Stock Market Mystery: Common vs. Preferred – What’s the Difference?

Investing, particularly in stocks, can be confusing because of the many options available. One big decision is choosing between common and preferred stock. But stress not – we will explain it simply for you here.

Questioning what is more important, steady income or voting rights? This article uncovers the main distinctions between common and preferred stock to assist you in selecting the ideal match for your financial objectives.

Ready to ditch the confusion and make informed investment decisions? Let’s dive in!

Exploring Preferred Stocks

Preferred stocks, as the name suggests, are a type of stock with more benefits to company’s assets and profits compared to common stocks. Normally, people owning preferred shares receive dividends earlier than those holding common shares. If a company goes bankrupt, people with preferred stocks get money back first before those who have common stock. This only happens after all the debts and other responsibilities of the company are paid using any leftover funds or assets. The key role in asset distribution provides more opportunity for preferred shareholders to recover their money compared to common stockholders when a company faces financial issues. Investors who prefer receiving regular dividend payments find preferred stocks appealing for this reason.

Typically, common stocks bring the voting right. It means people holding these shares can participate in making key company decisions. They can vote on important matters like selecting corporate board members or approving big mergers and acquisitions. But, preferred stocks usually do not come with voting rights. This difference is important because it means people who have preferred stock may not affect how the company is managed or make big decisions by voting in shareholder meetings.

Preferred stocks can offer set dividends, similar to how bonds work. The usual dividend is often displayed as a percentage of the initial price at which they were first issued. Compared to usual stocks, common stocks do not give any sure dividend payment. If a company gives dividends, the amount is uncertain and can change depending on how good the company performs and what its board members decide. This regular income from preferred stocks is very appealing to cautious investors who prefer consistent earnings over the chance of stock price going up. 

Mechanics of Preferred Stocks

The preferred stocks come with a fixed dividend feature, meaning they give steady income like bonds do. This is useful for people who need reliable money from their investments, such as retired individuals. The guarantee of returns, combined with special handling of dividends and priority over common stock during bankruptcy asset liquidation, provides extra security for investors.

But, we should remember that preferred stocks often do not come with voting rights. This means investors who own preferred shares cannot take part in making business decisions. They are not able to vote when there is an election for board members or other big company decisions. This lack of power can be seen as a bad thing for people who want to take part more in the companies they put money into.

Also, the stability of preferred stocks has two aspects. They offer more security when the economy is weak but don’t have much opportunity for price increases like common stocks. This may cause investors to not get as much benefit from the company’s growth and success compared to if they had common stocks.

In general, the way preferred stocks work makes them suitable for investors who care more about income than growing their money and like investments with less risk. The fixed dividends and priority in getting paid offer some downside protection against the ups and downs of the stock market. This makes preferred stocks an important addition to a mixed investment portfolio for careful investors.

Diverse Types of Preferred Stocks

Preferred stocks have various features, which attract different types of investors. Understanding these differences is crucial when making an investment plan that includes preferred stocks.

Convertible preferred stocks are a kind of investment letting people switch their preferred shares into a fixed amount of common shares, usually after some specific date. The key advantage is that it can go up in value like normal preferred stock but also has the chance for bigger profits because investors might benefit if the price per share goes higher too. However, they generally have lower dividend yields because of the possible conversion advantage.

Cumulative preferred stocks remember the unpaid dividends. If a company skips dividend payments for two years, it must still pay those missed dividends to cumulative preferred stockholders before paying any common stockholders. This feature offers some protection in moments when the company cannot pay dividends for a brief period.

On the other hand, non-cumulative preferred stocks do not remember unpaid dividends. If a company chooses to skip dividend payment, investors just lose that specific payment and are not paid back for it later on. This type of stock is selected by investors who believe in the company’s skill to generate profit and keep stable cash flow. Such stocks offer better returns due to the greater risk they carry.

Perpetual preferred stocks do not come with a maturity date, meaning they provide continuous dividend payments. This type of investment can be appealing to individuals who desire regular income during stable financial periods. But, not having a maturity date might not be good if interest rates go up; it could make the value of shares go down.

Preferred stocks give different features which suit many investor goals and levels of risk they can take. It is very important for investors to pick the right kind that matches their money plans and how they see the market. 

