Understanding Preferred vs Common Stock: A Comprehensive Guide for Investors

When it comes to investing in stocks, you’ll often hear about two types: preferred and common. But what’s the difference, and which one’s right for you? I’m here to shed some light on this topic.

Preferred and common stocks are the two main forms of equity investors can purchase. Each comes with its own set of rights, benefits, and drawbacks. It’s like choosing between an apple and an orange – they’re both fruit, but they taste different.

Stay tuned as I delve into the nuances of these two types of stocks. I’ll break down the key differences, the pros, and cons, and help you figure out which one might be the best fit for your investment portfolio.

What are Preferred and Common Stocks?

With an understanding of why we’re comparing apples and oranges, let’s dive into what exactly these ‘fruits’ are. In the investment world, ‘fruit’ is a fun way to describe stocks, specifically preferred and common.

Get to Know Common Stocks

When you hear the word ‘stock’, it’s common stocks that typically come to mind first. As an owner of common stock, you’re a part-owner of the company. You’ve got a slice of the apple, so to speak. This means you’ve got a say in the company’s decisions through voting rights. It’s not all power and no reward, though. You’re also eligible for dividends, but remember, these aren’t guaranteed.

Let’s move on to the part most people get nervous about – risk. Yes, there’s some risk involved. If a company goes bankrupt, common stockholders are at the end of the line when it’s time for payouts.

Digging into Preferred Stocks

If common stocks are apples, preferred stocks are oranges. Owning preferred stock also means ownership in a company, but the similarity basically ends there. You don’t have voting rights as a preferred stockholder, but you’re higher up on the ladder if things go sideways.

If that makes you happier, here’s more good news: dividends. Preferred stock dividends are often higher compared to common stocks, and they’re typically paid out before common stock dividends.

Clearly, each option has its unique flavor. Your appetite for risk, your investment goals, and your preference for dividends or voting rights will influence which type of stock is suitable for your portfolio. So, consider these factors carefully before going to the market.

Key Differences between Preferred and Common Stocks

As we’ve explored, preferred and common stocks aren’t quite as similar as apples and apples. They’re more akin to apples and oranges, each with their unique characteristics.

In terms of ownership, both types of stocks signify ownership in a company. Buying a stock, regardless of its type, means you’re buying a piece of the company’s pie. It’s as if you’ve become a small business owner.

However, voting rights is where the divergence begins.

Voting Rights

As a common stockholder, you’re not just an owner but also get to have a say in the company’s direction. You’re granted voting rights in corporate decisions, much like being an active citizen in a democratic country. On the other hand, as a preferred stockholder, think of yourself more as a passive investor. You own a share of the company, but you don’t get to directly influence its course.

Dividends: Are They Guaranteed?

Most people invest in stocks for two reasons, for profit through price appreciation and for the allure of dividends. However, the nature of dividends differs quite noticeably between common and preferred stocks.

When it comes to common stocks, dividends aren’t a guarantee. If the company’s performance is up, you might be in for a surprise bonus. But in lean times, don’t hold your breath for extra payouts.

For preferred stocks, dividends are comparatively more reliable. They’re often higher than what common stockholders receive, and they also come before any common stock dividends. It’s like having VIP access at a concert, where you get premier seating and get to watch the performance up close!

Another crucial point to note is the safety net that comes with preferred stocks.

A Safety Net?

If a company were to face financial challenges and had to liquidate its assets, preferred stockholders stand ahead in line. They get compensated before common stockholders, much like how lifeboats were prioritized for first-class passengers during the Titanic’s sinking.

All in all, choosing between preferred and common stocks is a decision heavily influenced by factors like your risk appetite, investment goals, and whether you value dividends or voting rights more. Each offers a different blend of rights, rewards, and risks. Understanding these key differences can help you make a more informed decision when choosing your investment path.

Pros and Cons of Preferred Stocks

When I think about investing, Preferred Stocks often come to mind as a solid choice. But like anything in life, they’ve got their ups and downs. Let’s delve into the pros and cons so you can decide whether they match your risk profile.

The Upside

A top reason to consider preferred stocks is the dividend benefits. Who doesn’t like steady income, right? Preferred stockholders are ahead of the line when it comes to dividend payout. The dividends for preferred stocks are usually higher than those of common stocks. Since they are paid out first, it’s less likely to miss out if the company has a downturn. It’s like getting to the buffet before the crowd arrives!

The seniority feature of preferred stocks is another significant advantage. If the company goes under, preferred stockholders are ahead in the queue to get compensated. You’re not bulletproof, but you have got an extra layer of armor preserving your investment.

The Downside

However, preferred stocks aren’t ideal. The biggest downside is that they don’t give voting rights. You’ve got a seat at the table, but you don’t get a say in the firm’s decisions. It’s like heading over to a party where you can’t pick the music.

Also, the value of preferred stocks usually doesn’t rise much with the company’s growth. Your dividends are fixed. While common shareholders might be riding the waves of prosperity, you are anchored at the harbor. This stability is a two-edged sword, providing security but limiting your potential winnings.

