The percent of a mutual fund's assets used to defray marketing and distribution expenses. The amount of the fee is stated in the fund's prospectus. A true no-load fund has neither a sales charge nor a 12b-1 fee.
The purchase of one company by another, or the attainment of controlling interest through an accumulation of shares.
Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)
The amount of income, for an individual or a couple filing a joint tax return, subject to federal income taxes. To determine AGI subtract certain, qualified deductions, such as unreimbursed business expenses or contributions to a traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA), from gross income, which generally includes employment income, interest income, dividends, and capital gains.
Aggressive Growth Fund
A mutual fund with the objective of achieving maximization of long-term capital growth, rather than dividend income, by investing in narrow market segments and small company stocks. Aggressive growth funds are designed for maximum capital appreciation, and generally invest funds in companies with high growth rates, and usually are accompanied by a higher degree of risk. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
American Depositary Receipt (ADR)
A receipt from a United States bank for shares of stock of a foreign company. ADRs, which are traded in U.S. dollars on U.S. markets, carry the same risks as the underlying foreign share.
American Stock Exchange (AMEX)
Located in downtown Manhattan, AMEX has the third highest volume of trading of any stock exchange in the U.S. The bulk of trading on the AMEX consists of index options and shares of small to medium-sized companies.
A professional who studies the performance of corporations and industries, and evaluates securities. Analysts may specialize in a company or an industry, and they generally work for analytic organizations, or for financial institutions, such as brokerage houses, mutual fund companies, or investment banks. The opinions of an influential and respected analyst regarding a certain security may have an impact on the market price.
Yearly record of a publicly-held company's financial condition. It includes a description of the firm's operations, as well as balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement information. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules require that it be distributed to all shareholders.
A long-term contract sold by life insurance companies that guarantees payments, fixed or variable, to the purchaser in regular intervals through annuitization. During the accumulation phase, fixed annuities offer consistent, predictable returns; whereas, variable annuities provide fluctuating returns based on the performance of an investment portfolio. Payments are usually scheduled to begin at a future time, such as retirement, but in certain cases may begin immediately. Annuities provide tax-deferred earnings during the accumulation phase, with taxes due upon distribution. Distributions prior to age 59 1/2 may be subject to an additional 10% federal tax penalty.
Property with a cash value, such as real estate, equipment, savings, and investments.
The process of dividing investments among different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash reserves. The goal of asset allocation is to optimize the risk/reward tradeoff based on specific situations and goals of the investor and/or the mutual fund. Many financial advisors believe that the mix of asset classes has a greater impact on long-term portfolio results than does the performance of any individual investment.
Categories of investments. The three main asset classes are stocks, bonds, and cash reserves.
A prearranged investment plan that automatically deposits mutual fund and stock dividends back into a stock to purchase additional shares.
A mutual fund investing in both stocks and bonds in which the main objective is the preservation of capital with moderate income growth, and a secondary consideration is capital gains. Balanced funds are one of the most conservative mutual funds investing in common stock. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
Measures the variation in yields, which often fluctuate in very small increments. One basis point is equal to .01%; therefore, 100 basis points are equal to 1%. For example, a yield that has increased from 5.46% to 5.58% has increased 12 basis points.
An extended period of declining prices, usually by 20%, in the financial markets. A prolonged downturn of general economic activity is often the catalyst for a bear market in stocks; whereas, rising interest rates are typically responsible for a bear market in bonds.
A person or entity named in a life insurance policy, a qualified retirement plan, or an annuity, or one who is eligible by the terms of such a policy or plan, to receive benefits upon the death of the insured or the plan participant.
A measure of a security's price fluctuations (volatility) relative to an appropriate market index. For example, the Standard & Poor's 500 Stock Index (S&P 500) has a beta of 1. Stocks with betas greater than 1 are subject to more rapid and extreme price fluctuations than the market. Conversely, price fluctuations for stocks with betas less than 1 are less frequent and smaller than the market. Conservative investors generally seek lower beta securities, while aggressive investors seek higher betas.
Bid and Ask Price
The highest price a prospective buyer offers to pay for a security is a bid. The ask price is the lowest price a seller is offering. A quotation reflects both prices, and the difference between the bid and the asked price is called the spread.
Blue Chip Stock
The common stock of a company with a reputation for quality products, services, and management, and a long history of earnings growth and dividend payments. Examples of blue chip companies include General Electric, International Business Machines (IBM), and DuPont.
