When you’re working with a financial advisor to plan your financial future, you’ll encounter a number of industry words and terms that might not be familiar to you. Use this glossary that defines financial advisor terms to better understand the lingo.

Financial Advisor Glossary

(401)k: A retirement plan that is sponsored by an employer is called a 401(k). The employee’s contribution to the plan is taken out of his or her income pre-tax. Some employers will match the employee’s contribution, up to a certain amount.

529 Plan: Families wishing to save college funds for children can use a 529 plan, which is sponsored by a state. Most states offer 529 plans. If the earnings are used for college expenses, they’re not taxed.

Annual Report: Every year, corporations produce formal financial reports. The purpose of an annual report is to give shareholders a picture of the company’s financial health and other activities. Annual reports will give information on assets and liabilities, profits and losses, expenses, revenue and more. Most states require corporations to file annual reports.

Asset Management: The professional management by a financial services company of a client’s investments is called asset management.  The investments can include securities, such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds, and tangible assets such a real estate.

CFP®: A Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) is a professional who has earned certification from the CFP Board. Such certification requires extensive training and experience, as well as adherence to high ethical standards.

Commission: A commission is the money that a broker or advisor charges a client for their advice and handling of financial accounts.

Dividend:  A dividend is money paid to a class of a company’s shareholders. The company’s board of directors determines the amount and it’s usually based on the financial health of the company.

Earnings Report: Think of an earnings report as a public company’s “report card.” It’s also called an income statement and it reflects the company’s earnings, expenses and net income.

Estate Planning: Estate planning includes making decisions about how one’s estate/wealth will be distributed following that person’s death and setting up the estate so those decisions are properly carried out.

Fee-Based: A fee-based financial advisor is compensated by a combination of charging fees to the client for financial planning and earning commissions on financial products he or she sells to the client.

Fee-Only: A fee-only financial advisor is paid directly by his or her client. No compensation is contingent upon the purchase or sale of a financial product.

Fiduciary: A fiduciary is a trustee who is legally appointed to hold assets for someone. He or she manages the assets for the other person’s benefit versus his or her own.

Financial Advisor: A financial advisor provides financial advice to clients and is compensated in return. Financial planners, investment managers, and those who sell financial products can all be financial advisors.

FINRA: FINRA is the acronym for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. After the National Association of Securities Dealers and the New York Stock Exchange’s regulation committee merged, FINRA was created in July of 2007. It’s a regulatory body that governs business between brokers, dealers and the public. FINRA is the largest regulatory body (that’s not associated with the government) of U.S. securities firms.

Independent Broker: An independent broker is a member of the NYSE who executes orders for other brokers. It may be for brokers who don’t have a member on the exchange floor or who have too many orders and aren’t able to execute on them all.

Margin: When a client uses a broker’s credit to buy a security, the margin is the amount the client pays. The margin requirements have ranged from 50% to 100% of the purchase price since 1945. The Federal Reserve sets margin requirements.

Net Worth: A person or company’s net worth is the amount of liabilities subtracted from assets. Liabilities can include mortgages, loans, credit card debt and more. Assets can include investments, real estate, savings, personal property and more.

Portfolio: A portfolio can be composed of bonds, common stocks, preferred stocks and other securities. Portfolios can be managed by financial professionals and/or held by investors.

Prospectus: The Securities and Exchange Commission requires a securities issuer to file a prospectus. It’s a legal document that gives a potential investor details about the investment offering so that he or she can make an informed decision about the purchase.

RIA: RIA is the acronym for Registered Investment Advisor. The Investment Advisers Act of 1940 defines an RIA as a “person or firm that, for compensation, is engaged in the act of providing advice, making recommendations, issuing reports or furnishing analyses on securities, either directly or through publications.” A Registered Investment Advisor is registered with state investment authorities or the SEC

SEC: SEC is the acronym Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC was created by Congress in 1934 to help protect investors and regulate the securities market. Five commissioners, each serving a five-year term, which are appointed by the president and approved by Congress make up the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC administers certain statutes: the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Securities Act Amendments of 1975, the Trust Indenture Act, the Investment Company Act, the Investment Advisers Act and the Public Utility Holding Company Act. The purpose is to protect investors from fraudulent/manipulative practices and to promote full disclosure.

Read Our Complete Guide to Finding a Financial Advisor

  1. 5 Reasons You Need a Financial Advisor
  2. Why You’re Afraid to Find a Financial Advisor
  3. How to Find a the Best Financial Advisor
  4. Which Type of Financial Advisor is Right for You?
  5. How to Review a Financial Advisor: The Definitive Checklist
  6. Financial Advisor Glossary

Laura Willard

Laura Willard

Laura Willard is an adoptive mom, a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting, a writer, a curator and an editor. She cares deeply about social justice issues. Laura enjoys spending time with her family and friends, walking on the beach - something that's become quite difficult since she left San Diego and returned to Arizona a year ago - and a good glass of wine. She loves to spend hours on end writing, but avoids doing math at all costs. (She loves her accountant dearly.) Laura's certain sarcasm is a language, so she's totally bilingual.  Follow Laura on Twitter and Google+ and Facebook

3 Comments

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Networking Tips for Financial Advisors - Advisor Websites Blog · November 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm

[…] rely on industry jargon or buzz words. How else can you communicate in layman’s terms concepts such as “fee-only” and “fiduciary”? Repeat, rephrase, refocus. Make sure your parents would be able to easily understand what […]

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