Money talk: Finance terms for beginners

Even after going to the University and taking way more finance classes than you’d like, you may not totally be sure what all those financial terms actually mean. It’s understandable– few industries are as riddled with jargon as the finance industry, which makes crafting your own budget and savings plans pretty difficult.

Luckily, you don’t need to know everything to be successful with your money– just the basics. Whether you’re starting your first full-time job or have been out in the real world for some time, it’s useful to keep a few common terms tucked away in your tool belt. Here’s what you need to know:


Your assets are items of value. Things like your car or major savings funds are good examples– and they’re used to calculate your net worth.


This scary term means that you owe more money than you can afford to pay, and it generally occurs through the combination of mortgages, credit card debt, student loans, car payments and more. In short, it happens when you borrow too much. Declaring bankruptcy can solve hopeless financial situations, but it should be used as a last resort. When you file for it, it stays on your record for 10 years– and all of your assets are seized.


You’ve probably heard the words “stocks and bonds” used together, but they’re actually pretty different. When you buy a bond, you’re lending that company money. How that money is paid back is determined by the conditions you bought the bond under.


When you purchase a stock, you are buying a small part of the company. The price of each share is determined in part by how much people are willing to pay for them, how much they’re selling them for and how well the company is anticipated to perform. For this reason, it’s best to buy stock in companies you believe in– and to start small while you’re learning!

Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation is a useful strategy when you’ve accumulated debt from multiple, high-interest sources (such as credit cards). It allows you to make one (usually lower interest) payment each month, reducing the amount of money you spend repaying your debts overall.

Five C’s of Credit

You probably already know your credit score is important– it helps you land apartments, jobs, loans, and more. Lenders determine whether they will give you credit based on five factors:

  • Capacity: Your ability to make payments in a timely manner.
  • Conditions: The terms you’re trying to secure.
  • Collateral: Any assets you’re willing to use as a guarantee (such as a car).
  • Capital: Income and other sources of money.
  • Character: Your general reputation.

They’re essentially trying to determine how likely you are to pay your credit back.


Inflation is the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising and, consequently, the purchasing power of currency is falling.


This financial term is technically a debt. It’s usually one that must be paid every month, like student loans or a car payment. Why are these payments called liabilities? Because you are liable to pay them– or not great things happen.

Net Income

This term seems confusing at first, but it’s actually incredibly useful in determining whether your earnings match up with your monthly expenses. It’s simply your income minus your income tax and other deductions– the money left over, more or less, when you receive your paycheck.

Net Worth

Your net worth is your assets minus your debts. This probably goes without saying, but you’d ideally like to have as few debts as possible.


Source: Forbes

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