A debt security issued by a corporation, government, or government agency obligating the issuer to pay interest at pre-determined intervals and repay the principal at maturity. Every bond has a set face value, also known as a par value, which names the amount of money the bondholder will receive when the bond reaches the date of maturity. The face value will never change, but the market value of a bond may fluctuate. If a bondholder sells a bond before its date of maturity, he or she may receive more or less than the face value.
A mutual fund investing in bonds issued by the U.S. government, municipalities, or corporations. Bond funds usually emphasize interest income rather than growth. Unlike bonds purchased by an individual investor, bond funds do not guarantee an interest rate, a maturity date, or a return of principal. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
A professional who mediates between the buyer and seller during the trading of services or property, such as securities, real estate, or commodities. In return for services, the broker generally receives a commission.
An extended period of rising prices, usually by 20% in financial markets. Opposite of a bear market. A high volume of trading often occurs in a bull market, which generally lasts over an extended period.
An investment strategy that advocates holding securities for the long term, while ignoring short-term price fluctuations. Unlike market timing investors, who actively buy and sell securities, hoping to turn quick profits on short-term price fluctuations, investors who buy and hold securities hope for substantial gains over time, and may take years to accumulate shares in a company, or they may wait years for a bond to reach maturity.
A debt security that grants the issuer the right to redeem the bond before it reaches maturity as outlined in a prospectus, which generally lists the first date it may be called. A bond is generally at risk of being called if interest rates fall significantly, and the market value of the bond falls below the par value.
A contract, for which a premium is generally paid, that grants the holder the right to buy a fixed number of shares of a certain stock, at a predetermined rate (the strike price), for a certain length of time. Because an option allows the holder to buy shares at a set price, the holder may be able to buy shares at less than the market value, if the market price of the shares rises above the set price. If stock prices remain the same or decrease, the holder, who is not obligated to purchase shares, can let the option expire. Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors.
The increase in value of a security. For example, a stock purchased at $20 per share, but now worth $25, has appreciated $5 per share, which equals a 25% return on capital.
The amount by which an asset's selling price exceeds its initial purchase price. A realized capital gain is an investment that has been sold at a profit. An unrealized capital gain is an investment that hasn't been sold yet but would result in a profit if sold. Capital gain is often used to mean realized capital gain.
Capital Gains Distribution
A payment to investment company shareholders of profits realized on the sale of its securities. Equity funds usually pay out these amounts once a year, typically in December, while bond funds often include capital gains in their monthly distributions.
Capital Gains Tax
Tax on profits from the sale of securities, or fixed assets, such as land, buildings, equipment, and furniture.
Capital Growth Fund
Also called a growth fund. A mutual fund with the objective of providing long-term capital gains and high potential future income, rather than current income. Capital growth funds are more aggressive than common stock funds, generally investing in more speculative issues.
A decrease in the value of an investment or an asset from its purchase price.
Certificate of Deposit (CD)
An agreement with a bank that promises a fixed interest rate on funds deposited for a specified period of time. CDs typically earn compound interest, and are issued in denominations ranging from $100 to $100,000 with maturities ranging from a few weeks to several years. There may be a penalty if funds are withdrawn before maturity. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures each depositor up to $100,000.
Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) Designation
A professional who has successfully passed the exams of the Institute of Certified Financial Planners, earning certification as a financial advisor. Areas of expertise generally include banking, investments, retirement, estate planning, insurance, and taxes.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
An accountant licensed by the state in which he or she works. Duties generally include auditing, accounting, and filing tax returns.
A fund with a fixed number of shares outstanding, and one that does not redeem shares the way a typical mutual fund does. Such funds are often listed on a major stock exchange and trade like other securities. Unlike a typical mutual fund, a closed-end fund's share price can trade above or below its net asset value (NAV).
A fee charged by a broker for his/her services in facilitating a transaction, such as buying or selling of securities or real estate, based either on the dollar amount of the trade, the transaction, or the number of shares traded.
Bulk goods, such as cotton and metals, commonly used to produce consumer goods, and traded on a commodities exchange. The tools of trade, such as currency, may also be considered commodities, and prices are generally determined by supply and demand.
A security representing partial ownership, also called equity, in a corporation, and which entitles shareholders to participate in stockholder meetings and to vote for the board of directors.
