If you’re a having a bit of a WTF moment right now because you’re a REAL ADULT paying taxes and bills all by yourself, you’re definitely not alone. Entering the finance world can be pretty scary because it is guarded by toxic finance bros and confusing terminology that seems to be an entire language on its own. So if you clicked on this article, you’re probably thinking that you’re just a beginner trying to get your feet wet, but honestly, you’re one step ahead! The HerCapital team is here, and we’re going to show you that money can be easy and approachable, by introducing you to 10 basic financial terms that you need to know.
1. Compound Interest
Ever heard the phrase “time is money”? Well, whoever coined that phrase (no pun intended) definitely knew what they were saying because in financial markets, time literally equals more money! Compound interest is the interest an investor earns on their original investment and all the interest that has been earned from the interest added up over time—essentially it’s “interest on interest.” The effect of compounding becomes especially powerful with time, which is why it is advised to invest early, even if it is with a small amount.
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2. Federal Reserve
If there’s anything quarantine can be remembered by, it would probably be Dalgona coffee, wearing PJs to our zoom meetings, TikTok binges, and all that hubbub about the Federal Reserve. Wait…who…what? The Federal Reserve—“Fed” for short. Serving as the bank’s bank, the Federal Reserve is responsible for setting monetary policy for the United States and maintaining the overall stability of the economy through altering money supply and interest rates. Through the sh*tstorm of COVID-19, the Federal Reserve is the one behind the scenes supporting households, small businesses, and government, through actions like lowering federal funds rates (the interest rate at which banks borrow and lend money to each other) and encouraging banks to lower lending requirements so they can give more money out to borrowers.
Inflation is the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising or decreasing, even when the quality of said products is constant. Today, most central banks set inflation target rates at 2%. During the Great Depression, inflation rates were negative over a long period of time, which meant that prices were dropping like it’s hot! Sometimes this happens because people hold off on buying goods, in turn hurting the economy in the long run since there is limited economic activity. On the flip side, positive inflation can be troublesome as prices of goods increase dramatically—imagine that $2 coffee doubling to $4 in a year; that would not be great for your budget.
4. FICO Score
We personally would never go on a sketchy Tinder date without going on an FBI-esque investigation and going down the rabbit hole of weird 2014 Facebook photos. When it comes to credit, it’s pretty similar. By ranking consumers on how likely they will be to pay off their credit obligations, FICO scores help lenders make informed decisions on whether or not they will extend credit. Scores range from 300 to 850 and baked into this score are elements like how much you currently owe, your payment history, and the length of your credit history. The higher your score, the higher your creditworthiness, and people with higher scores often have an easier time securing loans and seeing benefits in their terms and interest rates. Ah, if only spotting red flags in people were that easy.
P.S. In case you are wondering, the name comes from the Fair Isaac Corporation who created the score.
5. Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
If there’s anything everyone in the world can agree on, it’s that we f*cking love free money. So think of IRAs as piggy banks that let you set aside money for retirement, where your contributions grow with interest and you don’t even have to lift a finger. Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (Traditional IRAs) let you deposit pre-tax income to a retirement account where that money grows tax-deferred until you take it out for the golden years. Roth IRAs, on the flip side, are not tax-deductible (meaning you deposit after-tax income), but you can still make contributions as long as you are earning an income and withdrawals are tax-free. A key difference between the two is that you cannot deposit into a Roth IRA if you earn too much (>139k if single and 206k if you are married)! To open a Roth IRA, you need to find an institution (banks, brokerage companies, federally insured credit unions, and savings and loan associations) that has IRS approval to offer this type of account.
6. Capital Gains
Like the term itself describes, capital gains are the gains (income) that stems from the sale of an asset, such as financial investments or real estate. If you hold the underlying asset for less than a year, the capital gains are taxed at the same rate as your income. This profit is typically taxed at 20% or less for long-term assets i.e. assets held for longer than one year.
