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College Student Kills Himself After Seeing Huge Stock Loss

20-year-old using Robinhood app may have misunderstood his balance
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2020 4:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – Alex Kearns was enjoying investing, family members say—spending time on Robinhood, a free trading app, and experimenting with the stock market. The 20-year-old had just started during the pandemic, Forbes reports, while he was home with his parents from college. But late Thursday night, he apparently was shocked to see his Robinhood account, though it showed $16,000 in it, was $730,165 in the red. He wrote a note to his parents saying he didn't approve margin trading for his account and didn't think a small account could incur such a huge loss. "He thought that he had blown up his entire future," a family member said. "I mean this is a kid that when he was younger was so conscious about savings." He put a note on his door telling his parents to turn on his computer. When they did, they found a letter beginning, "If you're reading this, then I am dead." His body was found Friday.

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"How was a 20 year old with no income able to get assigned almost a million dollars worth of leverage?" Kearns wrote to his parents. He said Robinhood let him take on too much risk, per CNBC, though he had "no clue" what he was doing. But when he last checked his account before killing himself, Kearns might have misunderstood what it meant, the relative said. His negative balance might have been temporary, lasting only until the stocks underlying his assigned options reached his account. To draw young traders, others in the brockerage business, including E-Trade, TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, Fidelity and even Merrill Lynch offer started to offer zero minimum balances and no-commission deals. But many of the new customers lack the knowlege to succeed. Robinhood, which said it contacted Kearns' parents to offer condolences, added that it's looking into whether it should make any changes in its platform. (Lockdown brings added stress, experts say.)

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