The process of applying investment growth not only to the original investment, but also to income and gains reinvested in prior periods. For example, if you earn compound interest on savings, you earn interest on the accumulated interest. If you earn simple interest on savings, you earn interest based only on the principal amount. Suppose you earn simple interest at 4.5% on $10,000 for 25 years. The interest earned over 25 years would be $11,257.40—the future value of your savings would be $21,257.40. However, if you earn compound daily interest at 4.5%, on $10,000 for 25 years, the interest earned would be $20,822.82—the future value would be $30,822.82.
Consumer Price Index (CPI)
A measure of inflation calculated monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI tracks price changes in basic goods and services, such as housing, health care, food, transportation, and electricity.
A debt security issued by a corporation obligating the issuer to pay interest periodically and repay the principal at maturity. Corporate bonds generally feature higher interest rates because of the possible default risk, and the interest earned is often taxable.
Reverse movement, usually downward, in the price of an individual stock, bond, commodity, or index, bringing them more in line with their underlying fundamental values. If prices have been rising on the market as a whole, and then fall dramatically, this is known as a correction with an upward trend.
Formal evaluation of a company's ability to pay interest and repay principal on borrowed money, as published by a credit rating agency or service. Also, from a personal investor perspective, a published ranking, based on detailed financial analysis by a credit bureau, of one's financial history, specifically as it relates to one's ability to meet debt obligations. The highest rating is usually AAA and the lowest is D. Lenders use this information to decide whether to approve a loan.
An individual who buys and sells investments in the same day, generally trying to capitalize on and profit from quick price changes in the short term.
A financial instrument whose characteristics and value depend upon the value of an underlying instrument or asset, typically a commodity, bond, equity, or currency. Examples are futures and options.
A brokerage firm that buys and sells securities at lower rates than a full service broker. Discount brokers generally do not offer all the services of full service brokers, such as research and advice.
A portfolio strategy for managing the risk of investing in a single industry/market sector or a small number of companies, by spreading the risk over several industries/market sectors or a larger number of companies, which are unlikely to all move in the same direction.
A taxable payment declared by a company's board of directors and given to its shareholders out of the company's current or retained earnings. Usually quarterly and generally given as cash (cash dividend), but it can also take the form of stock (stock dividend) or other property.
Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP)
A company arrangement that automatically reinvests a shareholder's dividends into more shares of the company's stock. Because investors may buy shares directly from the company, brokerage fees are limited. In addition, DRIPs provide shareholders with the opportunity to regularly purchase shares and take advantage of dollar cost averaging.
The annual percentage return of a dividend-paying stock. To calculate the current yield, divide the dividend received on each share by the share's current market price. For example, a stock with a share price of $40 that pays a dividend of $1 per share will have a dividend yield of 2.5%. The dividend yield does not reflect a return based on an original investment.
Dollar Cost Averaging
A method of investing a fixed dollar amount in securities at set intervals, regardless of market prices. With this approach, an investor buys more shares when prices are low, and fewer shares when prices are high. This generally results in a lower average cost per share than if the investor had purchased a constant number of shares at the same periodic intervals. Using dollar cost averaging does not assure a profit and does not protect against a loss in a declining market.
Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)
The price-weighted average of 30 actively traded blue chip stocks. Commonly referred to as "the Dow," this average is widely used to measure the performance of U.S. financial markets.
Emerging Market Funds
A mutual fund investing primarily in developing countries that are becoming industrialized. Emerging market funds tend to be highly volatile. (Notes: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing. (F) International investing involves special risks not found in domestic investing, including increased political, social and economic instability. Investing in emerging markets can be riskier than investing in well-established foreign markets.)
Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)
An employer-sponsored program that encourages employees to purchase shares of their company. An ESOP may be part of a bonus or retirement package, and it may allow employee-shareholders to participate in management of the company.
Ownership, such as stock in a company. Equity also generally refers to the difference between an asset's market value and the debt against it. For example, if you own a car valued at $15,000, but owe $10,000 on a car loan, your equity in the car is $5,000.
Equity Income Fund
A conservative mutual fund with the objective of attaining income and growth from blue chip stocks and utilities that pay high dividends. Equity income funds favor long-term growth with a limited risk to principal. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
The ability of mutual fund shareholders to transfer assets between funds within a fund family, often at no additional charge. For example, suppose you have money invested in a growth fund, which has an objective of providing high potential future income, but you would like a fund that provides more immediate income. Exchange privilege may allow you to shift your investment to an income fund, which generally seeks to maximize current income.
The percent of a mutual fund shareholder's total investment paid as operating expenses and management fees. For example, if a fund has an expense ratio of 1%, an investor will be charged $1 for every $100 invested. Mutual funds with lower expense ratios are able to distribute a higher percentage of their total returns to their shareholders.
