Are there financial terms you’ve heard so often that you think you understand them but would have a hard time defining? As we navigate financial waters, we often find that we have opportunities to grow our understanding of common financial terms.

While you certainly don’t need to get a finance degree to be successful in your personal finances, you can become well-versed in common terms so you can make informed and educated decisions.

Whether you want to brush up on common financial jargon for yourself, or want to share these with a young adult starting their financial journey, we hope you’ll find value in this easy to understand definitions.


Top 4 Financial Buzzwords in 2023


Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many financial buzzwords flying around in the news. And while you may have a vague understanding of what’s happening, it’s best to clearly understand these financial terms so you can confidently navigate the economy.


  1. Shrinkflation. This refers to downsizing the amount of product in a particular package (such as a bag of chips) while the price remains the same. Companies know that savvy consumers will notice if the price of an item increases. But consumers may be less likely to notice a smaller amount of the product. This strategy is a response to the rising prices of goods. As a consumer, you can try a different, less expensive brand, compare products per ounce instead of per package, and try shopping at different stores.


  1. The Fed. Interest rates have starkly risen this year, and we often hear it’s “the Fed” who’s raising them. The Federal Reserve System is our country’s central bank. They are responsible for creating the United State’s monetary policy, regulating banks, operating the country’s payment systems, and maintaining the stability of our financial systems. To combat inflation and avoid a recession, the Fed has consistently risen interest rates (10 times since March 2022). This makes it more expensive to borrow money, but more financially beneficial to save money in an interest-bearing account.


  1. Risk Assessment. The market volatility in the past couple of years has left many consumers concerned about their finances, leading many to reach out to financial advisors for a comprehensive risk assessment. Financial advisors can help determine your level of risk (more on that below!), asset allocations, investment diversification, and risk management strategies.


  1. Recession. This word has definitely been thrown around this year and last. An official recession is typically declared after the economy is already in one, thus making it hard to predict. Recessions are marked by significantly prolonged periods of decreasing economic activity. Officially speaking, two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product. Recessions are typically marked by a decrease in the stock market, high unemployment rates, low consumer confidence, and general fear and apprehension. A great antidote for the uncertainty that can accompany a recession (or talks of a recession) is having a solid financial plan in place with an advisor you trust.

Credit and Loan Terminology


Loans can be a powerful provision for both individuals and businesses. Mortgages often help families buy a home, auto loans help people secure their transportation, credit cards offer flexibility and convenience, and business loans help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

Unfortunately, however, the terminology surrounding credit and loans can make them feel intimidating and overwhelming. Familiarize yourself with these terms so you can be confident and empowered the next time you need to apply for a loan or chat with your credit card company.


  1. Annual Percentage Rate. This is simply the total annual cost of your loan (including any accompanying fees!). This comprehensive number allows you to easily shop around for the best price and understand exactly what your annual cost will be. Coupled with the loan’s interest rate, the APR is a powerful piece of data to help you understand the total cost of your borrowed funds.


  1. Amortization. This is the process of repaying your loan over a period of time. An amortization schedule shows exactly how much of your payment is going toward interest, and how much is going toward the principal. There are handy amortization calculators you can use to show you the total cost of your loan, and even how making extra payments impacts your total cost throughout the loan.


  1. Secured vs Unsecured loans. There are different requirements for obtaining different types of credit and loans, and a large part of that depends on the type of loan. Secured loans are backed by collateral such as your home, car, or even a cash deposit. These can include personal loans, credit cards, mortgages, home equity loans, auto loans, and business loans. Secured loans typically offer lower interest rates than unsecured loans and have longer repayment terms. Unsecured loans are not backed by collateral and instead are established based on the borrower’s creditworthiness (e.g. income, credit history, and debt-to-income ratio). These can include student loans, credit cards, signature loans, personal loans, and business loans. These types of loans typically have higher interest rates and shorter repayment terms.


  1. Credit utilization ratio. This ratio, displayed as a percentage, refers to the amount of credit you have available to you versus the amount you actually utilize. For example, if you have a total of $50,000 in credit card limits spread amongst your credit cards, but only use $10,000 of it, your credit utilization ratio would be 20%. A lower credit utilization ratio shows that you can handle having access to a lot of credit while only utilizing a small portion. On the other hand, a high credit utilization ratio shows that you use most or all of the credit available to you (something lenders don’t like to see). Your credit utilization is periodically reported to the major credit bureaus, so it’s important to pay attention and keep your ratio as low as possible.

Investing Terminology


Investing can be an effective tool in personal finance to grow and preserve your wealth. To make wise and prudent investment decisions, you should understand these common investing terms.


  1. Dollar-cost averaging. This investment strategy involves regularly investing a fixed dollar amount regardless of how much the asset costs or how the markets are performing. It’s a popular strategy for long-term investments and promotes discipline and eliminates the need to continually think about your investment choices. For example, you invest $600 every month into a chosen fund, regardless of how many shares it buys you. In some months, your $600 will buy a lot of shares, and in other months, it might buy you very few. The idea of dollar-cost averaging is that over a long period, your fund purchase prices will even out. Think of it as the opposite of “timing the market”.


  1. Capital gains. This is the difference between what you bought an asset (real estate, stocks, cryptocurrency, etc.) for and how much you sell it for. Short-term capital gains are when you held the asset for less than a year before selling and long-term capital gains are when you held an asset for more than a year before selling. Most capital gains are subject to taxation. The amount of tax depends on the asset, the holding period (short-term versus long-term), and your tax bracket. A tax professional can help you determine your capital gains tax rate.


  1. Risk tolerance. All investing carries a certain level of risk and everyone has their own level of risk tolerance. Your financial ability, your mental willingness, and your time horizon (how long you plan on holding your investment) all play into your risk tolerance. A well-balanced, personalized investment plan can help you feel comfortable with the amount of risk you’re taking with your money.


  1. Rebalancing. When you and an advisor put together your investment strategy, you will allocate your portfolio to reflect your risk tolerance and desired returns. As the market changes, the value of your assets will increase or decrease, causing your desired allocation to become unbalanced. Periodically rebalancing your portfolio to your original allocations will help you maintain your original investment preferences.


Decipher Your Finances with Five Pine Wealth Management


At Five Pine Wealth Management, we love educating our clients so that they can feel empowered in their finances. We know that not everyone has a finance degree but that doesn’t mean you can’t know what’s going on with your portfolio.

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