Buy Stocks, Shares: Equity Investments

by humagaia

With equity investments you are buying into a company. In the US you will buy stocks. In the UK you will buy shares. Either way you are buying a share of the wealth of a company.

Equities are the best investments for a balanced portfolio with the long-term in mind. And you have a choice: not only the sector or geographic location, but also the type of security. You have the choice of common or ordinary, preference, convertible, redeemable, and cumulative, and all the combinations in between. Common stock (US) or ordinary shares (UK) have greater risk, as they are at the bottom of the pile for repayment, if something goes wrong. But, with a prudent diversification program, this risk can be minimized.

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What Are Equities?

Buy stocks or shares?

Equities are stocks (US) or shares (UK) in a company.

Equities are the equal shares in a company, paid for by investors, that can be distributed among the holders, after all debt and preferential treatment has been offset.

But what does this actually mean?

As an ordinary shareholder (common stockholder) you own a portion of the company into which you have invested (a share of that company).

If you purchase 1,000 shares out of a total of 1,000,000 shares issued by a company, then you own 1,000/1,000,000 part of the company = 1,000th or 0.1% of the company.

You have made an investment in the future of the company, whether the fortunes are good or bad.

You can follow the rise and fall of the fortunes of the company in the investment sections of the financial newspapers. These fortunes may not necessarily be reflected in the price of the stock/share, but over time the price will tend towards the price that reflects the underlying value of the company.

These are the most commonly held investment.

Whether that be by an individual investor, a Pension Fund, an open-ended or closed-ended investment company.

What Is An Equity

Equity Wiki
In accounting and finance, equity is the residual claim or interest of the most junior class of investors in assets, after all liabilities are paid. If liability exceeds assets, negative equity exists. In an accounting context, ...

Classification Of Equities

Equities are classified as

  • Ordinary (common stock [US], ordinary shares [UK])
  • Preference
  • Convertible Preference
  • Redeemable Preference 
  • Cumulative Preference.

Common stock (ordinary shares) can be high risk, but the reward can be high return.

Equities Risk Reward Factors

So how do equities stack up when evaluating investment risk and rewards?

Your reward for owning a part of the company is a share of the profits.

Your risk is that, if the company falls on hard times, you will be at the end of the queue for any return on your investment.

Seniority Of Debt: Equity Standpoint

Order of payment when a company goes bust. Where in the queue does an equity holder stand?

The order in which companies are governed by law to pay off creditors, is as follows:

  • Liquidation expenses
  • Taxes owed to the Government
  • Secured lenders and bond holders
  • Unsecured lenders
  • Preference stock / share holders
  • Common stock (ordinary share) holders

This is the seniority of debt.

Common stock holders (ordinary share holders) are at the bottom of the pile.

This makes equities risky.

Equity Rewards

Compensatory rewards for the element of risk equities manifest

There are compensatory rewards associated with owning equities.

These rewards are:

  • Dividends aka Income
    The distribution of profits made by the company, on a regular basis, to equity holders. 
  • Capital Gain aka Capital Growth
    The main reason for investing in equities.
    There is a good to excellent chance that equities will deliver growth to your capital investment.

Capital Gain On Investment In An Equity

One reward for investing in equities

You undertook the analysis, and determined that the share price was at a level that you could reasonably expect, over time, to increase to a level at which you would see a reasonable return on your investment.

At a time in the future you determine the share price has increased to a level that you believe overstates the underlying value of the investment, and you divest (sell).

The difference between the original price paid, and the price at which you are able to sell, is your capital gain. Remember though that capital gains can be taxed, thus depressing the overall gain, if not offset.

Unfortunately capital gain can be negative as well as positive, and is then a capital loss. Not something you want to achieve on a regular basis.

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Equity Investment Considerations

What affects your return on investment in equities?

When investing in equities there are a number of things to consider:

  • Dividends
    Income is dependent upon each equity.
    Some companies pay dividends whenever possible but some don't pay dividends at all.
    When undertaking your analysis you must take this into consideration, if you require income from your investments. It does have a major impact over time.
    If you reinvest your dividends, then this compounds your investment returns. 
    If you take dividends as a payment to supplement your wages or pension, then the actual investment will be decreased by the value of the dividend.
  • Inflation Hedge
    Inflation has a tendency to depress equity prices, but over time equities have and will, at least keep abreast of inflation.
  • Ease of Management
    Not that good.
    Your investment is not only monetary, it is also time.
    You need to keep a wary eye on the markets and the company. It will be necessary to recalculate the value you place on those shares, on a regular basis.
    You need to be aware when it is best to divest, and take what profit you can.
  • After-tax return
    The tax-man can be good to you with regard to any capital gain.
    The tax man calculates the level of tax you need to pay for any income capital gains produce.
    This is based on the time you have held the shares, and the prevalent capital gains allowance.
    It is prudent to take capital gain at tax year-end, to take advantage of capital gains tax allowance.
    It is prudent to take any capital loss at the same time, as this is taken into account for any capital gains tax calculation. In essence it is added to your allowance so you can take some additional profits to compensate for the losses.
    But don't fret, if you think the equity is still a good investment, then you can buy it back the next day. The only problem is the costs of sale or purchase.
  • Liquidity
    As long as you stick to buying freely traded equities i.e. those on a recognised major stock exchange, then under normal circumstances, equity investments are able to be sold very easily.
    Be aware that there is Stock Market risk associated with liquidity.
    In times of excessive downward movements in share prices across the board, sales may be suspended for a period of time. The price that they reopen at may be significantly lower than at the time of suspension.

