Not everyone sees it that way.
“I’ve had at least three, four guys confide in me that they’ve lost money and they’re never going to invest again,” said Tobi Alli, an amateur trader from Bowie, Md., who last week bought 80 shares of AMC and 50 shares of Nokia, two other previously unremarkable stocks that have rallied as part of a rebellion against hedge funds.
Mr. Alli said he would have walked away with a tidy gain had he sold earlier, and now he’s down $800 on his initial investment. But he said he was not even thinking about gains anymore. Instead, holding on to his shares is a protest against the brokerages that have instituted certain limits or restrictions on trading of volatile stocks.
Mr. Alli, who owns a small multimedia company, is among those who believe that brokerages — like the one he uses, TD Ameritrade — imposed certain limits under pressure from the hedge funds that he and his fellow retailers have been trying to squeeze.
“You know that you may go into it and lose, and I was ready for that,” said Mr. Alli, who follows Twitter accounts that post WallStreetBets content. “But what I wasn’t ready to do was to lose based on manipulation from billionaire guys who are stopping people from doing what is their legal right.”
For investors who aren’t interested in a crusade, the big swings and high stakes are nerve-racking.
Ian Poppel, 23, a wildland firefighter in Winnipeg, Manitoba, invested $18,000 — equivalent to an entire fire season’s salary — into GameStop over three days, just before the stock took off. He cashed out last Wednesday, a day before the rally peaked.
“I didn’t sleep,” said Mr. Poppel, who started trading stocks as a hobby during the off-season. “I didn’t really eat those couple days. I was so stressed about how that trade would go.”
He netted about $40,000, a sum he called “life-changing money.” But he knows it had nothing to do with investing skill.
“I lucked out,” he said, “and I see people online who say they’ve lost their whole life savings.”
Tara Siegel Bernard contributed reporting.