How do you calculate the percentage gain or loss on an investment?

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A:

Calculating the percentage gain of your investment is quite easy. All it takes is a little bookkeeping and either a simple calculator or a pad of paper for doing the math.

Determining percentage gain or loss

  1. Take the amount that you have gained on the investment and divide it by the amount invested. To calculate the gain, take the price for which you sold the investment and subtract from it the price that you initially paid for it.
  2. Now that you have your gain, divide the gain by the original amount of the investment.
  3. Finally, multiply your answer by 100 to get the percentage change in your investment.

If the percentage is negative, resulting from the market value being lower than the book value, you have lost on your investment. If the percentage is positive, resulting from market value being greater than book value, you have gained on your investment.

Here is what the formula looks like:

(Price Sold - Purchase Price) ÷ (Purchase Price)

For example, if you bought 100 shares of Intel Corp. (INTC) @ $30/share on May 18, 2016, your total investment value is $3,000. If you sold the 100 shares on May 17, 2017, for $38/share, your proceeds from the sale would be $3,800. Your realized gain can be calculated as ($3,800 - $3,000) / $3,000 = 26.67%. Alternatively, you can calculate your gain using the per share price, which would look like ($38 - $30) / $30 = 26.67%.

If you just want to know how much loss or gain you've made so far without selling, the same process works and you can use the current market price in the place of the price sold, but the gain (or loss) calculated would be an unrealized gain (or loss).

This basic formula is used every day to find out exactly how many percentage points indexes, stocks, interest rates, and so on have changed over a given period of time. For example, if the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) opens at 24,000 and closes at 24,480 today, the formula would show that the percentage change over the day was 2.00% [(24,480 – 24,000) / (24,000)].

Factoring in costs and any income or distributions

Investing does not come without costs and this should be reflected in the calculation of your percent gain or loss. The above is an illustration of the calculation without costs, such as commissions and taxes.

To incorporate costs, reduce the gain (market price - price purchased) by the costs of investing. By incorporating these costs you will get a more accurate representation of your gain or loss.

Also, if your investment paid out any income or distributions, such as a dividend, you will need to add this amount to the gain amount.

Here is a more detailed way to calculate gain or loss:

[(Amount Sold - Amount Paid) + Income Gain - Costs] ÷ Amount Paid

Learn how to figure out cost basis on an investment by reading What determines your cost basis?

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