Common Investment Terms

Commonly Used Investment Terms

 

Accredited Investor

A high-net worth individual, or joint net worth with the person's spouse, exceeding $1 million; or a person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000.

Ask

This is the lowest price an owner is willing to accept for an asset.

Asset

Something that has the potential to earn money for you. It is something you own that can reasonably be expected to produce something for you. Assets include stocks, bonds, commodities, real estate, and other investments.

Asset Allocation

One of the ways to divide up the holdings in your portfolio is to do so by asset class. The idea is that different assets perform opposite to each other, and you can limit some of your risks by allocating, or diversifying, your portfolio according to the type of asset you have.

Balance Sheet

A statement showing a company's profit margin, what a company owns, the liabilities the company has, as well as stating the outstanding shareholder equity.

Bear Market

This is a market that is falling. A bear market has a downward trend, and someone who believes the market is headed for a drop is often referred to as a “bear.” Bear markets can last for a few weeks or years.

Bid

This is the highest price a buyer is willing to pay when buying an investment. Today, electronic trading makes it possible to ask and bid to be matched up automatically and almost instantly.

Blue Chip

Blue chips are companies that have a long history of good earnings, good balance sheets, and even regularly increasing dividends. These are solid companies that are likely to provide reasonable returns over time.

Bond

This is an investment that represents what an entity owes you. Essentially, you lend money to a government or a company, and you are promised that the principal will be returned plus interest.

Book Value

If you take all the liabilities a company has, and subtract them from the assets and common stock equity of the company, what you would have left over is the book value. Most of the time, the book value is used as part of an evaluative measure rather than being truly related to a company's market value.

Broker

This is the entity that buys and sells investments on your behalf. Usually, you pay a fee for this service. In the case of an online discount broker, you often pay a flat commission per trade. Other brokers, especially if they also manage your assets as a whole, just charge a percentage of your assets each year.

Brokerage Account

A brokerage account is created by a licensed brokerage firm that allows an investor to add funds and then the investor can place investment orders. The investor owns the assets contained in the brokerage account but will usually have to claim any taxable income from capital gains.

Bull Market

This is a market that is trending higher, likely to gain. If you think that the market is going to go up, you are considered a “bull.” Additionally, the term, like bear, can be applied to how you feel about an individual investment. If you are “bullish” on a specific company, it means you think the stock price will rise.

Capital Gain or Loss

This is the difference between what you bought an investment for and what you sell if for. If you buy 100 shares of a stock at $10 a share (spending $1,000) and sell your shares later for $25 a share ($2,500), you have a capital gain of $1,500. A loss occurs when you sell for less than you paid. So, if you sell this stock for $5 instead ($500), you have a capital loss of $500.

Derivative

derivative is an asset that derives, or gains, its value from another source.

Diversity

A portfolio characteristic that ensures you have more than one type of asset. It also means choosing to buy investments in different sectors, industries, or geographic locations.

Dividend

In some cases, a company will offer to divide up some of its income among shareholders. Dividends can be paid once, as a special use of them, or they can be paid more regularly, such as monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.

Dividend Yield

The dividend yield is the current yield of a common stock at its present dividend rate. It is the ratio between the dollar value of the dividend a company pays and its share price. If a stock is trading at $100 per share and pays out $5 in annual dividends, the dividend yield would be 5%.

Dollar Cost Averaging

An investment strategy in which an investor divides up the total amount to be invested across periodic purchases of a target asset (often a stock) in an effort to reduce the impact of price changes on the overall purchase. The purchases occur regardless of the asset's price and at regular intervals. This aims to avoid making the mistake of making one lump-sum investment that is poorly timed with regard to asset pricing.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

A stock market index that tracks 30 large, publicly owned, blue-chip companies trading on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ. It was designed to serve as a proxy for the health of the broader U.S. economy.

Exchange

This is a place where investments, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and other assets, are bought and sold. It's a place where brokers (buyers and sellers) and others can connect. While many exchanges of “trading floors,” most orders these days are executed electronically.

ETF (Exchange-Traded Funds)

A type of investment fund that trades like a stock. Investors buy and sell ETFs on the same exchanges as shares of stock. ETFs allow investors to track any number of things, such as indexes, commodities, sectors, or even stocks. Stock exchange-traded funds allow investors to gain exposure to a basket of equities in a specific sector or index without purchasing individual stocks.

Form 10-K

Form 10-K is an annual disclosure document certain firms are required to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It contains in-depth information about a business, including its finances, business model, and much more.  

Hedge Fund

This is an alternative investment that uses pooled funds. A money manager or registered investment advisor sets up this type of structure as an LLC or a limited partnership. The manager raises money from outside investors and then invests and manages that money. Hedge funds are aimed at high-income investors because individuals must earn at least $200,000 annually to be considered an accredited investor and eligible to invest with a hedge fund.

High-Water Mark

The existence of the high-water mark ensures that a fund only takes performance-related fees on new profits. For example, assume a $1,000,000 investment is made and that the fund declines by 20% in year 1, leaving $800,000 in the fund. In year 2, the fund returns 25%, bringing the investment value back to $1,000,000. If the fund employs a high-water mark, it will not take incentive fees on the return in year 2, since the investment has never really grown (i.e., the fund did not make any new profits). The fund will only take incentive feed if the investment grows above the level of $1,000,000.

Hurdle Rate

The rate at which a hedge is allowed to collect performance fees. If a hedge fund sets a 5% hurdle rate, for example, it will only collect incentive fees during periods when returns are higher than this amount.

Index

A tool used to statistically measure the progress of a group of stocks that share characteristics. This can include a group of stocks, a group of bonds, or a group of other assets.

