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  • Writer's pictureMr. Owl

Finance and Banking Terminologies for Everyone

Updated: Apr 21

The language of banking and finance is rich with specialized terms and acronyms. To help you navigate this complex field, we’ve compiled an accessible guide to some of the most commonly used financial terms worldwide. This post is designed to improve your financial literacy, whether you're a professional or a curious novice.

Let's start with Finance and Banking Terminologies for Everyone

A. Accrual Basis, Amortization, Arbitrage and Assets

Abatements: Imagine your parents pay a certain amount of money (called a property tax) based on how much the government thinks your house is worth. But what if they think your house is worth way more than it really is? An abatement is like getting a refund on those taxes because the government realizes they charged you too much.

Accrual Basis:   Imagine you do chores all week and your parents promise to pay you your allowance at the end of the week, even if you haven't gotten the cash in your hand yet. The accrual basis is a way of keeping track of money that works the same way – it counts money as soon as you earn it, even if you haven't been paid yet.

Accrued Interest: Imagine you borrow money from your friend and agree to pay them back with a little extra money as a thank you for lending it to you (interest). Accrued interest is like the extra money you owe your friend from the time you borrowed the money until you actually pay it back. In the case of a bond, accrued interest is the extra money a buyer owes the seller from the time the bond was issued until the buyer purchases it.

Ad Valorem Tax: This is a tax based on the value of something you own, like your house or car. The higher the value of your property, the more taxes you pay. It's like paying a higher entrance fee to a waterpark if you're taller than a certain height.

Alternative Minimum Tax: Imagine you saved a lot of money this year and don't have to pay much income tax. The alternative minimum tax is like a backup plan to make sure everyone pays at least a certain amount of taxes, even if they find ways to reduce their regular tax bill.

Amortization: This is like slowly paying off a loan over time. When you borrow money to buy a bike, you don't pay everything back at once. Instead, you make smaller payments each month until the loan is paid off completely. Amortization is the process of making these regular payments to pay off a debt, like a bond that a county has issued. Amortization refers to the process of spreading out loan payments over time in fixed installments. This concept is commonly used in mortgage discussions, where each payment is split into interest and principal repayment components. For example, a 30-year mortgage will have its cost amortized over 360 months.

Appropriation: Imagine your parents give you an allowance each week for your chores. An appropriation is similar, but instead of your parents giving you money, the county council (like a group of class representatives) decides how much money each department (like the school library or cafeteria) can spend on things they need.

Arbitrage: The simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset to profit from an imbalance in the price. It is a trade that profits by exploiting the price differences of identical or similar financial instruments on different markets.

Arrears: This is money that's past due, like when you forget to pay your friend back for that movie ticket they bought you.

Assessed Valuation: This is the official value the government puts on your property (like your house) to figure out how much property tax you need to pay.

Assets: This is what a government owns – money in the bank, buildings, land, things like that. It's like your collection of toys or video games. Assets: Resources owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies.

Audit: This is like a check-up for a county's finances. An audit is a careful examination of the county's records to make sure the money is being spent correctly and according to the budget. It's like checking your report card to make sure your grades are accurate

B. Balance Sheet, Bonds, Bankruptcy, Bull Market

A dynamic and educational infographic of financial concepts. At the center is a balance sheet, with bonds and bankruptcy on one side, and a bull market on the other. The balance sheet is being held up by a strong, bull-like figure, symbolizing a bull market. The bonds are represented by chains, whereas bankruptcy is depicted as a dark cloud. Surrounding the central figure are various financial terms and symbols, giving viewers a comprehensive overview of the financial world.

Balance Sheet: Think of it like a report card for your finances. It shows everything you own (assets, like your allowance savings or cool trading cards), everything you owe (liabilities, like the $5 you owe your sibling), and how much money you'd have left over if you paid off all your debts (equity).

Balloon Maturity: Imagine you take out a loan to buy a cool skateboard, but most of the payments are due at the very end of the loan term. That's like a balloon maturity with bonds. It means a big chunk of the borrowed money has to be paid back all at once, much later on.

