Mastering Investment Jargon: 50 Essential Terms Explained
Updated: Nov 15
In the dynamic world of investing, the lingo can often seem perplexing to newcomers. The vast landscape of stocks, bonds, commodities, and market strategies is underpinned by a rich vocabulary that seasoned investors use as second nature. For those just stepping into this realm, grasping these terms is foundational. This guide elucidates 50 pivotal investment terms, enriched with real-world examples to demystify the intricate. Whether a novice or brushing up on financial jargon, let this be your compass.
Asset Something of value. In the context of investments, it typically refers to stocks, bonds, real estate, or other investment vehicles.
-A house you own is a real estate asset. If its value increases over time, it could provide a return when sold.
Bear Market A market condition where the prices of securities are falling, and widespread pessimism causes the negative sentiment to be self-sustaining. -In 2008, the global financial crisis led to a bear market where stock prices fell significantly. Bull Market The opposite of a bear market. It's a condition in which securities prices rise at a rate higher than the average.
- From 2009 to early 2020, U.S. stock markets experienced one of the longest bull market runs in history.
Bond A debt investment where an investor loans money to an entity, typically corporate or governmental, which borrows the funds for a defined period at a fixed interest rate. - The U.S. government issues Treasury bonds, which investors buy, essentially loaning money to the government.
Broker An individual or firm that is licensed to buy and sell securities on behalf of its clients. - Companies like Charles Schwab or Robinhood act as brokers, facilitating stock trades for investors.
Blue Chip Stocks Stocks of large, established, and financially stable companies with a history of reliable performance. - Companies like Apple or Microsoft are considered blue chips because of their long history and stability.
The positive difference between the sale price of an asset and its purchase price. - If you bought a stock at $50 and sold it at $75, your capital gain would be $25.
Dividend A portion of a company's earnings paid to shareholders, usually in cash or additional shares. - Coca-Cola pays out dividends quarterly to its stockholders.
Equity Ownership interest in a company, typically in the form of stocks.
- If you own 100 shares of Amazon, you have equity in Amazon.
Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) A type of investment fund and exchange-traded product, with shares that are tradeable on a stock exchange. - The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) tracks the S&P 500 index.
Hedge Fund A pooled investment fund that uses different strategies to earn returns for its investors.
- Bridgewater Associates is one of the world's largest hedge funds.
Initial Public Offering (IPO) The first sale of stock by a previously private company to the public. - When Facebook went public in 2012, it had its IPO.
Liquidity The degree to which an asset or security can be quickly bought or sold without affecting the asset's price.
- Savings accounts are highly liquid because you can withdraw money anytime.
Market Capitalization The total value of a publicly-traded company's outstanding shares of stock.
- Apple Inc., with its valuation over a trillion dollars, has one of the highest market caps globally.
Mutual Fund An investment vehicle made up of a pool of funds collected from many investors for the purpose of investing in securities.
- Vanguard 500 Index Fund is a popular mutual fund that mirrors the S&P 500.
Portfolio A collection of investments held by an individual or institution.
- Your personal collection of stocks, bonds, and other assets constitutes your investment portfolio. Return on Investment (ROI) A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment.
- If you invested $100 in a venture and got back $150, your ROI is 50%.
Securities A financial instrument that represents an ownership position in a publicly-traded corporation (stock), a creditor relationship with governmental or corporate bodies (bond), or rights to ownership as represented by an option.
- Stocks of companies like Tesla or Google are examples of securities.
Volatility Indicates the price variability of an asset or market over time. - Bitcoin has been known for its price volatility, with sharp price increases followed by dips.
Yield The income produced by an investment, typically calculated as the return on an investment divided by the cost of the investment.
- A 10-year Treasury bond might offer a 2% yield, meaning it'll pay 2% interest annually.
Diversification A risk management strategy that mixes a wide variety of investments within a portfolio.
- Instead of investing all in tech stocks, you spread your investments across tech, pharmaceuticals, utilities, etc.
Leverage Using borrowed capital to increase the potential return of an investment.
- If you have $10,000 in a margin account and the broker allows 2:1 leverage, you can buy $20,000 worth of stocks.
Margin Borrowing money from a broker to purchase stock.
- Borrowing $5,000 from a broker to add to your $5,000 for stock investing is buying on margin.
P/E Ratio (Price-to-Earnings) A valuation ratio calculated by dividing the current market price of a stock by its earnings per share.
- If Company X's stock price is $100 and its EPS is $5, its P/E ratio is 20.
Recession A significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting longer than a few months.
- The global economy experienced a recession due to the 2008 financial crisis.
