Common Stock vs Preferred Stock

Differences Between Common and Preferred Stock

The key difference between Common and Preferred Stock is that Common stock represents the share in the ownership position of the company which gives right to receive the profit share that is termed as dividend and right to vote and participate in the general meetings of the company, whereas, Preferred stock is the share which enjoys priority in receiving dividends as compared to common stock and also preferred stockholders generally do not enjoy voting rights but their claims are discharged before the claims of common stockholders at the time of liquidation.

When a business needs more money to invest in their growing business, they can opt for issuing shares. Issuing shares can be of two types.

When we talk about stocks, it actually means common stock. Through it, shareholders can earn dividends and can also sell out their stocks when the selling price goes above and beyond their purchase price. Common shareholders are also given voting rights in corporate challenges or decision-making processes.

As the name suggests, preference shareholders are given preference over common shareholders. Though preference shareholders are not given any voting rights, they have opted first for the dividend pay-out before common shareholders.


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What are Common Stocks?

Common stocks are ordinary stocks issued to the public to generate a stream of funding to expand the business.

A private held company needs to become public to be able to issue common stocks. That’s why they need to conduct initial public offering (IPO) to go public and become registered in a valid stock exchangeStock ExchangeStock exchange refers to a market that facilitates the buying and selling of listed securities such as public company stocks, exchange-traded funds, debt instruments, options, etc., as per the standard regulations and guidelines—for instance, NYSE and more.

Let’s go deep into common stock.

Initial Public Offering (IPO)

We will take an example to illustrate the IPO Process.

The IPO process is way-out to sell the first share of the company to the public.

  • Steve has a business in his downtown. He sells old classic books. His clientele is enormous, and he serves a lot of people in this area.
  • His friends advise Steve that he should go big. He should open stores of his old classic books so that he can reach out to a greater audience.
  • The idea seems great for Steve. But he doesn’t have enough cash to open stores in different cities. So he goes to an investment bank and asks for help.
  • The investment bank suggests to Steve that he should go for an IPO. Steve says that’s a great idea. So he asks the bank for help.
  • The investment bank comes to Steve’s bookstore and does a valuation of his business. They find that the value of the bookstore is more than $500,000. So they advise Steve to go for 50,000 shares with $10 each share.
  • Steve decides that he would keep 50% of his shares and would sell out the remaining 50%. He sells out 25,000 shares at the rate of $10 each and accumulates around $250,000.
  • He has now decided to use this money to open new stores in 3 new cities.

It is how the IPO process works. And it’s best for those companies which don’t want to go for long term loans.

Rights of Common Stockholders

Common stocks are equated with the owner’s funds. If you’re one of the ordinary shareholders of the company, you are the owner of the company.

And the whole theory of business revolves around common stockholders. The entire business works to maximize the wealthMaximize The WealthWealth maximization means the maximization of the shareholder’s wealth as a result of an increase in share price thereby increasing the market capitalization of the company. The share price increase is a direct function of how competitive the company is, its positioning, growth strategy, and how it generates more of the shareholders. So, common stockholders have a vital role to play in helping a company perpetuate.

Here are the rights of the common stockholders –

  • Voting rights: They can offer their essential votes on issues the business has been facing or struggling with. It is a crucial right because preferred shareholders are not given the right to vote even after receiving the dividend before common stockholders.
  • Right to receive dividends: Have the right to receive dividends if the company makes profits. When a company just gets started, usually, they don’t pay off the dividend to the shareholders. The entire money gets reinvested into the business. It is done after taking permission from the board of directors. Later, when the core of the company gets strengthened, then they pay off a certain percentage to the common stockholders as dividends. But that’s done after repaying any loans the company has and after paying off the dividend to preferred stockholders.
  • Right to sell off the stocks for profits: The common stockholders who are also called equity shareholders can sell off their stocks to someone else at a higher price. Since there’s no way common stocks can be redeemed, equity shareholders can sell their stocks to someone interested to own the stocks of that particular company at a higher price. This right allows them to make huge profits and become wealthy pretty quickly.
  • Right to receive the remaining cash after liquidation: If a business decides to liquidate, equity shareholders have the right to receive cash depending on their ownership of shares. But the only issue is, after liquidation, first, all the liabilities have to be paid off. Then the preferred shareholders are paid. And then if any amount remains untouched, that amount is distributed to the common stockholders based on the proportion of ownership.

As you can see, owning a common stock has a lot of benefits. But you need to know which common stock to go for.

The best approach is to go for a portfolio of common stocks to mitigate the risks and to earn a decent income from common stocks.

Shareholders’ Equity Statement

To record the common stock and also preferred stock (if any), a financial statement is maintained by the company.

This shareholders’ equity statement is one of the four most important financial statements every investor should look at.

Let’s have a look at the format of the shareholders’ equity statement.

Shareholders’ Equity
Paid-in Capital: 
Common Stock***
Preferred Stock***
Additional Paid-up CapitalAdditional Paid-up CapitalAdditional paid-in capital or capital surplus is the company's excess amount received over and above the par value of shares from the investors during an IPO. It is the profit a company gets when it issues the stock for the first time in the open more: 
Common Stock**
Preferred Stock**
Retained Earnings***
(-) Treasury Shares(**)
(-) Translation Reserve(**)

What are Preferred Stocks?

Preferred stocks are the extension of common stocks, but preferred stockholders are given preference in dividend pay-out.

For example, if a company issues preferred shares, the dividend pay-outDividend Pay-outThe dividend payout ratio is the ratio between the total amount of dividends paid (preferred and normal dividend) to the company's net income. Formula = Dividends/Net Incomeread more remains fixed. The rate is usually higher than the dividend pay-out ratio of common stockholders.

