Global sharemarkets are a vibrant scarlet on Tuesday morning as investors around the world sell their stocks to a group of buyers making smaller and smaller bids. The headlines shout about a wipe-out of billions, or even trillions in value. The ASX fell 4% on Monday, and Shanghai fell 8%. Wall Street fell 4% last night, the Nikkei 4.6%, London’s index 4.7%. Tuesday’s trade is in session, and it seems a small share of the losses has been recouped already. But what does it mean to the real-life share investor?

Those lost billions are paper losses. They compare the hypothetical cash value of the sharemarket before and after the day's trade. Paper losses count most when they are realised -- you can be behind when you're playing blackjack, but all that really matters is your holdings when you walk out of the casino.