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Common & Preferred Stocks

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Common Stock vs. Preferred Stock

Common stock and preferred stock are the two main types of stocks that are sold by companies and traded among investors on the open market. Each type gives stockholders a partial ownership in the company represented by the stock.

Despite some similarities, common stock and preferred stock have some significant differences, including the risk involved with ownership. It’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both types of stocks before purchasing them.

Common Stock

Common stock is the most common type of stock that is issued by companies. It entitles shareholders to share in the company’s profits through dividends and/or capital appreciation.

Common stockholders are usually given voting rights, with the number of votes directly related to the number of shares owned. Of course, the company’s board of directors can decide whether or not to pay dividends, as well as how much is paid. Common stock has the potential for profits through capital gains.

The return and principal value of stocks fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Shareholders are not assured of receiving dividend payments. Investors should consider their tolerance for investment risk investing in common stock.

Preferred Stock

Preferred stock is generally considered less volatile than common stock but typically has less potential for profit. Preferred stockholders generally do not have voting rights, as common stockholders do, but they have a greater claim to the company’s assets. Preferred stock may also be “callable,” which means that the company can purchase shares back from the shareholders at any time for any reason, although usually at a favorable price.

Preferred stock shareholders receive their dividends before common stockholders receive theirs, and these payments tend to be higher. Shareholders of preferred stock receive fixed, regular dividend payments for a specified period of time, unlike the variable dividend payments sometimes offered to common stockholders.

Both common stock and preferred stock have their advantages. When considering which type may be suitable for you, it is important to assess your financial situation, time frame, and investment goals.