• The Market: 101

    Taking Stock: What is the S&P 500?

    Standard and Poor: Is this the title of my autobiography? Or a stock market index? Honestly, both.

    The Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 is a stock market index consisting of 500 of the largest publicly-traded U.S. companies, measured by market capitalization. In other words, the S&P 500 is a exclusive group of 500 hot-shot companies that–as a whole–provide a glimpse at how the U.S. economy is doing overall.

    In order to enter the exclusive S&P 500 club, companies need to meet some pretty intense qualifications. Just to name a few, the company must have:

    • Headquarters in the United States
    • A market cap of $5.3 billion or more (market cap = $ of shares x # of shares outstanding)
    • Positive earnings in the last 4 most recent quarters
    • Actively trading at a reasonable price, with the majority of its shares held by investors (instead of sitting on a shelf waiting to be sold)

    But, even after meeting all of these requirements (and then some), a company is still not guaranteed to be included in the S&P 500 index. Think of the S&P 500 like Regina George and The Plastics — they’re rich, famous, and everybody wants to be in their group.

    OK, so now that you know what the S&P 500 is, why does it matter to you? Well, think of it this way. When you go on Amazon to buy literally anything, the first thing you do is check the reviews on the product to make sure it’s a reasonable investment, right? You want to poll the masses to see what the general public has to say first, preventing you from spending your hard-earned money on a sketchy product that takes six months to be delivered and, when it arrives, might not even be “as pictured.” Overall, the more five-star reviews the product has, the better.

    The S&P 500 is similar in the sense that it provides the public a simple gauge to understand how the stock market is performing overall, which will help us guide our investment decisions. This is also why the S&P 500 is a popular index to invest in through mutual funds and other sources, as it pools some of the largest companies across the U.S. into one collective group, rather than investing into each individual company separately. It’s the same reason why you would probably buy a TV on Amazon with 5,000 4.5-star reviews, rather than a TV with only one five-star review. Crowd-sourcing (on Amazon) and diversification (in your investment portfolio) makes all the difference, people.


    Congratulations, you now know what the S&P 500 is and why it matters to you! But, this article was not meant to be an in-depth analysis of the S&P 500 (because ain’t nobody got time for dat). If you’d like to dig in a little deeper to the topics covered above, feel free to click on any of the hyperlinks (including that one) to become an S&P expert. You’re welcome.

    Written By: Kaitlyn Duchien (@ktaylor1395)

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