However, if the company does well, the dividend pay-out of the common stockholders will increase, and the dividend pay-out of the preferred stockholders won’t since it is fixed.

In simple terms, it is a hybrid version of common stock and a bond. Because –

  • When someone owns preference shares, he is entitled to receive dividends just like common stockholders. But the only difference is preference shareholders will be given preference in offering dividends.
  • If someone owns preference shares, she is also entitled to receive a fixed rate of dividend pay-out. That means if the company incurs a loss, it has to pay a dividend to the preference shareholders. And if the company makes a profit, it has to pay a dividend to the preference shareholders. And this is one of the essential characteristics of a bond.

Rights of Preferred Stockholders

  • Right to own the company: Preferred stockholders also have the right to hold the company by purchasing the preferred stocks through brokers.
  • Right to get preferred treatment for dividend pay-out: The most significant advantage of preferred stockholders is to get the dividend even before the common stockholders. Also, when the company doesn’t make any profit, preferred stockholders are entitled to receive a dividend.
  • Right to get a fixed dividend: When the preference shares are issued, preferred stockholders get a fixed rate of dividend. Currently, it is within the range of 5% to 7%. Individuals who are not very adventurous and are literally risk-averseRisk-averseThe term "risk-averse" refers to a person's unwillingness to take risks. Investors who prefer a low-return investment with known risks to a higher-return investment with unknown risks, for example, are more choose preferred stockholders since they get a fixed 5%-7% pay-out even when the company makes losses. Similarly, it has a disadvantage too. Since the dividend pay-out rate is set, the preferred stockholders don’t get more dividends if the company makes huge profits. In this case, holding common shares seems to be more beneficial.
  • Right to get preferred treatment after liquidation: Even when the business liquidates, the preferred stockholders are given preference in paying out the dividend first. However, they’re not paid first since the company needs to pay off the liabilities first. But they get paid off before common stockholders. It may so happen that common stockholders would receive nothing since the money after liquidation gets exhausted after paying off the liabilities and the dividends of preferred stockholders.
  • Right to receive arrears later: If a company doesn’t pay its preference shareholders in a year due to a particular reason, it has to pay them the arrears the next year. It is a special right, and preferred stockholders only enjoy it. Common stockholders don’t enjoy this right. If they are not paid in a year, the arrears aren’t paid the next year.

Common Stock vs. Preferred Stock Infographics

Let’s see the top differences between common vs. preferred stock.

Common Stock vs Preferred Stock Infographics

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Key Differences

  • The main difference is that common stockholders don’t receive the dividend until the preferred stockholders receive it.
  • Common stockholders don’t receive the dividend as per a pre-determined rate. Preferred stockholders receive the dividend as per a pre-determined rate.
  • Common stockholders grow with the company. That means the growth potential of common stockholders is vast. The growth potential of the preferred stockholders, on the other hand, is fixed.
  • Common stockholders have voting rights, and they can vote on the critical issues of the company. Preference stockholders don’t have any voting rights.
  • After liquidationLiquidationLiquidation is the process of winding up a business or a segment of the business by selling off its assets. The amount realized by this is used to pay off the creditors and all other liabilities of the business in a specific more, the preferred stockholders are paid before the common stockholders.
  • If the common stockholders aren’t paid in a year, the arrears don’t accrue in the next year. In the case of preferred shareholders, the arrears accrue, and the company has to pay the arrears in the next year.
  • If the company makes profits, common stockholders receive dividends. If a company incurs losses, they don’t receive any dividend. But in the case of preferred stockholders, they receive money whether the company makes profits or incurs losses.

Common vs. Preferred Stock Comparative Table

Basis for Comparison Common StockPreferred Stock
Inherent meaningOrdinary sharesOrdinary SharesOrdinary Shares are the shares that are issued by the company for the purpose of raising the funds from the public and the private sources for its working. Such shares carry voting rights and are shown under owner’s equity in the liability side of the balance sheet of the more with voting rights and the right to receive dividends.Preferred shares without voting rights but a condition to receive preferential dividends;
Voting rights Common stockholders have voting rights on various issues of the business.Preferred stockholders don’t have any voting rights.
Dividend distributionCommon stockholders don’t always receive dividends.Preferred stockholders always receive dividends at a fixed rate.
PriorityCommon stockholders are not given priorities since they are considered as owners of the company.Preferred stockholders are paid after the debt-holders but before the common stockholders.
Transferring rightNot given;Given.
Sharing of profits/lossIf there’s no profit, common stockholders receive nothing.Irrespective of making profits/incurring losses, preferred stockholders receive the dividend.
What’s about arrear?Don’t receive arrears in the next year.Receive arrears in the next year.
Possibility of growthVery high.Pretty low.

Choose Between Common and Preferred Stock

The answers would be different for different sets of people. If you’re someone who likes to take a risk and loves to see your money getting doubled, tripled, quadrupled, then maybe you should go for common stocks.

Owning common stocks will enable you with a lot of growth potential, but you won’t enjoy a fixed dividend. But you will grow with the company.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who doesn’t want to take much risk and wants to enjoy a decent dividend pay-out, you should go for preferred stocks.

The idea is to see how tolerant and patient you’re in your investment journey. If you can take more risks, common stocks would be the best bet. But if you’re someone with a risk-averse attitude, you should buy preferred stocks from brokers.

So, there’s no right or wrong answer to this. You’re the best judge of what you should purchase and why.


If your idea is to make more money and you want to see the good and bad of both stocks, a better approach is to mix and mingle the two.

You can buy common stocks of a growing company and buy preferred stocks of a mature company. Doing this will help you get the benefits of both and mitigate one with another.

If you don’t make enough money on common stocks, your dividends on preferred stocks are already ensured. And if you also make money on common stocks, you will quickly become wealthy.

Common Stock vs. Preferred Stock Video

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