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Finance is the study and discipline of money, currency and capital assets. It is related to, but not synonymous with economics, the study of production, distribution, and consumption of money, assets, goods and services (the discipline of financial economics bridges the two). Finance activities take place in financial systems at various scopes, thus the field can be roughly divided into personal, corporate, and public finance.
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In a financial system, assets are bought, sold, or traded as financial instruments, such as currencies, loans, bonds, shares, stocks, options, futures, etc. Assets can also be banked, invested, and insured to maximize value and minimize loss. In practice, risks are always present in any financial action and entities.
A broad range of subfields within finance exists due to its wide scope. Asset, money, risk and investment management aim to maximize value and minimize volatility. Financial analysis is viability, stability, and profitability assessment of an action or entity. In some cases, theories in finance can be tested using the scientific method, covered by experimental finance.
Some fields are multidisciplinary, such as mathematical finance, financial law, financial economics, financial engineering and financial technology. These fields are the foundation of business and accounting.
The early history of finance parallels the early history of money, which is prehistoric. Ancient and medieval civilizations incorporated basic functions of finance, such as banking, trading and accounting, into their economies. In the late 19th century, the global financial system was formed.
In the middle of the 20th century, finance emerged as a distinct academic discipline, separate from economics. (The first academic journal, The Journal of Finance, began publication in 1946.) The earliest doctoral programs in finance were established in the 1960s and 1970s. Finance is widely studied at the undergraduate and master's level.