Index A statistical measure of changes in a portfolio representing a market. - The Dow Jones Industrial Average is an index comprising 30 significant U.S. companies.
Short Selling The sale of a security that the seller does not own. - If you believe Tesla's stock will go down, you might short-sell it, hoping to profit from a price drop.
Futures Contract A standardized contract to buy or sell a specific commodity or financial instrument at a predetermined price at a specified time in the future. - A farmer may use futures contracts to lock in a selling price for his crops in advance.
Option: A contract that gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an underlying asset at a specific price on or before a specific date.
- Buying a call option gives you the right (not obligation) to purchase a stock at a set price.
Interest Rate The amount charged, expressed as a percentage of principal, by a lender to a borrower.
- If you take a loan and the bank charges you 5% annually, that's the interest rate.
Inflation The rate at which general levels of prices for goods and services rise, causing purchasing power to fall.
- If a loaf of bread costs $2 this year and $2.10 next year, this increase can be attributed to inflation.
Deflation The opposite of inflation; the reduction in the general price level of goods and services. - During Japan's "Lost Decade," prices for goods and services consistently fell, an example of deflation.
Risk Tolerance The degree of variability in investment returns that an investor is willing to withstand.
- A retired person might prefer less risky bonds over stocks, indicating low risk tolerance.
Net Asset Value (NAV) The total value of a fund's assets less its liabilities.
- If a mutual fund's total assets are $100 million and liabilities are $10 million, its NAV is $90 million. Commodity
Raw materials or primary agricultural products that can be bought or sold.
- Crude oil, which can be traded on futures exchanges, is a commodity.
Day Trading The practice of buying and selling financial instruments within the same trading day.
- If you buy and sell a stock of Company Y within one trading day, that's day trading.
Alpha A measure of performance on a risk-adjusted basis. - If the market returns 8% and your portfolio returns 10%, your alpha is 2%.
Beta A measure of the volatility of an asset or portfolio in comparison to the market as a whole. - If Stock Z has a beta of 1.5, it's theoretically 50% more volatile than the market.
The loss incurred when a capital asset is sold for a lower price than the purchase price. - If you sell a stock for $40 that you bought for $50, you have a $10 capital loss.
Derivative A financial security with a value reliant upon or derived from an underlying asset or group of assets. - Futures, options, and swaps are common forms of derivatives.
Foreign Exchange (Forex or FX)
The global marketplace for buying and selling currencies. - Trading the U.S. dollar (USD) against the Euro (EUR) is a forex transaction.
Passive Investing A strategy to maximize returns by minimizing buying and selling. - Investing in a broad market index fund instead of picking individual stocks is a form of passive investing.
Active Investing An investment strategy involving ongoing buying and selling actions by the investor. - Actively trading stocks based on market trends and research is active investing.
Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) A company that owns or finances income-producing real estate across a range of property sectors.
- The Simon Property Group is a REIT that focuses on shopping malls.
Private Equity Capital that is not noted on a public exchange. Comprises funds and investors that directly invest in private companies. - The Carlyle Group and Blackstone are examples of private equity firms.
Technical Analysis A methodology to forecast the direction of prices through the study of past market data, mainly price and volume. - Using price charts and patterns to predict future stock movements.
Fundamental Analysis Evaluating a security's intrinsic value by examining related economic, financial, and other qualitative and quantitative factors. - Analyzing Apple's income statement before deciding to buy its shares.
Arbitrage The simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset in order to profit from a difference in the price. - If gold is cheaper in the U.S. than in the UK, buying in the U.S. and selling in the UK is an arbitrage opportunity.
Annuity A financial product that provides certain cash flows at specified periods. Often used as a means of securing a steady cash flow for an individual during their retirement years. - After retiring, someone might buy an annuity to receive a fixed monthly payment for life.
Dilution The reduction in the ownership percentage of a share of stock caused by the issuance of new stock.
- If Company A issues more shares of its stock, existing shareholders' ownership percentages might decrease, causing dilution.
As we pull the curtains on this enlightening journey through the investment lexicon, it becomes evident that understanding the language of finance is paramount to making judicious decisions. These 50 terms, though just the tip of the iceberg, form the bedrock of investment knowledge.
Armed with these definitions and real-world examples, you're better positioned to navigate the tumultuous seas of investing, making informed choices and forging a path to financial growth.
Remember, in the ever-evolving world of finance, continuous learning and adaptability are your greatest allies. So, keep this guide close, stay curious, and embark confidently on your investment journey.
Alpesh Patel OBE www.campaignforamillion.com