Let's say I invest $100 in ACME, Inc. Then it goes up by 100%. Now my shares are worth $200.

Do I now have a "theoretical" $200, or is it possible for me to "get out" some amount of money without selling/losing those shares?

Do I have to sell the shares to get my $200?


4 Answers 4


It isn't money at all. When you start out, you have $100 and no stocks. When you buy the stock, you no longer have any money, but you have X shares of ACME. When the price doubles, you still have no money, and still have X shares of ACME.

However, these shares can now be sold in exchange for $200, rather than the $100 you paid for them. You can keep (all or some of) the shares, and continue to have no money, or sell (all or some of) the shares, and no longer have exposure to the potential associated gains (or losses).

  • One can also sell 50 % of the shares an thus get 100 $ cash money back! Commented May 23, 2021 at 13:15
  • 1
    @BernhardDöbler Minus any applicable taxes.
    – chepner
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 13:38
  • @BernhardDöbler You can sell part of the shares to get the money you originally invested (or the profit) back, but that typically doesn't make much financial sense (unless you happen to want/need that exact amount). For pretty much all intents and purposes, it's the same as making two independent investments of $50 and then selling one later for $100. You can't actually "get your original money back" or "take only the profit", as any withdrawal you make will consist of both your original investment and the profit.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 14:22

Think of it like real estate. If your home value goes up, you can't 'get out' without selling. A home equity loan doesn't count as getting out, because you're not 'out'. Presumably, you would pay back the home equity loan when you sell.

If you own enough stock, a bank can give you a personal loan against those securities, similar to a home equity loan. You have access to some money, but you haven't gotten out.

If you're 'out', it's called a realized capital gain. If you're not 'out', it's an unrealized capital gain.

  • Real estate is perhaps thinking a bit big. You can generally buy some shares and then sell a few of them to realise part of your profit, but with a house the decision to sell is all or nothing (unless you think in terms of buying dozens or hundreds of pieces of real estate at once, or shared ownership, but those are more the exception than the norm).
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 14:03
  • @NotThatGuy buy a big chunk of land, and then selling pieces is quite common (in the US, at least).
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 14:35

For the purpose of your question, stocks are pretty much like anything else you can buy and sell. If you spend $100 on a new washing machine; you no longer have $100 but instead you have a new washing machine. If a friend says that they want the exact washing machine you have and are willing to pay you $200 for it, then you can decide if you want to sell that washing machine and make a $100 profit.

There are of course various differences with stocks vs other purchases; but those differences don’t matter here. Until or unless you sell the stock, the “worth” is simply an estimate of how much someone would be willing to pay you for it. You don’t have any actual money.


Only money is money. That sounds obvious, but must be stated to reinforce the seemingly obvious.

When you buy 20 shares of ACME at $5/share, you've exchanged $100 money for an asset which is those 20 shares.

Now, for some reason, the price of a share is now $10. You still have that asset but it's now worth $200.

But... Walmart won't take those 20 shares of ACME in exchange for groceries because... it's not money. (Credit cards aren't money either, but they're a "promise to pay money").

  • A credit card is a card that has the instructions for what Walmart's bank has to say to your bank in order to get your money. Commented May 23, 2021 at 20:58
  • @user253751 I challenge you to show me where on a CC there are instructions for what Walmart's bank must do to get money from the bank which issued the card to you.
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 21:45
  • @RonJohn A USB drive can contain instructions for a computer to follow on what to do when it’s inserted; but you can’t just look at a USB drive and show someone where those instructions are. “Instructions” doesn’t have to be human readable words.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 22:35
  • @GendoIkari then show them to me on the magnetic stripe (but the mag stripe doesn't say anything about that either).
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 23:41
  • I admin I know very little about how credit cards in general work; but surely the card chip/strip contains some sort of information that is required in order to connect to the issuing bank and receive funds? The "promise to pay" bit comes as a deal between the bank and the credit card holder; nothing to do with the store that's taking the credit card as payment. The store doesn't care if you end up paying your credit card bill or not; they're already received the funds from the bank.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 0:01

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