Financial Terms

 

Financial Terms

Financial Terms

1035 Exchange

A method of exchanging insurance-related assets without triggering a taxable event. Cash-value life insurance policies and annuity contracts are two products that may qualify for a 1035 exchange.

401(k) Plan

A qualified retirement plan available to eligible employees of companies. 401(k) plans allow eligible employees to defer taxation on a specific percentage of their income that is to be put toward retirement savings; taxes on this deferred income and on any earnings the account generates are deferred until the funds are withdrawn—normally in retirement. Employers may match part or all of an employee’s contributions. Employees may be responsible for investment selections and enjoy the direct tax savings.

401(k) Loan

A loan taken from the assets within a 401(k) account. 401(k) loans charge interest and are normally paid back through payroll deductions. If the borrower leaves an employer before a 401(k) loan has been repaid, the full amount of the loan is generally due. If the borrower fails to repay the loan, it is considered a distribution, and ordinary income taxes may be due, along with any applicable tax penalties. 

403(b) Plan

A 403(b) plan is similar to a 401(k). A 403(b) is a qualified retirement plan available to employees of non-profit and government organizations.

Account Balance

The amount held in an account at the end of a reporting period. For example, a credit card account balance would show the amount owed to a lender as a result of purchases made during a specific period.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)

A mortgage with an interest rate that is adjusted periodically based on an index. Adjustable-rate mortgages generally have lower initial interest rates than fixed-rate mortgages because the lender is able to transfer some of the risk to the borrower; if prevailing rates go higher, the interest rate on a variable mortgage may adjust upward as well.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

One figure used in the calculation of income tax liability. AGI is determined by subtracting allowable adjustments from gross income.

Administrator

A probate-court-appointed person who is tasked with settling an estate for which there is no will.

After-Tax Return

The return on an investment after subtracting any taxes due.

Aggressive Growth Fund

A mutual fund offered by an investment company that specifically pursues substantial capital gains. Mutual fund balances are subject to fluctuation in value and market risk. Shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Mutual funds are sold only by prospectus. Individuals are encouraged to consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

A method of calculating income tax with a unique set of rules for deductions and exemptions that are more restrictive than those in the traditional tax system. The AMT attempts to ensure that certain high-income taxpayers don’t pay a lower effective tax rate than everyone else. To determine whether or not the AMT applies, taxpayers must fill out IRS Form 6251.

American Stock Exchange (AMEX)

A stock exchange originally located in New York City. AMEX was taken over by NYSE Euronext—the group that operates the New York Stock Exchange—in January 2009.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The yearly cost of a loan expressed as a percentage of the loan amount. The APR includes interest owed and any fees or additional costs associated with the agreement.

Annual Report

A report required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of any company issuing registered stock, that describes a company’s management, operations, and financial reports. Annual reports are sent to shareholders, and must also be available for public review.

Annuity

A contract with an insurance company that guarantees current or future payments in exchange for a premium or series of premiums. The interest earned on an annuity contract is not taxable until the funds are paid out or withdrawn. Withdrawals and income payments are taxed as ordinary income. If a withdrawal is made prior to age 59½, penalties may apply. The guarantees of an annuity contract depend on the issuing company’s claims-paying ability. Annuities have fees and charges associated with the contract, and a surrender charge also may apply if the contract owner elects to give up the annuity before certain time-period conditions are satisfied.

Appraisal

A formal assessment of a property’s value at a specific point in time, performed by a qualified professional.

Asset

Anything owned that has a current value that may provide a future benefit.

Asset Allocation

A method of allocating funds to pursue the highest potential return at a specific level of risk. Asset allocation normally uses sophisticated mathematical analysis of the historical performance of asset classes to attempt to project future risk and return. Asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not guarantee against investment loss.

Asset Class

A specific category of investments that share similar characteristics and tend to behave similarly in the marketplace.

Audit

In accounting, the formal examination of a company’s financial records by a qualified professional to determine the records’ accuracy, consistency, and conformity to legal standards and established accounting principles. In taxes, the formal examination of a tax return by the Internal Revenue Service or other authority to determine its accuracy.