Now, while putting your money in a savings account is better than just parking it under your mattress, you could honestly get so much more by putting your money into securities, tradable financial assets used to raise capital for governments and corporations both privately and publicly. Traded in financial markets, securities include stocks, bonds, and options, all varying in definition and ownership. What you really need to know, though, is that investing in securities typically comes with a higher yield, which means more bang for your buck, literally. Read more about them on our website.
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Get moving and start investing! 😏💸💪🏻 When you do, diversification is key. Today we’re simplifying some basic investment vehicles by relating them to common workouts 🧘🏻♀️🏋🏽♀️🚴🏼♀️ Investing will give you the #financialfreedom to treat yourself to your favorite workout classes, so what are you waiting for? #HerCapital ✨🌸💥
8. Financial Statement
If you’re an investor, you have probably heard of people screaming to buy the “hottest stock” of the moment. But you might wonder, what’s the hype? That’s where financial statements come in. Financial statements clear the noise and get to the down-and-dirty realities of a company’s financial performance. They are written records of all business transactions and activities, reporting elements like profit and losses, liquidity, and assets. The four main financial statements are the balance sheet, income statement, statement of shareholder’s equity, and cash flow statement. So when you invest, be sure to do your research, comb through those statements, and make an informed decision.
9. Asset Allocation
There are appropriate times to be risky and times to play it safe. Just like in life, you might want to try out that piece in your closet that you never, ever wear, but if you’re cutting bangs after a fresh heartbreak we’d tell you to slow down a little bit. When it comes to your financial plans, asset allocation is all about understanding and tolerating your risk and wisely choosing where to put your money. Different asset classes react differently in the economy, thus you can create your own mix that caters to your needs, time horizon, and goals. And take the time-tested tip to diversify, diversify, diversify!
10. Bull & Bear Markets
Within the financial world, the terms bull and bear markets refer to the general sentiment about the markets. A bull market is a sustained period where prices for securities are on the rise, often driven by optimism, investor confidence, and high expectations. On the flip side, a bear market is a period of contraction, characterized by falling prices. It generally occurs amid investor pessimism and shaken confidence and is often accompanied with an economic downturn, such as recession. I guess you could say that investors find this time to be unBEARable… sorry.
And that’s it—the 10 financial terms everyone should know. Wasn’t too bad, right? If you have any more questions or are looking for more resources, you can drop a comment here, or check out our HerCapital website and Instagram @her.capital. We’ve got lots of stuff for our community of badass women invested in their financial futures like you.
Images: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash; @her.capital / Instagram
Even though more womxn are working and earning higher salaries than ever before and breaking glass ceilings all over the damn place, we’re still behind when it comes to retirement and investing—yet we live longer than men do. So what gives?
Well, a lot of the womxn I know in my life feel like they have time to wait, they can invest later when they have more available cash, after they save for a wedding, or after they pay off student loans or credit card debt. Or it’s just not that important right now. Even worse is my biggest pet peeve: that they can rely on their spouse’s 401(k). In other words, they’re contributing to their spouse’s retirement for THEIR future. Well, I’m here to tell you that in most cases, you’re wrong.
You need to be investing what you can, right now. Not only for your future self, but for your present self. So you can change things in the world, literally put your money where you mouth is (or values are), and invest in ESG or SRI stocks (aka, socially, environmentally, and ethically conscious investments). Plus, if you walk away from a marriage or a relationship, you need to have your own damn money to fall back on. Yes, you can have a healthy relationship while still prioritizing your own financial well-being.
And if you’re over there thinking you’ve got it all figured out because you have a good chunk of money in a savings account, kudos. Money in savings is a GREAT first step, but even in the highest interest savings account you can find, your money is still worth less with each passing year. The only way to combat that decreased buying power is by investing that money in something that beats the rate of inflation (which has been an average of 3.22%/year).
First, I’m going to define a few important terms I’m going to use throughout this article:
Compound Interest/Compounding Returns: Interest/returns paid on both the principal balance and on accrued interest/gains.
