Stocks and the Stock Markets: Building Wealth with Equities

Introduction to Stocks

In the beginning, there were 'stocks'. But what exactly are these financial instruments, and when did they first appear on the scene?

'Stocks', also known as 'equities' or 'shares', represent ownership in a corporation. They grant the holder the right to a portion of the company's assets and earnings. The history of stocks traces back to the 17th century, when the Dutch East India Company issued the first shares on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. These shares were not only tradeable but also allowed investors to get a slice of the company's profits, in what is known today as dividends.

Transitioning from the past to the present, stocks have become an integral part of modern financial markets, providing a way for businesses to raise capital and for investors to build wealth. They offer the possibility of significant gains, but also come with risks. Understanding these facets of investing in stocks is vital for anyone considering dipping their toes into the world of equities.

Role of Stock Exchanges

Stock exchanges play a central role in the trading of stocks. They act as marketplaces where buyers and sellers meet, facilitating the exchange of stocks. Renowned exchanges include the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ, both of which are based in the United States, but there are many others globally.

Exchanges provide liquidity, meaning they make it easy for stocks to be bought and sold. They set rules for listed companies and ensure transparency, publishing price and volume information in real time. These attributes make exchanges a safe and reliable place for investors to trade equities.

The Evolution of U.S. Stock Exchanges

In the world of investing, stock exchanges play a pivotal role in shaping the economic landscape. They provide a forum for buyers and sellers to negotiate prices and make trades. In the U.S., two of the most recognized exchanges are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ).

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

Initially, let's explore the history of the NYSE, often referred to as the "Big Board". Established in 1792 under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street, the NYSE is the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization. Its birth was marked by the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement by 24 New York City stockbrokers, which set the groundwork for today's complex financial market infrastructure.

Over time, the NYSE has undergone numerous transformations and has been the host for numerous high-profile initial public offerings (IPOs). Companies from around the globe aspire to list their stocks on the NYSE, viewing it as a testament to their success and stability.

The National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ)

Transitioning to the NASDAQ, this exchange was established relatively recently, in 1971. Unlike the NYSE, it operates as a dealer’s market, where trades are conducted through a broker-dealer network rather than directly between parties.

NASDAQ made history by being the first electronic stock market, setting a precedent for technological innovation in trading. It's also known for its heavy emphasis on technology-based firms. Some of the largest tech companies in the world, like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, are listed on NASDAQ.

Building Wealth with Stocks

Investing in the stock market can be a powerful tool for wealth management and growth. Stocks have the potential to offer higher returns than many other investments, due to their ability to benefit from overall economic growth and corporate profits.

To illustrate, consider an investment in a company's shares. If the company performs well, the price of its stocks may rise. This could lead to substantial capital gains if you sell your stocks at a higher price than you bought them. Moreover, many companies also pay dividends, which are regular payments made to shareholders out of the company's earnings. These dividends can provide a steady income stream, further contributing to wealth growth.

However, investing in stocks can be risky. The value of stocks can fluctitate, and there is always the possibility of losing the invested capital if the company underperforms or in case of a broad market downturn. This underlines the importance of having a diversified portfolio and a well-defined investment strategy.

Securities Regulation and Stock Markets

Given the potential risks and complexities involved in stock trading, securities regulation exists to protect investors and ensure the integrity of the market. Regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversee stock exchanges, enforce laws against fraud, and require companies to disclose important financial information. This information helps investors make informed decisions when buying or selling stocks.

In addition to this, there are certain protections in place to safeguard investor accounts containing stocks and other securities. For instance, the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) provides limited coverage to customers of failed brokerage firms. This insurance protection extends up to $500,000 per customer, including a $250,000 limit for cash claims.

Understanding the Different Types of Stocks

Moving onto the types of stocks issued by corporations, it's important to note that each category comes with distinct characteristics and rights for the shareholders. Broadly speaking, stocks are divided into two main types: common stocks and preferred stocks.

Common Stocks

When people talk about investing in stocks, they usually refer to common stocks. Shareholders of common stocks typically have voting rights in the corporation, allowing them to have a say in corporate matters such as electing the board of directors.

The value of common stocks is largely tied to the company’s performance, and they have the potential for significant gains (and losses). However, in case of bankruptcy, common shareholders are last in line to receive any remaining company assets, after creditors, bondholders, and preferred shareholders.

Preferred Stocks

Preferred stocks, on the other hand, don't usually come with voting rights. Nevertheless, they offer advantages over common stocks in certain aspects. For instance, preferred shareholders have a higher claim on the company's earnings and assets. This means that they receive dividends before common shareholders and have a higher claim on assets if the company is liquidated.

Preferred stocks can be seen as a hybrid between stocks and bonds. They pay dividends at a fixed rate, similar to the interest paid by bonds, which makes them an attractive investment for individuals seeking a steady income stream.

The Role of a Financial Advisor in Investing

Navigating the stock market can be a complex endeavor, and this is where an experienced financial advisor can prove invaluable. Financial advisors offer guidance on investing, helping individuals tailor a strategy that aligns with their financial goals and risk tolerance.

Advisors can assist in building a diversified portfolio, which can help mitigate risk. They have the expertise to analyze a company's financial statements, evaluate market trends, and stay updated on regulatory changes. Moreover, they can help individuals understand the tax implications of their investments and plan accordingly.

In summary, a financial advisor plays a pivotal role in making informed investment decisions and managing wealth effectively.


Understanding stocks and the stock market is fundamental to successful investing. From their inception in the 17th century, stocks have grown to be a key instrument for companies to raise funds and for individuals to build wealth. Stock exchanges facilitate the trading of these equities, ensuring liquidity and transparency.

However, investing in stocks involves risks. Thankfully, securities regulations and protections like SIPC insurance are in place to safeguard investors. With the guidance of a competent financial advisor, individuals can navigate these risks, make informed decisions, and use the stock market as a tool for effective wealth management.

Embarking on your journey into the world of stocks may seem daunting, but with knowledge, guidance, and a clear strategy, it can be an exciting and rewarding venture.

William Bevins is a licensed financial advisor in Spring Hill, TN with over 25 years of experience in financial advice and investment experience. As a Private Wealth Manager, he aims to help individuals and businesses achieve their financial goals through financial, diversified wealth management services, and retirement planning. To learn more or book a consultation, contact us today.

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25 Years of Sound Financial Advice and Investment Experience for the Nashville Community

“If I’ve learned anything during this time, it’s that real wealth can be achieved with moderate risk-taking over the course of an individual’s lifetime. Setting reasonable goals and working diligently to achieve them year in, year out is the key to success.”

With over 18 years of investing experience, William Bevins serves as a Private Wealth Manager. His goal remains to help individuals and institutions achieve their investment goals while controlling risk. Putting client needs first is how he built his business and reputation. Serving as a Fiduciary with Cypress Capital allows him to stand with those who count the most, his clients.