What Is a Stock?

What Is a Stock?

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

A stock, in financial terms, is a type of security that symbolizes ownership in a corporation. This means if you own a stock, you have a piece of the company’s assets and earnings in proportion to the amount of the stock you own. Stocks are also known as shares or equity. They are bought and sold predominantly on stock exchanges, and are a popular way for individuals and organizations to invest money.

Related Questions

1. Are stocks and shares the same thing?

Yes, in most contexts the terms stocks and shares are used interchangeably. They both represent a unit of ownership in a company. However, in technical terms, a share refers to the ownership of a particular company while “stock” is a general term used to express ownership in any company.

2. How does one make money from stocks?

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Investors make money from stocks in two main ways: dividends and capital gains. Dividends are a portion of a company’s earnings distributed to shareholders. Capital gains occur when the stock’s price increases above the amount initially paid by the investor.

3. What is a dividend?

A dividend is a payment made by a corporation to its shareholders. This is usually made in the form of cash but can also be additional shares of stock. Dividends are typically distributed out of a company’s profits.

4. What is a stock exchange?

A stock exchange is a marketplace where buyers and sellers meet to trade stocks. They can be physical places, such as the New York Stock Exchange, or electronic markets, like the NASDAQ.

5. What is the difference between common and preferred stock?

Common stocks are the most common form of stocks that investors buy. Owners have voting rights in the company and may receive dividends. Preferred stocks, on the other hand, do not usually provide voting rights but they have a higher claim on earnings and assets. This means preferred shareholders will receive dividends and repayments before common shareholders.