The story was everywhere this week. A high school student made $72 million in stock market trading.
The minute I read it, I knew it was impossible. Without leverage in the futures market, it’s impossible. There is not enough time if you’re a teenager to pull off a Buffett, even if you were Buffett. A high school kid cannot legally get futures market leverage — credit. He is not old enough to sign a contract.
Now we read this.
Monday’s edition of New York magazine includes an irresistible story about a Stuyvesant High senior named Mohammed Islam who had made a fortune investing in the stock market. Reporter Jessica Pressler wrote regarding the precise number, “Though he is shy about the $72 million number, he confirmed his net worth is in the “’high eight figures.’” The New York Post followed up with a story of its own, with the fat figure playing a key role in the headline: “High school student scores $72M playing the stock market.”
And now it turns out, the real number is … zero.
In an exclusive interview with Mr. Islam and his friend Damir Tulemaganbetov, who also featured heavily in the New York story, the baby faced boys who dress in suits with tie clips came clean. Swept up in a tide of media adulation, they made the whole thing up.
Any reporter who knew anything about stock market investing would have demanded proof. Any normal reporter in the good old days would have demanded proof. But reporters are lazy.
The great thing about the Web is that stories like these cannot survive for long. They get wide coverage, but then they get torpedoed.
So, don’t feel bad that your kid has not made $72 million. If he can just get a B on his next math test, that’s good enough — if it’s not Common Core. If it is Common Core, then treat the B as a $72 million portfolio. Verify it.