Glossary of Financial Terms

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bond  A debt investment in which an investor loans money to an entity (corporate or governmental) that borrows the funds for a defined period of time at a fixed interest rate. Bonds are used by companies, municipalities, states and U.S. and foreign governments to finance a variety of projects and activities. Bonds are commonly referred to as fixed-income securities and are one of the three main asset classes, along with stocks and cash equivalents.

corporate bond  A debt security issued by a corporation and sold to investors. The backing for the bond is usually the payment ability of the company, which is typically money to be earned from future operations. In some cases, the company’s physical assets may be used as collateral for bonds. Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds. As a result, interest rates are almost always higher, even for top-flight credit quality companies.

emerging market  A nation’s economy that is progressing toward becoming advanced, as shown by some liquidity in local debt and equity markets and the existence of some form of market exchange and regulatory body. Emerging markets generally do not have the level of market efficiency and strict standards in accounting and securities regulation to be on par with advanced economies (such as the United States, Europe and Japan), but emerging markets will typically have a physical financial infrastructure including banks, a stock exchange and a unified currency.

exchange-traded fund (ETF)  A security that tracks an index, a commodity or a basket of assets like an index fund, but trades like a stock on an exchange. ETFs experience price changes throughout the day as they are bought and sold.

growth stock  Shares in a company whose earnings are expected to grow at an above-average rate relative to the market.

high-yield bond  A high paying bond with a lower credit rating than investment-grade corporate bonds, Treasury bonds and municipal bonds. Because of the higher risk of default, these bonds pay a higher yield than investment grade bonds. Based on the two main credit rating agencies, high-yield bonds carry a rating below ‘BBB’ from S&P, and below ‘Baa’ from Moody’s. Bonds with ratings at or above these levels are considered investment grade. Credit ratings can be as low as ‘D’ (currently in default), and most bonds with ‘C’ ratings or lower carry a high risk of default; to compensate for this risk, yields will typically be very high.

individual (or independent) 401(k)  A 401(k) plan set up for an individual running a sole proprietorship or a small business with a spouse/immediate family member. Plan contribution limits for the individual are equal to a typical company-sponsored 401(k), but the sole proprietor can also make an employer contribution to an independent 401(k), thereby raising the total contribution allowed. The independent 401(k) may also be called a “solo 401(k)” or an “indie K.”

international bond Debt investments that are issued in a country by a non-domestic entity. International bonds are issued in countries outside of the United States, in their native country’s currency. They pay interest at specific intervals, and pay the principal amount back to the bond’s buyer at maturity.

international market  The market in which participants from around the world are able to buy, sell, exchange and speculate on different currencies. International currency markets are made up of banks, commercial companies, central banks, investment management firms, hedge funds, retail forex brokers and investors.

mid cap  A company with a market capitalization between $2 and $10 billion, which is calculated by multiplying the number of a company’s shares outstanding by its stock price. Mid cap is an abbreviation for the term “middle capitalization.”

money market  A segment of the financial market in which financial instruments with high liquidity and very short maturities are traded. The money market is used by participants as a means for borrowing and lending in the short term, from several days to just under a year. Money market securities consist of negotiable certificates of deposit (CDs), bankers acceptances, U.S. Treasury bills, commercial paper, municipal notes, federal funds and repurchase agreements (repos).

mortgage pool  A group of mortgages held in trust as collateral for the issuance of a mortgage-backed security. Some mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae are known as “pools” themselves. These are the simplest form of mortgage-backed security. They are also known as “pass-throughs” and trade in the to-be-announced (TBA) forward market.

municipal bond  A debt security issued by a state, municipality or county to finance its capital expenditures. Municipal bonds are exempt from federal taxes and from most state and local taxes, especially if you live in the state in which the bond is issued.

mutual fund  An investment vehicle that is made up of a pool of funds collected from many investors for the purpose of investing in securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments and similar assets. Mutual funds are operated by money managers, who invest the fund’s capital and attempt to produce capital gains and income for the fund’s investors. A mutual fund’s portfolio is structured and maintained to match the investment objectives stated in its prospectus.

simple IRA  A retirement plan that can be used by most small businesses with 100 or fewer employees. SIMPLE stands for “Savings Investment Match Plan for Employees”; IRA stands for “individual retirement account.” Employers can choose to make a mandatory 2% retirement account contribution to all employees or an optional matching contribution of up to 3%. Employees can contribute a maximum of $12,000 annually in 2013; the maximum is increased periodically to account for inflation.

simplified employee pension (SEP IRA)  A retirement plan that an employer or self-employed individuals can establish. The employer is allowed a tax deduction for contributions made to the SEP plan and makes contributions to each eligible employee’s SEP IRA on a discretionary basis.

small cap  Refers to stocks with a relatively small market capitalization. The definition of small cap can vary among brokerages, but generally it is a company with a market capitalization of between $300 million and $2 billion.

stock  A type of security that signifies ownership in a corporation and represents a claim on part of the corporation’s assets and earnings. There are two main types of stock: common and preferred. Common stock usually entitles the owner to vote at shareholders’ meetings and to receive dividends. Preferred stock generally does not have voting rights, but has a higher claim on assets and earnings than the common shares. For example, owners of preferred stock receive dividends before common shareholders and have priority in the event that a company goes bankrupt and is liquidated.

treasury bill (t-bill)  A short-term debt obligation backed by the U.S. government with a maturity of less than one year. T-bills are sold in denominations of $1,000 up to a maximum purchase of $5 million and commonly have maturities of one month (four weeks), three months (13 weeks) or six months (26 weeks). T-bills are issued through a competitive bidding process at a discount from par, which means that rather than paying fixed interest payments like conventional bonds, the appreciation of the bond provides the return to the holder.

treasury bond   A marketable, fixed-interest U.S. government debt security with a maturity of more than 10 years. Treasury bonds make interest payments semi-annually and the income that holders receive is only taxed at the federal level.

treasury inflation protected securities (TIPS)  A treasury security that is indexed to inflation in order to protect investors from the negative effects of inflation. TIPS are considered an extremely low-risk investment since they are backed by the U.S. government and since their par value rises with inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, while their interest rate remains fixed. Interest on TIPS is paid semiannually. TIPS can be purchased directly from the government through the TreasuryDirect system in $100 increments with a minimum investment of $100 and are available with 5-, 10-, and 30-year maturities.

value stock  A stock that tends to trade at a lower price relative to its fundamentals (i.e. dividends, earnings, sales, etc.) and thus considered undervalued by a value investor. Common characteristics of such stocks include a high dividend yield, low price-to-book ratio and/or low price-to-earnings ratio.

All definitions from

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