The value of a bond at maturity as noted by the issuer on the face of the bond, also known as the par value. Interest payments are based on the face value, which is not an indicator of market value.
Family of Funds
A group of mutual funds operated by the same company. Each fund generally has a different objective. For example, one may be a growth fund, another may be a growth and income fund, while still another may be a money market fund. Shareholders are often allowed to transfer their assets between funds at no additional cost.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
A government agency that guarantees deposits in the event a member bank fails. Coverage is generally restricted to $100,000 per account.
Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation ("Freddie Mac")
A private corporation that buys loans from lenders, so they can in turn make more mortgage loans to other borrowers. Their mission is to provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the U.S. housing market.
Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae")
A shareholder-owned corporation that buys mortgages, often from the U.S. Federal Housing Administration (FHA), then packages them as mortgage-backed securities, and resells them to investors.
Federal Reserve System (The Fed)
The seven-member Board of Governors that oversees Federal Reserve Banks, establishes monetary policy (interest rates, credit, etc.), and monitors the economic health of the country. Its members are appointed by the President, subject to Senate confirmation, and serve 14-year terms.
An individual who provides investment advice for a fee, or exercises discretionary authority or control in managing assets. Also, an individual, company, or association responsible for holding assets in trust and investing them wisely for the benefit of a trust's beneficiary. Examples of fiduciaries include trustees, bankruptcy receivers, and executors of wills and estates.
An investment contract sold by a life insurance company that guarantees regular payments to the purchaser for a specified period of time, or for life through annuitization. The purchaser generally pays a premium either in a lump sum or in installments. During the accumulation phase, a fixed annuity will earn a fixed rate of interest, as stated in the contract. This interest will accumulate on a tax deferred basis, with taxes due upon distribution. Distributions prior to age 59 1/2 may be subject to an additional 10% federal tax penalty.
Mutual fund with the objective of providing current income by investing in fixed income securities, such as government bonds, corporate bonds, municipal bonds, or preferred stock. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
A security that pays a fixed rate of return on a regular schedule, such as a bond or a certificate of deposit (CD). Fixed-income investments are generally considered less volatile than other investment vehicles, such as common stock and, as a result, they tend to provide lower rates of return and less protection against rising inflation.
A sales fee (load) investors pay up-front at the time they purchase an investment. For example, suppose a company charges a 5% front-end load, and you would like to invest $5,000. The sales fee due at the time of purchase would be $250.
Agreements to buy or sell a specific amount of a commodity or financial instrument at a set price on a specific future date.
Also called an international fund. A mutual fund investing in securities worldwide. In addition to managing trends in particular securities markets, global funds must also manage foreign currency movements. (Notes: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing. The risks associated with investing on a worldwide basis include differences in regulation of financial data and reporting, currency exchange differences, as well as economic and political systems that may be different from those in the United States.)
When a company makes an initial public offering (IPO), and sells shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
A debt security issued by the U.S. government. Two common types are savings bonds and marketable securities; both tend to have a low default risk. Government savings bonds are not traded on any exchange; therefore, they are immune to market fluctuation. In contrast, "marketable" U.S. government securities, such as U.S. Treasury bills, Treasury notes, Treasury bonds, and Treasury Inflation-Protection Securities (TIPS), are commonly traded.
Growth and Income Fund
A mutual fund with the objective of providing long-term principal and income growth, as well as current dividend income. For example, a growth and income fund may invest in high-yield bonds, as well as in blue chip companies expected to return regular dividends while their shares grow more valuable over time. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
Also called a capital growth fund. A mutual fund with the objective of providing long-term capital gains and high potential future income, rather than current income. Growth funds are more aggressive than common stock funds, generally investing in more speculative issues. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
An investment strategy designed to reduce the risk of loss. Hedging strategies may include buying put options, selling call options, selling short, or purchasing assets to outpace inflation.
A mutual fund with the objective of paying a higher-than-average rate of return by concentrating in securities not generally favored by other investors. Income funds generally invest a high percent of their assets in bonds. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
An indicator of the market prices of securities issued by companies included in the index. An index is used to measure the movements of securities of similar companies. Some well-known indexes are the New York Stock Exchange Index (NYSE), the American Stock Exchange Index (AMEX), the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500), the Russell 2000 Index, and the Value Line Index.
