There are two main ways to make money with stocks:
- Dividends. When publicly owned companies are profitable, they can choose to distribute some of those earnings to shareholders by paying a dividend. You can either take the dividends in cash or reinvest them to purchase more shares in the company. Many retired investors focus on stocks that generate regular dividend income to replace income they no longer receive from their jobs. Stocks that pay a higher than average dividend are sometimes referred to as "income stocks."
- Capital gains. Stocks are bought and sold constantly throughout each trading day, and their prices change all the time. When a stock price goes higher than what you paid to buy it, you can sell your shares at a profit. These profits are known as capital gains. In contrast, if you sell your stock for a lower price than you paid to buy it, you have incurred a capital loss.
The performance of an individual stock is also affected by what's happening in the stock market in general, which is in turn affected by the economy as a whole.