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60+ Important Financial Terms To Know

Embarking on the journey of personal finance can sometimes feel like setting sail on uncharted waters. From managing assets and liabilities to navigating the intricate world of investments, understanding the language of finance and basic financial terminology is key to making informed decisions about your money. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of over 60 financial terms, providing you with a compass to navigate the often complex and dynamic realm of personal finance.

Why It’s Important To Understand Financial Terminology

Why it's important to understand basic financial terms
Why it’s important to understand basic financial terms

There are a few key reasons why it’s important to understand financial terminology:

1. To make informed decisions about your money.

If you don’t understand the financial terms used to describe financial products and services, you won’t be able to make informed decisions about where to invest your money or how to best manage your finances.

2. To avoid being taken advantage of.

If you don’t understand financial terminology, you may be taken advantage of by unscrupulous financial advisors or salespeople. They may use complex financial terms and jargon to try to confuse you and sell you products or services that are not in your best interest. Never agree to something if you do not fully understand it. Learn more on why you should avoid get rich quick schemes.

3. To better communicate with your financial advisor or planner.

If you don’t understand the financial terms your financial advisor is using, it will be difficult to communicate effectively and make sure that your goals and objectives are aligned.

4. To stay up-to-date on changes in the financial world.

If you want to keep up with changes in the financial world, it’s important to understand the basic financial terms and concepts. For example, if there’s a new financial regulation that is being proposed, you won’t be able to understand it or provide input on it if you don’t understand the terminology.

5. To avoid making costly mistakes.

If you don’t understand financial terminology, you may make costly mistakes when it comes to managing your money. For example, you may invest in a high-risk product without understanding the potential downside, or you may take on too much debt without realizing the interest payments you’ll have to make.

Financial terminology you need to know
Financial terminology you need to know

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Basic Financial Terms To Know

When dealing with anything financial, from banking to investing there is a lot of financial terminology and jargon used by providers. Use the list of basic finance terms below to find explanations of some important investment and financial terms to know.

