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Financial Terms You Should Know

There’s a lot of “inside baseball” in financial services.  I like to think of it as “inside tennis” as the financial media keep stealing my favorite sport's lingo.  That CEO committed an “unforced error.”  The company’s new release was a “double fault.” The merger is “game, set, and match.”

Are you as tired as me of overused sports jargon crossing the goal line into the business world and trying to knock it out of the park?  Well, I’m not really tired of it.  It makes an often dry topic a little wetter. I mean more interesting. 

You can stop Monday morning quarterbacking my writing.  Yeah…so maybe I’m losing a step.

Just stop saying, “she’s getting a little too far over her skis” unless you’re discussing Lindsey Vonn or Mikaela Shiffrin.

There is a unique language to personal finance.  A language we should’ve learned in high school but likely never did.

See how many terms you’re familiar with.  Go ahead and give yourself 10-points for each one you know.  See if you break 100.  See what I did there…a golf reference.  Just don’t sign an incorrect scorecard.

Banking Terms To Know

Net Worth

Your net worth is found by subtracting your liabilities (or debts) from your assets. To determine this value, you can add up everything you have of value. This includes investments, money in the bank and the current value of your car and home. Then, you’ll want to subtract any current money owed, including credit card debt, student loans, mortgage balances and any other debts. The remaining amount is your net worth.

Compound interest

Compound interest is the interest you earn on interest. It sounds confusing, but it can be an effective way to gradually increase your wealth over time. When referred to in regards to a banking account, this is interest that is incurred based on the original deposited amount plus its original interest. For example, if you deposit $1,000 into an account with a five percent compounding interest rate, in the first year you’ll have $1,050 (the original $1,000 plus five percent, or $50). As you enter into the next year, that five percent interest rate will apply to the $1,050 (the original amount plus its interest already accrued). By the end of that year, you’ll have $1,102.50.

FICO Score

FICO, which is an acronym for Fair Isaac Corporation, is a method used to determine how credible a borrower may be. This score is typically dependent on factors including total debt owed, length of credit history and previous payment performance. A FICO score can be between 300 and 800. The higher your score, the better a chance, in general, you have at obtaining loans or other forms of financing.


APR stands for annual percentage rate. This refers to the amount of interest gained in an account. It does not include compound interest.

Certificate of Deposit

Often referred to as a CD, this is an account in which you agree to deposit a certain amount of money and leave it in the account for a predetermined length. In doing so, you will receive an interest rate that is typically higher than those found on checking or savings accounts.

Investment Terms To Know

Asset Allocation

When developing your portfolio, asset allocation refers to the process of dividing your assets into different asset classes. The most popular asset classes include stocks, bonds and cash or cash equivalents. Typically, your asset allocation is determined based on several factors including risk tolerance and time horizon.

Capital Gains

This is the amount of value an asset has gained or increased since the original purchase. Capital gains are typically used to describe an increase in value of stocks or real estate. It’s important to note, however, that these gains are only shown on paper until the actual entity is sold.


Rebalancing is the process used to help maintain the proper asset allocation for your specific needs. This is a necessary part of keeping your asset allocation in check as stocks, bonds and other assets are sold or purchased or gain and lose value over time.

Mutual Funds

When choosing to invest in a mutual fund, you are pooling your money together with other investors into one account that is then typically managed by a professional. These types of investments can include any of the most common asset classes including stocks, bonds, cash and cash equivalents (such as a certificate of deposit).

Custodial Account

In the broadest sense, a custodial account is any account that is managed by another party. Typically, that party will have a fiduciary duty to manage the account in the holder’s best interest. In terms of investment accounts, the manager could be the brokerage firm you’ve put in charge of handling your investments. The term custodial accounts is also used to describe accounts that have been set up by a parent or legal guardian for a minor. 

Insurance Terms To Know


In the event you were to pass away while owning a life insurance policy, the beneficiary is the person who would receive the insurance payout after your death.

Umbrella Insurance

Umbrella insurance is a type of liability insurance designed to provide blanket coverage protecting most aspects of your financial life. Specifically created to cover you in the case of a lawsuit, this coverage steps in when you’ve reached the liability limits on your auto insurance or other types of insurance. 

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is designed to offer coverage only during a designated period of time. When you select the term, you often have the choice to choose the length, such as 10, 20, 30+ years. Should you die unexpectedly or prematurely during this predetermined time span, your beneficiary will receive an insurance payout. 


This is the actual amount your insurance plan costs you to have. You’ll typically pay your premium on a month to month or annual basis.

Risk Classification

When determining the premium on an insurance policy, the provider will evaluate your risk classification among other factors including the length of the policy, your age, etc. In terms of life insurance, providers will determine your risk classification based on a number of variables including your smoking status, BMI and medical history. 

Whether you’re looking to dive deeper into the world of investments or take a second look at your current insurance policies, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the concepts and terms the professionals you speak with will be using. This can help you make more informed decisions as you move forward in navigating the financial services industry.