Investment Terms For Beginners. Investment Terms for newbies

Investing can be overwhelming especially for newbies. With no previous experience or formal education, there’s a lot to learn and tons of options to choose from. Among other things, millennials aren’t investing because they lack the financial know-how. But can you blame us? The stakes are high – we can win or lose. It’s understandable why many of us don’t want to bear the risk without knowing what we’re getting into first. So let’s take a step back and start with the basics. Let’s build our knowledge base by understanding some of the most common investment terms first.

Having a good handle on these terms will help you feel more confident when you start investing. Also, if you happen to watch the news or hear these investment terms in conversation, you’ll be in the know.


Common Investment Terms & Definitions


#1 Stock market 

The stock market is where companies raise capital (funds) in exchange for ownership.

In the stock market, stocks and bonds fund new product launches, support research initiatives, improve infrastructure and more. Stocks and bonds are bought and sold in the stock market. Think of it as a network of transactions instead of a physical place.


#2 Stocks

Stocks are stakes of ownership in a company.

When you buy a stock, you become a “stakeholder”. Essentially, you have a say at how the company conducts business. Don’t worry, the CEO won’t bother you with a ton of questions about the next strategic initiative. Most investors don’t own enough stock get involved in day-to-day operations.


#3 Bonds

Bonds are fixed-income debt instruments.


What’s a fixed-income debt instrument?

Instead of taking out a loan from a bank, companies, municipalities and the federal government issue bonds. Bonds are a promissory note or an IOU – a promise to repay. If you own a bond you are a lender. If you issue a bond, you’re an issuer.

Bonds fund a variety of projects including building bridges and product launches.

Generally, bonds are low-risk investments. They aren’t risk-free.


How Bonds Work

Bonds have a set maturity date (end date). They also earn interest periodically usually annually or semi-annually. This is why a bond is fixed-income. As a lender, you know exactly how much interest you’re going to get – either once or twice a year.

By the maturity date, the issuer (ie. federal government) repays the lender (you) the entire amount owed. This why a bond is a debt instrument.


#4 Securities

Securities refer to many kinds of investments including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Securities are intangible assets – not physical. Metals are not securities. However, if you buy precious metal stock, that’s a security.


#5 Commodities

Commodities are physical goods like coffee, gold, oil, metals (gold and silver) or cotton.


#6 Portfolio

A portfolio is all the investments owned by an investor. In a portfolio, you can have an infinite number of investments (stocks, bonds, and commodities).


#6 Diversification 

This is another one of those important investment terms!

Essentially, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

Diversification is when you create a portfolio that includes different types of investments to mitigate risk. In an event that one investment suffers a serious blow, your portfolio won’t take too much of a hit.


#7 Equity

Equity is the difference between the value of all the assets (what you own) and the value of the all the liabilities (what you owe). Equity indicates ownership.

So let’s say you own a home that is worth $100,000 (asset) but you owe $50,000 on a mortgage (liability), you have $50,000 equity.


Equity= Assets – Liabilities 


How The Stock Market Works

There are two main markets or sections in the stock market.

In the primary stock market, companies issue stocks to the public through an initial public offering (IPO). The company gets to keep all the money raised through this first sale.

In the secondary stock market, investors continue to trade (buy and sell) these stocks. Through trades, investors experience gains and losses.

Unlike the primary stock market, in the secondary market, the company doesn’t get money from any of these transactions.

Remember, for each transaction, there’s a buyer and seller.


#9 Gain

If the stock increased in value during a sale, that’s a “gain”.


#10 Loss

If the stock decreased in value during a sale, that’s a “loss”.


Goal For Investors

The goal is to buy a stock and sell it for more later.


Why Stock Prices Fluctuate

Stock prices rise and fall every day, often many times a day.

If a company performs well, the value of the stock increases. However, if a company does poorly, the stock’s value decreases.

Perception also plays a big role in price fluctuations. If investors perceive that the company isn’t doing well, the stock’s value decreases.


#11 Exchange

An exchange is a marketplace or platform where securities and commodities are traded. An example of an exchange is ETX Capital, a global trading platform that gives customers access to competitive pricing for over 6,000 markets. They also offer an educational program with free webinars and seminars to help beginners improve their trading.


#12 Dow Jones

“Dow Jones Industrial Average” (DJIA) or “The Dow” is a commonly used stock market index that tracks 30 different U.S. companies. These companies are major players in their fields. This includes companies like General Electric, Apple, Nike, Walt Disney and Coca-Cola.

Think of this as an average of how 30 major companies are performing in the market.


#13 Broker/Brokerage firm

A broker buys and sells stocks on your behalf in the stock market. They charge a fee for this service.


#14 Fees

Fees are important because they reduce your earnings. There are all sorts of fees associated with investing including transaction fees, management fees, and custodian fees. As an investor, the goal is to minimize fees and maximize performance.


#15 Dividends

Some companies distribute dividends, a portion of their earnings to stakeholders. Dividends are usually paid out on a quarterly or annual basis. Not all companies offer dividends.


What other investment terms would you add to the list?


This is a collaborative post with ETX Capital, all opinions are my own.

5 replies
  1. Daph says:

    I needed this post at this time in my life. As a 26 year old black female I have been contemplating learning about investments because it seemed scary, risky and overwhelming.

    It’s time for me to start understanding how people make so much money investing so I can be a player in the finance game too, instead of sitting on the bench trying to only play by the rules. This post helped me feel more comfortable and able to embark on this challenging financial experience.

    THANKS DANIELLE!! Keep these amazing posts coming.

    • Danielle Desir says:

      They say you have to be in it to play the game. I’m confident that you’ll succeed! I listen to a ton of personal finance podcasts which has helped me discover new strategies and ideas to build wealth – I’ve found a lot of concepts easier to grasp that way.

  2. ash says:

    I would like to say thank you for this post, this is something i can share with a range of individual who are just beginning to start in the investment world. Your word clarity and definition are exquisite due to the fact anyone can understanding the meaning of each term clearly.
    Thank you.

    • Danielle Desir says:

      Thanks Ash! I felt that it was important to break down these concepts since there’s already so much to learn about investing without even investing. Thanks so much for reading along =)!


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