The financial advisor could be confounding clients with exotic investment terms that maybe even the advisor doesn’t really understand. Now more than ever, advisors need to be educators, and sometimes they need to educate themselves before they can educate their clients.

That’s what some officials of major money managers and industry observers said at a panel hosted by Charles Schwab on Wednesday at Russell Investments in Manhattan. The panel debated and defined some index investing terms.

Why the confusion?

There’s more than one way to weight an index or define the kind of investing that uses these indexes. So index investing, one of the most popular trends in the advisory industry, at the same time has also become difficult for the average investor. The problem is investment pros throw around terms that attract investors but also leave them unsure.

Take the terms “strategic” or “smart beta.”

“Whether we like it or not, I think the industry has gravitated to the term ‘smart beta,’” says Anthony Davidow, vice president, beta and asset allocation strategist at the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

Yet that has become a confusing term not only for investors but for some investment pros.

Still, it is well worth the effort to clear it up, panelists said. They said that strategic beta, if properly understood, defined and implemented, can produce superior performance, possibly adding another 2 percent a year in returns over the long term.

What is smart or strategic beta? Here’s where the fun began.

“Strategic beta -- often called smart beta -- often refers to a group of indexes and investment products that track them,” according to the Morningstar Strategic Beta Guide.