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What is Universal Life Insurance?

Universal Life Insurance is a permanent cash value insurance that has a term-insurance component and a savings component as well. The savings component is invested in a tax-deferred account, designed to create a cash build-up that can increase the death benefit or to be used at the discretion of the policy-owner. The cash grows inside the policy tax-deferred, and if money is taken out as a loan, it avoids taxation as income. Continue reading...

What is Variable Universal Life Insurance?

Variable Life Insurance is a permanent universal life policy that has a death benefit as long as the cash value and premiums are sufficient to pay the increasing cost per-thousand, while the premiums and cash value have the option of being invested in separate accounts which behave much like mutual funds. Often the policy-owner has a choice of many investment options, and can construct an entire portfolio within the policy. Continue reading...

Should I Buy a Long-Term Care Policy?

Whether you should own a long-term care insurance policy depends on a myriad of factors, including but not limited to affordability, family medical history, your liquid net worth and your cash flow needs in retirement. It also depends on your ability to make consistent premium payments to ensure your policy stays in force over time. Since a Long-Term Care plan requires you to keep paying the (steep) premium until you actually start to use the coverage – or you’ll lose it, it may not be a great idea to buy the policy if you have financial insecurities in the near (or even distant) future. Continue reading...

At What Age Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?

Generally speaking, the earlier you purchase long-term care insurance the less expensive it will be in terms of monthly premium. Investors in good health should start thinking about long-term care insurance as part of their overall financial plan around their late 40’s/early 50’s. Medical history also plays a role. If your parents needed daily medical care later in life, then you should consider purchasing a long-term care policy sooner than later. Continue reading...

What is the Bid-Ask Spread?

The Bid-Ask Spread is the difference between an offer made on a security and the price a seller is willing to accept. The Bid-Ask Spread is the amount by which the ask price exceeds the bid. For example, if the bid price is $50 and the ask price is $51 then the "bid-ask spread" is $1. The larger the bid-ask spread, the less liquid the market for that particular security - buyers and sellers are too far apart for trades to occur easily. When trading, investors have to pay attention to the bid-ask spread, because it is ultimately an additional cost to investing in or trading stocks. Continue reading...

What is buying power?

With regards to Margin Trading, ‘Buying Power’ is a term used to describe how much additional leverage you have given the excess equity in your account. When your broker or custodian authorizes buying on margin, the purchasing power of your assets can become substantial. Instead of just owning $10,000 worth of stock, you might be able to leverage that to buy $10,000 more, therefore having $20,000 of long exposure even though you only have $10,000. Continue reading...

What is a "spread"?

Spread has several meanings in finance, but the most general usage is to describe the difference between the bid and the ask prices for a security, where a narrower spread would indicate high trading volume and liquidity. It also might refer to a type of options strategy in which an investor purchases two calls or two puts on the same underlying security but with different expiration dates or strike prices. Continue reading...

What is Long-Term Debt?

Long-term debt refers to the duration of a liability/amount owed, and to qualify it must be due at least 12 months out. The period is in reference to 12+ months from the date of the balance sheet. A company will typically take on long-term debt in the form of a mortgage for property owned, or as capital for growth raised through bond sales or other debentures. Continue reading...

What is a market-maker spread?

The difference between the Bid and Ask prices on a stock or other security are known as the Spread. Designated market makers are traders whose job it is to make a market for securities, by offering to buy or sell shares, and thus creating liquidity, often at the same time. Their money is made on the spread. In highly liquid markets, the spread will shrink. So if everyone is buying and selling the same stock one day, there may be virtually no spread between the Bid and the Ask price, and this is seen as efficient. Continue reading...

What does “Buy-Side” Mean?

The “buy side” refers to businesses in the financial services industry such as pensions, mutual funds, and asset managers that manage money. Since firms on this “side” of Wall Street tend to be the ones buying and selling securities for their portfolios, when a person works for one of these funds or companies they are said to be on the “buy side.” Research analysts that provide analysis and data to fund managers solely for the purpose of making investment decisions within the portfolio are “buy side analysts.” That research is typically not published for public use. Continue reading...

What does “Buy the Dips” Mean?

“Buying the dips” is a bullish description of investing in stocks whose prices have gone down. We say this is a bullish sentiment because a bearish investor would be more likely to interpret the downturn as a sign of impending doom, or might prefer to play it safe. A “dip” can be loosely defined as a downtrend without much momentum or evidence to support a bearish outlook. Another way of interpreting a dip would be as an oversold condition, where investor sentiment has caused the price of a quality stock to fall. Bullish investors could maximize their gains in such a scenario by buying low and selling when the stock has recovered and pushed on to new highs. Technical analysis indicators such as Bollinger Bands can be used to identify favorable buying conditions. Continue reading...

