Stocks vs. shares
Stocks vs. sharesFirst let's look at stocks versus shares since these are the two terms that are most commonly confused, especially by newer investors. The main difference between a stock and a share is that stock is a broader concept to convey ownership in a company, while shares are the individual units of ownership.
The words "stock" and "share" are often used interchangeably, but there are key differences between the two.
Stocks are securities that represent ownership in a corporation. When an investor buys a company's stock, that person is not lending the company money but is buying a percentage of ownership in that company. In exchange for purchasing stocks in a given company, stockholders have a claim on part of its earnings and assets. Some stocks pay quarterly or annual dividends, which are a portion of the issuing company's earnings.
An individual unit of stock is known as a share. For example, if you were to say, "I own stock in Apple (AAPL -0.95%)," it tells us that you are invested in Apple stock and therefore own a small portion of the equity in the company. On the other hand, if you say, "I own 100 shares of Apple," it conveys the exact number of ownership units you have.The key takeaway is that shares give information about an investment size, while the term "stock" does not by itself. An investor who buys a single share of Apple and Warren Buffett, whose company owns more than one billion shares of the tech giant, can both be accurately described as "owning stock" in Apple, although the size of their investments are very different.