Lastly, preferred stocks have callability. This means the company can buy back the shares from you at a pre-set price. It often happens when interest rates drop, which makes preferred dividends relatively expensive for the company. It narrows the gap between the risk and return, and you might miss out on potential profits in a bullish market.

As we review, it’s pretty clear that preferred stocks are a mixed bag. Understanding these aspects is key to knowing if preferred stocks match your investment style. But remember, while this info gives you a good start, the best research tool is continued education and consultation with a financial advisor.

Pros and Cons of Common Stocks

As we delve deeper into the universe of investing, common stocks come to be quite familiar. They’re frequently discussed in financial news, and they’re likely a part of your retirement account. But what are the advantages and downsides of these popular securities?

One of the most compelling aspects of common stocks is the potential for capital growth. When you buy these types of shares, you’re essentially investing in the success of a business. If the company thrives, so does your investment. Stocks have historically outperformed other types of investments over the long haul, providing substantial returns.

Moreover, common stocks also provide voting rights. As a shareholder, you have a say in the matters that affect the company. You’re permitted to vote on a range of issues, from electing board members to approving mergers. It’s like being part of a super exclusive club – with potentially significant financial benefits.

But for all their perks, you’ll still need to deal with a few hitches if you’re investing in common stocks. The principal disadvantage is volatility. Stocks can go from boom to bust pretty quickly. Market fluctuations can see the value of your investment drop dramatically, and this unpredictability might not sit well with risk-averse investors.

Additionally, in contrast to other financial instruments, common stocks sit at the bottom of the corporate liquidation hierarchy. This tiered system determines who gets paid first when a company goes belly-up.

As such, if a corporation collapses, common stockholders are left to wait until banks, bondholders, and preferred stockholders get their fair share. In many scenarios, there might not be a lot left over for the common stockholder.

Table 1: Pros and Cons of Common Stocks

Potential for Capital GrowthMarket Volatility
Voting RightsLow Priority in Corporate Liquidation

The world of investing can be complex, and common stocks are just a part of the whole picture.

Before you dive in headfirst, it’s crucial to chat with a financial advisor or do some heavy-duty research to make certain you’re making the best decision for your finances. No matter what, investing is never a guarantee, and it’s always a dance with risk. Be well-informed and know what you’re getting yourself into.

Which Type of Stock is Right for You?

As we navigate the financial landscape, there’s a pertinent query that’s bound to pop up – “Should I choose common or preferred stocks?” It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Your choice hinges on what you’re seeking from your investment.

Risk Tolerance and Capital Growth

If you’re the type who’s not afraid to take on some risk, common stocks might just be your thing. Remember, they provide potential for substantial capital growth. You’re in the game for the long haul, ready to weather the peaks and troughs of market volatility.

In the event of liquidation, you’d be at the bottom of the hierarchy. But, that doesn’t phase you because with common stocks, you’re playing for big wins.

Dividends and Stability

On the other hand, maybe you’re more about stability and dividends. Perhaps, you’re in the market for a solid, predictable source of income. In that case, preferred stocks are likely more your speed. They give higher priority in dividends and also in case of liquidation.

Just bear in mind, preferred shares typically don’t come with the voting rights that common stocks do. You’re not in the driver’s seat when it comes to company decisions, but you’re also not riding the market rollercoaster.

A Mixed Approach

For some investors, it’s not about choosing one over the other. It’s about diversifying their portfolio with a mix of both common and preferred stocks. A balanced approach that mixes the potential for growth with the promise of dividends.

Remember, investing in stocks is a personal decision. Consider your financial goals, your comfort with risk, and what you want out of your investment. Whether you choose common or preferred stocks – or a mix of both – it’s all about what works for you. It’s always recommended you conduct thorough research or consult with a competent financial advisor.


So there you have it. Common and preferred stocks each bring unique benefits and risks to the table. Whether it’s the growth potential and voting rights of common stocks or the stability and dividends of preferred stocks, both have their place in a well-rounded portfolio. It’s all about aligning these options with your financial goals. Remember, diversification can be a key strategy in managing risk and maximizing returns. Yet, don’t forget the value of professional advice. Consulting with a financial advisor can guide you in making informed decisions. Choose wisely and let your investments work for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between common and preferred stocks?

Common stocks offer potential capital growth and voting rights but are more volatile and have lower priority during liquidation than preferred stocks. Preferred stocks provide stability and dividends and have higher priority during dividends and liquidation.

Should I invest in common or preferred stocks?

Both types of stocks offer unique advantages. Your choice between common and preferred stocks should align with your financial goals. For a balanced approach, some investors diversify their portfolio with both types of stocks.

Do preferred stocks offer voting rights?

Unlike common stocks, preferred stocks usually do not confer voting rights. However, they usually offer dividends.

Is there a risk associated with investing in stocks?

Yes. All forms of investments, including stocks, come with a potential risk. Common stocks are subject to market volatility and preferred stocks have the possibility of the company not paying dividends.

How can I decide what stocks to invest in?

The type of stocks you invest in should align with your financial goals and risk tolerance. You can also seek guidance from a financial advisor to help make informed investment decisions.

Similar Posts