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What Happens to My Stock Options After I Leave a Company?

Remember that extending the period beyond 90 days from termination will change the status and the tax benefits for most people of an ISO option into an NSO. After this period probably 90 days the options expire and have no value. Investors often refer to this as the grant or strike price. Her work appears on various websites. While taxes are important, they should not be your sole consideration. The employee can choose to use the stock option and buy stock or he can do nothing.

Originally Answered: What happens to your stock options when you leave a startup? Typically, You Only Have 90 Days to Exercise Startup Stock Options When you first took that early stage startup job you were likely enticed by startup lottery tickets called ‘stock options’.

Key takeaways

When you leave a startup, you only have a right to the option shares that have already vested. Make sure you carefully calculate how many shares have vested as of your last day of work so you know what you are entitled to. If you exercised vested options already then you already own those shares, both before and after you leave the startup. Check the grant agreement and any other agreements that govern your options such as a stock plan to see how long the company has to repurchase the shares and how much they have to pay you usually the lower of what you paid or the fair market value of the shares on the day of repurchase.

Then, figure out how much time you have to purchase any additional vested option shares? If you have vested option shares that you have not yet exercised, the company will usually give you some time after you stop working to buy these shares. The company decides the amount of time you have to exercise either an NSO or an ISO, so check the grant agreement and stock plan for this information. If you need more time than the company has given you, you may be able to negotiate an extension.

Remember that extending the period beyond 90 days from termination will change the status and the tax benefits for most people of an ISO option into an NSO.

If you have the cash to purchase your vested shares after termination then this is a no brainer, buy them! Many employees, though, find it difficult to come up with the necessary cash. This is why companies like Pinterest have made the move to extend the post-termination exercise period, in order to give people time to raise money.

No money has to change hands, but you are decreasing your ownership interest. Another option is to negotiate a loan from the company to cover the cost of the vested shares. There are several ways to structure this though trying to negotiate it at the time of your termination could prove difficult. It depends on the term of your grant.

Most commonly, unvested options immediately disappear, and you have a short period of time to exercise your vested options I. After this period probably 90 days the options expire and have no value. To be sure, you should have your option agreement reviewed by a startup attorney. This page may be out of date.

Save your draft before refreshing this page. Submit any pending changes before refreshing this page. Ask New Question Sign In. What happens to your stock options if you decide to leave a company? Hire startup financial modeling and forecasting experts. Toptal hand-matches top startups with experts in financial modeling, fundraising, pricing, and more.

Learn More at toptal. You dismissed this ad. The feedback you provide will help us show you more relevant content in the future. What happens to your stock options when you leave a startup? Then ask yourself these questions: First, what portion of your option shares are vested? Next, have you exercised your options yet?

Last, can you afford to buy the shares? Thank you for your feedback! It's like Venmo and Mint had a baby, that turned business savvy. Sign Up at getdivvy. What happens if you don't excercise your vested stock options within the time limit after leaving a private company?

What happens if I leave a company after vesting my stock options and the company goes through liquidity? Do companies usually buy stock options from employees on exit? How are stock entities shared? What if an employee decides to leave a company? If you leave the company, the way I'd think about it is that the option gives you the right to purchase shares of the company to the extent that the option is vested.

If you exercise that right you then will have shares of the company. If the company then goes public or gets acquired you will participate as a common shareholder of the company in whatever upside there is. If it does not, then you won't. Each company is different regarding its stock option vesting periods. Employers note the exact vesting date on the stock option contract or agreement. Generally, the employee does not have to exercise her options on the exact date the options fully vest.

Many employers give a specific period in which employees can exercise their stock options after the passing of the vesting date. Options agreements also may have an expiration date when the options contract voids and the employee no longer has the right to exercise her options at the original grant or strike price.

Cliff vesting occurs when the employer sets a specific period in which an employee must work for the company before his options fully vest. If he continues to work for the company until the vesting date, he can exercise his options contract and purchase company stock shares for the grant or strike price. If he quits or the employer terminates him before the date the options fully vest, he forfeits his options contract.

In gradual vesting, the employer sets specific vesting percentages during the vesting period. For example, if the vesting period is five years, the employer may set a vesting rate of 20 percent per year. This means for every year during the five-year period in which the employee continues to work for the company her vesting percentage increases by 20 percent, and she becomes fully vested at the five-year mark.

If she leaves the company before the five-year vesting period ends, she can only exercise her percentage of vested options. In this example, if she left the company after two years, she has the right to exercise 40 percent of her stock options and forfeits the remaining 60 percent. Sue-Lynn Carty has over five years experience as both a freelance writer and editor, and her work has appeared on the websites Work. Carty holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration, with an emphasis on financial management, from Davenport University.

About Stock Options Stock options give employees the opportunity to purchase a specific number of corporate stocks sometime in the future.


Stock options give you the right to purchase stock at a set price, called the strike price. If the stock is doing well, the price can be significantly lower than the trading price for . Stock options are a type of benefit that allows you, as an employee, to buy company stock at a certain price. Of course, this option is rarely useful if you have to pay as much for the stock as other investors (unless company stock is very hard to find for sale), so companies typically offer stock discounts to . If you are given stock or stock options from a firm there are some very important things to consider. First off, there is a difference between being given stock vs. being given options. An option is only worth something if the price per share increases more than the strike price of the option.