Initially, when I first heard about the GameStop debacle, I put in $5,512 as a joke of sorts. I didn’t really believe in it, but I also thought, “what if.”
Little did I know, as a month passed, I started looking more and more into what a “Short Squeeze” is.
For the unaware, at the time, GameStop and another company, AMC, had an incredible amount of people who were “shorting” them.
Shorting is essentially when someone “borrows” a share to sell to someone else expecting the price to go down, so they can get the share at a cheaper price while selling to someone at a higher price.
A short squeeze happens when many people decide to buy into a stock, collecting all available shares and denying a short the ability to get the stock that they borrowed. Since they borrowed the stock in the first place, they are at the stockholder’s whim on the price, which drives the price up.
In a very unwise decision that ended up paying really well, I put a lot of my account into GME and AMC and I bought more and more as the days came buy.
And then, the legendary moment happened, one that nobody could have predicted.
Elon Musk tweeted about GameStop and linked to the subreddit WallStreetBets.
This single-handedly made the stocks explode with popularity, particularly GameStop and AMC.
Which lead me to my peak value on January 27th.
Once I saw this, I sold. And created my most recent Facebook post talking about reaching millionaire status:
I know many people who are familiar with WallStreetBets would say I was “Paper Hands” or I didn’t “Hold the Line.” But this was too much money in an instance.
I had no words, and I was in pure shock. This was truly a life-changing moment in my life, and I felt like I didn’t earn it.
I felt like what happened with GameStop and AMC was such a wild event, that I felt really confident going into, but one that I could never have predicted would go so well.
So what have I learned? What resources can I offer and what was the point of me writing all of this?
Chapter 7: What I learned, main takeaways and advice/pitfalls.
There were so many investments and trades that I did not include on here. I never mentioned when I started falling in love with ARK ETFs run by Cathie Wood. I never mentioned my debacles with so many SPACs like the crazy SHLL bull run, nor did I mention the crazy stuff that happened with Dogecoin.
The reason being, investing is a crazy journey. It’s simply too much to go into detail, but it’s one that should be taken.
I write this because I started off completely unaware. I wasn’t a genius investor. As you can see in the beginning, I had to ask my friend what a pump and dump even was.
But I was always learning.
I’m by no means an expert. I don’t think I’m the person to go to for advice, nor will I want to trade for people or sell any advice because I personally still feel like I have so much left to go and so much more to learn.
But, if I could talk to myself from May 2020 and tell them what I learned now, this is what I would say:
- Definitely to get started, whether it’s with a paper money account or with a little bit of your money. Getting over the barrier that is making your first investment is the single best advice I can get. The stock market seems so scary from the outside that you’re left waiting to enter until you “Become better.” But that’ll never happen.
- Buy low, sell high is honestly the easiest sounding advice anyone can give, but it’s also the hardest to ever pull off. The stock market is climbing a mountain while you’re blind. You don’t know if the incline you’re feeling is a cliff or a small footing. But staving away your emotions and buying with logic is really hard to pull off. People tend to sell when stocks are red and buy when stocks are green, but this should be the exact opposite.
You should be buying stocks you like when they’re cheaper and sell when they’ve increased in price.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), Paper Hands (Selling when a stock goes down) are the two things that seem easy to avoid on the outside but takes a lot of mental fortitude to pull off.
I get it, I’ve seen a stock drop in price, and I’ve been tempted to sell,
and I’ve seen a stock soar in price, and I’ve been tempted to buy in.
But the reality of the situation is, buying when the stock drops and selling when the stock soars are the move you need to make.
It seems like such a given that we forget this mantra.
I share this because no matter how much you know, it’ll never be enough. So might as well get started and try to dip your toes in the water. Nobody ever learned how to swim from reading a book.
I won’t suggest a book or some Twitter personality. There are plenty of people you can follow on Twitter of your choosing, and there are so many books out there that will all teach the same fundamentals. What I will suggest is yourself. Believe in yourself that you understand things well. I’ve had my dad tell me to buy Moderna when it was $40 because he was thinking the vaccine might be good, and it quadrupled in price. If you think you know something about an industry, trust yourself.
Google is your friend, and so are asking questions. There was not a single resource I used by itself. I browsed Reddit, I messaged people on Discord, I scoured Twitter, I went onto Investopedia to teach myself new terms, and I kept searching for answers.
Reddit.com/r/spacs as well as Reddit.com/r/stocks
When I was confused, I wasn’t afraid to admit that I had no idea. I’ve had people call me an idiot or much worse things for not understanding, but I never stopped asking.
This post isn’t an “Anyone can get rich like me.” Quite the contrary. I recognize the insane amount of luck I had. So many of the plays and investments that I made could have ended poorly. It was quite possible green energy might have been hated by the market. It was possible Oil recovered and killed some of my plays. It was possible that Tesla didn’t soar and thus make other EV stocks soar in price. It was possible that GameStop and AMC was a dud and fell flat on its face.
So many things happened that went well. But like I said, it only happened because I took that risk.
And I made mistakes, plenty of them. I hope that being completely open with myself, I can show that despite the success, there were horrible mistakes that could have easily been avoided had I known better.
But you need to make mistakes to learn from them.
And I hope you can learn from my mistakes by seeing them out in the open.
I recognize that not everybody can take those risks, but for those that can, for those that have an extra $50, $100, $1000 dollars that they are willing to learn with. Or those who have time and want to set up a paper trading account.
I implore you to get started, because investing is a skill that can quite literally, pay you dividends.
Thank you for reading this blog, I still have so much more to learn, and this is by no means an end of a journey. I’m only still beginning. I haven’t written any white papers or done any financial analysis on stocks. I want to know more, I want to learn more, and I hope that some of you will continue to learn with me. If you’re interested in following me along on that journey, here’s a link to my twitter.
Check out our new platform 👉 https://thecapital.io/
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