Glossary of Personal Savings Terms

Good personal financial plans involve personal savings plans, such as 401(k) accounts, 529s, and emergency funds. Some of these terms can be confusing, especially because they are often named after sections of tax code. Following are some of the most common personal savings terms.


A 401(k) is a type of retirement savings plan that you may have access to through your employer. Contributions to 401(k) plans are made pretax up to the government specified limit and can be matched if the employer chooses to do so.


 A 403(b) is a similar type of account to a 401(k), but is for employees of nonprofits, schools, government agencies, and churches. While for profit employers can only have one 401(k) provider, with a 403(b), nonprofits can have multiple providers. Therefore, employees of nonprofits generally have more choices available to them. However, 403(b) plans typically have fewer investment options. Contributions to a 403(b) are made pretax up to the government specified limit and can be matched if the employer chooses to do so.


A 529 account is a savings account for college savings. Contributions are typically made on a post-tax basis, although some states do offer tax breaks for state taxes on such pre-tax contributions. Interest and dividends accrue tax free until the funds are withdrawn.

Emergency fund

An emergency fund is a savings fund that all consumers should have. Generally recommended to contain about 3-6 months of income, an emergency fund is used to help in the case of a financial setback such as medical expenses or expensive car repairs.

FDIC insurance 

FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insurance guarantees deposits (up to the current limit of $250,000) made to member banks.


An IRA (individual retirement account) is an account you can open with a brokerage firm for your retirement savings. Each year, the government specifies a limit of contributions you can make on a pre-tax basis. 

Retirement assets

Retirement assets are savings of individuals specifically set aside for use in retirement. Many retirement assets grow on a tax-deferred basis
  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.