What kind of stock ownership has the highest level of security?

Investing in common stock is considered to be risky by many individuals despite the fact that common stocks have outperformed every other asset class over the past century. The reason why some people perceive common stocks to be risky may be due in large part to the extreme price volatility that stock prices can occasionally exhibit. Investors seeking the higher returns associated with common stocks but with less risk should consider investing in preferred stock which has a much higher level of security than common stock.

Preferred stock is issued and traded separately from common stock. Although preferred stock owners are usually not given voting rights they have a higher priority of claims against a company's assets, cash flow, and earnings than common shareholders. Preferred stock usually pays a quarterly or semi-annual dividend which a company usually continues to pay even if the dividend on the common stock is cut or eliminated. Depending on the type of preferred stock issued, an investor can collect a constant stream of cash flow plus capital gains.

For example, a company issuing cumulative preferred stock that omits the dividend payment must pay an investor all unpaid or accumulated dividends prior to making any dividend payments to common shareholders. An investors owning convertible preferred stock has the right to convert the preferred stock to common stock at a predetermined exercise price. If the price of the common stock increases the price of the convertible preferred stock will also rise reflecting the increased value of the conversion feature.