Preferred Stock And Common Stock Dividends Calculation

Preferred Stock And Common Stock Dividends Calculation

For most investors, the allure of dividends – the portion of a company’s earnings paid out to shareholders – remains a compelling reason to hold stock in particular corporations. Understanding the intricacies of how to calculate dividends paid, specifically those related to common and preferred stock, is an indispensable skill for financial experts and traders. This article will delve into the nitty-gritty of preferred and common stock dividends, providing insights and practical examples to enrich your understanding.

Understanding Dividends

The role of dividend investments is profound but also more intricate than first meets the eye. Essentially, dividends represent a portion of a company’s earnings or profits distributed to its investors, serving as a token of appreciation for their monetary support. This particular sum is decided by the corporation’s board of directors, who consider different aspects such as the company’s earnings, reinvestment needs, and overarching fiscal policies. Thus, this can be interpreted as the corporation’s method of showing appreciation to its shareholders.

Dividends can be issued in several forms. Most commonly, they are distributed as cash dividends, paid out directly to the shareholder typically on a quarterly basis. This form of dividend is generally preferred by income-focused investors who rely on a steady income stream from their investments. However, the dividend distribution isn’t limited to cash.

Alternatively, a company can issue stock dividends, offering additional shares of the company to shareholders proportionate to the number of shares they already hold. This approach allows a company to reward its investors while preserving its cash for other operational or growth needs. Shareholders who receive these dividends may either sell these new shares for immediate cash or hold onto them in anticipation of future growth and returns.

Moreover, a less common but possible form of dividend is property dividends. In this case, shareholders receive assets other than cash or stock from the company. This might include physical assets or assets from a subsidiary organization

The Distinction: Common Stock vs. Preferred Stock Dividends

Common stockholders, often seen as the lifeblood of a corporation, have a stake in the company’s ownership and are afforded voting rights during shareholders’ meetings. However, their position regarding dividends is less advantageous. The dividends they receive aren’t assured and are disbursed only after the company meets all its other fiscal commitments, including preferred stock dividends. The sum of dividends paid to common stockholders hinges on the company’s economic health and may fluctuate annually. This implies that while investing in common stock carries more risk, it could yield higher returns if the company sees substantial growth.

Contrastingly, preferred stockholders enjoy a certain level of preference when it comes to dividends. The dividends they’re entitled to are usually a set amount, leading to a more dependable and regular income stream. This dividend rate is usually established when the stock is first issued, typically expressed as a percentage of the stock’s nominal value. The distinguishing feature of preferred stock dividends is their precedence; if a company encounters economic difficulties and needs to reduce dividends, those for common stock are first on the chopping block. Only when the company fails to fulfil its commitments to preferred stockholders are these dividends reduced. Furthermore, should the company be liquidated, preferred stockholders have a superior claim over the company’s assets compared to their common stock counterparts.

It’s clear that the dividend landscape for common and preferred stocks differs greatly. Common stockholders may stand to gain more during prosperous times but face more risk, while preferred stockholders enjoy a higher level of security and predictability with their dividends. This distinction is pivotal in shaping an investment strategy that aligns with an investor’s risk tolerance and income needs.

Common Stock Dividends: Calculation Insights

The dividends of common stock are not guaranteed and may vary each year. Here’s how to calculate them:

  1. Understanding how to work out the Dividend Per Share (DPS): Generally, the dividends granted to common stockholders are expressed on a per-share basis. To calculate the DPS, you take the total dividends that the company distributes and divide this by the count of outstanding shares.
  1. Grasping the concept of Dividend Yield: This fiscal metric demonstrates the ratio of a company’s yearly dividends in relation to its share price. The dividend yield is obtained by dividing the yearly DPS by the cost of a share. For example, should a company’s share be valued at $20 each and the yearly DPS stands at $1, the ensuing dividend yield would be 5%.

Preferred Stock Dividends: Calculation Nuances

Preferred stock dividends tend to be fixed or set as a percentage of the par value at issuance. The steps to calculate are as follows:

  1. Determining the Dividend Rate: This rate is usually found in the certificate or prospectus of the stock. If it’s not instantly noticeable, one can work it out by dividing the annual dividends by the nominal value of the stock.
  2. Calculating the Dividends: To perform this, one must multiply the dividend rate by the nominal value of the preferred stock. For example, imagine a company has floated 100,000 preferred stocks, each with a value of $100 and a dividend rate of 6%. Consequently, the total dividends given to the preferred shareholders would tally up to $600,000.

The Order of Dividend Payments

Companies pay dividends to preferred stockholders before common stockholders. If a company lacks the financial resources to pay dividends to all shareholders, preferred shareholders receive their dividends first.


For finance professionals or traders, comprehending the methods for calculating dividends on both common and preferred stock is about more than just crunching numbers. It allows for a deeper understanding of a company’s profit potential, its approach to distributing earnings, and its overall appeal to investors. Acquiring proficiency in these calculations empowers you to make well-informed investment choices and more accurately predict market movements.

Whether you’re conducting in-depth analysis on a potential investment opportunity or evaluating the fiscal stability of a company in your portfolio, the understanding of dividends and their related computations serves as a robust instrument in your arsenal of financial strategies.

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