What Is a Stock?

(2 of 5)

What Is a Stock?

Perhaps the most common misperception among new investors is that stocks are simply pieces of paper to be traded. This is simply not the case. In stock investing, trading is a means, not an end.

Things To Know

  • When you buy a stock, you become a business owner.

Stock is about owning companies

A stock is an ownership interest in a company. A business is started by a person or small group of people who put their money in. How much of the business each founder owns is a function of how much money each invested. At this point, the company is considered "private." Once a business reaches a certain size, the company may decide to "go public" and sell a chunk of itself to the investing public. This is how stocks are created.

When you buy a stock, you become a business owner. Period. Over the long term, the value of that ownership stake will rise and fall according to the success of the underlying business. The better the business does, the more your ownership stake will be worth.

What it takes to invest in stocks

Investing in stocks is not rocket science. The only real characteristics shared among successful stock investors are basic math skills, a critical eye, patience, and discipline. Combine these with an understanding of how money flows and how businesses compete with one another, along with a dash of accounting knowledge, and you have all the mental tools needed to get started.

Although you don’t need an advanced college degree to invest in stocks, selecting stocks is nevertheless an intellectual exercise. It requires effort, but it can bear many fruits. After all, investing in stocks not only leads to potentially higher returns on your investment dollars, it also leads to a greater understanding of how the world works.