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What is the Home Affordability and Stability Plan (HASP)?

HASP came into being in 2009 in response to the housing market crash that made life very difficult for many Americans. Also known as the Making Home Affordable Plan. It called for the creation of various programs and support for lending institutions, consumers, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Program (HASP) has three main parts. Part one is to aid responsible homeowners who are suffering from falling home prices and have become underwater on their mortgages. Continue reading...

What is the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)?

In 2009 the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) commissioned the HARP program to help Americans upside-down on mortgages to get approved for mortgage refinancing. This is only available to people whose mortgages are already owned by Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac. Many Americans find themselves upside-down, or underwater, on their home mortgages, particularly after the housing bubble popped in 2008. To be underwater means that there is more owed on the loan than the home can serve as collateral for. Continue reading...

What is Mortgage Modification?

Mortgage modifications are arrangements agreed to by the lender that are outside of the contractual mortgage agreement, in instances where the borrower experiences unique circumstances or hardship. An example of a mortgage modification is a loan forbearance, which is when a lender agrees to let the borrower temporarily stop payments for an agreed-upon span of time, before resuming payments with an added repayment stipulation for the time spent not paying. Continue reading...

What is a No-Appraisal Mortgage?

Most mortgages require that an appraisal or at least inspection is done before any loan is made. There are exceptions to this, in the form of no-appraisal mortgages which are available to lower-income homeowners, qualifying members of the military and its veterans, and some farmers. Most no-appraisal loans are through federal programs such as HARP, FHA, and the VA. The purpose of these loans is to keep people in their homes and to keep the economy relatively stable. These are generally not first mortgages, but are relief, modification, and refinancing arrangements to qualifying homeowners that already have a mortgage outstanding. Continue reading...

What is a Home Debtor?

In contrast to the term “home owner,” home debtor is reserved for those who will seemingly never be able to pay off the mortgage(s) on their home, or who have already defaulted. Most Americans live in homes that they pay on, but are still primarily owned by the bank that loaned them money. Banks have insurance to protect them against mortgage defaults. Home mortgage loans are the primary way that Americans by homes today. Continue reading...

What is a Mortgage Short Sale?

A mortgage short sale occurs when a borrower and a lender settle for less than is owed on a mortgage because changes to the housing market or financial status has made it impossible to continue the arrangement. Lenders would rather take what they can get, while they still can, in this sort of situation. An example of a short sale would be an older couple reaching retirement age with a house that is bigger than they need in a neighborhood that has seen the property values decrease, and due to pension cuts they will have hard time affording the house in retirement. The lender would settle short to avoid having to go through a foreclosure and all that it implies. Continue reading...

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is basically an annuity paid for with home equity. In a reverse mortgage, instead of paying to for your home, you’re getting paid for your home. It is considered a loan, but it does not have to be repaid, except by the proceeds from selling the home. Older Americans who need the income and aren’t concerned about their heirs getting their house might apply for a reverse mortgage. It is also known as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). Continue reading...

What Health Insurance Do I Need if I Don't Have a Job?

Unemployed people are still required to have health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you will likely qualify for a federal subsidy to help you pay for it. Younger people can buy a catastrophic policy, which offers minimal coverage but can still help prevent eroding all of your savings in the event of a major accident. How Much Will Individual Health Coverage Cost? What is Medicare Part D? Continue reading...

What if I Cannot Get Individual Coverage?

Under current law (the Affordable Care Act), everyone is eligible to receive health insurance coverage. However, not everyone may be able to afford health insurance. There are subsidies provided by the federal government for those who cannot afford it, but cost may still be an issue for many. How Much Will Individual Health Coverage Cost? Can I Purchase Individual Health Insurance? What Health Insurance Do I Need if I Don't Have a Job? Continue reading...

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is performed by a certified home inspector to determine the condition of a property and to find out if there any safety of compliance issues that the home or property may have. Home inspectors are typically hired by real estate professionals and homebuyers when a home is on the market. It is not required except for FHA loan termite inspection requirements, but it is always advisable for a potential home buyer. A home inspection is not to be confused with a home appraisal. Continue reading...

What is a Home Mortgage?

A home mortgage is a long-term loan for the purchase of a home, secured by the value of the home itself. Banks as well as mortgage companies make mortgage loans to consumers and charge an interest rate for the duration of the loan that may be fixed or variable. Mortgage loans generally last for between 15 to 30 years, and they are constructed so that paying off a home can fit into a person’s budget while a bank or lending institution collects interest on each payment. Continue reading...