Bank Qualification: This is a special kind of bond that helps banks save money on their taxes. When a government issues "bank qualified" bonds, the banks who buy them get some benefits, making these bonds more attractive for banks to purchase.

Bankruptcy: A legal proceeding involving a person or business that is unable to repay outstanding debts.

Bid: Think of it like an auction for big projects. When a government needs something built, like a new playground, companies offer their prices (bids) for how much they would charge to do the work. The government usually chooses the company with the best combination of price and experience.

Block Grant: Imagine your town gets a big donation to improve all the parks. The money can be used to buy new swings, fix up basketball courts, or anything park-related – that's kind of like a block grant. The government gets a chunk of money and can decide how to spend it within a certain area.

Bond: Imagine your town needs to build a new library but doesn't have enough money saved up. They can borrow money from lots of people by selling them bonds. It's like giving out a bunch of IOUs promising to pay the people back over time, plus a little extra money (interest) to say thanks for helping out.

In Other words, A bond is a written promise to repay borrowed money on a definite schedule and usually at a fixed rate of interest for the life of the bond. State and local governments repay this debt with taxes, fees, or other sources of governmental revenue. Since most governmental bonds are tax-exempt, bondholders are generally willing to accept a correspondingly lower rate of return on their investment than they would expect on a comparable commercial bond. Bond financing, therefore, can often provide state and local governments with low-interest capital. Some state and local governments are required by law to seek voter approval, for certain types of bond issues. Bonds are investment instruments where an investor loans money to a borrower (typically corporate or governmental) which borrows the funds for a defined period at a variable or fixed interest rate. For example, U.S. Treasury bonds are widely purchased for their relative safety.

Bond Anticipation Notes: Imagine your town starts building the new library, but runs out of money halfway through. Bond anticipation notes are like IOUs that promise to pay back the extra money needed once the town gets more funding. Interim short-term tax-exempt obligations used to provide funds for construction or completion of an enterprise. The proceeds of a future bond issue are pledged to pay the note at maturity. Upon completion and final costing of the project, a tax-exempt bond issue provides permanent financing, and the bond anticipation notes are retired.

Bond Insurance: Imagine your town is worried some people might not trust them to pay back the money they borrowed for the library. Bond insurance is like a promise from another company that they'll help cover the payments if the town can't. This makes people feel safer about lending money to the town.

Bond Rating: Imagine there's a rating system that tells you how trustworthy your friends are with money. A bond rating is like that, but for towns and governments! It helps people decide if lending money to a government for their projects is a good idea.

Budget: Imagine you and your friends plan a big trip to the amusement park. You all figure out how much money you have, how much tickets and food will cost, and make a spending plan - that's like a budget! Governments do the same thing, but on a much bigger scale!

Bull Market: A financial market of a group of securities in which prices are rising or are expected to rise.

C. Capital, Collateral, Compound Interest

An intricate and thought-provoking illustration that depicts three concepts: Capital, Collateral, and Compound Interest. The central figure represents Capital, a woman with wings and a scepter, symbolizing her power and reach. To her left, a man with chains on his ankles signifies Collateral, illustrating the burden and limitations that come with borrowing. On the right, a spiral of books represents Compound Interest, suggesting the growth and potential of consistent investment. The background is a blend of old-world and modern elements, with gears symbolizing the interconnectedness of these concepts.

Capital refers to the financial assets or resources that individuals or enterprises use to fund their operations and make further investments. Businesses often raise capital by selling equity or borrowing money.

Collateral: An asset that a borrower offers a lender to secure a loan. If the borrower fails to pay back the loan, the lender has the right to seize the collateral.

Compound Interest: Interest calculated on the initial principal and also on the accumulated interest of previous periods of a deposit or loan.

D. Derivative, Dividend, Default

Derivative - A derivative is a financial contract whose value is dependent on an underlying asset, index, or entity. Common derivatives include options and futures. For example, a stock option gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a stock at a specific price before a certain date.

Dividend: A payment made by a corporation to its shareholders, usually as a distribution of profits.

