Preferred stock is a special type of equity financing that shares some features of common stock, as well as debt. Luckily, finding the amount of preferred stock outstanding for any given company has more to do with looking in the right place than making a calculation.

A slice of shareholders' equity
Preferred stock is reported in the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance sheet. Below, I've reproduced a snippet of Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC) annual report to show you what this section of the balance sheet looks like.

Reproduced from page 133 of Bank of America's 2015 Annual Report.

Preferred stock is always listed first in shareholders' equity because it has a "preference" in receiving payouts in the form of dividends or distributions in liquidation. Preferred stock shareholders have to be paid in full before common stock shareholders can enjoy the benefit from a company's earnings or assets.

Next to the label "preferred stock" is a short description. Bank of America has authorized 100 million shares of preferred stock, meaning it could theoretically have 100 million shares of preferred stock outstanding. Next, it reports that there are roughly 3.76 million and 3.65 million shares outstanding at the end of 2015 and 2014, respectively.

The number of shares outstanding doesn't really tell you all that much because a preferred share can be issued in any amount, though \$25 and \$100 par values are common. You need to look to the next column in the balance sheet, where you can see there is about \$22.3 billion of preferred stock outstanding at the end of 2015 vs. \$19.3 billion at the end of 2014. This is the number that really matters.

If for some reason the amount of preferred stock outstanding was not immediately available, some simple math could save the day.

Note that if you start with shareholders' equity of \$256.2 billion, and subtract the amount of accumulated other comprehensive income (if applicable), retained earnings, and common stock, you'd arrive at the amount (about \$22.3 billion) of preferred stock outstanding.

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