Shares

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A share is a portion of a public company that you can own, and if you do, you are a shareholder. Ownership of public companies is divided into many shares; the total number of shares is known as the shares outstanding. People can own shares in private companies, but it is usually hard to sell shares in a private company to someone outside the company. When you invest in a mutual fund, the units of ownership you are given are also known as shares. Shares and stocks mean the same thing, just used in different contexts. For example, you could say, "John owns stock in the ABC Company; he has one hundred shares." Most stock is known as common stock, but there is also preferred stock. See also Stock Options, Stock Price, and Restricted Stock.