Investment Strategies for Preferred Stocks

Stability can be found by including preferred stocks in the investment set, as they provide consistent dividends that also give some safety during market instability.

Here are some thoughts and suggestions for investors wanting to use preferred stocks:

  • First, consider your investment goals and risk tolerance. Preferred stocks are beneficial for individuals seeking regular income but with a lower risk appetite than common stocks. They are particularly useful in portfolios that aim for consistent returns, as they offer dependable dividends.
  • Secondly, you should gain knowledge about the dividend yield. Observe how preferred stocks’ dividend yields match up with other income-generating items such as bonds or common stocks. Normally, they provide larger returns; however it is crucial to examine the company’s financial condition for ensuring that it can continually distribute dividends.
  • Consider the call provisions. Quite a few preferred stocks have what’s known as a call option feature, enabling the business which gave them out to repurchase that particular stock by paying an established price post a certain date. This characteristic may cut down on likelihood for capital appreciation thus it is crucial to understand conditions before investing into it.
  • Spread your investments in several preferred stocks. Just like other types of investments, distributing your money across various preferred stocks can minimize the risk. Consider diversifying investments into different sectors and kinds of preferred stocks such as cumulative, non-cumulative or convertible ones. This way you can reduce risk and take advantage of various market situations.
  • Assess credit risk. Preferred stocks are linked to the financial condition of the issuer, so it’s crucial to examine their credit risk and how steady and dependable the company is from a financial perspective. Confirming their credit rating can give a strong indication of their capacity to fulfill commitments. Highly rated companies usually provide lesser yields, but they have a higher likelihood of meeting their dividend commitments.
  • Watch the current interest rate situation. The prices of preferred stock can be affected by changes in interest rates. If the interest rates rise, the value of preferred stocks may drop too. When investors place money in preferred stocks, they must keep a close eye on the economy and interest rates.

Through applying these methods, investors can effectively use preferred stocks for the purpose of increasing the income generation and stability in their investment portfolios. This aligns with their larger financial objectives and tolerance towards risk. 

Introduction to Common Stocks

Common stocks signify ownership in a company and allow shareholders to claim a share of the company’s assets and profits. They make up the main part of the equity market, offering multiple benefits over other financial assets such as preferred stocks or bonds.

Another important characteristic present in common stock is voting rights. Normally, every share gives one vote to the holder when it comes to crucial company issues like selecting board members or taking significant business actions. This democratic nature enables shareholders to impact the course of the company.

Common stocks also have the possibility of generating capital gains. Their prices can increase without any limit, showing the company’s performance and how investors feel about it. The chance for big returns is what makes common stocks attractive to people who want growth in their investments. Different from fixed-income securities that provide predetermined returns, common stocks can have various returns and offer the chance for substantial rewards.

On the other hand, this possibility for greater returns carries a heightened risk. The price action of common stock usually shows more instability compared to preferred stocks or bonds, and they change rapidly with market conditions. If there is a liquidation, common stockholders get paid last after creditors, bondholders, and preferred shareholders, which adds to the danger involved.

Even with such dangers, common stocks are very important for a lot of investment collections especially those that belong to long-term investors. They give chances for growth via capital gains and possibly dividends which companies might distribute from their earnings. But, there is no surety about receiving dividends and these can also get decreased or removed completely depending on how the company performs financially. 

How Common Stocks Operate

Common stocks are very important in the stock market. They can bring possible gains if prices go up, but they also come with bigger risks. The value of common stocks depends on how well the company is doing financially and on general market conditions like economic signs, performance within the industry, and changes in rules or regulations.

One big advantage of common stocks is they can go up in price. When companies grow and make more money, their stock prices usually rise too, so investors can earn capital gains from this increase. This growth potential is very big, giving large rewards if the company does well. But, stock prices are also very sensitive to outside things and bigger economic changes.

This sensitivity makes common stocks more changeable and riskier than preferred stocks, which normally give fixed dividends and are more stable. Common stock prices can go up and down a lot because of company news, market trends, or changes in the economy. This makes them a riskier investment, especially for short-term periods or when markets are not steady.