What does “Buy to Close” Mean?

When an investor takes a short position on an option contract by selling (“writing”) a call or put option, he or she is opening a position, which creates more open interest in an underlying security which will be handled by the brokerage house, and this is called “selling to open.” If the price changes in the underlying security in an unfavorable way, the investor will seek to get out of the short position he holds on the options contract before the option’s expiration date. To do so, the investor must buy back the option (or, really, cancel out the position by buying the same kind of contract that he or she previously sold short). Continue reading...

What does “Buy to Open” Mean?

When trading options, the language is slightly different than other transactions. You might be “opening” or “closing” a position with each trade. If you buy a put or call option, your ticket with say “buy to open” since you are opening a position and increasing the open interest on the underlying. Open interest is similar to trade volume in the stock markets, but it only increases with the number of outstanding positions interested in the outcome of the movements of the underlying security, and does not increase with each trade like trading volume. Continue reading...

What does Ask Mean?

In the financial markets, “Ask” is the price that a seller is willing to accept for a security. It is also known as the offer price. Given the market is constantly changing, Ask prices are rarely set in stone for long. What’s more, the Ask price on a security may not necessarily be the best going price available for it. It merely represents what that particular seller is willing to accept for it. What is a “Spread”? What is a Market-Maker Spread? Continue reading...

What does Bid Mean?

When you make a ‘buy offer’ on a stock or other security in the financial markets, you are making a Bid. A Bid offer in terms of financial markets is the price offered by an investor or trader for a security. A market maker will try to reconcile Bid offers (the highest prices that buyers are willing to pay) with Ask offers (the lowest price that a seller is willing to accept). Match the Bid and the Ask offers, and you’ve got a trade. Continue reading...

What does “Buying on Weakness” Mean?

Instead of waiting for confirmation of reversal, “buying on weakness” means to go ahead and buy a long position (or cover a short position) while a stock is in the middle of a downtrend, in the hopes that it will reverse soon and the preemptive move will allow you to capture the entire upside. Upswings can happen very quickly, and failure to prepare for them can cost investors a lot of money. Buying on weakness is intended to put the investor in a position for maximum gains, as well as preventing losses on a short position. This is one part of the “buy on weakness / sell on strength” mantra, which is essentially the same thing as “buy low / sell high”. Continue reading...

What should I look for in a good “Lease or Buy a Car” calculator?

Calculators are available to help you decide whether to lease or buy a car. Despite the advice of our older family members, many financial decisions will benefit from the use of math and technology, instead of just “rules of thumb,” and they will depend on the circumstances present at the time of the decision. Despite the fact that you may have purchased a vehicle or two in the past, you might benefit from using an online calculator that can help you compare whether it might be in your best interest to lease the vehicle this time or buy it. Continue reading...

What is a Stop Limit Order?

A Stop-Limit Order basically automates the preferences of an investor or trader, to reduce exposure to price uncertainty even after a trade ticket is entered, by stipulating a price at which the search for a bid/ask price is to begin, but limiting the range of prices at which an order can actually be entered or executed. A Stop-Limit Order has two parts: the Stop Price and the Limit Price. The stop price is like an amendment or contract rider on a security that is held which stipulates that if the price of the security crosses the Stop price, the search for an agreeable price begins. Continue reading...

Is Life Insurance a Good Investment?

As a rule of thumb, life insurance should not be considered an investment at all, since it’s primary purpose is to provide insurance coverage. That said, some cash value policies have attractive features that can be appealing in certain circumstances. We will say that a smart investor who has done research and gotten good advice will generally not end up with a permanent cash value life insurance policy. Continue reading...

What is a Bear Squeeze?

Investors who were bearish on a stock may have chosen to short-sell shares in the hopes that they could cover at a lower price. Short selling is when a broker facilitates the actions of an investor who wishes to take on the risk of replacing sold shares of a particular stock because he or she believes the price will be lower when he or she replaces the inventory. The broker passes the proceeds of the sale (minus a fee) along to the investor who is taking the risk of replacing the shares, and charges the investor interest or fees as long as the shares are outstanding. Investors need to cover the short before prices go up and it results in a loss for them. Continue reading...