Financial Independence 101: What are Stock Dividends and Stock Splits?

This is a continuation of my Financial Independence blog posts related to financial education. I’m creating the blogs so that our two sons that will be graduating college soon will have a better understanding of personal finance.

What are Stock Dividends?

Profit is the amount of money a business has left over after paying all its expenses (revenue – expenses). The goal of most businesses is to make a profit because it adds value to the business and allows it to grow.

Stock dividends and stock splits

So what happens if a business makes a profit? They can take that profit and reinvest some of it back into the business to allow them to build better products and services. But many times, there is still money left over after that. When this happens, the business will normally give part of that money back to those who invested in their stock. This is done with a dividend.

Not all companies pay dividends, especially startups. They normally want to keep all of the profits to reinvest into growth. But well-established companies will often pay dividends.

When looking at your investments, you must look at stock appreciation and dividends to calculate the total return on investment.  For example, if you purchase stock A for $100 per share and stock B for $100 per share and both grow to $125 per share after the first year, your return on investment is 25% on each. However, if stock A also paid a 5% dividend, your return on stock A is actually 30%, so it is a better performing stock for you.

Dividend paying stocks (or mutual funds) can be great investments once you retire because they normally pay those dividends quarterly. When they pay the dividends, you can spend that money on retirement expenses.

What are Stock Splits?

When companies grow and are more profitable, the price of their stock tends to rise. Once the stock price rises over a certain price (normally around $150 per share), companies look for ways to reduce the stock price so that smaller investors can purchase shares. This is accomplished with a stock split.

Stock splits

With a stock split, the company will cut the price of their stock but will give their stockholders more shares. For example, if a company’s stock is $200 per share, they may cut the price to $100 per share but give all their existing shareholders twice the number of shares that they had before. This is called a 2 for 1 stock split. They can also split it by any denomination. In the previous example, they could have done a 4 for 1 split, reducing the cost to $50 per share but giving each stockholder 4 times the number of shares than they had before the stock split.

Conclusion

Now that you have an understanding of stock dividends and stock splits, let’s get to the bottom line. Once you start your career, set aside money for savings and have that money automatically deducted from your paycheck. Start with 15% of your paycheck, more if you can swing it.

Open up a Fidelity account and begin contributing money to a few mutual funds. If you want to really diversify, I suggest these 4 funds to invest equal amounts in:

  • FUSVX – A mutual fund that invests in S&P 500 stocks
  • FSEVX – A mutual fund that invests in small and mid cap stocks
  • FSITX – A bond fund that invests in credit-worthy bonds (note: if you are young and have 30 or more years before you retire, you may consider delaying the purchase of bonds for a while since you will not care as much about market fluctuations).
  • FSIVX – A mutual fund that invests in international stocks (like those in Europe).

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Finally, track your budget and investments with an online tool. Personal Capital is an excellent tool for this and best of all, it’s free**. This is a great start to financial independence!

About this Blog

Steve and his wife built a software company, sold it and retired early. Steve enjoys blogging about lifestyle freedom, financial independence, and technology. If you like this blog, subscribe here to get an email each time he posts.

If you like this post, you might also like these prior posts:

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