Personal Finance

How can you talk about personal finance in English? What phrases do you need to know?

Here’s our English guide to banking, pensions, mortgages and investments, with the key vocabulary and phrasal verbs you need to talk about them fluently and confidently.

What is personal finance?

Personal finance means how you manage your money, and the financial decisions you take. It includes topics such as personal banking, pensions (your retirement income) and the investments you make (including buying a house).


The first thing you need is a current account, where you can pay in your salary, and pay bills. Most people get an account with a high street bank, but if you know you want to buy a house, you can also get an account with a building society.

You can also open a savings account, where you can put aside some money each month.

Your bank accounts may earn interest.

You can also borrow money from the bank – either as a bank loan (where the bank gives you a certain amount of money which you need to pay back with interest) or in the form of an overdraft. This is where you can take out more money than you have in your bank account, up to a certain limit.

If you need to pay for something now (but you don’t have the money) you can also apply for a credit card. The month after you’ve bought something, you can either pay it all back, or pay back a percentage.

To organise your banking, you can either go into your bank branch or bank online. You can also download your bank’s app for mobile banking. These are good options if you need to pay bills or set up direct debit for paying utilities.

pay in = put money into an account
high street bank = one of the four big banks in the UK which you can find on any high street in any town
building society = a type of bank that specialises in mortgages
put aside = save an amount regularly
earn interest = where you get a small amount extra paid to you by the bank
pay back = return the money you borrow
pay for = buy something using money or credit
apply for = ask to get (apply for a credit card / apply for a job)
branch = the local office of your bank
pay bills = pay what other people ask you to pay – for services or goods. For example, the electricity bill, the phone bill or a tax bill
set up direct debit = organise a process where a bill is paid each month directly from your bank account
pay utilities = pay for electricity, water, gas, phone and internet


You can save money for your retirement in either a state-run pension scheme, a company pension scheme (where your employer pays money in for you) or through a private pension scheme.

Currently, the retirement age for both men and women is 67 years old.

state-run pension scheme = a pension scheme managed by the government
company pension scheme = a pension scheme managed by your employer
private pension scheme = where you pay for your pension
retirement age = the age at which you can get your pension

Mortgages / Investments

Most people take out a mortgage in order to buy a flat or house. Typically, each month you pay back some of the capital and some of the interest. You can take out a mortgage over a number of years – and sometimes past retirement age.

To apply for a mortgage, you’ll have to share details of your earnings and income as well as any debts or assets that you have. The mortgage provider (which can be a bank or a building society) will assess your credit rating and either approve you for a mortgage – or turn you down.

If you’re approved, you need to put down a deposit, which is normally 5% or 10%. People often start saving up for their deposit years before they look for a house.

There are other types of investments, including buying stocks and shares. You can buy as many of these as you want to build up a portfolio. Before you buy stocks, shares or bonds, check the typical return on investment to make sure it’s worth your money.

take out a mortgage = apply for a loan to buy a house
capital = the house price
earnings = how much money you earn
income = the money that comes into your bank account
debts = the money that you owe other people
asset = something you have which has value (property, car, valuable paintings, etc)
mortgage provider = the organisation that offers mortgages
credit rating = how good (or bad) your credit history is
turn you down = reject you (for a mortgage)
put down a deposit = pay some money to show you want to buy the house, etc
save up (for) = save money for something
stocks and shares = a small percentage of a company
build up a portfolio = build a collection of stocks and shares
return on investment = how much profit (return) you get from your investment (often seen as ROI)

Hi! I’m Clare – the founder of this site. My goal is to help you become more fluent in English – and get to an advanced level quickly!

My program Real English Conversations shows you the phrases you need to speak fluently and confidently – and it helps you expand your vocabulary. Check it out below!