Where Does Money Go When Stocks Drop? (2023)

When investors see their brokerage account balance take a nosedive due to a drop in stock prices, they often wonder where the money goes. The truth is, the money doesn't simply disappear or get redistributed to someone else. Instead, the decrease in account value reflects dwindling investor interest and a change in perception of the stock.

Buy and Sell Trades

To understand where the money goes, let's consider the example of buying and selling stocks. If you purchase a stock for $10 and sell it for only $5, you will lose $5 per share. However, the money doesn't go directly to the person who buys the stock from you. When the stock price falls, the person buying it at the lower price doesn't necessarily profit from your loss. Their entry point is the lower price, and they must wait for the stock to rise above that level before making a profit.

Similarly, if you're holding stock and its price drops, leading you to sell it for a loss, the person buying it at that lower price doesn't necessarily profit from your loss either. The changes in stock prices are simply an independent by-product of supply and demand and corresponding investor transactions. No one, including the company that issued the stock, pockets the money from your declining stock price.

Short Selling

Another factor to consider is short selling. Some investors place trades with a broker to sell a stock at a perceived high price with the expectation that it will decline. If the stock price falls, the short seller profits by buying the stock at the lower price and closing out the trade. However, short-sellers are not taking money from you in particular when you lose on a stock sale. They are conducting independent transactions and have just as much chance to lose or be wrong on their trade as investors who are long (own) the stock.

Implicit and Explicit Value

To understand the disappearance of money when stocks drop, we need to delve into the concept of implicit and explicit value. Implicit value refers to the personal perceptions and research of investors and analysts. It is based on factors such as revenues, earnings forecasts, and investor expectations. When the implicit value of a stock decreases due to changing perceptions, the stock price follows suit, resulting in a loss of value for the stockholders. However, the money doesn't go to someone else; it simply vanishes due to investors' perceptions.

On the other hand, explicit value represents the concrete value of a company. It is calculated by adding up all assets and subtracting liabilities. The explicit value is the amount of money that would be left over if a company were to sell all its assets at fair market value and pay off all its liabilities. Implicit value relies on explicit value, as investors' interpretation of a company's financial health and performance is based on its explicit value. The explicit value drives the implicit value of a stock.

The Role of Perception and Demand

Ultimately, the disappearance of money when stocks drop can be attributed to the complex and somewhat contradictory nature of money. Money represents both intangible concepts like faith and emotion (implicit value) and concrete assets and liabilities (explicit value). When investor perception of a stock diminishes, so does the demand for the stock, resulting in a decrease in price. The money doesn't go anywhere specific; it simply reflects the change in supply and demand driven by investor perception of value and viability.


In summary, when stocks drop and investors lose money, the money doesn't go to someone else or disappear into thin air. The decrease in account value reflects changing investor perception and dwindling interest in the stock. Stock prices are determined by supply and demand, and the changes in price are independent by-products of investor transactions. Short-sellers profit from price declines, but they are not taking money from individual investors. The disappearance of money is a result of changing perceptions and the complex nature of money, which represents both implicit and explicit value.

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Author: Greg Kuvalis

Last Updated: 05/11/2023

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