Selling stocks at a loss is never pleasant. However, to update your portfolio balance and determine how bad the loss was, you need to calculate your losses on the sale. The total loss lets you know how much money you lost, while the percentage loss shows you what portion of your investment was lost when the stock price decreased. Knowing how much you lost can allow you to use the loss to offset some of your investing gains on your income taxes.

Subtract the price per share for which you sold the stock from the price per share for which you purchased the stock. For example, if you bought the stock at $90 and sold it for $87, you have a loss of $3 per share.

Multiply the loss per share by the number of shares traded to find your total loss. In this example, if you bought and sold 500 shares, multiply 500 shares by your loss of $3 per share to find you lost $1,500.

Subtract any dividends received while you owned the stock to calculate your loss after dividends. For example, if the stock paid $300 in dividends while you owned it, subtract $300 from $1,500. Your loss after accounting for dividends equals $1,200.

Add the commissions you paid to buy and sell the stock to your loss. In this example, if you paid $30 to buy the stock and $30 to sell it, add $60 to $1,200. Your loss after accounting for commissions equals $1,260.

Divide your total loss by the amount you initially invested to calculate your percentage loss. In this example, divide your loss of $1,260 by the total purchase price of $45,000 to find you lost 0.028 of your investment, or 2.8 percent.

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