Common Stock vs Preferred Stock: An in-depth Guide to Making the Right Choice

When it comes to investing in a company, you’ve got two main options: common stock and preferred stock. But what’s the difference, and which one’s right for you? I’m here to shed some light on this often-confusing topic.

Common stock is what most people think of when they hear “stock”. It’s a slice of ownership in a company, with the potential for dividends and voting rights. On the other hand, preferred stock is a bit more complex. It’s like a hybrid of common stock and bonds, offering fixed dividends and a higher claim on assets.

Understanding these differences is key to making informed investment decisions. So, let’s dive deeper into the world of stocks and see what they’ve got to offer.

What is Common Stock?

Generally speaking, when people talk about „owning shares“ or „stocks,“ they usually talk about what’s known as common stock. These are shares that ordinary investors like you and me hold. Owning common stock in a company literally means that you have a small piece of that company.

How does this work? Well, if a company decides to „go public“ and issues stocks, these stocks are snares of their business they’re willing to sell to the public. Now, when you buy these shares, you essentially buy ownership in that company. The more shares you hold, the bigger your ownership stake in the company.

Ownership and Voting Rights

One of the key characteristics of common stock is that it gives investors voting rights. In most companies, each share of common stock comes with one vote. You can use these votes in shareholders’ meetings to help make major decisions for the company.

The value of your vote will depend on how many shares of common stock you own. So if a company has issued a million shares and you own one, you effectively have a one-in-a-million voice in the direction that company takes.

Dividends and Risks

Common stockholders also get the opportunity to receive dividends. Dividends are a portion of a company’s profits that it decides to distribute to its shareholders. It’s one way you can earn a return on your investment without selling your shares.

However, dividends are not guaranteed for common stockholders. Companies are not obligated to pay dividends, and even when they do, they usually give priority to preferred stockholders before turning to the common stockholders. Because of that, the common stock is often considered riskier than preferred stock.

On the other hand, this risk does come with potential rewards. Because common stockholders are last in line for company profits, they also get the largest piece of the pie if the company does well.

Market Fluctuations

The value of the common stocks fluctuates as the company’s public perception shifts. The changes in the share prices can sometimes be dramatic, and they often have a big impact on the fortunes of investors holding those shares. Therefore, common stock investments require a certain level of comfort with risk. That’s the price of potentially high rewards.

So, there you have it. That’s the gist of what common stock is all about.

What is Preferred Stock?

Diving deeper into the world of stocks, we’ll next tackle the concept of preferred stock. Were I to paint a picture, I’d say preferred stocks are akin to those comfortable VIP seats in a cinema. They offer a certain level of preferential treatment when compared to common stocks.

Unlike common stockholders who are essentially owning a piece of a company, preferred stockholders are more like lenders who’ve given a loan to the business. They wouldn’t necessarily have a say in the company’s decisions, but they have an upper hand when it comes to dividends.

The Upside of Preferred Stocks

Every stockholder with a piece of preferred stock gets a fixed, predetermined dividend. As mentioned earlier, this isn’t necessarily the case with common stockholders as their dividends are uncertainties. Being holders of preferred stocks, one has a few perks up their sleeve. If a company were to go bankrupt and forced to liquidate its assets, holders of preferred stock stand ahead in the queue for payouts, right after the company’s debtors – this is a major distinction from holders of common stock who are last in line.

If we add all this together, preferred stock starts to look less risky compared to common stock, doesn’t it? Well, that’s the point. This lower level of risk makes them more appealing to a certain group of investors looking for some stability surrounding their investment returns.

As much as this paints a rosy picture of preferred stocks, it’s essential to know that they do have their shortcomings. Notably, they might not offer the same level of potential growth compared to owning common stocks. But like any investment, it depends significantly on one’s financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment strategy.

This exploration into preferred stocks is one piece of the larger investment puzzle. As we move further into the world of stocks, these elements will start to fit together, forging a comprehensive understanding of the stock market’s inner workings.