Also, if the company goes bankrupt or needs to sell everything, people with common stock get paid last. The first ones who get money are bondholders, then creditors, and after them preferred shareholders. This payment order means more risk for common stockholders because they might not get any money back if the company has big financial problems.

Even with these risks, putting money in common stocks can bring big profits, especially for those who are good at studying the market and handling sudden changes. Many people who invest try to lower these dangers by spreading their investments across different kinds of stocks and other assets. This way, they reduce possible losses while trying to get returns from many places. The way common stocks change is very important for making plans in investing. They give chances to grow that are harder to get with investments that do not change much.

Investing in Common Stocks

Investing in common stocks requires a careful approach that mixes detailed research, smart planning, and good risk management. To deal well with the complex parts of the stock market, investors should use both fundamental and technical analysis. Along with these techniques, it’s important to follow known strategies for managing risks effectively.

  • Fundamental analysis looks at how healthy and strong a company is in terms of its finances and place in the market, as well as how much it can grow. Investors study financial papers such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow reports to check on profits made by the business along with debts owed or operational effectiveness. It is very important to know about where they earn their money from, their position within the industry sectors as well who are competing against them. This detailed analysis identifies stocks with strong fundamentals that typically offer stable long-term returns.
  • Technical analysis uses statistical movements from trading activities, such as price changes and trade volume, to predict future price directions. By reviewing historical volatility and stock chart patterns, investors use tools like moving averages, RSI, and MACD to guide trading decisions
    • Moving Averages: Understands stock price trends over time by averaging short-term changes.
    • RSI: Monitors if a stock is overbought or oversold, indicating potential price changes.
    • MACD: Analyzes the relationship between two moving averages to identify good buying or selling times.
  • Diversification: A good way to handle risk is diversification. If you invest money in different areas and industries, it can reduce the chance of large losses if one area has issues. This plan is making sure that if some investments do bad, they can be balanced by other investments doing good.
  • Using Stop-Loss Orders: A useful way to control possible losses is by using stop-loss orders. This lets investors choose a selling price that is usually below the original buying price of the stock. It helps them to cut down how much money they might lose if the market does not go as they expect.
  • Stay Updated: Always being aware of market news, looking at economic signs, and following industry trends is very important. Knowing about things that can impact stock prices—such as government policy changes, shifts in the economy, or new technology developments—is helpful for investors to adjust their plans according to what’s happening in the market.

By using these methods and plans, investors can better their ability to pick good common stocks and manage risks nicely. This aids them in targeting a balanced and successful investment mix of assets.

Comparative Analysis: Preferred vs. Common Stocks

Investors must comprehend the differences between preferred and common stocks in order to make knowledgeable choices and manage risks efficiently.

Preferred Stocks:

  1. Dividends: Preferred stockholders receive fixed dividends before any dividends are paid to common stockholders.
  2. Priority in Assets: In situations of bankruptcy, preferred shareholders have higher priority than common shareholders for claiming assets. However, they are still lower in line compared to debt holders.
  3. Voting Rights: Preferred shares typically do not come with voting rights in company decisions.

Common Stocks:

  1. Dividends: Dividends for common stockholders are not fixed and rely on the company’s profitability, paid out after preferred dividends.
  2. Less Priority in Assets: The common shareholders have the last claim on any remaining assets, after debts and preferred shareholders, if a situation of bankruptcy occurs.
  3. Rights to Vote: Voting rights are usually given with common shares. This lets shareholders cast their votes on important corporate issues, such as electing the board and making mergers.

Investor Considerations:

  1. Financial Rights: With preferred stocks, you have assurance of getting dividends before any go to holders of common stocks. This makes it more appealing for people who want a stable income. On the other hand, common stocks attract people who are searching for chances to grow and increase their money.
  2. Investor Protection: They have a safety net during liquidation, as they receive payment first. Investor Protection: They are prioritized for payments when liquidation happens.
  3. Market Behavior: Common stocks have more chance for big price jumps, but they also change in value a lot. Preferred stocks are like bonds; they give steady income and their prices do not change so much.

The decision to select preferred or common stocks is influenced by an investor’s ability to handle risk, length of investment time frame and financial objectives. Preferred stocks offer stability and constant income, while common stocks present chances for growth along with voting rights in company decisions. Investors need to match these characteristics with their overall investing plans for making suitable selections. 

