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How Short-Selling Works

Most investors own stocks, profiting when they rise in value and losing money when their stocks decline. But for short-sellers, that basic dynamic is reversed, and you can actually profit when share prices decline.

In the following video, Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning, goes through the basics of short-selling and what you need to know to be successful at it. Dan goes through the mechanics of short-selling with your broker, noting how you profit by paying less to replace borrowed shares after a stock price falls. He notes that with failed companies like General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) before its bankruptcy, short-selling was extremely lucrative. But with other high-flying stocks, including Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) and (NASDAQ: PCLN  ) , short-selling was extremely costly. Dan concludes that before you use short-selling, you need to understand the risks involved and know how to protect yourself from potentially huge losses.

Take a look at the long side
Short-selling would have been disastrous over the past several years, and even those who simply stayed out of the market have missed out on huge gains and put their financial futures in jeopardy. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal-finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

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Dan Caplinger

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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