Glossary of Financial Terms

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asset allocation  Asset allocation is an investment strategy that aims to balance risk and reward by apportioning a portfolio’s assets according to an individual’s goals, risk tolerance and investment horizon.


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.


Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)  A chartered financial analyst (CFA) is a professional designation given by the CFA Institute, formerly AIMR, that measures the competence and integrity of financial analysts. Candidates are required to pass three levels of exams covering areas, such as accounting, economics, ethics, money management, and security analysis. The CFA charter is one of the most respected designations in finance and is widely considered to be the gold standard in the field of investment analysis.


Certified Financial Planner (CFP)  A certified financial planner refers to the certification owned and awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. The CFP designation is awarded to individuals who successfully complete the CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements. Individuals desiring to become a CFP professional must take extensive exams in the areas of financial planning, taxes, insurance, estate planning and retirement. Attaining the CFP designation takes experience and a substantial amount of work. CFP professionals must also complete continuing education programs each year to maintain their certification status.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)  Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a designation given by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to those who meet education and experience requirements and pass an exam. The CPA designation helps enforce professional standards in the industry. They are also required to complete 150 hours of education and have no less than two years of public accounting experience. CPAs must pass a certification exam; certification requirements vary by state. Additionally, they must complete a specific number of continuing hours of education yearly.

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.

diversification  Diversification is a risk management technique that mixes a wide variety of investments within a portfolio. Diversification strives to smooth out unsystematic risk events in a portfolio so the positive performance of some investments neutralizes the negative performance of others.


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.


estate planning  Estate planning is the preparation of tasks that serve to manage an individual’s asset base in the event of their incapacitation or death. The planning includes the bequest of assets to heirs and the settlement of estate taxes. Most estate plans are set up with the help of an attorney experienced in estate law.

fiduciary  A fiduciary is a person who acts on behalf of another person, or persons to manage assets. The fiduciary is expected to manage the assets for the benefit of the other person rather than for his or her own profit, and cannot benefit personally from their management of assets.


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.

large cap  Refers to stocks with a relatively large market capitalization. The definition of large cap can vary among brokerages, but generally it is a company with market capitalization value of more than $10 billion.

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.

preferred stock  A preferred stock is a class of ownership in a corporation that has a higher claim on its assets and earnings than common stock. Preferred shares generally have a dividend that must be paid out before dividends to common shareholders, and the shares usually do not carry voting rights.

rebalancing  The process of realigning the weightings of a portfolio of assets. Rebalancing involves periodically buying or selling assets in a portfolio to maintain an original desire level of asset allocation.

Registered Investment Advisor (RIA)  An RIA is an advisor or firm engaged in the investment advisory business and registered either with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state securities authorities. RIAs have a fiduciary duty to their clients, which means they have a fundamental obligation to provide suitable investment advice and always act in their clients’ best interests.

senior bank loan A senior bank loan is a debt financing obligation issued by a bank or similar financial institution to a company or individual that holds legal claim to the borrower’s assets above all other debt obligations. The loan is considered senior to all other claims against the borrower, which means that in the event of a bankruptcy the senior bank loan is the first to be repaid before all other interested parties receive repayment.

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 investopedia.com.

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