What is a Home Office Expense?

IRS Link to Form — Found Here The home office expense deduction allows people who work from home to take a tax deduction reflecting the loss of square footage in their home for the purpose of doing business there. The space must be used exclusively for doing business on a regular basis and it must be the principal place of business, not just a place to work outside of the actual office. Many people fail to file for the home office expense deduction because they believe it will be more trouble than its worth or that it may even trigger an IRS audit of their reporting. Continue reading...

What is a Home Office?

People work out of their homes more an more as telecommuting and remote work becomes easier to manage and more affordable for some companies. Some people use the term “home office” to loosely refer to the fact that they work primarily from their home, while other people have an actual office space in their home which is used solely for business purposes. In the latter case, someone can apply for a home office expense deduction on their taxes. Continue reading...

What is Home Equity?

Home equity is a notional amount that a person owns at any given time, which is computed as the market value of a home minus any remaining principal repayments on a loan. Home equity is an asset on a person’s balance sheet, and can be used as as leverage for additional loans or lines of credit. A person’s home equity is the amount in their home which is “paid off.” It can be computed by taking the fair market value of a home and subtracting the amount of principal, if any, that still needs to be repaid on a mortgage loan. Continue reading...

How do I Choose an ETF?

There is guessing, there are screening programs, and there are advisors. As you can imagine, looking at the list of over 900 ETFs can give you a big headache. Fortunately, there are screening programs that can help you sort through the mess by giving you many criteria by which to search. You can narrow down the choices to a point where the research about each ETF will become manageable. In the process you will have to determine what is important to you, and what need you’re trying to fill in your portfolio. It can certainly help to bring that information to a financial professional that can help you choose the right ETFs for your situation. Continue reading...

What Part of the Contribution into My IRA is Tax-Deductible?

Traditional IRAs can get interesting if you or a spouse is covered by a qualified plan at work. You are able to deduct all of your contributions into a Traditional IRA as long as you (or your spouse) are not a participant in an employer-sponsored retirement program. If either of you are, there are certain regulations you should be aware of. The amount of your contribution that can be tax-deductible is determined by your (and your spouse’s) modified adjustable gross income (MAGI). Continue reading...

How are Mutual Funds Classified?

Mutual funds can be described, categorized, and screened using the various criteria involved in their construction and maintenance. When investors look for mutual funds, it may be useful to incorporate a mutual fund screener from a website. There are many criteria by which you can classify a mutual fund, such as investment style, market capitalizations of stocks in the fund, the industry sector or region in which the fund focuses, as well as the size of the expenses or type of sales load. Is the fund geared toward the short-term or long-term? Does it have a high turnover ratio? Continue reading...

What is the Lifetime Learning Credit?

The Lifetime Learning Credit is a federal tax credit to offset expenses associated with higher education. There is no age limit and the credit can be applied to part-time student courses, even if it is only one class. The credit is for 20% of the related expenses up to a maximum of a $2,000 credit per household. Tax credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes due. The Lifetime Learning Credit can be used for higher education expenses, regardless of the age of the student, but there is a household limit per year. 20% of educational expenses up to a household maximum of $2,000 can be applied as an income tax credit. The credit exists to make it easier for Americans to increase their skill-set and education. Continue reading...

What is a Home Equity Loan?

Home equity loans give a homeowner the ability to borrow a lump sum against their home equity. Homeowners have the ability to use their home equity as collateral on a lump-sum loan from a lending institution. This may be done on a paid-off home or on one with an outstanding first mortgage. People sometimes use these to pay for large expenses such as their children’ s college, or as a debt consolidation tool. When used for debt consolidation, a homeowner will take out a large loan against the equity they have in their home and use it to pay off debts to credit card companies and other creditors. Continue reading...

What is a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)?

Much like a Reverse Mortgage or Second Mortgage, a HELOC gives homeowners the ability to convert their home equity into cash. A HELOC is a line of credit secured by the equity in your home. Homeowners can choose when to use the funds, and there are repayments due according to a schedule in the contract. It functions as a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card with large limits. Some people find themselves interested in a HELOC if they have a large balloon payment due on a loan, perhaps even their home mortgage loan. They are also sometimes used as a debt consolidation tool to pay off credit cards and other outstanding debts (but, for this, fixed-rate home equity loans are more popular). Continue reading...

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