An unrealized gain is the amount of money you would earn if you sold a given asset.
An unrealized gain -- also called a paper gain -- is a gain only in theory, since it is the amount of money you would earn above your cost basis if you sold a given asset. Unrealized gains are recorded on quarterly investment statements and contribute to net worth, but they are not subject to any capital gains tax.
When the asset is sold, the gain becomes realized.
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