E. Equity, Exchange Rate, Escrow

Equity - In finance, equity refers to the ownership value in an asset or business, typically represented by stocks. If someone owns 50 shares in a company with 100 shares outstanding, they have 50% equity.

Exchange Rate: The value of one currency for the purpose of conversion to another.

Escrow: A financial arrangement where a third party holds and regulates payment of the funds required for two parties involved in a given transaction.

F. Futures, Fiduciary, Foreclosure

Futures: Financial contracts obligating the buyer to purchase an asset or the seller to sell an asset at a predetermined future date and price.

Fiduciary: A person who acts on behalf of another person, or persons to manage assets.

Foreclosure: A legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments.

G. Guarantor, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Growth Fund

Guarantor: A person or entity that agrees to be responsible for another's debt or performance under a contract if the other fails to perform.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): The total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year.

Growth Fund: A fund that invests primarily in stocks with potential for high growth.

H. Hedge, Holding Company, High-Yield Bond

Hedge: Investment to reduce the risk of adverse price movements in an asset.

Holding Company: A company created to buy and possess the shares of other companies, which it then controls.

High-Yield Bond: Bonds that pay higher interest rates because they have lower credit ratings than safer, investment-grade bonds.

I. Interest Rate, IPO (Initial Public Offering), Insolvency

Interest Rate: The amount charged, expressed as a percentage of principal, by a lender to a borrower for the use of assets.

IPO (Initial Public Offering): The first time that the stock of a private company is offered to the public.

Insolvency: The state of being unable to pay the money owed, by a person or company, on time.

J. Joint Account, Junk Bond, Junior Debt

Joint Account: A bank or brokerage account that is shared between two or more individuals.

Junk Bond: A bond with a lower credit rating and higher risk, but typically offering a higher yield.

Junior Debt: Debt that ranks below other debts if a company falls into liquidation or bankruptcy, it could also be terms as second mortage.

K. Key Rate, KYC (Know Your Customer), Keogh Plan

Key Rate: A fundamental interest rate that influences the banking and financial sectors and is set by a nation’s central bank.

KYC (Know Your Customer): A process used by financial institutions to verify the identity, suitability, and risks involved with maintaining a business relationship with a customer.

Keogh Plan: A tax-deferred pension plan available to self-employed individuals or unincorporated businesses for retirement purposes.

L. Liability, Liquidity, Leverage

Liability: Financial obligations owed by a company or individual.

Liquidity: The availability of liquid assets to a market or company.

Leverage: The use of borrowed funds to increase the potential return of an investment.

M. Margin, Maturity, Mutual Fund

Margin: Borrowing money from a broker to purchase stock, using the purchased stock as collateral.

Maturity: The date on which the life of a financial instrument ends, after which it must either be renewed or it will cease to exist.

Mutual Fund: An investment vehicle made up of a pool of funds collected from many investors for the purpose of investing in securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and other assets.

N. Net Worth, Negotiable Instrument, No-load Fund

Net Worth: The total assets minus total liabilities of an individual or company.

Negotiable Instrument: A document guaranteeing the payment of a specific amount of money, either on demand, or at a set time, with the payer named on the document.

No-load Fund: A mutual fund in which shares are sold without a commission or sales charge.

O. Option, Overdraft, Origination Fee

Option: A financial derivative that represents a contract sold by one party (option writer) to another party (option holder). The contract offers the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy (call) or sell (put) a security or other financial asset at an agreed-upon price during a certain period or on a specific date.

Overdraft: A facility allowing the account holder to withdraw money from an account even if the account has insufficient funds, up to an approved negative balance.

Origination Fee: A fee charged by a lender on entering into a loan agreement to cover the cost of processing the loan.

P. Portfolio, Principal, Profit Margin

Portfolio: A range of investments held by a person or organization.

Principal: The amount of money that is loaned and must be repaid back, separate from interest or profit earned.

Profit Margin: A profitability ratio calculated as net income divided by revenue, or net profits divided by sales.

Q. Quantitative Easing, Quick Ratio, Quitclaim Deed

Quantitative Easing: A monetary policy used by central banks to stimulate the economy by increasing the money supply.