Advantages and Disadvantages

Deciding between preferred and common stocks means comparing the benefits and downsides of each kind. Every type is suitable for various investor preferences, depending on their financial objectives, capacity to bear risks, and how long they plan to invest.

Advantages of Preferred Stocks:

  • Fixed Dividends: Preferred stocks give regular income as fixed dividends, often at a higher rate than common stocks.
  • Priority in Assets: When a company has to sell everything and pay debts, preferred shareholders get money before common shareholders. This makes them feel more secure with their finances.

Disadvantages of Preferred Stocks:

  • Slow Growth Prospects: For preferred stock, the dividends are set and do not change. So, if company profits go up a lot, people who own preferred stock will not get more money from this extra profit.
  • No Voting Power: Preferred shareholders normally do not have voting rights, so they cannot participate much in the company decisions.

Advantages of Common Stocks:

  • High Return Potential: Common stocks can rise greatly in value if the company does good, giving big returns.
  • Voting Rights: Most often, common shareholders have the power to vote. This means they can affect crucial choices of the company like merging with other businesses or electing board members.

Disadvantages of Common Stocks:

  • High Volatility: Common stocks are affected by shifts in the market and economy, making their prices rise or fall. This lack of stability adds more risk to them.
  • Less Priority in Assets: If the company bankrupts, common shareholders are last to receive any remaining assets after bondholders, creditors, and preferred shareholders take their part.

Knowing these advantages and disadvantages can assist investors in matching their selections to investment strategies. Preferred stocks are suitable for those who want regular income with less risk, while common stocks attract people looking for growth possibilities and are ready to handle greater risks. Additionally, trade signals can help investors make timely buy and sell decisions, aligning with their risk tolerance and investment goals. 


Knowing the main differences between preferred stocks and common stocks is very important for any investor who wants to adjust their investment choices based on financial goals and how much risk they are okay with. Preferred stocks give more stability and regular dividends, but they have less chance of growing in value and usually do not allow shareholders to vote on company matters. On the other hand, common stocks can offer big capital gains and voting rights, but they come with more risk and price changes.

Investors should think about their long-term investment strategies and the present economic situation when deciding between preferred stocks and common stocks. People who want a steady income and less risk from market changes may like preferred stocks more. On the other hand, investors who are ready to take bigger risks for larger gains might like common stocks better.

In the end, a portfolio that is balanced well usually has different kinds of stocks to get good things from each one. By looking at what is good and bad about them closely, investors can plan smartly to use the chances each kind of stock gives. This way they can handle risks while trying to grow their money.

Resolving the Preferred Stock vs. Common Stock: FAQs

What are the Main Financial Benefits of Preferred Stocks over Common Stocks?

Preferred stocks are stable and good for getting dividends. People who have preferred shares get set payments before those with common shares, making this kind of stock interesting especially during a recession. When a company closes, it gives out its assets first to people with preferred shares and then to those who have common shares. 

Can You Convert Preferred Stocks into Common Stocks?

Indeed, for some kinds of preferred stocks, it is possible to change them into common shares. Many times, this can be done at the wish of the shareholder. Such stocks carry a blend of regular dividend payment along with a chance to make profits if the company’s stock price sees substantial rise.

What are the Main Risks of Investing in Common Stocks Compared to Preferred Stocks?

Those who have preferred stock receive dividends before common stockholders. Common stocks are sensitive to market and company situations, so the price of these may change a lot which can cause risks such as margin calls. People who own common shares usually possess voting powers unlike those with preferred ones. In bankruptcy, assets are given to preferred shareholders first before common stockholders. Common stocks give more potential for growth, while preferred stocks give a steadier return.

How Does the Voting Power Differ between Preferred and Common Stockholders?

In general, those with preferred stocks don’t have voting power. But those who own common stocks can vote on important issues for the company like selecting board members or giving approval to big decisions.

Which Type of Stock Is Better for Risk-Averse Investors and Why?

More suitable for those who are not eager to take risks, preferred stocks give consistent returns and have a fixed dividend payment. They also provide better security in terms of receiving assets if the company faces bankruptcy. The cost of these stocks usually does not change much compared to common ones – this means they offer stability which is good for people looking for steady investments.