There are some other differences between preferred and common shares, too. “We reserve the right to buy these shares back from you on May 17, 2016.” In most cases, you can convert the preferred shares to common shares at a predetermined rate. Do that, and you’re sacrificing surety for volatility and the possibility of capital appreciation. Because par values are not the same as trading values, you have to pay attention to the trading price of preferred shares as well.

Preferred stock is often compared to as bonds because both may offer recurring cash distributions. However, as there are many differences between stocks and bonds, there are differences with preferred equity as well. All of the types of preferred stock are exactly that—preferred stock.

They also have a lower rank than bonds in a company’s capital structure (more on that in the next section). Preferred stock is sometimes used by companies as a takeover defense by assigning very high liquidation value for the preferred shares that must be paid off if the company is taken over. Preferreds don’t appreciate as much as common shares—they act more like bonds, trading around a par value. It’s a smoother ride, like what we see out of Goldman and its Preferred D Series. Chances are every individual share you’ve ever owned is from this common class.

Should You Buy Stocks? Here’s What You Need to Know

Preferred stockholders enjoy a fixed dividend that, while not absolutely guaranteed, is nonetheless considered essentially an obligation the company must pay. Preferred stockholders must be paid their due dividends before the company can distribute dividends to common stockholders. Preferred stock is sold at a par value and paid a regular dividend that is a percentage of par. Preferred stockholders do not typically have the voting rights that common stockholders do, but they may be granted special voting rights. In terms of risk, preferred stocks are riskier than bonds, but a little less risky than common stocks. As the name suggests, preferred stockholders have some privileges that common stockholders don’t.

Most individual investors don’t need the hybrid features that preferreds are known for. Preferred stock pays higher dividends than common stock, but its share price will never appreciate the way common stock might. Loading up on common stock makes sense for lots of different kinds of investors, but the market for preferreds is more limited.

They may pay out more than bonds do, but those dividends aren’t guaranteed. And if they won’t ever appreciate much in value the way common stock does since a company would simply call them before that happens. The vast majority of preferred stocks are issued by financial institutions, and they are also quite common among telecommunications providers and energy and utility companies. However, there are some companies in other sectors that issue preferred stock as well.

Although that flow isn’t contractually guaranteed the way it is with bonds, companies generally feel obligated to give precedence to paying preferred dividends over common dividends. Bonds, meanwhile, offer terrible returns that barely beat inflation while single stocks on their own are just too risky and don’t give you the kind of diversification your investment portfolio needs. By choosing the steady income of a preferred stock over common stock, you could be missing out on huge potential profits. The price of a preferred stock is much more stable than a common stock’s price, which means you could probably sell a preferred stock for close to the same price you bought it for . You see, when you buy a bond from a company, that means you’re lending money to that company.

Why Buy Preferred Stock?

The top 10 holdings, for instance, include both PPL Corp. (PPL) shares and a 5.9% preferred offerings from the very same firm. And again, it uses a healthy heap of leverage (36%) to amplify performance. The upshot to preferreds is they usually deliver far juicier dividends than their common-stock counterparts.

Unpaid dividends are assigned the moniker “dividends in arrears” and must legally go to the current owner of the stock at the time of payment. At times additional compensation (interest) is awarded to the holder of this type of preferred stock. The nature of preferred stock provides another motive for companies to issue it. With its regular fixed dividend, preferred stock resembles bonds with regular interest payments. However, unlike bonds that are classified as a debt liability, preferred stock is considered an equity asset.

What is a preferred stock?

However, the price of the convertible preferred will rise to capture the price rise of the common stock. A company might choose to call back preferred stock if interest rates fall below the yield of the stock, allowing them to reissue stock at lower yields. If they do so, investors will lose both the income stream and the preferred stock. Like bonds, preferred stock is offered for sale with a set “face value,” often referred to as par value. This value is how much the issuer will pay back to the owner of the security when it is called or at maturity. Preferred stock ranks higher than common stock in the hierarchy of bankruptcy but lower than bonds.


Preferred stockholders also come before common stockholders, but after bondholders, in receiving payment if a company goes bankrupt. A preferred stock is a share of a company just like a regular (or common) stock, but preferred stocks include some added protections for shareholders. For example, preferred stockholders get priority over common stockholders when it comes to dividend payments. The conversion price per common share is thus $100, as the investor will receive 10 shares at $100 each. The decision about whether to convert will depend on where the common stock is trading at the time of conversion.

Preferred Stock vs. Bonds

In such cases, significant—if not controlling—voting power can be effectively transferred to the preferred shareholders. Because the dividends are taxed as capital gains if they are held longer, they may also make sense for income-oriented individual investors who’d otherwise buy bonds. That’s unit cost definition because bond payments are interest, which is always taxed as normal income. In contrast, stock dividends qualify for a lower tax rate if you own them as a longer-term investment (longer than a year, usually). Financial companies are usually the most likely to offer preferred stock.

However, your broker might use a slightly different version, such as BAC’E or BAC.E. The point is that you should check with your broker to see how they format preferred stock tickers. You can buy shares of preferred stock through your online brokerage with a simple click of the mouse, just like you would with a common stock. There are a few important things to consider when you’re planning to invest in preferred stocks. Should the preferred stock be purchased at a considerable discount to par value, there is more appreciation potential, but investors have to do the research to find these opportunities.

So if a company misses three straight dividend payments of $10, that means they would add $30 on top of the next dividend payment owed to you. Remember how we mentioned that companies might skip a preferred stock dividend payment if they’re running short on cash? Well, cumulative preferred stock offers some protection if that happens. Different types of preferred stocks have their own unique features that impact their level of risk and, in turn, affect how much you can expect to receive in dividend payments. Here are some of the main types of preferred stock to look out for. As with all investments, the answer depends on your risk tolerance and investment goals.

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