Quick Ratio: An indicator of a company's short-term liquidity. It measures a company's ability to meet its short-term obligations with its most liquid assets.

Quitclaim Deed: A legal instrument that is used to transfer interest in real property. The entity transferring its interest is called the grantor, and when the quitclaim deed is executed, the grantor terminates their right or claim to the property.

R. Rate of Return, REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust), Refinancing

Rate of Return: The gain or loss on an investment over a specified period, expressed as a percentage increase over the initial investment cost.

REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust): A company that owns, operates, or finances income-producing real estate. Modeled like mutual funds, REITs pool the capital of numerous investors. This makes it possible for individual investors to earn dividends from real estate investments without having to buy, manage, or finance any properties themselves.

Refinancing: The process of replacing an existing loan with a new loan typically with better terms, such as a lower interest rate.

S. Securities, Subprime, Swap

Securities: Financial instruments that represent some type of financial value. Securities include stocks, bonds, and banknotes among others.

Subprime: Referring to credit or loan arrangements for borrowers with a poor credit history, typically having higher interest rates than standard loans due to the higher risk of default.

Swap: A derivative contract through which two parties exchange financial instruments, such as interests or cash flows from two different financial instruments.

T. Treasury Bills, Trust Fund, Time Value of Money

Treasury Bills (T-Bills): Short-term government securities with maturities ranging from a few days to 52 weeks. Bills are sold at a discount from their face value.

Trust Fund: A fund comprised of a variety of assets intended to provide benefits to an individual or organization.

Time Value of Money: A concept that money available at the present time is worth more than the same amount in the future due to its potential earning capacity.

U. Underwriting, Unsecured Loan, Usury

Underwriting: The process by which a bank or other financial service provider evaluates the credit worthiness of potential customers.

Unsecured Loan: A loan that is issued and supported only by the borrower's creditworthiness, rather than by any type of collateral.

Usury: The act of lending money at an unreasonably high interest rate.

V. Volatility, Venture Capital, Variable Rate

Volatility: A statistical measure of the dispersion of returns for a given security or market index.

Venture Capital: Financial funding provided by investors to startups and small businesses with perceived long-term growth potential.

Variable Rate: An interest rate that can change, based on changes in a linked rate such as the bank's prime rate.

W. Warrant, Wire Transfer, Working Capital

Warrant: An instrument issued by a company that gives holders the right to purchase the company's stock at a specific price until the expiry date.

Wire Transfer: An electronic transfer of funds across a network administered by hundreds of banks and transfer service agencies around the world.

Working Capital: The difference between a company’s current assets, like cash, accounts receivable (customers’ unpaid bills), and inventories of raw materials and finished goods, and its current liabilities, like accounts payable.

X. X-Efficiency, Xenocurrency, X-Mark Signature

X-Efficiency: The degree of efficiency maintained by firms under conditions of imperfect competition.

Xenocurrency: A currency that circulates or is traded in markets outside of its domestic borders.

X-Mark Signature: A type of signature used by individuals who are unable to sign their names due to illiteracy or disability. It is usually witnessed to confirm its authenticity.

Y. Yield, Year-Over-Year (YOY), Yield Curve

Yield: The income return on an investment, such as the interest or dividends received from holding a particular security.

Year-Over-Year (YOY): A method of evaluating two or more measured events to compare the results at one period with those from another (earlier) period, explicitly calculated as a percentage.

Yield Curve: A line that plots the interest rates, at a set point in time, of bonds having equal credit quality but differing maturity dates.

Z. Zero-Coupon Bond, Z-Score, Z-Tranche

Zero-Coupon Bond: A bond that does not pay periodic interest or coupon payments. Instead, it is sold at a discount to its face value; the investor receives the principal amount (face value) once the bond matures.

Z-Score: A statistical measurement that describes a value's relationship to the mean of a group of values, measured in terms of standard deviations from the mean.

Z-Tranche: A type of bond in a collateralized mortgage obligation that receives no cash payments for an extended period until the earlier bonds are retired.

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