Difference Between Common And Preferred Stock: The Ultimate Guide For Investors

There are significant distinctions between common and preferred stock. This manual explains everything.

The stock market provides chances for diversification across different asset classes. When purchasing company stocks, you do not consider their price tags. Investors utilize these stocks to develop a stock market plan that meets their short- and long-term financial objectives.

Common stocks and Preferred stocks are two of the most popularly held stock types. Businesses seeking to obtain capital through the sale of stock may issue either common stock or preferred stock. Common stocks and preferred stocks have distinct characteristics that make them acceptable for investors with varying needs.

What Are Common Stocks?

Common stocks are one of the most common types of stocks accessible on the market. Most stock ownership consists of common stocks, and far more common stocks are available for trading than preferred ones. Certain corporations issue solely common stock to shareholders.

Since the ownership of common stock is partial, common investors often have the power to vote for board members and have input on significant business decisions. Additionally, common investors are entitled to a portion of a company’s earnings, which are distributed as dividends. Most corporations pay quarterly dividends to their stockholders.

The ability to increase indefinitely is common stocks’ principal advantage over preferred ones. As a firm expands, the value of its common stock might increase significantly.

Advantages of Common Stock

Other investment instruments, including bonds and deposit certificates, have a minimum and maximum investment of return. These restrictions do not apply to common stocks. Thus the profit potential is significant if the firm you invest in is successful.

Common stocks are available for purchase and sale whenever the stock market is open. It takes only a few clicks to reduce and expand your investments.

Two methods of advantage: Common stocks provide investors with access to two distinct forms of income: capital gains and dividends. You will make capital gains if the value of your stock rises, and your stocks provide you the possibility to receive dividend payments if the company’s profits approach a surplus.

Disadvantages of Common Stock

As previously stated, there is no maximum or minimum return on your investment, meaning you might lose all of your money if you invest in common stocks. Although you may often sell your common stocks before incurring a total loss, they may not always be as profitable as you had thought.

The value of a company’s stock might plummet within days. If you do not monitor your investments closely, they may drag your portfolio into the red.

Low priority: common investors get dividends, and corporate liquidation payments last. Common stockholders receive whatever is left after employees, creditors, suppliers, and preferred stockholders, which may not be very much.

What Are Preferred Stocks?

Preferred stocks, also known as preference shares, have certain characteristics with common shares but have more characteristics in common with bonds and other financial instruments. According to the provisions, the bond issuer who borrows capital from bondholders makes set payments at a fixed interest rate for a certain time. The preferred shares likewise get a fixed income, not in the form of fixed-rate interest but as a predetermined, regular dividend.

The preferred stocks reflect an ownership stake similar to common shares, which bondholders do not own. Typically, preferred stock dividends are substantially greater than common stock dividends. The dividend on preferred stock is set and virtually assured, but dividends on the common stock might alter or even be omitted. The board of directors decides and declares dividends on common shares at its discretion, but dividends on preferred stock are fixed in advance and described in the prospectus. Like bonds, preferred stock has a fixed redemption price, or par value, that a corporation will ultimately pay to redeem at maturity.

Term sheets for preferred share issuances often include different protective clauses, such as liquidation preference, designed to safeguard investors if a firm leaves at a lesser value than anticipated at the time of fundraising. The purpose of liquidation preference is to guarantee that investors awarded preferred shares during a fundraising round receive their money before common shareholders, such as the company’s founders, workers, and consultants. A liquidation advantage is applicable when a firm leaves through a merger or acquisition or sells off its assets through bankruptcy. All preferred shareholders are normally instantly converted to common shareholders upon an IPO exit.

The two primary drawbacks of preferred stock are its lack of voting rights and its restricted possibility for capital appreciation through market price appreciation.

Types of Preferred Stocks

Cumulative preference Stocks: The issuing corporation can pay dividends to cumulative preference stockholders in arrears. This implies that if the corporation is unable to pay dividends in the current year, it might pay cumulative dividends the next year. Before paying dividends to preference shareholders, dividends cannot be paid to common shareholders.

Non-cumulative preference stocks: Shareholders of these stocks can only receive dividends based on a single year’s earnings, which is, therefore, not cumulative. These stocks do not provide unpaid dividends to their owners, and consequently, these shareholders cannot demand unpaid dividends in the future.

Redeemable preference shares are shares the corporation can repurchase from its owners for its benefit. This can be done on a predetermined day or with advance notification.

Irredeemable Preference Stocks: Irredeemable preference shares are shares that the corporation may only redeem at the time of liquidation or when operations are terminated.

Participating Preference Stocks: In the case of participating preference shares, the issuing corporation pays a predetermined rate of enhanced dividends in addition to the preference share payout. At the moment of liquidation, these shareholders have rights to the company’s excess assets.

Non Participating Preference Stocks: Non-participating preference shares are those in which stockholders are only entitled to receive dividends at a predetermined rate. They have no entitlement to the extra profit, and this profit is shared with common stockholders.

Convertible Preference stocks: In convertible preference shares, shareholders may convert their preference shares into equity shares.

Non-convertible preference shares: In the case of non-convertible preference shares, stockholders lack such rights.

Preference stocks with a callable option: Preference stocks with a callable option are those equities where the corporation can purchase back the stocks or has the right to call in the stocks at a set price and date. The call premium, call price, and the date after which the stocks will be eligible to be called are indicated in the prospectus.

Adjustable-Rate Preference Stocks: In adjustable rate preference stocks, the dividend rate is impacted by the interest rates prevalent in the market, which means that the dividend rate is not set.