Key Differences Between Common Stock and Preferred Stock

Next, let’s delve into the core differences separating common stocks from preferred stocks. Understanding these distinctions solidifies your investment knowledge and broadens your perspective.

Starting with what pops out the most: Dividends. As I’ve mentioned earlier, preferred stockholders are at an advantage here. They enjoy fixed, regular dividends, as if they’re lenders to the company. The dividends come at a specified rate and are paid out before any payouts to common stockholders. It’s like being the VIP guest, getting served before the crowd!

Contrarily, dividends for common stockholders depend on the financial health and profit generation of the company. It means that although there’s definite potential for higher dividends, there’s also a real risk of receiving nothing.

Next in line is the voting rights scenario. Here, the tables flip. Common stockholders have the privilege to contribute in shaping up the company’s future. They’ve got voting rights while preferred stockholders typically sit silent on that front. If active participation excites you, owning common stocks may align with your vision.

In case of a company’s bankruptcy, preferred stockholders again get an edge. They’re ahead in the queue for claim on assets, a provision that offers a blanket of reassurance. However, remember this doesn’t erase the risk completely, the company’s remaining assets may still not suffice to compensate all the losses.

The potential growth aspect favors common stocks. Despite riskier and fluctuating dividends, they’ve a knack for exponential growth, thanks to market capitalization peaks. So, if you’re willing to brave the risks, the reward may outweigh the volatility.

Last but certainly not least, availability. Common stocks are more popular and thus, more readily available than preferred stocks. It’s not surprising considering the growth potential they house.

Deciding between the two types largely falls on what you prioritize more: stability or growth potential. Be it the steady income flow from preferred stocks or the growth and participation perks common stocks offer, aligning your choice with your risk tolerance and investment objectives is what truly matters. The nuanced world of investing is made up of many such choices and understanding these differences contribute to making well-informed decisions.

Advantages of Common Stock

As an investor, you need to understand that the allure of common stocks is mainly hinged on a couple of chief attractions. Let’s break down these points.

Potential for High Returns

The first attention-grabber is the potential for high returns. Common stocks often outshine bonds, real estate, and other forms of investments when it comes to growth. Historically, they’ve shown a trend of superior long-term returns. It’s a case of attaining more growth for your buck!

Voting Power

With common stocks, I usually have the ability to influence corporate decisions because of voting rights. Remember those awesome business strategy changes that catapulted small start-ups to multinational conglomerates? As a holder of common stocks, I can get a direct say in such pivotal decisions. It’s like being in the driver’s seat of a high-speed sports car.


Although not as consistent as preferred stocks, common stock can offer dividends. Dividends from common stocks often increase over time, especially for companies that have a track record of steady dividend growth. The unpredictability also hides a silver lining – there’s a chance for unexpected windfalls when the company’s profits rise steeply.

Easy to Buy and Sell

Finally, common stocks are popular. So popular, in fact, that they’re crowd favorites in major exchanges. What does this mean for me as an investor? It implies I enjoy liquidity. I can buy or sell my stocks with ease, making common stocks an especially flexible investment.

The list of advantages above explains why many investors, like myself, often lean towards common stocks. They offer voting rights, dividends, and a potentially high return on investment. Despite the risks inherent in any investment, the potential benefits could make it a worthwhile consideration.

Advantages of Preferred Stock

After getting the hang of common stocks, let’s move on to understanding the benefits of preferred stocks.

First off, we have higher dividends. If a company decides to distribute profits, holders of preferred stocks are typically at the front of the line. Greater dividends mean a larger portion of the company’s earnings will find their way into my pocket.

Preferred stocks often come with a fixed dividend rate. Fixed dividends provide an element of predictability, which can be a big advantage for investors who like to plan their cash flow ahead of time.