Index Fund

An index fund is a type of mutual fund that allows an individual to buy investments that mimic the trends of an index. These are generally more passive investments with lower fees than mutual funds.

IRA

This stands for individual retirement account. It is a tax-advantaged account. There are several types of IRAs. Anyone over 18 with a job can open an IRA for themselves. However, not everyone will have access to every type of IRA.

Liquidity

The ease with which an investment product / fund can be sold / redeemed from, without impacting its price. Hedge funds typically offer quarterly or annual liquidity, meaning that they allow investors to redeem their shares that often.

Margin

This is essentially borrowed money used to make an investment. You can get credit from a broker to buy more than you have actually money for. The hope is that you will make enough money that you will be able to repay the borrowed amount from your earnings.

Market Capitalization

The market cap of a company is figured by multiplying its current share price by the number of shares outstanding. The largest companies have market caps in the billions.

Money Market

money market account is an interest-bearing account that will usually pay a higher interest rate than a bank savings account would.

Mutual Fund

mutual fund is managed by a professional portfolio manager that purchases securities with money pooled from individual investors. The fund can hold individual stocks or bonds. Such funds typically come with higher fees than other investments since the account is actively managed.

NASDAQ

The National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations is a U.S. exchange for buying and selling securities. It is based in New York City. Nasdaq is also an index of the stocks bought and sold on the Nasdaq exchange.

New York Stock Exchange

One of the most famous stock exchanges is the NYSE, which trades stocks in companies all over the United States and even includes stocks of some international companies.

Offshore Funds

Vehicles structured for foundation or tax-deferred assets (to avoid Unrelated Business Income Tax, UBIT).

Onshore Funds

Vehicles structured for taxable assets.

Performance Fee

A fee paid to a fund manager for providing returns on an investment, often by reference to a benchmark or hurdle rate. This fee is based on net new profits and is earned by the hedge fund manager for the period concerned. It may be paid annually or quarterly, but accrues monthly in the fund valuation. (Typically 20%, 50% for really great funds.)

Personal Investment Strategy

This is exactly what it sounds like: your personal approach to investments and strategy. There's no single right way to invest. Learn about how investing works. Then define and execute your personal strategy.

P/E Ratio

This measure reflects how much you pay for each dollar that the company earns. A company often reports profits on a per-share basis. So a company might say that it has earned $5 per share. If that same stock is selling for $75 a share on the market, you divide $75 by $5 to come up with a P/E ratio of 15. The higher a P/E ratio is, the more there are expectations for higher earnings.

PEG Ratio

The price-to-earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio is a modified form of the PE ratio that factors growth into the metric. For instance, the ratio shows that a company growing at 15% per annum and trading at 20x earnings can be cheaper than a company trading at 8x earnings and shrinking by 10% per annum.

Recession

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters when a country sees negative economic activity. Usually, this is determined by a decline in GDP (gross domestic product) for two consecutive quarters.

Redemption

Liquidation of shares or interests in an investment fund.

Registered Investment Advisor (RIA)

A financial investment advisor who has been through certain training and who agrees to abide by certain rules, including ensuring that recommendations and trades made on your behalf are in your best interest.

Rollover IRA

When an employee leaves his or her employer, he or she can opt to roll over their 401(k) balance and have it deposited into a Rollover IRA, which basically is exactly like the Traditional IRA.

Roth IRA

An individual retirement account allowing a person to set aside after-tax income. Similar to the Traditional IRA, you can contribute the maximum of $5,500 to a Roth IRA ($6,500 if you are age 50 or older by the end of the year). The difference is you are not taxed when you take your retirement payments. However, there are limitations pending your salary.

S&P 500

The Standard & Poor's 500 is a stock market index that tracks the value of 500 large-cap companies in the United States. Similarly, the Dow Jones a stock market index that tracks 30 of the largest American companies.

Simple IRA

A type of IRA for small business owners with fewer than 100 employees who want to offer some sort of retirement benefits to their employees, but don’t want to deal with larger challenges that come with a 401(k) company.

Stock

A stock represents ownership in a company. Companies divide their ownership stakes into shares, and the amount of shares you purchase indicates your level of ownership in the company. Stock is bought in the hopes that the company will be successful, and more people will want a stake, so you can sell your stake later at a higher price than you paid.

SEP-IRA

This form of IRA can be used by self-employed people and small business owners under certain circumstances. The contribution limits are much higher than a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA.

Taxable Accounts

Account you can use for trading stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. Taxable accounts don't carry any tax advantages, so you'll be taxed on your investment income.

Tax-Advantaged Accounts

These types of investment accounts come with tax advantages of some type that let you defer or be exempt from taxes on investment income. Retirement accounts — where you can deduct contributions from your taxes, such as an individual retirement account (IRA) — fall into this category.

Volatility

This is when there are big swings in either direction of the stock market or individual stocks. If the stock market rises and falls more than 1% over a consistent period of time, it would probably be considered a ‘volatile’ market.

Volume

Volume is the number of shares being traded in the entire market during a given period of time. Each transaction during stock trading hours contributes to the count of total volume.

Yield

This is associated with dividend investing. Your yield represents the ratio between the stock price paid and the dividend paid. If a stock is trading at $100 per share, with a dividend that amounts to $5 per year, you divide the $5 by $100 and turn it into a percentage. In this case, the yield would be 5%.

403(b)

A retirement plan that is pretty much like a 401(k) but is only offered for non-profit organizations.

529 Plan

This tax-advantaged plan is designed to save for future education costs. This can be for K-12 tuition or for future college costs.