Automatic Reinvestment

An arrangement under which an institution automatically deposits dividends or capital gains generated by an individual’s investment back into the investment to purchase additional shares.

Balanced Mutual Fund

A mutual fund offered by an investment company which attempts to hold a balance of stocks and bonds. Mutual funds are subject to fluctuation in value and market risk. Shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Mutual funds are sold only by prospectus. Individuals are encouraged to consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

Bear Market

A market experiencing an extended period of declining prices. A bear market is the opposite of a bull market.

Beneficiary

The person or entity who will receive benefits from a life insurance policy, qualified retirement plan, annuity, trust, or will upon the death of an individual.

Blue Chip Stock

The stock of an established company which has a history of generating a profit and possibly a consistent dividend.

Bond

A debt instrument under which the issuer promises to pay a specified amount of interest and to repay the principal at maturity. The market value of a bond will fluctuate with changes in interest rates. As rates rise, the value of existing bonds typically falls. If an investor sells a bond before maturity, it may be worth more or less than the initial purchase price. By holding a bond to maturity, an investor will receive the interest payments due plus his or her original principal, barring default by the issuer. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk.

Book Value

The value of a company’s assets minus its liabilities, preferred stock, and redeemable preferred stock.

Bull Market

A market experiencing an extended period of rising prices. A bull market is the opposite of a bear market.

Buy-and-Hold

An investment strategy that advocates holding securities for the long term and ignoring short-term price fluctuations in the market.

Buy-Sell Agreement

A legal contract that provides for the purchase of all outstanding shares from a business owner who wishes to sell, wants to terminate involvement, is permanently disabled, or has died. Buy-sell agreements are often funded with life insurance.

Capital Gain or Loss

The difference between the price at which an asset was purchased and the price for which it was sold. When the sale price is higher than the purchase price, the difference is a capital gain; when the sale price is lower than the purchase price, the difference is a capital loss.

Cash Alternatives

Assets that are most easily converted into cash and which have a very low risk of price fluctuation. For example, money market funds may be considered a cash alternative. Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund.

Cash Surrender Value

The amount a policyholder would receive when voluntarily terminating a cash-value life insurance policy before the insured event occurs or when cashing out an annuity contract before its maturity. Computation of cash surrender value is stated in the life insurance or annuity contract.

Certificate of Deposit (CD)

A deposit with a bank, thrift institution, or credit union that promises a fixed interest rate on funds deposited for a specified period of time. Bank savings accounts and CDs are FDIC insured up to $250,000 per depositor per institution and generally provide a fixed rate of return, whereas the value of money market mutual funds can fluctuate.

Charitable Lead Trust

A trust established for the benefit of a charitable organization under which the charitable organization receives payment of a specified amount (at least annually) from the trust. On the death of the grantor, remainder interest in the trust passes to his or her heirs. Using a trust involves a complex set of tax rules and regulations. Before moving forward with a trust, consider working with a professional who is familiar with the rules and regulations.

Charitable Remainder Trust

A trust established for the benefit of a charitable organization under which the grantor can designate an income beneficiary to receive payment of a specified amount—at least annually—from the trust. The grantor may also be the income beneficiary. On the death of the grantor, remainder interest in the trust passes to the charitable organization. Using a trust involves a complex set of tax rules and regulations. Before moving forward with a trust, consider working with a professional who is familiar with the rules and regulations.

Claim

A request for payment under the terms of an insurance policy.

COBRA

A federal law that requires group health plans sponsored by employers with more than 20 employees to offer terminated or retired employees the opportunity to continue their health insurance coverage for a specified period at the employees’ expense.

Coinsurance or Co-Payment

A policy provision under which an insurance company and the insured party share the total cost of covered medical services after the policy’s deductible has been met.

Commercial Paper

An unsecured, short-term debt security issued by a corporation to finance short-term liabilities. These notes are normally backed only by the issuing corporation’s promise to pay the face amount on the maturity date specified on the note, which is usually less than six months.

Common Stock

A security that represents partial ownership of a corporation. Those who hold common stock are entitled to participate in stockholder meetings, to vote for the board of directors, and may receive periodic dividends.