  1. Assets:
    • Definition: Assets encompass a wide range of valuables owned by an individual or entity. These can include tangible assets like real estate and vehicles, as well as intangible assets such as intellectual property and investments.
  2. Liabilities:
    • Definition: Liabilities represent financial obligations or debts that an individual or entity owes. Examples include mortgages, car loans, credit card balances, and any other outstanding debts.
  3. Net Worth:
    • Definition: Net worth is the financial measure of an individual’s wealth, calculated by subtracting total liabilities from total assets. It provides an overview of one’s financial health and ability to cover obligations.
  4. Income:
    • Definition: Income refers to the money earned by an individual or entity. It can come from various sources, including employment, investments, business activities, and other revenue streams.
  5. Expenses:
    • Definition: Expenses encompass the costs associated with day-to-day living, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, transportation, and other regular expenditures.
  6. Budget:
    • Definition: A budget is a comprehensive financial plan that outlines expected income and details anticipated expenses over a specific period. It serves as a roadmap for managing finances and achieving financial goals.
  7. Credit Score:
    • Definition: A credit score is a numerical representation of an individual’s creditworthiness, based on their credit history. Lenders use this score to assess the risk of lending money or extending credit to the individual.
  8. Interest Rate:
    • Definition: Interest rate is the percentage charged or earned on a loan or investment over a specific period. It plays a crucial role in determining the cost of borrowing and the returns on investments.
  9. Principal:
    • Definition: Principal is the initial amount of money invested or loaned, excluding any interest or earnings that may accumulate over time. It represents the base amount on which interest calculations are made.
  10. Compound Interest:
    • Definition: Compound interest is one of the most important financial terms to know – it is the interest calculated not only on the initial principal amount but also on the accumulated interest from previous periods. It results in exponential growth of the investment or loan. Savings account interest works in this way.
  11. Risk:
    • Definition: Risk in financial terms refers to the uncertainty of achieving a desired outcome or the potential for financial loss. Understanding and managing risk is fundamental to making informed investment and financial decisions.
  12. Diversification:
    • Definition: Diversification is a risk management strategy that involves spreading investments across different asset classes, industries, and geographical regions to reduce the impact of a poor-performing investment on the overall portfolio.
  13. Inflation:
    • Definition: Inflation in financial terms is the gradual increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over time. It erodes the purchasing power of money, making it essential to consider in financial planning.
  14. Deflation:
    • Definition: Deflation is the opposite of inflation—it’s a decrease in the general price level of goods and services. While this may sound positive, deflation can lead to reduced consumer spending and economic challenges.
  15. 401(k):
    • Definition: A 401(k) is a tax-advantaged retirement savings plan sponsored by employers. Employees can contribute a portion of their salary to the plan, often with employer-matching contributions.
  16. IRA (Individual Retirement Account):
    • Definition: An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a personal savings account with tax advantages for retirement savings. IRAs are not employer-sponsored and offer various investment options.
  17. Stocks:
    • Definition: Stocks represent ownership shares in a company. Stockholders have a claim on part of the company’s assets and earnings and may exercise voting rights at shareholder meetings.
  18. Bonds:
    • Definition: Bonds are debt securities representing a loan made by an investor to a borrower—usually a corporation or government. Bondholders receive periodic interest payments and the return of the principal at maturity.
  19. Mutual Funds:
    • Definition: Mutual funds pool money from many investors to invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities. They provide an opportunity for individuals to invest in a variety of assets without managing them individually.
  20. Dividends:
    • Definition: Dividends are payments made by a corporation to its shareholders. They are typically a portion of the company’s profits and can be distributed in the form of cash or additional shares. Or they can even be in the form of property dividends.
  21. Credit Card:
    • Definition: A credit card is a financial tool that allows users to make purchases on credit, with the understanding that the borrowed amount must be repaid, often with interest. There are multiple types of credit cards for differing purposes, each with different financial terms, conditions and interest rates.
  22. Debit Card:
    • Definition: A debit card deducts money directly from a checking account to pay for purchases. It’s a convenient alternative to cash and doesn’t involve borrowing money.
  23. Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR):
    • Definition: The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) is a financial metric that provides a constant rate of return over a specified time period, considering the impact of compounding.
  24. FICO Score:
    • Definition: The FICO score is a credit score developed by Fair Isaac Corporation. It is widely used by lenders to assess an individual’s credit risk based on their credit history.
  25. Emergency Fund:
    • Definition: An emergency fund is a reserve of money set aside for unforeseen expenses or financial emergencies, providing a financial safety net.
  26. Amortization:
    • Definition: Amortization is the gradual repayment of a loan through systematic payments of principal and interest over time.
  27. Capital Gains:
    • Definition: Capital gains are profits realized from the sale of an investment or asset, such as stocks or real estate.
  28. Fixed Rate:
    • Definition: A fixed-rate is an interest rate that remains unchanged for the entire term of a loan or investment.
  29. Variable Rate:
    • Definition: A variable rate is an interest rate that can change periodically based on changes in a corresponding financial index.
  30. Liquid Assets:
    • Definition: Liquid assets are assets that can be quickly converted into cash without significant loss of value, providing immediate access to funds.
  31. Net Income:
    • Definition: Net income is the total income earned by an individual or entity after deducting all expenses, taxes, and other deductions.
  32. 401(k) Match:
    • Definition: A 401(k) match is an employer’s contribution to an employee’s 401(k) retirement savings plan, often matching a percentage of the employee’s contribution.
  33. Roth IRA:
    • Definition: A Roth IRA is a type of Individual Retirement Account where contributions are made after tax, and qualified withdrawals are tax-free.
  34. 529 Plan:
    • Definition: A 529 Plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs.
  35. Dollar Cost Averaging:
    • Definition: Dollar Cost Averaging is an investment strategy where an investor regularly invests a fixed amount of money, regardless of market conditions, reducing the impact of market volatility.
  36. Equity:
    • Definition: Equity is the value of an asset after deducting liabilities. In the context of investments, it represents ownership in a company.
  37. Liquidity:
    • Definition: In financial terms, liquidity is the ease with which an asset can be converted into cash without significant loss of value.
  38. Risk Tolerance:
    • Definition: Risk tolerance is an investor’s ability to endure fluctuations in the value of their investments. It influences investment decisions and portfolio management.
  39. Bear Market:
    • Definition: A bear market is a market characterized by declining prices, typically a drop of 20% or more from recent highs. It reflects pessimism and a lack of confidence in the economy.
  40. Bull Market:
    • Definition: A bull market is a market characterized by rising prices and optimistic investor sentiment. It signifies confidence and positive economic outlook.
  41. Credit Report:
    • Definition: A credit report is a detailed record of an individual’s credit history, including credit accounts, payment history, and outstanding debts.
  42. Secured Loan:
    • Definition: A secured loan is a loan that is backed by collateral, reducing the risk for the lender. If the borrower defaults, the lender can seize the collateral.
  43. Unsecured Loan:
    • Definition: An unsecured loan is a loan that is not backed by collateral. Approval is based on the borrower’s creditworthiness, and interest rates are often higher.
  44. Liquidation:
    • Definition: Liquidation is the process of selling off assets to generate cash, often used to pay off debts or distribute assets in a business closure.
  45. Depreciation:
    • Definition: Depreciation is the decrease in the value of an asset over time, often used in accounting to allocate the cost of an asset over its useful life.
  46. Roth 401(k):
    • Definition: A Roth 401(k) is a retirement savings plan that combines features of a Roth IRA and a traditional 401(k). Contributions are made after tax, and qualified withdrawals are tax-free.
  47. Capital Loss:
    • Definition: Capital loss is the loss incurred when the selling price of an asset is less than its purchase price.
  48. Annuity:
    • Definition: An annuity is a financial product that provides a series of payments made at equal intervals, often used as a source of income during retirement.
  49. ROA (Return on Assets):
    • Definition: Return on Assets (ROA) is a financial metric that measures a company’s ability to generate profit from its assets. It is calculated by dividing net income by average total assets.
  50. ROE (Return on Equity):
    • Definition: Return on Equity (ROE) is a financial ratio that evaluates a company’s profitability by dividing net income by shareholders’ equity.
  51. Hedge Fund:
    • Definition: A hedge fund is an investment fund that pools capital from accredited individuals or institutional investors and invests in a variety of assets. It often employs advanced strategies and has higher risk and return potential.
  52. 401(b):
    • Definition: A 401(b) is a retirement savings plan for employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations, similar to a 401(k).
  53. Cryptocurrency:
    • Definition: Cryptocurrency is digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security and operates on decentralized networks based on blockchain technology.
  54. Net Asset Value (NAV):
    • Definition: Net Asset Value (NAV) is the total value of a fund’s assets minus its liabilities, divided by the number of shares outstanding. It represents the per-share value of the fund.
  55. Rollover IRA:
    • Definition: A Rollover IRA is a retirement account that allows for the transfer of funds from an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), without incurring taxes or penalties.
  56. Callable Bond:
    • Definition: A callable bond is a bond that can be redeemed by the issuer before its maturity date, potentially leading to early repayment to bondholders.
  57. Dividend Yield:
    • Definition: Dividend yield is the annual dividend income earned by an investor, expressed as a percentage of the investment’s current market price.
  58. Mortgage:
    • Definition: A mortgage is a loan secured by real estate, typically used to purchase a home. The property serves as collateral, and the borrower repays the loan over time.
  59. Rebalancing:
    • Definition: Rebalancing in financial terms is the process of adjusting the weights of assets in an investment portfolio to maintain desired risk and return characteristics. It ensures the portfolio stays aligned with the investor’s goals.
  60. Credit Counseling:
    • Definition: Credit counseling is professional guidance to help individuals manage their debt and improve their financial situation. It often involves budgeting, debt management plans, and financial education.
  61. Disposable Income:
    • Definition: Disposable income is the amount of money an individual has available for spending and saving after taxes. It reflects the income that can be used freely.
  62. Garnishment:
    • Definition: Garnishment is a legal process where a portion of an individual’s wages is withheld to satisfy a debt. It is typically ordered by a court or government agency.
  63. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT):
    • Definition: Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is a separate tax calculation that eliminates certain deductions to ensure that high-income individuals pay a minimum amount of tax.
  64. Venture Capital:
    • Definition: Venture capital is funding provided by investors to startup companies and small businesses with perceived long-term growth potential. In return, investors receive equity in the company.
  65. Capital Expenditure:
    • Definition: Capital expenditure is money spent by a business to acquire, upgrade, or maintain physical assets, such as property or equipment. It is a long-term investment.
  66. 401(k) Rollover:
    • Definition: A 401(k) rollover is the transfer of funds from a 401(k) retirement account to another qualified retirement plan or IRA, often done when changing jobs.
  67. Consumer Price Index (CPI):
    • Definition: The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure that examines the average change in prices paid by consumers for goods and services over time. It is a key indicator of inflation.
  68. Margin:
    • Definition: Margin is borrowed money used to purchase securities, with the securities serving as collateral for the loan. It amplifies both gains and losses.
  69. Profit Margin:
    • Definition: Profit margin is a ratio of profitability calculated as net income divided by revenue, often expressed as a percentage. It measures how well a company turns revenue into profit.
  70. Equity Crowdfunding:
    • Definition: Equity crowdfunding is a method of raising capital by offering shares of a company to a large number of investors, typically through online platforms. It allows individuals to invest in early-stage companies.
  71. Tax Deduction:
    • Definition: A tax deduction is a reduction in taxable income, often resulting from expenses or contributions that qualify under tax laws. It lowers the amount of income subject to taxation.
Financial terms to know
Financial terms to know

Basic Financial Terms: Further Financial Reading

We hope you have found these investment and financial terms useful. In addition to this financial terminology you might also like to view the essential marketing terminology you need to know.

This list is intended to give you a good grounding in some basic financial terms that are used in personal finance such as by your bank, investment provider or financial advisor.

If you’d like to learn more in depth about a financial subject, we recommend checking out these best books for success. Don’t have the time to read books? Learn how executive book summaries can help you as an alternative to reading full book volumes.

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