Retirement Accounts (SEP IRA, Roth IRA, 403b, 401k, Traditional IRA, etc): A plan for setting aside money to be spent after retirement. For the purposes of this article, the retirement accounts I refer to are all qualified retirement accounts per the IRS. Some of them help you pay less in taxes now (SEP/Traditional IRA 401k), and some help you pay less in taxes later (ROTH). For these accounts, you can’t take your money out without incurring a 10% penalty before the age of 59 ½. This is to incentivize you to keep your money in here, and not touch it until you’re actually retired (and also why I recommend also having savings accounts and non-retirement investment accounts).
Investment/Investment Account: A type of account that is post-tax, doesn’t have any long-term retirement benefits, but money can be withdrawn at any time, regardless of your age.
Inflation: A general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money.
Why You Need To Invest
We’re going to talk about compound interest here for a minute. One of my strongest beliefs is that you should get retirement and investment accounts set up first, followed by a savings account. That’s because your retirement and investment accounts will generally give you an 8% average return over a 10-year period.
Now we’re going to do some math (I know, but trust me, it’s important).
If you’re 25 and invested $5,000 now, contributed $100/month to retirement for the next 40 years, and retired at 65, you’d have somewhere around $470,467.71. If you waited until you were 30, invested $5,000 and contributed $100/month for 35 years and retired at 35, you’d have $310,851.00. That’s a difference of almost $160,000, and the amount invested only decreased by $6,000 (5 years of $100/month).
Even crazier, if you’re 20 and invested $5,000, contributed $100/month for 45 years, and retired at 65, you’d have around $708,271.99!!
So when I tell you that compound interest is important and that investing something now is better than investing a larger amount in a few years, trust me on it.
How To Invest
Invest in yourself and your future right now, even if it’s only five dollars a month. Something is better than nothing, and like I talked about above, compound interest is your friend when it comes to taking care of your future self.
If you have a retirement plan offered through a job, you can start now by:
Opening a retirement (or multiple) accounts (if you don’t have access to one through a job).
If you have one through your work, you want to contribute to both a ROTH and regular option. ROTH contributions help future you with taxes, and regular/traditional pre-tax options help you with taxes.
If you’re self-employed or don’t have a retirement plan offered through a job, you can start now by:
Opening two types of retirement accounts: a ROTH and a Traditional IRA (or a SEP IRA if you’re self-employed).
You want to open and contribute to both types of accounts because post-tax ROTH contributions help future you with taxes, and regular/traditional pre-tax contributions help you now when it comes to taxes.
Whether you have a retirement plan offered through your employer or not, I recommend splitting your pre- and post-tax contributions 50/50, so if you can set aside $50/month for now, I’d send $25 to a ROTH and $25 to a Traditional account. I also recommend opening an investment account, then a savings account. I like Ellevest and Betterment.
That’s it. Your step-by-step guide to starting investing today (in like 15 minutes). You’re worth it, and the world needs more womxn investing and taking control of their financial future.
Images: Startup Stock Photos / Pexels
Farnoosh Torabi is a financial expert, host of the podcast So Money and co-founder of Stacks House, a massive experiential museum for female financial empowerment. Currently stationed in downtown L.A., Stacks House, together with its presenting partner Zelle, as well as Charles Schwab and Day Owl, plans to travel the country and make financial literacy fun. Use this link for 40% off your ticket.
Women, I’m told, are obsessed with retirement. Over the past four years as the host of a financial podcast, my largely female audience has been sending me their biggest money concerns over email, Instagram DMs, and during chance run-ins on the A train. One of the most pressing issues I hear from listeners is how to prepare for retirement. Specifically, women want to know: Where do I begin investing so that I can have enough when I retire? Our obsession makes sense. We’re living longer than men (on average) and have the wage gap to battle, which makes shoring up money for the golden years all the more stressful. In a recent survey by Charles Schwab, three out of four young women said putting together a financial plan is very important to reaching their financial goals—versus 64% of young men. Should I invest in a 401(k)? How about a Roth IRA? And, wait. There’s a Roth 401(k)?