Here’s how it works:

Type of Stock Cash Flow
Common Stock Variable
Preferred Stock Fixed

Next up is priority during liquidation. Although it’s not a scenario anyone wants to think about, sometimes companies go out of business. If a company does have to liquidate, preferred shareholders get their share before common stockholders. This is a safeguard to ensure my investment isn’t completely lost.

Another key advantage of preferred stock is convertibility. Many preferred stocks come with an option to convert them into a certain number of common stock shares. This means if the company does well, I can convert my preferred stocks into common ones and share in the success.

The last point is callable shares. Some preferred stocks are ‘callable’. This means the company has the right to buy back these shares at a predetermined price. Receivers of such stocks hold a dual edge: they get the dividends and also the opportunity to sell the shares back at favorable rates if the company decides to buy them back.

Clearly, preferred stock offers a suite of unique advantages, providing diverse strategies for adding value to my investment portfolio. Whether it’s the higher dividends, priority during liquidation, convertibility or callable shares, each factor has its own particular allure, offering multiple ways to protect and grow my capital. The choice between common and preferred stock will ultimately depend on my individual investment objectives and risk tolerance.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Common Stock and Preferred Stock

When it comes to investing, I always advocate for thoroughly understanding the investment vehicles at one’s disposal. Choosing between common stock and preferred stock, regardless of your financial objective, requires a comprehensive understanding of specific elements. Here are a few factors you should be taking into account:

Your Investment Goals

One primary factor to consider is your financial goals. Are you pursuing long-term appreciation or are you more attracted to consistent income?

Common stocks can add significant value to your portfolio in the long run due to their opportunity for capital appreciation. This is particularly useful if you’re aiming for a larger return on your investment over the long term.

On the other hand, preferred stocks typically offer higher and more consistent dividends than common stocks, making them an appealing option for investors seeking regular income.

Risk Tolerance

Risk tolerance defines your ability and willingness to withstand declines in the investments.

Common stocks, generally, come with higher risk given their position during a company’s liquidation. In contrast, preferred stockholders have a higher claim on the assets and earnings. This makes preferred stocks a safer bet in a volatile market.

Market Conditions

The state of the market plays a massive role in the type of stocks that will perform well. If a bullish trend is on the horizon and companies are expected to grow, common stocks may see larger gains.

On the flip side, in a bearish market or periods of uncertainty, investors may find solace in the stability and fixed dividends that come with preferred stocks.

Every investment decision is a balance of risk and return, and stocks aren’t an exception. Taking the time to understand these factors helps in making an informed choice of which stock — common or preferred — aligns with your financial goals, risk appetite, and view of the market trend.


So we’ve delved into the world of common stocks and preferred stocks, highlighting their key differences. It’s clear that your personal financial objectives and risk tolerance play a huge role in this decision. If you’re looking for potential long-term growth, common stocks might be your best bet. However, if you want a more stable income stream, preferred stocks seem like a safer choice. Remember, it’s not about which is better overall – it’s about what’s better for you. Keep an eye on the market, stay informed, and make the choice that best aligns with your financial goals. Here’s to making informed investment decisions!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of common stocks?

Common stocks offer long-term appreciation potential. This means that while they may be subject to market volatility, they generally have the potential to increase in value over time, offering substantial profit for patient investors.

Are preferred stocks safer?

Yes, preferred stocks are generally considered safer in volatile market conditions. They provide higher and more consistent dividends and get priority over common stocks in the event a company is liquidated.

How should I choose between common and preferred stocks?

Choosing between common and preferred stocks involves examining factors such as your investment goals, your risk tolerance, and market conditions. Understanding the specifics of each type of stock and aligning them with your financial goals and risk appetite can help make an informed decision.

Are preferred stocks better for a consistent income?

Yes, if you are looking for a consistent income, preferred stocks may be a better choice. They offer higher and more regular dividends compared to common stocks. However, their appreciation potential may be lower.

Do market trends affect my stock choice?

Absolutely. Market trends can significantly affect the performance of both common and preferred stocks. It’s crucial to stay informed about market conditions and adjust your investment strategy accordingly.

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