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What Happens If a Stock Goes Negative?

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Reviewed by Friedrich Odermann Fact-checked by Ed Weinberg
Updated 4/21/2024 12 min read

Ever wondered, “What happens if a stock goes negative?” You’re not alone.

As a trader, you may find yourself in a situation where the stock price takes a nosedive, heading towards zero. Now, does that mean you owe money if it goes negative? No, a stock price can’t go below zero. But what unfolds from this decline is a maze of factors, complexities, and risks.

In the world of investment, there are a ton of ways you can lose, and lose big. You’ll want to be armed with the right information, tools, and strategies. Let’s get into the truth about negative stock prices — and what investment options might cause real-money losses.

Understanding the negative terrain of stocks requires a robust look at market dynamics, risk management, company valuation, and how to protect your investment. This article will give you the insight, content, and tools to guide your way through the crisis-laden world of stock trading.

Can Stocks Go Negative?

It’s a myth that stock prices can go negative. A share price might plummet, even to the brink of zero, but it can’t fall into the negative territory. The stock market operates on supply and demand. If there’s no demand for a stock, its price can fall to zero, but it stops there.

However, the decline to zero of a company’s stock price signals a crisis within the company, often leading to bankruptcy. Financial factors, market conditions, and business economy may contribute to this decline, but investors’ losses are capped at the amount they’ve invested in the stock.

What Stocks Have a High Chance of Becoming Worthless

Certain stocks are more prone to becoming worthless. Understanding which ones can prevent unnecessary loss.

Understanding the terminology and metrics used in stock trading is crucial for identifying potential risks and rewards. One term that often comes up is “outperform.” This refers to a stock or investment that is expected to achieve returns greater than a particular benchmark or market average. Recognizing stocks that are predicted to outperform can help investors steer clear of those that might become worthless. For a detailed comparison and understanding of what “outperform” means in stocks, check out this comprehensive guide.

Penny Stocks

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Penny stocks are notoriously risky. Trading at incredibly low prices, they’re often subject to manipulation and lack liquidity. In some cases, they might be a fraudulent scheme. For traders, the appeal is the potential for high profits, but the risk of losing your entire investment is very real.

I trade penny stocks because they’re risky. If you know how to capitalize on their volatility while limiting their downsides, penny stocks can become a valuable part of your trading strategy.


Options provide the right to buy or sell a security at a specific price within a given time frame. They can be complex and require a certain level of expertise. Trading options can be highly profitable but also carry a risk of complete loss, especially if market conditions shift unfavorably.


Futures contracts agree to buy or sell an asset at a future date for a specific price. Investors can lose significant money in futures if they misjudge market direction, price, or timing. Unlike stocks, you can lose more than your initial investment with futures if you don’t properly manage your position.

How Does a Stock’s Value Get to Zero?

A stock’s value might crash to zero due to several factors: poor management, heavy debt, legal issues, or a dramatic change in market demand. Even established companies can face such decline.

Understanding market trends, financial statements, and economic indicators can prevent being caught in this crash. The goal is not just to sell before a decline but to avoid investing in a company that’s on a negative trajectory in the first place.

When a stock’s value hits zero, investors lose their entire investment in that stock. It’s a harsh reality in the world of investing, but one that underscores the importance of diversification and careful stock selection.

What Happens When a Company Goes Bankrupt?

When a company goes bankrupt, its stock usually becomes worthless. Creditors, including bondholders, get compensated first. Stockholders are last in line and often receive nothing.

In cases of bankruptcy, a company’s assets are liquidated to pay off debt, and remaining shareholders often lose their entire investment. Understanding the signs of a company facing bankruptcy, and the difference between various bankruptcy chapters, can help you steer clear of a sinking ship.

How to Value a Stock

Valuation is the backbone of smart investing. Here’s how to evaluate stocks before putting your money at risk.

Valuing a stock involves understanding not only its potential for profit but also the risks associated with investment. A common concern among investors is whether they can owe money in stocks. While typical stock investments limit losses to the amount invested, certain trading strategies, like margin trading or short selling, can lead to debts beyond the initial investment. It’s essential to recognize these scenarios and approach them with caution. It’s all in this informative article.

Price-To-Book (P/B) Ratio

The P/B Ratio compares a stock’s market value to its book value. It gives an insight into what you’re paying for a company’s assets. A lower P/B might indicate an undervalued stock, but it’s essential to compare it with other companies in the same industry.

Price-To-Earnings (P/E) Ratio

The P/E Ratio tells you how much you’re paying for a dollar of a company’s earnings. It helps assess whether a stock’s price is high or low relative to its earnings. Analyzing a stock’s P/E Ratio in conjunction with other factors can guide better investment decisions.