Why Do Firms Issue Preferred Stocks?

Companies rely on a variety of methods to finance forthcoming initiatives and expand. Stocks and bonds are two types of corporate funding instruments, and the primary reason why investors issue preferred stock is investor demand.

Investors are drawn to preferred stock because it may provide stable dividend payments and has lower maturity rates than bonds. Additionally, preferred shareholders like having their interests placed ahead of those of common shareholders. Additionally, investors favor preferred shares due to their greater stability.

Corporations appreciate preferred shares for two primary reasons: preferred stocks are a useful method to finance initiatives without worrying about shareholder control or debt commitments arising from bond arrangements.

Since preferred shareholders often do not have voting rights, issuing preferred stocks is an effective way for firms to obtain capital without worrying about shareholders disrupting corporate structure and organization. If a company wants to limit shareholder power while still offering equity alternatives, it might issue preferred stock.

Additionally, preferred stocks can reduce a company’s debt-to-equity ratio. Due to the fact that preferred stocks denote a portion of ownership, any missing payments are an equity issue and not a debt one.

Bonds have highly stringent payment schedules that must be adhered to regardless of a company’s performance, which can be a warning indicator for investors. If a company misses dividend payments, it might defer payment until a later date if it has preferred stocks.

Here is another interesting fact: Infrastructure businesses in Maryland issued the first preferred stocks in the United States in 1836. Despite their terrible financial condition and management, these firms offered preferred stocks as an alternate means to obtain capital.

Difference Between Common And Preferred Stock

There are several differences between common stock and preferred stock. The first difference is that only holders of common stock are granted shareholder voting rights. These voting rights provide shareholders the ability to vote for corporate directors, issue additional shares, and approve a takeover offer, among other things. In summary, preferred shareholders have no influence over the company’s destiny, but common shareholders have some influence.

The second difference is that preferred stock typically provides stockholders with a set return, whereas common stockholders may or may not receive dividends. The structure of preferred stock is similar to that of a bond, with a fixed percentage distribution from the par value of each share, except the corporation is not required to repurchase the shares. Instead, the dividend will be paid forever. In contrast, holders of common stock only get a dividend if the board of directors permits one, which it may not do if the company’s cash flows do not justify such an investment.

The third difference is that the holder of preferred stock has a greater priority for business money than common shareholders. For example, if the corporation has not yet paid preferred dividends, the preferred shareholders have the right to be paid before the common shareholders may get their dividends. Additionally, preferred shareholders get compensated before common shareholders in the case of business collapse.

Some types of preferred stock contain a call provision that provides the issuer the right to redeem them from owners after a minimum period of time has elapsed, typically at a significant premium to the initial price. Such a call feature is absent from common stock.

The sixth distinction is that the returns created by common shares typically outperform those generated by preferred shares, depending on the characteristics of the preferred shares. This is because, if the issuer is successful, the benefits flow to the common shareholders, whilst preferred shareholders receive only set dividends. When the issuer is performing poorly, however, the price of its common stock will significantly underperform the market.

Which Should You Select?

Different groups of individuals might receive distinct replies. If you enjoy taking risks and seeing your money double, treble, or quadruple, you may want to invest in common stocks. Common stocks have substantial growth potential but do not pay a fixed dividend. But you will develop alongside the firm.

If, on the other hand, you don’t want to take on too much risk but still want a respectable dividend yield, you could invest in preferred stocks. The objective is to gauge your tolerance and patience on your investment path. If you’re willing to face higher risks, you should invest in common stocks. However, if you are risk-averse, you should purchase preferred stocks from brokers.

Thus, there is no correct or incorrect response. You are the most qualified to choose what you should buy and why.

It is crucial to comprehend the difference between common and preferred stock to determine which types of stock to purchase. If investors need a steady income, they should purchase preferred stocks. Since preferred investors get dividends on a priority basis, they may rest assured that they will receive consistent dividend payments. However, by doing so, they forfeit the opportunity to make limitless earnings from common stocks.

If you are seeking potentially big profits, you should invest in common stocks. It is crucial to realize that investing in common shares has a significant level of risk since you might lose your whole investment. Therefore, you should invest in common stocks according to your risk tolerance.


While the common stock is typically sought after by company founders and short-term, high-yield market investors, preferred stock is preferred by investors who invest in institutional financing rounds such as seed and series because it provides them with future advantages. The majority of angel investors, VC firms, and other institutional investors will often want preferred stock. The majority of entrepreneurs retain common stock for themselves, their staff, and their strategic advisers. In the early stages, convertible notes (loans) that are convertible into preferred stock in a subsequent round can be employed by entrepreneurs.

The preferred stock is more enticing to institutional startup investors because it offers enhanced income with reduced risk and a superior exit strategy. It provides them with long-term wealth development and ownership of their enterprises until their departure via IPO or conversion to common stock. The greater upside potential of listed common stock makes it the superior alternative for ordinary investors seeking long-term capital appreciation.


How do you buy preferred stock?

Purchasing a preferred stock is the same as purchasing common stock. You’ll need a brokerage account to access the market. The brokerage can then be searched for preferred stocks. These preferred securities may be offered separately from common stocks, so you may need to use a different screener or navigate to a different portion of the brokerage’s website. Check the brokerage’s offers before opening an account because not all firms provide access to the same securities.

Where do you find preferred stock on a company’s financial statements?

Preferred stock is included alongside other kinds of shareholder equity on a company’s balance sheet, and common stock and preferred stock are normally segregated on the balance sheet. However, they will show side-by-side under liabilities and shareholder equity sections.

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