The GameStop phenomenon continues to make headlines, even as the stock price levels off from its high of more than $500. The meteoric rise and swift fall is a friendly reminder to security clearance holders to be aware of their financial investments, and to make sure any financial risks – including stock investments – are calculated.
Financial issues are the top cause of security clearance denial, and the government’s interests in financial health as a motivation for leakers and spies dates back to Aldrich Ames, a CIA officer turned KGB agent who was financially motivated to swap access for secrets, and sought out the KGB in order to solve his debt problems.
Day trading (and day drinking, and depression), have all seen a major uptick during the pandemic. Professionals with more time on their hands, more time at home, and the freedom to follow stocks and online forums during the day (and perhaps more disposable income thanks to those cancelled family vacations), are turning the stock market into a hobby. A potentially risky hobby.
Cleared professionals shouldn’t be afraid to day trade or invest in the stock market – if they can do so within reason. Two factors come into play – the need to ensure any investments are on the right side of the law, and clearance holders aren’t trading insider information in the process. Much like the Wikileaks site, just because financial information is posted online doesn’t mean it’s true, or that a security clearance holder should be following it. The second factor is financial health. Day trading can become like gambling – habit forming, with a high potential for an individual to overextend. Before investing in the stock market, security clearance holders should set a budget and make sure they’re not chasing a temporary investment high that is going to leave them crashing later.
Legal Stocks, illegal stocks, and your security clearance
Many security clearance holders have asked if marijuana investments are okay – directly investing in a marijuana business is a bad move for a security clearance holder. That said, you don’t need to chase down every mutual fund or healthcare investment to make sure there isn’t a ‘legal’ drug component. A growing number of health companies are also providing CBD or even marijuana products – if those products are ancillary to the main business of health, a security clearance holder should not be concerned. The issue would be a direct financial investment that ties the security clearance holder to the company.