Community Property

State laws under which most property and debts acquired during a marriage—except for gifts or inheritances—are owned jointly by both spouses and are divided upon divorce or annulment. In the United States, nine states have community property laws: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Compound Interest

A process under which interest is computed both on an account’s principal and on any gains reinvested in prior periods. This is contrasted with simple interest, in which interest is calculated only on the principal amount.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The U.S. government’s main measure of inflation, calculated monthly by the Department of Labor.

Convertible Term Insurance

A term life insurance policy under which the policyholder has the right to convert the policy to permanent life insurance, subject to limitations. Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. You should consider determining whether you are insurable before implementing a strategy involving life insurance. Any guarantees associated with a policy are dependent on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments.

Corporate Bond

A debt security issued by a corporation under which the issuer promises to make periodic interest payments and to repay the investor’s principal at maturity. The market value of a bond will fluctuate with changes in interest rates. As rates rise, the value of existing bonds typically falls. If an investor sells a bond before maturity, it may be worth more or less than the initial purchase price. By holding a bond to maturity, investors will receive the interest payments due plus their original principal, barring default by the issuer. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk.

Corporation

A legal organization created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. Corporations are taxable entities—they are taxed separately from their members or shareholders. Corporations are able to borrow money and to make a profit separately from their members or shareholders.

Coverdell Education Savings Account (Coverdell ESA)

A tax-advantaged investment account that allows accumulation of funds to cover future education expenses, subject to limitations. Coverdell ESAs allow money to grow tax deferred and proceeds to be withdrawn tax free for qualified education expenses at a qualified institution.

Credit Score

A statistical estimation of how likely a potential borrower is to pay his or her debts and, by extension, how much credit he or she should have.

Debt

An obligation owed by one party (the debtor) to a second party (the creditor).

Debt-to-Equity Ratio

The ratio of a company’s total debt to its total shareholder equity. Some use the debt-to-equity ratio to attempt to ascertain a company’s capability to repay its creditors.

Deduction

An amount that can be subtracted from gross income before income taxes are calculated.

Deed

A legal document that confirms ownership of an asset or that confirms the passage of an interest, right, or ownership in the asset from one person or legal entity to another. 

Deferred Annuity

A contract with an insurance company that guarantees a future payment or series of payments in exchange for current premiums. The interest earned on an annuity contract is not taxable until the funds are paid out or withdrawn. The guarantees of an annuity contract depend on the issuing company’s claims-paying ability. Annuities have fees and charges associated with the contract, and a surrender charge also may apply if the contract owner elects to give up the annuity before certain time-period conditions are satisfied.

Defined Benefit Plan

A retirement plan under which the benefit to a retiring employee is defined. Defined benefit plans are normally funded by employer contributions.

Defined Contribution Plan

A retirement plan under which the annual contributions made by the employer or employee are defined. Benefits may vary depending on the performance of the investments in the account.

Deflation

A reduction in the price of goods and services. Deflation is the opposite of inflation.

Dependent

A person who relies on another for his or her financial support. Within limits, those who support dependents are allowed to claim certain exemptions when filing income taxes.

Direct Rollover

The direct transfer of assets from the trustee or custodian of one qualified retirement plan or account to the trustee or custodian of another. Done correctly, direct rollovers do not trigger taxable events.

Disability Income Insurance

An insurance policy that pays a portion of the insured’s income when a specified disability makes working uncomfortable, painful, or impossible. 

Diversification

An investment strategy under which capital is divided among several assets or asset classes. Diversification operates under the assumption that different assets and/or asset classes are unlikely to move in the same direction, allowing gains in one investment to offset losses in another. Diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.

Dividend

Taxable payments made by a company to its shareholders. Some dividends are paid quarterly and others are paid monthly. Companies can adjust common share dividends at any time, pending approval by the company’s board of directors.

Dollar-Cost Averaging

An investment strategy under which a fixed dollar amount of securities is purchased at regular intervals. Under dollar-cost averaging, more shares are purchased when prices are low and fewer shares when prices rise. Keep in mind that dollar-cost averaging does not protect against a loss in a declining market or guarantee a profit in a rising market. Investors should evaluate their financial ability to continue making purchases through periods of declining and rising prices.

