How to Recognize the Investment Value of Stocks

Imagine that you like eggs and you’re buying them at the store. In this example, the eggs are like companies whose stock you might invest in, and the prices represent the prices that you would pay for the companies’ stock. The grocery store is the stock market. What if two brands of eggs are similar, but one costs $2.99 a carton, and the other costs $3.99? Which would you choose?

Odds are that you’d look at both brands, judge their quality, and, if they’re indeed similar, take the cheaper eggs. The eggs at $3.99 are overpriced. The same is true of stocks. What if you compare two companies that are similar in every respect but have different share prices? All things being equal, the cheaper price has greater value for the investor.

But the egg example has another side. What if the quality of the two brands of eggs is significantly different, but their prices are the same? If one brand of eggs is stale, of poor quality, and priced at $2.99 and the other brand is fresh, of superior quality, and also priced at $2.99, which would you get?

You’d probably take the good brand because they’re better eggs. Perhaps the lesser eggs are an acceptable purchase at $1.99, but they’re definitely overpriced at $2.99. The same example works with stocks. A poorly run company isn’t a good choice if you can buy a better company in the marketplace at the same — or a better — price.

Comparing the value of eggs may seem overly simplistic, but doing so does cut to the heart of stock investing. Eggs and egg prices can be as varied as companies and stock prices. As an investor, you must make it your job to find the best value for your investment dollars. (Otherwise, you get egg on your face. You saw that one coming, right?)

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