The Stock Market
In conversation, media, and the news, it's common to hear talk of "the market," short for the stock market. And while most everyone knows about the stock market, once again, few actually know what it is, how it functions, and what purposes it serves.
The stock market is the platform through which shares — or pieces of ownership of a company — are bought and sold by investors; investors who own shares of a company are referred to as shareholders. Thus, the stock exchange allows investors to potentially improve their worth (provided the stock price of their investments increases, or provided they receive dividends, or small, pre-planned payments from a company paid to shareholders), and companies to have the benefit of being publically operated, and also, for company founders to cash-in on stock (by selling their shares of the company once it goes public).
Trading shares is a relatively straightforward process. Through a licensed stockbroker, brokerage firm, or trading website, one simply places an order for the desired number of stock in a designated company; a small fee is usually paid to the party responsible for performing the trade (be it a person, firm, or website). There is always another individual looking to sell or buy a particular stock, given the magnitude of the exchange, and there are therefore almost never delays in the process. There are also a number of other, more complex stock purchase and sale types for buyers and sellers to choose from.
Anyone who owns stock in a company owns a piece of its assets relative to their share count. For example, a company with a stock limit (which is determined during an IPO, or initial public offering, wherein a company's initial price and stock count are set before it debuts on the exchange),of 100 (hypothetically speaking, of course) would be 25% owned by an individual who possessed 25 shares.
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