The questions I field often relate to all the different accounts and how they work. If all the financial lingo is getting in the way of you and your older, richer self, I have some help. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common retirement accounts and whether they’re right for you.
Workplace Retirement Accounts
what (and I cannot stress this enough) the fuck is a 401k
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) February 15, 2019
Best for: Those with access to a plan that carries a company match. If you’re not sure where to begin investing and have access to a 401(k) through your job, this may be a great place to start. Named after a section of the IRS code, the almighty 401(k) is the most popular retirement savings vehicle. Recent numbers show about 80 million people are actively participating in a 401(k) or a “defined contribution plan.” Many employers offer 401(k)s as a workplace benefit. (If you work for a non-profit, school or government office, your plan is probably called a 403(b). It basically works the same way.)
You get to contribute automatically out of every paycheck. And with the help of the plan provider, you can select your investments within the plan to reflect your risk tolerance and retirement age. Annual contributions are capped
at $19,000 in 2019 or $20,000 if you are age 50 and over and can be deducted from your taxable income, which helps you save on your taxes today. Your tax burden is then pushed off until you start making qualified withdrawals at age 59 ½.
Bonus: Some employers will throw in a match. For example, they may provide a dollar for every dollar you invest, up to, say, 5% of your salary. And if that is the case, you should absolutely invest in a 401(k) to at least earn the company match. It’s sort of like free money!
Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (or Traditional IRAs)
Best for: Those who may not have access to a workplace retirement account and want to save on taxes today. The traditional IRA (Individual Retirement Account) is a popular retirement savings vehicle that you can open up at a financial institution or bank. Like a 401(k), contributions made to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible up to $6,000 in 2019 ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older). Funds aren’t taxed until they’re withdrawn, but there is a penalty for taking money out before age 59 ½.
At this point my retirement plan is just banking on the fact that climate change will kill us all by 2030
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) February 15, 2019
Best for: Those who think they’ll be in a higher tax bracket in retirement (i.e. most young people). Or, those who want to save for retirement, but are concerned they may need the money sooner. A Roth IRA is another type of individual retirement account. It is similar to a traditional IRA as far as the contribution limits go. This year’s cap is $6,000. The major difference is that you can’t deduct your contribution from your taxable income today. Instead, the tax benefit arrives later down the road, when you pay zero taxes on all future withdrawals in retirement (and when adhering to Roth IRA rules).
Another thing to note about Roth IRAs: You can’t contribute if you earn too much money. This year, if you’re filing taxes single, you’re no longer eligible for a Roth IRA once you earn $137,000 or more. For married couples filing jointly, you become ineligible at $203,000. The Roth IRA is also unique in that you can take out your contributions (note: not your earnings on the contributions, just contributions) at any time without facing a tax or penalty. Some really like this benefit because it provides better flexibility of accessing your money if you really need it.
Pro tip: If you already have a 401(k) or another type of employer-sponsored retirement account where contributions are tax-deductible—and you’re looking to diversify your tax exposure in retirement—a Roth IRA can be a solid vehicle for that purpose.
Best for: Those who want the best of both worlds. Now that we’ve reviewed the basics of 401(k)s and Roth IRAs, you can probably imagine how a Roth 401(k) works. Like a 401(k) this is an employer-sponsored investment savings account. The money you set aside, like a Roth IRA, is done so with after-tax dollars. You don’t get to deduct your contribution from your taxable income today, but you can make qualified withdrawals in retirement tax-free. Roth 401(k)s offer the higher contribution limits of a 401(k). And while a Roth IRA limits who can contribute based on income, a Roth 401(k) doesn’t have that rule.
Shop Betches What’s A 401k Tee
Images: Alexander Mils / Unsplash; betchesluvthis / Twitter (2)