The primary reason many people (especially women) feel anxious and alienated by the investment world is they don't know the lingo.
Think about it. Most women can quickly decode the following:
Sales of the new Donna Karan Hobo soared after Michelle Obama was seen with this luxe tote (and a pair of Chrissie Lous). Roll over, Miu Miu!
It didn't take years of study to know what a Hobo bag was (or why you wanted one). Regular exposure to the names of products and the trends behind them has made you fashion fluent.
Now we'll do the same with your finances. Here, two terms to start the year:
Mutual Fund: A mutual fund is like a huge case of wine, holding many bottles: i.e. various stocks, bonds and other investments. By putting your money into a mutual fund-which is what most investors do--you buy a bit of all those different investments. The sheer diversity of items helps to keep returns (profits) high.
Ticker symbol: Every investment that is publicly traded has a name, but is known by its ticker symbol, which look like the call letters of a radio station. WFMI is the ticker symbol for Whole Foods stock, for example. JABAX is the ticker symbol of the Janus Balanced Mutual Fund. To decipher what's in your 401k or IRA, find out the ticker symbols of your investments and type them into Google to begin to explore what you've bought.
Check out Marketplace Money 101: Buzzwords—free minute-long vocab lessons on iTunes.