A mutual fund that attempts to match the performance of a market index by patterning the portfolio on the index. Index funds assume that it is impossible to consistently outperform the market. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
A tax-deferred retirement savings account that allows individuals to deposit a limited amount per year ($3,000 for individuals in 2002). A traditional IRA may allow individuals, depending on their income and participation in employer-sponsored retirement plans, to deduct part or all of their contributions on their tax returns. Withdrawals made after age 59 1/2 are taxed at the current tax rate. In contrast, Roth IRAs allow individuals to withdraw earnings tax free anytime after the age of 59 1/2 after certain requirements are met, but the initial contributions are made with after tax dollars.
A general rise in the prices of goods and services that occurs when demand increases relative to supply. Usually measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and the Producer Price Index. The purchasing power of the dollar decreases. For example, if inflation occurs at 3% annually, in one year $100 would be worth only $97.
An investment, such as a bond or Treasury note, that promises a return greater than inflation if held until maturity. Inflation-indexed funds are mutual funds that invest in inflation-indexed securities.
Initial Public Offering (IPO)
A company's first stock issue offered to the public. Often, companies go public when their need for cash, perhaps to finance growth, exceeds the amount private investors, such as venture capitalists, are willing or able to provide. Investment banks buy shares, and then offer them to the public at an offering price. As the stock is traded, the market price may be more or less than the offering price.
The buying or selling of company shares by management, the board, or anyone with a 10% interest in the company. Insider trading based on information available to the public is legal. Illegal insider trading takes advantage of corporate information not available to the public.
The cost of borrowed money. It may be the payment you receive from an investment such as a bond, or the amount you pay for a loan, which is generally a percentage of the total amount borrowed. For example, if you take out a $5,000 loan for a year at 9% interest, the cost of taking the loan would be 9% of the total amount borrowed - $450. Also, the term interest can refer to a right or share in an asset or property.
The cost of borrowed money, expressed as a percentage for a given period, usually one year. Interest rates are considered by many to be key economic indicators. The Federal Reserve (The Fed), a government agency that oversees the national economy and sets monetary policies, regulates interest rates. The Fed may lower interest rates, making borrowing money less expensive, in an effort to stimulate growth in the economy, or may raise them, making borrowing money more expensive, in an effort to slow economic growth.
Also called a global fund. A mutual fund investing in securities worldwide. International funds, which may be invested in the emerging markets of developing countries, more established economies, or a combination, must manage foreign currency trends, as well as trends in the securities markets. (Notes: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing. The risks associated with investing on a worldwide basis include differences in regulation of financial data and reporting, currency exchange differences, as well as economic and political systems that may be different from those in the United States.)
A bond rating evaluating the likelihood that the bond issuer will meet their payment responsibilities in full and on time. Bonds rated BBB and higher by an independent agency are considered investment grade.
A financial goal. Different investment vehicles have different objectives. For example, a fixed income fund may have outlined in its prospectus an objective of providing current income by investing in fixed income securities; whereas, a capital growth fund looks to provide long-term capital gains and high potential future income. Individual investors also have personal investment objectives, based on their own time horizon and tolerance for risk.
A debt security with a credit rating below investment grade. Junk bonds, which are often issued by companies with questionable credit, generally pay higher yields than investment grade bonds, but carry a greater risk of default.
A method of maintaining a series of fixed-interest investments, such as bonds or certificates of deposit (CDs), with staggered maturities. Laddering may offer a fixed-income investor liquidity options, as well as a hedge against inflation and fluctuating interest rates.
Life insurance is a contract wherein a premium is paid to an insurance company in return for the insurance company's promise to pay the beneficiary a defined amount upon the death of the insured. There are various types of life insurance available, including term life, whole life, and universal life.
A financial affiliation consisting of a general partner and limited partners that invests in projects such as real estate, oil and gas, equipment, movies, etc. The general partner, in return for fees and a percentage of ownership, manages operations and is ultimately liable for any debt. Limited partners, who may receive income, capital gains, and tax benefits in return for their investment, have little involvement in management. They also have limited liability, which limits their maximum loss to the amount they invested.
The ability to quickly and easily convert assets into cash without incurring a significant loss.
A mutual fund that assesses a sales charge for a broker's services. A fund may be front-end loaded (fee owed when shares are bought) or back-end loaded (fee owed when shares are sold). Fund representatives will often offer advice on buying and selling. Complete details on the expenses associated with the fund can be found in the fund's prospectus.
