EDU Articles

Learn about investing, trading, retirement, banking, personal finance and more.

Ad is loading...
Help CenterFind Your WayBuy/Sell Daily ProductsIntraday ProductsFAQ
Expert's OpinionsWeekly ReportsBest StocksInvestingTradingCryptoArtificial Intelligence
IntroductionMarket AbbreviationsStock Market StatisticsThinking about Your Financial FutureSearch for AdvisorsFinancial CalculatorsFinancial MediaFederal Agencies and Programs
Investment PortfoliosModern Portfolio TheoriesInvestment StrategyPractical Portfolio Management InfoDiversificationRatingsActivities AbroadTrading Markets
Investment Terminology and InstrumentsBasicsInvestment TerminologyTrading 1 on 1BondsMutual FundsExchange Traded Funds (ETF)StocksAnnuities
Technical Analysis and TradingAnalysis BasicsTechnical IndicatorsTrading ModelsPatternsTrading OptionsTrading ForexTrading CommoditiesSpeculative Investments
Cryptocurrencies and BlockchainBlockchainBitcoinEthereumLitecoinRippleTaxes and Regulation
RetirementSocial Security BenefitsLong-Term Care InsuranceGeneral Retirement InfoHealth InsuranceMedicare and MedicaidLife InsuranceWills and Trusts
Retirement Accounts401(k) and 403(b) PlansIndividual Retirement Accounts (IRA)SEP and SIMPLE IRAsKeogh PlansMoney Purchase/Profit Sharing PlansSelf-Employed 401(k)s and 457sPension Plan RulesCash-Balance PlansThrift Savings Plans and 529 Plans and ESA
Personal FinancePersonal BankingPersonal DebtHome RelatedTax FormsSmall BusinessIncomeInvestmentsIRS Rules and PublicationsPersonal LifeMortgage
Corporate BasicsBasicsCorporate StructureCorporate FundamentalsCorporate DebtRisksEconomicsCorporate AccountingDividendsEarnings

What is the difference between Common Stock and Preferred Stock?

When investing in a company, one of the most critical decisions investors need to make is whether to invest in common stock or preferred stock. Both types of stocks are fundamentally different, with each carrying its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will delve into the differences between common stock and preferred stock, examining their features, risks, and potential returns.

Common Stock

Common stock is the most frequently traded type of stock and represents partial ownership in a company. As a common stockholder, you have the right to vote on important corporate matters such as electing the board of directors and making decisions about the company's operations. Common stockholders also benefit from the potential for capital appreciation, which occurs when the value of the stock increases over time.

However, common stockholders face higher risks compared to preferred stockholders. In the event of liquidation, common stockholders are paid last, after bondholders and preferred stockholders. This means that common stockholders may not receive anything if a company goes bankrupt or liquidates its assets. Moreover, common stocks are subject to market volatility, which can lead to significant fluctuations in their value.

Preferred Stock

Preferred stock, on the other hand, is higher up the equity chain than common stock. Preferred stockholders enjoy greater claim to the company's assets, which comes in two forms: receiving dividends first and having priority during liquidation. In addition, preferred stocks typically offer fixed dividend payments, which provide a more stable and predictable income stream for investors.

While preferred stockholders do not have voting rights like common stockholders, they are generally considered to have a lower risk profile. In the event of liquidation, preferred stockholders are paid before common stockholders, increasing the likelihood that they will receive a portion of the company's remaining assets. Furthermore, preferred stocks are priced in the secondary market, which tends to be more stable and provides less upside potential compared to common stocks.

Comparison of Common Stock and Preferred Stock

  1. Dividends

One of the primary differences between common and preferred stocks is how dividends are distributed. Preferred stockholders receive their dividends before common stockholders, ensuring a more stable and predictable income stream. Common stockholders, on the other hand, receive dividends only after preferred stockholders have been paid, and these dividends are subject to the company's profitability and board decisions.

  1. Liquidation Priority

In the event of a company's liquidation, preferred stockholders have a higher claim on the company's assets than common stockholders. The liquidation hierarchy typically follows this order: bondholders, preferred shareholders, and then common stockholders. As a result, common stockholders face greater risks, as they may not receive anything if the company goes bankrupt or liquidates its assets.

  1. Risk and Return

Common stocks carry higher risks but also have the potential for higher returns due to their exposure to market volatility and capital appreciation. Preferred stocks, while generally considered lower-risk investments, offer limited upside potential, as they are priced in the more stable secondary market.

  1. Voting Rights

Common stockholders have the right to vote on critical corporate matters, while preferred stockholders generally do not have voting rights. This distinction means that common stockholders can have a more significant say in shaping the company's direction and operations.

The choice between investing in common stock or preferred stock ultimately depends on an investor's risk tolerance, income needs, and desired level of involvement in the company. Common stocks offer the potential for higher returns and voting rights, but they also come with greater risks, especially during liquidation. Preferred stocks provide a more stable income stream and have priority during liquidation, but they do not offer the same growth potential as common stocks and do not grant voting rights.

When deciding between common and preferred stocks, it is essential to consider the specific company and industry in question. Some companies may have a strong history of paying dividends to common stockholders, while others may not. Similarly, the stability of the industry and the company's financial health can impact the potential returns and risks associated with both types of stocks.

Another factor to consider is diversification. A well-balanced investment portfolio typically includes a mix of asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash equivalents. Within the stock portion of the portfolio, investors may choose to allocate a certain percentage to both common and preferred stocks, depending on their individual financial goals and risk tolerance.

Understanding the differences between common stock and preferred stock is vital for making informed investment decisions. By considering factors such as dividends, liquidation priority, risk and return, and voting rights, investors can make more informed choices that align with their financial objectives and risk tolerance. Ultimately, the choice between common and preferred stocks should be made based on a thorough analysis of the investor's goals, the company's financial health, and the potential risks and rewards associated with each type of stock.

What are the Basics of Stocks?
What are the Tax Implications for Making a Profit (or Loss) On a Stock?

Ad is loading...