Thursday, September 9, 2010

What is a Stock?

Let’s say that you and your friends decide to bake cookies to sell. You decide that each of you will bring one ingredient. Jayden brings the flour, Bethany brings the sugar, Emily brings the eggs, and you bring the chocolate chips. When the finished cookies are sold, you all share the profits. You know that you won’t get anything back until the cookies are sold. And if no one wants your cookies or they don’t want to pay what you are asking then you may not get much or anything back. You accept the possible risks and possible rewards when you put in your chocolate chips.

In the same way, a company can sell a portion of itself in order to raise money. This portion is called a stock. Owning a stock means you own a piece or a share of a company, just like you contributing the chocolate chips means you own a piece of your friends’ cookie-making business. A stock holder or shareholder doesn’t actually have to run the business, but because they own a piece, they have a claim on the company’s assets and earnings.

If the company does well it may pay a dividend to the shareholders. Each stock is worth a certain amount when it is sold. That amount depends on a number of factors including how many stocks were sold in total. In your company there are four shareholders. In the real world, a company may sell millions of shares. A company may decide to reinvest its profits back into the business in order to grow the company value. Stocks can be bought, traded, or sold, on the stock market. There are many variables that determine the value of a stock in the market. A stock may increase in price and the owner can sell it for more than they bought it. But a stock may also decrease in price and then the owner will lose money.

Because the market can go up or down, there is always a risk when investing.

Parents: Reading about stocks and how they relate to business can be a great learning experience. Read What is a Stock? to find out more.