10 Financial Terms Everyone Should Know

Posted by Diane H. Blackwelder on 22 March 2010 | 0 Comments


Understanding financial matters can be difficult because of the jargon used. Becoming familiar with these ten financial terms may help make your financial picture clearer.

1. Time value of money

The time value of money is the concept that money on hand today is worth more than the same amount of money in the future because the money today can be invested to earn interest. Why is it important? Understanding that money today is worth more than the same amount in the future can help you evaluate and compare investments that offer returns at different times.

2. Market volatility

Market volatility measures the rate at which the price of a security moves up and down. If the price of a security historically changes rapidly over a short period of time, its volatility is high. Conversely, if the price of a security rarely changes, its volatility is low. Why is it important? Understanding volatility can help you evaluate whether a particular investment is suited to your investing style and risk tolerance.

3. Inflation

Inflation reflects any overall upward movement in the price of goods and services in the economy. Why is it important? Because inflation generally pushes the cost of goods and services higher, any estimate of how much you'll need in the future--for example, how much you'll need to save for retirement-- should take into account the potential impact of inflation.

4. Asset allocation

This strategy means spreading investments over a variety of asset categories, such as equities, cash, bonds, etc. Why is it important? How you allocate your assets depends on a number of factors, including your risk tolerance and your desired return. Diversifying your investments over asset classes can potentially help you manage risk and volatility.

5. Net worth

Net worth is what your total holdings are worth after subtracting all of your financial obligations. Why is it important? Your net worth will probably fund most of your retirement years. Therefore, the faster and bigger your net worth grows, the earlier and more comfortably you will be able to retire. Once retired, preserving your net worth to last through your retirement years is your goal.

6. Five C's of credit

These are character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions. They're the primary elements lenders evaluate to determine whether to make you a loan. Why is it important? With a better understanding of how your banker is going to view and assess your creditworthiness, you will be better prepared to deliver appropriate information to obtain the loan you want or get a better interest rate.

7. Sustainable withdrawal rate

Sustainable withdrawal rate is the maximum percentage that you can withdraw from an investment portfolio each year to provide income that will last, with reasonable certainty, as long as you need it. Why is it important? Your retirement lifestyle will depend not only on your assets and investment choices, but also on how quickly you draw down your retirement portfolio.

8. Tax deferral

Tax deferral refers to the opportunity to pay income taxes in the future for investment interest and appreciation earned in the current year. Why is it important? Tax-deferred vehicles like IRAs and annuities produce earnings that are not taxed until withdrawn. This allows those earnings to compound,further adding to potential investment growth.

9. Risk/return trade-off

This concept holds that, in order to achieve a higher personal investment return, you must be willing to accept greater risk. Why is it important? When considering your investments, the goal is investing to get the greatest return for the level of risk you're willing to take, or to minimize the risk involved in trying for a given return.

10. Expense Ratio

It takes money to run a mutual fund. Just like any other business, salaries, marketing expenses, office expenses and other costs have to be paid before any cash can be investedThe percentage of mutual fund assets that go toward paying these things is called the expense ratio.  Why is it important? If two funds have expense ratios of 0.50% and 1.5%, respectively, the latter has a much bigger hurdle to overcome before the fund is profitable.  Over time, you would be shocked to see how big of a difference a percentage can make to your bottom line.

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