Doctors write prescriptions. Auto mechanics perform tune-ups. Lawyers prepare briefs. Financial advisors help you manage your money. Ultimately, it is that simple. But like any other profession, we sometimes have a funny way of saying it.
Understanding some of the “shoptalk” we use can help you manage your money more effectively, and hold more meaningful conversations with your advisor. Following are a few of the most common terms related to money management.
Your assets are like the organs that sustain your financial being and feed your financial worth. Cash is the consummate asset, because you can do just about anything you want with it. That said, cash is not expected to generate future income unless you invest it in other assets, such as stocks, bonds, commodities, real estate and similar holdings.
You might own some assets directly, such as shares of stock, a rental property, or a gold bar. For efficient investing, it is common to own shares of mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or similar structures, which in turn hold batches of these underlying assets on your behalf.
Fund managers provide and manage the mutual funds and ETFs in which you invest. Each manager typically offers a varied “family” of funds representing different batches of assets, such as funds for investing in domestic, international or emerging markets stocks; funds for investing in short-term bonds; funds for investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts; and so on.
Investment accounts are “containers” for holding your mutual funds, ETFs and various types of individual assets. Accounts are typically “regular/taxable” or “tax-advantaged,” with different tax treatments depending on the type of account. Taxable accounts are basically any accounts that are not subject to special tax treatment. Tax-advantaged accounts include structures such as IRAs, Roth IRAs, HSAs, 401(k)s and 529 plans.
Custodians hold your investment accounts on your behalf. If they are also a broker/dealer, they execute transactions upon your direction, such as adding or removing money into or out of your account, or buying or selling holdings within it. Your custodian also periodically reports account activities to you.
Investable assets are assets that are already part of, or readily available to add to your investment portfolio. Money currently “tied up” in your home, business or similar ventures is certainly of worth to you, but it is not considered an investable asset when it is already being used to fulfill other important roles. Future income from your career, the future sale of a business, or similar sources of expected income are not yet investable assets either, not until you have received the money and set some of it aside for investing.
Combine all your accounts containing all your investable assets (no matter what kind they are or where they are held), and that is your investment portfolio.
For some of your accounts, our services are twofold: We advise you on how to invest the assets within your total portfolio, plus we serve as a liaison with your custodian to facilitate account management, such as set-up, closure, transfers and trades. For these accounts, we include their assets in your Assets Under Management (AUM), upon which our advisor fees are typically based. For other accounts, such as your company 401(k) or a direct-sold 529 plan, another provider may already be managing account transactions for you. We still include these assets in our ongoing advice, portfolio management, performance reports and financial planning services. But they are typically excluded from your AUM totals.
Now that you are getting the hang of some of our specialized lingo, what else can we answer for you? As a fiduciary advisor that is responsible for serving investors’ highest financial interests, we consider it our privilege and duty to not only help you manage your money, but to help you actually understand what we are talking about when we do.
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This post was written and first distributed by Wendy J. Cook.
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