Price-to-Earnings Growth (PEG) Ratio

The PEG Ratio considers the company’s growth rate, providing a more complete picture than the P/E Ratio alone. It’s particularly useful for comparing stocks of different growth rates.

Dividend Yield

Dividend Yield measures the annual dividend income an investor can expect to receive relative to the price of the stock. It can be a critical factor for income-focused investors.

Situations Where You Can Lose More Than You Invested

Investing in stocks carries risks, but there are specific situations where you can lose more than you put in.

When You are Trading on Margin

Margin trading allows you to borrow money to invest more than you have. While it magnifies profits, it also amplifies losses. In a declining market, losses can exceed the initial investment, leading to a margin call and possibly forcing a sell at a loss.

When You are Going Short

Short selling involves selling borrowed stocks, hoping to buy them back later at a lower price. If the stock price rises instead, losses can be unlimited as you’ll have to buy the shares at a higher price.

Effective Strategies to Protect Your Investment

Investment protection isn’t about playing it safe; it’s about managing risk effectively.

Investment protection involves a combination of strategies, including the use of tools like a stock average calculator. This tool helps investors calculate the average cost of their stock holdings, considering multiple purchases at different prices. Understanding your average cost is vital for making informed decisions about when to sell or hold, and it plays a key role in managing risk. If you’re looking to enhance your investment strategy with this valuable tool, you can find a detailed stock average calculator guide here.

The Use of Stop Losses in Trading

Stop losses can be set to sell a stock automatically if it reaches a certain price, protecting from further losses. It’s a simple, effective tool to limit loss.

Leveraging Put Options for Protection

Put options can be used to hedge against potential declines. Like an insurance policy for your portfolio, it adds a layer of protection.

The Role of Stock Diversification in Risk Management

Diversification across various sectors and asset classes can reduce the risk of significant loss. It’s not about winning big on a single stock but spreading the risk.

Diversifying into Non-Correlating Assets for Portfolio Balance

Investing in non-correlating assets can provide a buffer against market volatility. It helps in maintaining portfolio balance, reducing the overall risk.

Trading isn’t rocket science. It’s a skill you build and work on like any other. Trading has changed my life, and I think this way of life should be open to more people…

I’ve built my Trading Challenge to pass on the things I had to learn for myself. It’s the kind of community that I wish I had when I was starting out.

We don’t accept everyone. If you’re up for the challenge — I want to hear from you.

Apply to the Trading Challenge here.

Trading is a battlefield. The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you’ll be.

How do you protect your investment? Let me know in the comments — I love hearing from my readers!

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the investing world can lead to many questions. Here’s some straight talk on common queries.

Can You Lose All Your Money in Stocks?

Yes, you can lose all your money if the company you invest in goes bankrupt or the stock declines to zero. Knowing the company, the market, and implementing risk management strategies can help mitigate this risk.

What is a Good P/E Ratio for a Stock?

A good P/E Ratio varies by industry and market conditions. Comparing the P/E Ratio of a stock to its competitors and the industry average can give you a sense of whether it’s over or undervalued.

What Happens If I Buy a Stock and It Goes Down?

If you buy a stock and it goes down, you have an unrealized loss. You don’t actually lose money until you sell the stock. Analyzing market trends and the company’s performance can guide your decision to hold or sell.

Can a Stock Be Delisted?

Yes, stocks can be delisted from stock exchanges for various reasons like failing to meet the exchange’s standards. Delisting often leads to a sharp decline in share price, and trading may continue on OTC markets, often with less liquidity and transparency.

What Are the Services Provided by Brokers in Executing Trades?

Brokers offer services to manage and execute trades on behalf of their clients. They facilitate the buying and selling of securities through an account specifically set up for trading. Orders are placed following the client’s instructions, and brokers may provide examples of different trading strategies to assist clients.

How Do Leverage, Margin Accounts, and Loans Affect Trading Funds?

Leverage allows traders to control larger positions with a smaller amount of funds by using a loan from the broker. A margin account is a specific type of account that permits leverage, enabling traders to borrow money to invest in securities. This can amplify gains but also carries the risk of magnified losses.

What Are Typical Policies and Compensation Models for Brokers?

Brokers operate under specific policies that govern their actions, responsibilities, and compensation. These policies might include guidelines for handling client accounts, executing trades, and providing services such as investment advice. Compensation models may vary, and brokers often provide examples to illustrate how they charge for their services.

How Can People Get Answers About Interest and Trading Examples?

People interested in trading can consult brokers to get answers about various aspects of investing, such as interest rates on margin accounts or specific examples of trading strategies. Brokers often provide educational services to guide clients through different investment options and help them understand the potential risks and rewards.

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Author card Timothy Sykes picture

Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (888) 878-3621 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”