‘Hype Videos’
After tweeting a video questioning Buffett’s decision to get out of airlines -- where Portnoy doubts the wisdom of “94-year-old guys who live in Nebraska” -- volume in JETS, an exchange-traded fund tracking airlines, exploded. The 30-day average volume in the ETF went from $45 million to about $200 million. Portnoy’s video has more than 1 million views.

“I’ve never seen a video quite like that outside of hype videos in football,” said Eric Balchunas, an ETF analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. “The financial industry is not used to that kind of thing.”

Buffett, who’s actually just 89, didn’t respond to a request for comment through a spokeswoman.

With brokerages offering commission-free trading, “the barriers to entry are essentially zero and the cost to transact is essentially zero,” Emanuel said.

Young people, who use their phones for everything, are comfortable dealing with trading apps, and companies like Robinhood Financial appeal to first-time investors with referral promos and free stocks when they sign up.

“You look at a platform like Robinhood, in many ways those platforms have game-ified investing,” Geraci said.

New Accounts
Purdue University student Cameron Coleman, 20, started investing about a month ago after a friend shared his Robinhood referral link. Coleman had been an avid sports better and said he turned to day trading as an alternative during quarantine. He now tracks stocks on two computer monitors he typically uses for gaming and his initial $50 investment was up to $260 as of Tuesday.

Robinhood added more than three million funded accounts in the first four months of 2020, and half of customers who opened accounts this year said they were first-time investors, according to Nora Chan, a spokeswoman for the Menlo Park, California-based firm. E*Trade Financial Corp. had 329,000 net new accounts in the first three months of the year, with 260,000 added in March alone, the firm said in its first-quarter earnings statement. That was more than the company’s previous best annual net record.

While day trading can be risky and Portnoy might not be the best role model for young investors, Emanuel and Geraci said they think younger investors entering the market is positive for the long-term.

“The danger to the accessibility of it is very clear because you are bringing people in who may not be terribly qualified,” Emanuel said. “You learn more when you’re losing.”