A charge against an investor's assets for the fund manager's services in overseeing the portfolio. The charge is calculated as a fixed percentage of the fund's asset value, usually 1% or less, and should be disclosed in the fund's prospectus.
The most recent price of a security traded on an exchange.
Also called systematic risk. The portion of a security's risk common to all securities in the same asset class, and that cannot be eliminated through diversification. For example, a market risk associated with investment in stocks is the general tendency of share prices to decrease during an economic downturn.
Making buy-sell decisions by attempting to predict market trends, such as the direction of stock prices, the direction of interest rates, or the condition of the economy. Unlike investors who buy and hold securities with the hope of substantial gains over an extended period of time, market timing investors actively buy and sell securities, hoping to turn quick profits on short-term price fluctuations.
The price at which securities are being traded. Estimated market value refers to the highest potential price a buyer might pay, and a seller would accept.
The date on which a debt becomes due for payment. For example, if a bond has a face value of $1,000 and a 30-year term of maturity, the bondholder should receive $1,000 in 30 years.
Money Market Fund
A mutual fund, usually no-load, investing in highly liquid short-term securities, such as certificates of deposit (CDs), U.S. Treasury bills, commercial paper, bankers' acceptances, and repurchase agreements. Most money market funds are not federally insured, although some carry private insurance. Many are part of fund families that allow investors to transfer money between accounts at no charge. (Note: An investment in a money market fund is not insured or guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency. Although the fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the fund.)
A tax-exempt bond that may be issued by a state government or agency, or by a town, county, or other political subdivision or district. Interest payments are generally not subject to federal taxes, and may be exempt from state and local taxes if the bondholder is a resident of the state where the bond was issued, although income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax.
A fund managed by an investment company that raises money from shareholders and invests it in stocks, bonds, real estate, money market securities, commodities, or options. Mutual funds offer investors the benefits of professional management and diversification, for which they charge a management fee. Some mutual funds charge a sales fee (load).
Mutual funds are sold by prospectus, which contains complete information on the fund's investment objectives, the risks involved, and any fees and expenses associated with the fund. The prospectus should always be read carefully before investing.
National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ)
A system quoting current prices for securities traded over the counter (OTC), as well as many listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Net Asset Value (NAV)
Also called the bid price. The market price an investor pays for a mutual fund share. The NAV is computed at the end of each business day by adding the closing market value of the fund's securities to the value of its other assets, subtracting liabilities, and then dividing the sum by the total number of shares outstanding.
New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
Also called The Big Board and The Exchange. The oldest and largest stock exchange in the U.S., listing the country's largest corporations. Memberships are sold to brokers, who buy and sell stocks on the floor of the exchange.
A mutual fund that does not charge a sales fee (load). Investors in no-load funds purchase shares directly from the fund company, rather than through a broker. Because no-load funds do not charge commissions, a salesperson may not be available to offer advice on buying and selling. Some companies selling no-load funds may charge an annual fee for marketing, commonly called a 12b-1 fee. Mutual funds are sold by prospectus, which contains complete information on the fund's investment objectives, the risks involved, and any fees and expenses associated with the fund. The prospectus should always be read carefully before investing.
The per-share price at which a stock or mutual fund is offered to the public. Companies going public for the first time will issue shares of stock at an offering price, as will companies who are issuing new shares. The market price may be more or less than the offering price. With no-load funds (mutual funds that do not charge sales commissions), the offering price is the same as the market price. With load funds, mutual funds that charge sales commissions, a sales charge is added to the market price to reach the offering price.
An option gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell stock at a set price on or before a given date. Investors, not companies, issue options. Investors who purchase "call" options bet the stock will be worth more than the price set by the option (the strike price), plus the price they paid for the option itself. Buyers of "put" options bet the stock's price will go down below the price set by the option.
Options involve risk and may not be suitable for all investors. Prior to buying or selling an option, an investor must received a copy of "Characteristics and Risk of Standardized Options".
Over The Counter (OTC)
A security, typically of a smaller company, not listed or traded on an exchange. Also, a market where transactions are conducted among securities dealers over a network of telephone and computer lines, rather than on the floor of an exchange.
The face value of a stock or bond when issued. The par value may bear little relationship to a security's current market value.
The combined security holdings of an individual investor or mutual fund. A portfolio can consist of any combination of stocks, bonds, derivatives, and such. A typical objective of holding investments in a portfolio is to provide diversification.
