The difference between common and preferred stocks


As an investor, understanding the key differences between common stocks and preferred stocks is essential for making informed investment decisions. Common and preferred stocks represent forms of equity ownership in a company. Still, they differ significantly regarding risk, return potential, and priorities regarding claims on company assets and earnings. While common stocks are more well-known to casual investors and offer higher long-term growth opportunities, preferred stocks present an attractive alternative asset class for a balanced, diversified portfolio.

In this article, we will explore the critical distinctions between common and preferred stocks and provide a framework for determining which type of stock may be better suited for different investment objectives and risk tolerances. A grasp of these fundamental differences is central to unlocking the opportunities – and managing the risks – presented by equity markets.

Understanding common vs. preferred stocks

When it comes to investing, understanding the difference between common stocks and preferred stocks is crucial. Although both give individuals ownership of a portion of the company, they have distinct differences. Common stocks give shareholders voting rights, while preferred stocks do not. Additionally, in the event of a company’s bankruptcy, preferred stockholders receive payment before common stockholders. However, common stocks are associated with higher potential returns and growth over time.

Ultimately, weighing the pros and cons of each before making any investment decisions is essential. Understanding the differences between common and preferred stocks will be valuable in building a diversified investment portfolio. A Dubai stock broker like Saxo Bank Dubai can also provide valuable insights and guidance.

Dividend priority

One of the significant differences between common and preferred stocks is how dividends are paid out. Preferred stockholders have priority over common stockholders when receiving dividends, which means they are more likely to receive consistent and reliable dividend payments. This preference becomes particularly significant during times of financial difficulties for a company. If a company faces challenges, preferred stockholders will be paid first before making payments to common stockholders, ensuring their financial stability.

In some cases, a company may even choose not to pay dividends to common stockholders to prioritise the payment of dividends to preferred stockholders. This feature makes preferred stocks a more stable and attractive source of income for investors who value regular dividend payments and want to ensure a reliable income stream.

Treatment during liquidation

In the event of a company’s bankruptcy or liquidation, preferred stockholders have priority over common stockholders regarding claims on assets and earnings. In case of a company’s insolvency, preferred stockholders will be paid before any payments are made to common stockholders. Additionally, preferred stocks often have a fixed redemption value, providing investors with downside protection if the company’s stock price declines significantly.

In contrast, common stockholders have lower priority during liquidation and may only receive compensation if sufficient assets cover all claims. This higher risk associated with common stocks is why they offer the potential for higher returns – investors take on more risk in exchange for potential growth opportunities.

Downside protection

Preferred stocks also offer another advantage over common stocks regarding downside protection. In case of a company’s financial troubles, preferred stockholders have a fixed dividend rate, meaning they will continue to receive regular dividend payments even if the company’s earnings decline. This feature can cushion investors from significant losses during market downturns and provide a more stable source of income compared to common stocks.

In contrast, common stockholders may face dividend cuts during difficult times, and their returns are more closely tied to the company’s performance. It makes common stocks riskier and offers a higher potential for long-term growth.

Interest rates and preferred stocks

One of the critical factors to consider when investing in preferred stocks is interest rates. Preferred stocks have characteristics of both stocks and bonds, as they offer fixed dividend payments like bonds but also represent ownership in a company like stocks. Therefore, preferred stock prices are sensitive to changes in interest rates, with higher interest rates generally leading to lower preferred stock prices and vice versa.

Investors should consider the current interest rate environment and their outlook for future rates when evaluating preferred stocks as an investment option. Preferred stocks offer relatively attractive yields in a low-interest-rate environment compared to other fixed-income investments. However, in a rising interest rate environment, investors may see the value of their preferred stock holdings decline.


In summary, common and preferred stocks significantly differ in ownership rights, dividend priority, treatment during liquidation, and downside protection. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for investors to make informed decisions about their portfolio allocation and risk tolerance. While common stocks offer higher growth potential, preferred stocks can provide a stable source of income and downside protection.

Jasiah Pierce

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