Commonly used Financial Terms

Posted on Jun 9 2008 - 8:00pm by Raj

Account balance Your account balance is the amount of money you have in one of your financial accounts. For example, your bank account balance refers to the amount of money in your bank accounts.

 Account balance Your account balance is the amount of money you have in one of your financial accounts. For example, your bank account balance refers to the amount of money in your bank accounts.

Your account balance can also be the amount of money outstanding on one of your financial accounts. Your credit card balance, for example, refers to the amount of money you owe a credit card company.

With your 401(k), your account balance, also called your accrued benefit, is the amount your 401(k) account is worth on a date that it’s valued. For example, if the value of your account on December 31 is $250,000, that’s your account balance.

You use your 401(k) account balance to figure how much you must withdraw from your plan each year, once you start taking required distributions after you turn 70 ½. Specifically, you divide the account balance at the end of your plan’s fiscal year by a divisor based on your life expectancy to determine the amount you must take during the next fiscal year.

 Accredited investor An accredited investor is a person or institution that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) defines as being qualified to invest in unregistered securities, such as privately held corporations, private equity investments, and hedge funds.

The qualification is based on the value of the investor’s assets, or in the case of an individual, annual income.

Specifically, to be an accredited investor you must have a net worth of at least $1 million or a current annual income of at least $200,000 with the anticipation you’ll earn at least that much next year. If you’re married, that amount is increased to $300,000.

Institutions are required to have assets worth $5 million to qualify as accredited investors. The underlying principle is that investors with these assets have the sophistication to understand the risks involved in the investment and can afford to lose the money should the investment fail.

 Accrued interest Accrued interest is the interest that accumulates on a fixed-income security between one interest payment and the next.

The amount is calculated by multiplying the coupon rate, also called the nominal interest rate, times the number of days since the previous interest payment.

Interest on most bonds and fixed-income securities is paid twice a year. On corporate and municipal bonds, interest is calculated on 30-day months and a 360-day year. For government bonds, interest is calculated on actual days and a 365-day year.

When you buy a bond or other fixed-income security, you pay the bond’s price plus the accrued interest and receive the full amount of the next interest payment, which reimburses you for the accrued interest payment you made when you purchased the bond. Similarly, when you sell a bond, you receive the price of the bond, plus the amount of interest that has accrued since you received the last interest payment.

On a zero-coupon bond, interest accrues over the term of the bond but is paid in a lump sum when you redeem the bond for face value. However, unless you hold the bond in a tax-deferred or tax-exempt account, you owe income tax each year on the amount of interest that the government calculates you would have received, had it been paid.

 Accumulation period The accumulation period refers to the time during which your retirement savings accumulate in a deferred annuity.

Because annuities are federal income tax deferred, all earnings are reinvested to increase the base on which future earnings accumulate, so you have the benefit of compounding.

When you buy a deferred fixed annuity contract, the company issuing the contract promises a fixed rate of return during the accumulation period regardless of whether market interest rates move up or down.

With a deferred variable annuity, the amount you accumulate depends on the performance of the investment alternatives, known as subaccounts or separate account funds, which you select from among those offered in the contract.

At the end of the accumulation period, you can choose to annuitize, agree to some other method of receiving income, or roll over your account value into an immediate annuity. The years in which you receive annuity income are sometimes called the distribution period.

 Accumulation unit Accumulation units are the shares you own in the separate account funds of a variable annuity during the period you’re putting money into your annuity.

If you own the annuity in a 401(k) plan, each time you make a contribution that amount is added to one or more of the separate account funds to buy additional accumulation units.

The value of your annuity is figured by multiplying the number of units you own by the dollar value of each unit. During the accumulation phase, that value changes to reflect the changing performance of the underlying investments in the separate account funds.

 Acquisition If a company buys another company outright, or accumulates enough shares to take a controlling interest, the deal is described as an acquisition.

The acquiring company’s motive may be to expand the scope of its products and services, to make itself a major player in its sector, or to fend off being taken over itself.

To complete the deal, the acquirer may be willing to pay a higher price per share than the price at which the stock is currently trading. That means shareholders of the target company may realize a substantial gain, so some investors are always on the lookout for companies that seem ripe for acquisition.

Sometimes acquisitions are described, more bluntly, as takeovers and other times, more diplomatically, as mergers. Collectively, these activities are referred to as mergers and acquisitions, or M&A, to those in the business.

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