A type of stock that pays a fixed dividend regardless of corporate earnings, and which has priority over common stock in the payment of dividends. Should earnings rise significantly, the preferred holder is stuck with the same fixed dividend while common holders collect more. Preferred stock carries no voting rights (as does common stock), but takes precedence in claims against a company's profits and assets.
Price to Earnings (P/E) Ratio
Also called the "multiple." The P/E ratio is calculated as a stock's price divided by its earnings per share. It gives investors an idea of how much they are paying for a company's current earnings. For example, a stock selling for $30 a share with earnings per share of $2 has a P/E ratio of 15. In other words, the investor paid $15 for each $1 of earnings. Faster growing, or higher risk companies, generally have higher P/E ratios than slower growing, or less risky, firms.
The official document that must be provided (according to SEC regulations) by the issuer to potential purchasers of a new securities mutual funds issue. It highlights the much longer Registration Statement filed with the SEC that gives information on the financial well being of the issuer and the specifics of the issue itself.
The prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees, and expenses, and should be read carefully before any investment is made.
A contract that grants the buyer of an option the right to sell a set number of shares of stock, at a predetermined price (the strike price), to the seller of the option, during a certain length of time. Because the buyer of the put option has paid a premium, the seller of the option must purchase the shares if called to do so. Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors.
The highest bid and lowest offer (asked) price available for a security at any given time. For example, an investor requesting a price on XYZ Company might be quoted "40 to 40 1/2." This means that the best bid price (the highest price any buyer will pay) is currently $40 a share, and the best offer price (the lowest price any seller will accept) is $40.50.
Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)
A trust that invests primarily in real estate and mortgages and passes income, losses, and other tax items to its investors. (Note: The Fund is subject to many of the risks associated with direct real estate ownership, such as declines in real estate values, overbuilding and extended vacancies, limitation of fluctuations in rent payments and other risks associated with general and local economic conditions. Shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than the original amount invested.)
The repayment of a debt security or preferred stock, either for par value at maturity or for a premium before maturity.
A specialized mutual fund investing in one industry or market sector, such as chemicals, electronics, energy, or health care. Sector funds tend to be more volatile than more diversified funds. (Notes: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing. Funds that concentrate its investments in one region or industry may carry greater risk than more broadly diversified funds.)
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
The primary federal regulatory agency for the securities industry, whose responsibility is to promote full disclosure and to protect investors against fraudulent and manipulative practices in the securities markets. The SEC enforces, among other acts, the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Trust Indenture Act of 1939, the Investment Company Act of 1940, and the Investment Advisers Act.
A trading technique, wherein an investor, who anticipates a decline in a stock price, borrows shares of that stock from a broker, then sells them, and waits for the share price to drop. If the share prices drop, the investor generally buys back shares at the lower price, and his/her profit equals the difference between the two prices (often minus interest and commission). If share prices rise, the investor may experience a loss. For example, suppose an investor sells 100 shares of borrowed stock valued at $20 per share, and receives $2,000. When the stock drops in price to $15 per share, the investor buys 100 shares for $1,500, and then returns them to the broker having profited $5 per share, or $500. On the other hand, if stock prices had gone up instead of down, and the investor had to sell 100 shares at $25, the loss experienced would be $5 per share or $500.
Certificate representing one unit of ownership in a corporation, mutual fund, or limited partnership.
A mutual fund with a particular focus, such as a single industry or sector, a group of related industries, industries within a particular region, or non-financial assets, such as real estate. (Notes: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing. (G) Funds that concentrate its investments in one region or industry may carry greater risk than more broadly diversified funds.)
The difference between two measurements. In stocks, the spread equals the difference between a bid (the highest price offered by a buyer), and the ask price (lowest price offered by a seller). For fixed-income investments, the spread represents the difference in yield either for securities with the same credit ratings but different maturity dates, or for securities with different credit ratings but the same maturity dates.
Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500)
An index of 500 of the most widely held common stocks on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). It is used as a measure to indicate the overall health of the U.S. stock market. This index is composed of industrial, transportation, utility, and financial companies with a heavy emphasis on industrial companies.
A security representing partial ownership, also called equity, in a corporation. Each stock share represents a proportionate claim against the company's profits and assets. Common stock entitles shareholders to participate in stockholder meetings and to vote for the board of directors. Preferred stock does not confer voting rights, but takes precedence in claims against profits and assets.
A document indicating legal ownership of shares of stock in a corporation. Stock certificates are made out to the shareholder or the brokerage firm, and identify the issuer, the number of shares, the par value, and the stock class. A stock certificate must be endorsed by the shareholder to sell the shares.