Preferred Stock (US), Preference Shares (UK)

Why buy preference?

Preferred stocks or preference shares have two significant advantages over ordinary equity:

  1. They rank ahead of ordinary equity on the basis of seniority of debt.
    For this reason they are safer and less risky.
    If the company goes out of business you will get paid before the owner of common stock or ordinary shares. This assumes that there is money left over, after other debt has been paid off.
  2. The price of preferential equity is usually more stable.
    The reason for this is that preferred stock / preference share dividends are usually fixed - that is, they are paid whatever the circumstances affecting a company.
    They are usually higher than those paid out on ordinary equity.

Convertible Preference

The right to convert to standard equity

Convertible preferred stock / preference share has an added advantage over just preference.

It has a right of conversion attached to it.

This means there is a right to give up the stock / shares for a certain amount of common stock / ordinary shares, on the payment of a fixed price for each, on or before a given point in time.

This allows you to take advantage of any future increase in the value of ordinary equity, whilst fixing the price you will have to pay for the purchase of that equity. This advantage extends to the end of the time period associated with the right to convert.

These are a less risky investment than ordinary equity. They also offer the same advantages as non-convertible preference shares.

Redeemable Preference

The right for a company to redeem

Redeemable preference stock / shares come with the right for the company that issued them to buy them back, at a stated price.

Companies usually only do this if they have an excess of cash, or they are able to obtain capital finance at a lower rate than is inherent in the dividend payment for the preference stock / share.

Cumulative Preference

Cumulative preference stock / shares have an attached obligation on a company to carry forward any unpaid dividend, to be paid at a later date, should the company miss a dividend payment.

This continues year on year until the dividend is paid.

So, if a company misses two years dividend payments, and pays a dividend in the third year, then they are obligated to pay three years dividends to cumulative preference holders.

Remember that preference dividends are usually fixed, so you can determine the payment that should eventually be paid.

For this reason they give you a (slightly) increased level of security and are therefore (slightly) less risky.

Next Investment Article

Gilt-edged securities or Gilts are Government Bonds issued by the UK Government to finance its debt. They are equivalent to US Treasury Securities.

Conclusion On Equities

Equities have a not insubstantial element of risk attached to them, mainly due to the seniority of debt associated with them. This can be offset somewhat by purchasing preference stock / shares, which can have additional useful benefits attached.

Equities form the bedrock of any investment portfolio.

Updated: 02/06/2021, humagaia
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humagaia on 03/29/2012

Paranoid maybe. As usual, who knows?
I think you are getting muddled up with investing against speculation.
The last couple of years is not investing, that is a period related to speculation.
You are correct, in that speculating that any stock will have risen over the past 2 years would not have brought any appreciable gain, if any. But then that is speculation, You lose some, and you lose some more.
I try to impart the idea of investing, not speculating.
Stocks are depressed at the moment, below their intrinsic value.
Investing now will bring dividends and growth over the next 10 (short term), 20 (medium term), and 30 (longer term) years. These are the periods you should be considering, not tomorrow, next month or 2 years hence.

Yeirl on 03/29/2012

I think the most stocks are absolutely over-valued, not under-valued. But, it's my personal opinion, and I was plenty wrong. What happened in last 2 years that are so great for a stock to go up? I could not find one. US had massive housing depression for years after a big bubble, but apparently, UK had it worse? I think socialism is winning, not capitalism... Or am I just paranoid, as usual?

humagaia on 03/29/2012

Yeirl - great sentiments, but you are showing the sentiments of the crowd. If most people think this then the Stock Market will be below the underlying value of the stocks. It is actually time to invest in those stocks that have a good underlying base that will weather all storms into the future. These are undervalued, as with all stocks, and will show the best returns over time.
Remember: buy when stock prices are depressed, sell when you consider them to be over-valued.

Yeirl on 03/29/2012

It's hard to trust anyone during the election years. And, yeah, this might be an American problem, but everyone gets affected if something goes wrong with Greece... or some small town out of nowhere... I guess this is the power of internet and the weakness. When your fed is printing funny money, it is terribly difficult to be serious about investing that.

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