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)

An average calculated by summing the prices of 30 actively leading stocks on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and dividing the sum by a divisor which has been adjusted to account for cases of stock splits, spinoffs, or similar structural changes. Individuals cannot invest directly in an index.

Early Withdrawal

Withdrawal of funds from an investment before its maturity date or withdrawal of funds from a tax-deferred account before the legally imposed age requirements have been satisfied. Early withdrawals may be subject to penalties.

Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)

A defined-contribution plan that provides a company’s workers with an ownership interest in the company—usually as shares of company stock.

Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plan

A retirement plan sponsored by an employer for the benefit of its employees. These typically fall into one of two types: defined-contribution plans (such as SEP IRAs, 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans) and defined-benefit plans (such as traditional pensions).

Equity

The value of real property or a business after all liabilities have been paid. A home worth $300,000 with a $200,000 mortgage would have $100,000 in equity.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

A federal law that establishes the regulations under which retirement plans are governed and spells out the federal income tax regulations and effects for qualified retirement plans.

Estate Management

The preparations necessary to manage a person’s financial and healthcare matters during his or her lifetime and to effectively and economically distribute the assets within that estate upon his or her death.

Estate Tax

Federal and/or state taxes that may be levied on the assets of a deceased person upon his or her death. These taxes are paid by the deceased person’s estate rather than his or her heirs.

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

A share of an investment company that owns a block of shares selected to pursue a specific investment objective. ETFs trade like stocks and are listed on stock exchanges and sold by broker-dealers. Exchange-traded funds are sold only by prospectus. Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

Executive Bonus Plan

An executive benefit paid for by an employer.

Executor

A person named by a will or appointed by the probate court to distribute the deceased’s assets as directed by the will or, in the absence of a will, in accordance with the probate laws of the state.

Federal Income Tax Bracket

A series of income ranges within which a taxpayer’s income is taxed at a certain rate. Taxpayers pay the tax rate in a given bracket only for that portion of their overall income that falls within the bracket’s range.

Federal Reserve System (The Fed)

The United States’ central bank. The Federal Reserve System consists of a series of 12 independent banks that operate under the supervision of a seven-member, federally appointed board of governors. The Fed strives to maintain maximum employment, stable price levels, and moderate long-term interest rates. It establishes and enforces the regulations banks, savings and loans, and credit unions must follow. It also acts as a clearing house for certain financial transactions and provides banking services to the federal government.

Financial Aid

Loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs provided by federally and privately funded sources to enable students to attend college.

Financial Statement

A formal record of the financial activities of a business, person, or other entity. For a business, financial statements typically include a balance sheet, a profit and loss statement, and a cash flow statement.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

FINRA is an independent regulator that oversees all securities firms doing business in the U.S. FINRA seeks to protect investors by making sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly.

First-to-Die Life Insurance

Joint life insurance taken out on the lives of two or more people that pays its death benefit when the first insured person dies.

Fixed Annuity

A contract with an insurance company that guarantees investment growth at a fixed interest rate as well as current or future payments in exchange for a premium or series of premiums. The interest earned on an annuity contract is not taxable until the funds are paid out or withdrawn. The guarantees of an annuity contract depend on the issuing company’s claims-paying ability. Annuities have fees and charges associated with the contract, and a surrender charge also may apply if the contract owner elects to give up the annuity before certain time-period conditions are satisfied.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

A mortgage with a set interest rate that will not change over the life of the loan.

Foreclosure

The legal process under which a creditor seizes the property of a borrower who has not made timely payments on his or her debt.

Front-End Load

A sales fee paid at the time an investment is purchased. This fee is deducted from the investment—thus lowering the size of the investment.

Fundamental Analysis

A method of evaluating securities that examines financial and economic factors—such as the current finances of a company and the prevailing economic environment—to determine whether the company’s future value is accurately reflected in its current stock price.

Gift

The voluntary transfer of assets under which the giver receives no compensation and retains no interest in his or her gift.

Gift Tax

A tax the federal government and some states levy on the transfer of property as a gift. Generally gift taxes increase with the amount of the gift and are paid by the donor.

Gross Monthly Income

Total monthly income generated from all sources before taxes and other expenses are considered.

Group Life Insurance

Life insurance that insures all the members of a specific group, most of