Formal organizations, approved and regulated by the (SEC), are made up of members who use the facilities to exchange certain common stocks. The two major national stock exchanges are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the American Stock Exchange (ASE or AMEX).
A mutual fund that invests primarily in stocks. (Note: Mutual funds are sold by prospectus; a prospectus contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully before investing.)
A general term referring to the organized trading of securities in the various market exchanges and the over the counter (OTC) market.
A distribution of additional shares to each stockholder in proportion to the shares the individual already owns. A stock split has no immediate effect on a stockholder's equity. For example, if a stock splits 2-for-1, a shareholder who owns one share with a $100 par value before the split, would own two shares, each with a $50 par value, after the split.
The price at which an option holder may purchase shares of stock. An option generally sets the strike price, which may be higher or lower than the market price of shares.
Supply and Demand
Supply refers to the availability of a commodity, while demand refers to the desire consumers have for that commodity, and the amount they are willing to purchase. The relationship between supply and demand generally influences price.
The postponement of taxes on accumulated investment earnings until the investor takes possession of them. For example, an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) holder may postpone paying taxes on any earnings if he or she waits until age 59 1/2 to make withdrawals. Taxes would be due at that time.
Not subject to taxation by federal, state, and/or local authorities.
A bond, issued by a municipal, county, or state government, whose interest payments are not subject to federal income tax, and sometimes also state or local income tax.
An investment vehicle that legally avoids or limits tax liabilities. For example, an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) allows for tax-deferred capital growth on retirement savings. Other examples include municipal bonds (munis) and annuities.
Length of time for which an investor plans to hold investments.
Gross annual return on an investment, including capital appreciation or distributions, interest, dividends, and personal taxes.
Also called a T-bill. A negotiable debt obligation issued by the U.S. government and backed by its full faith and credit, having a maturity of one year or less. Exempt from state and local taxes. Treasury bills have face values ranging from $10,000 to $1 million, and sell at a discount based on current interest rates.
Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA)
Also called Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) in some states. Laws adopted by most states allowing an adult to contribute to a custodial account in a minor's name without having to establish a trust or name a legal guardian.
Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA)
Also called Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) in some states. Laws adopted by most states allowing an adult to contribute to a custodial account in a minor's name without having to establish a trust or name a legal guardian.
United States Savings Bonds
Non-marketable debt securities issued by the U.S. Treasury Department that are backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government. They are considered low risk, and the interest income is generally not subject to state or local taxes. There are currently three types of U.S. savings bonds: Series "EE"; Series "I"; and Series "HH."
Series EE bonds currently have a maturity of 17 years, and are sold at 50% of their face value, which range from $50 to $10,000. Series I bonds are indexed for inflation, and are sold at face value in denominations of $50, $75, $100, $200, $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000. Series HH bonds have maturities of 20 years, provide interest income every six months, and are issued in denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000. Series HH bonds cannot be purchased with cash, but may be acquired in exchange for matured bonds of the same series or for Series EE bonds.
A long-term contract sold by life insurance companies in which premiums are invested, and future payments to the purchaser are based on the performance of the investment portfolio. If an individual dies before receiving income from his or her variable annuity, the individual's beneficiaries are entitled to the amount invested in the annuity, regardless of the portfolio's performance.
Usually Variable Annuities are sold by prospectus, which contains complete information on risks, fees and expenses, and should be read carefully.
The relative rate at which the price of a security moves up and down; found by calculating the annualized standard deviation of daily change in price. The more volatile a security or mutual fund, the more it is subject to rapid and extreme price fluctuations relative to the market.
The annual gain or loss earned on an investment, generally expressed as a percent. To determine the yield on a bond, divide the amount of interest received from the bond by the amount paid for the bond. For example, suppose an individual paid $5,000 for a bond. At 5% interest, he/she would earn $250 annually in interest income. The yield, $5,000 divided by $250, would be 5%. Similarly, to determine the yield on stocks, divide the dividend received per share by the amount paid per share.
Yield To Maturity (YTM)
The return an investor will receive if a long-term interest-bearing investment, such as a bond, is held until the date it becomes due and payable (maturity date). A calculation to determine the YTM of a bond, for example, would account for the interest rate, the payment schedule, the market value, the face value, and the length of the term.
Zero Coupon Bond
A bond that makes no periodic interest payments, but sells at a deep discount from its face value. At the maturity date, the investor will receive the face value of the bond, plus the interest that has accrued over a fixed term.
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