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What is an Asset-Backed Security?

Asset-backed securities are bonds or notes that come in several forms, but they typically use the cash flows from debt repayment as the asset that backs them. The assets that back the bonds called asset-backed securities (ABS) can be basically anything with a fairly predictable cash flow, but debt repayment cash flows tend to be used the most. These include credit card debt, home equity loans, auto loans, student loans, and so forth. Continue reading...

What is Freddie Mac?

Freddie Mac is a government-sponsored company which purchases mortgages from banks and securitizes them for sales to investment banks or individuals. Freddie Mac is not a government organization, but was established by a congressional mandate in the 1970’s. It’s proper name is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC). The company’s purpose is to make mortgage debts into marketable securities by purchasing the mortgage risk and cash flow from banks and dividing into tranches which are sold to or through investment banking institutions. The securitized mortgages are known as Collateralized Mortgage Obligations, or CMO’s. Continue reading...

What is Par Value?

Par value is the nominal value of a security (such as a stock or a bond) that is typically indicated on the certificate of ownership. Par value is most often associated with bonds, and refers to the amount that will be returned to the investor at the bond’s maturity. Par value of bonds is generally $100 or $1,000. Bonds traded on the open market are not generally bought and sold at par value, as they typically trade at a premium or a discount to par. Bond prices are influenced by interest rates, and have an inverse relationship with them. Continue reading...

What is a Jumbo Loan?

A jumbo loan is a mortgage loan that exceeds the conforming loan limits set by the Office of Federal Enterprise Housing Oversight. For borrowers with low debt to income ratios and good credit scores, jumbo loans are often utilized for purchases of larger or luxury homes. Often times jumbo loans are too large in size to be guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and are securitized in other ways. Continue reading...

What is the FHFA?

The Federal Housing Finance Association is the Conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac since the 2008 meltdown. The FHFA was established as an independent government entity to oversee the secondary mortgage market. The FHFA is a regulatory agency which took over for the Federal Housing Finance Board and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO). It was created in 2008 by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA), and it oversees the operations of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the 11 federal home loan (FHL) banks. If you’ll recall, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide liquidity to banks and transfer risk from them by buying their mortgage cash flows from them. Continue reading...

What is the House Price Index (HPI)?

The House Price Index (HPI) tracks average prices of homes using data from sales and refinancing, tracking the data for the same residential properties over many years. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) publishes it quarterly and relies on data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The HPI is an important index for the real estate and mortgage industry, as well as the economy as a whole. It uses information from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about home sale prices and the refinancing value of homes, tracking the sales and refinancing prices of homes in the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac databases, all the way back to 1978. They do this using a weighted repeat-sales method. It is published quarterly by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Continue reading...

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 Ginnie Mae?

Ginnie Mae is the colloquial name for the Government National Mortgage Association, or GNMA. It brokers mortgage-backed securities which are backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government. Among Ginnie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae, only Ginnie Mae is actually owned by the government and issues securities which are backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government. Ginnie Mae’s mission is to increase liquidity and decrease risk to mortgage lenders so that Americans are able to purchase homes. Continue reading...

What is a Mortgage Company?

Most mortgage companies today are brokerages that do not underwrite or fund the loans themselves. They help to place customers with the most competitive loans that make sense for their situation and personal finances. Many small mortgage companies went bankrupt in the housing bubble of 2008. Mortgage companies are known as loan originators since they pair customers with loans that suit them and get the process started. Some companies also fund mortgage loans, but most are basically brokerage services that do not lend the money themselves. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Home Loan Bank Act?

The Federal Home Loan Bank Act was signed into law by President Hoover in 1932. The goal of the legislation was to make liquidity more accessible to banks for the purpose of making home loans, so that more Americans could acquire permanent residences. The bill established the FHL Bank system, which now consists of 11 FHL banks. The Federal Home Loan Bank Act of 1932 established the FHL Bank system, which is a co-operative banking network for banks and other lending institutions who make home loans. The FHL banks are owned by their member institutions, who purchase stock in the bank and are then permitted to take loans out from it, using that money to provide loans to customers. Continue reading...

What is Housing Expense Ratio?

When deciding whether to issue a mortgage loan to a customer, a bank or lender will look at the housing expense ratio, which is the annual cost of the mortgage payments, including all insurance and expenses related to owning the property, divided by the gross income of the individual. Gross income is used because tax deductions can be taken for mortgage payments. If a proposed mortgage leaves the borrower with a housing expense ratio (HER) over 28%, they will usually not be approved for this mortgage loan. The HER is found by dividing all annual costs associated with the new home with the gross annual income of the (proposed) borrower. Continue reading...

What was the Subprime Meltdown?

A high volume of loans issued to those who were unable to repay them, and a high volume of derivative securities traded on top of these loans, contributed to the subprime meltdown of 2007-2009. A large amount of collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs) and other collateralized debt were owned by large institutions and investors as alternative high yield investments prior to the crash of 2007-2009. Continue reading...

What is the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA)?

HERA was passed in 2008 in response to the subprime mortgage crisis that rocked the entire economy and left many Americans underwater on their mortgages. People would need to refinance their mortgages and this bill approved the funding to help that happen. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act did several things, all aiming to help American consumers and lending institutions get out of the recession left by the subprime mortgage bubble in 2008. Continue reading...

What is a Housing Bubble?

Bubbles form in markets when there is such a large amount of demand that it drives prices up to levels where it is no longer supported by inherent value. Bubbles have effects on an interconnected web of economic forces and institutions. It was postulated before 2008 that the housing market could not form a bubble in the same way the stock market could, but the subprime meltdown proved those theorists wrong. Bubbles are when a market suffers from unnatural price inflation due to speculation, bandwagon investing, and, to some extent, misinformation. Continue reading...

What is the foreign earned income exclusion?

Americans working abroad must report their earnings to the IRS, but they are allowed to avoid paying federal income taxes on an amount adjusted for inflation, which is just over $100,000 as of 2016. Americans working abroad often enjoy a few tax advantages. One of which is the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. The reasoning is that they are probably paying some form of tax in the county in which they are working, even though this is sometimes not the case. Continue reading...

What is a foreign tax deduction?

Workers who earn income in foreign countries will frequently pay taxes on the income in the country in which the wages were earned. In such cases the worker may be eligible to take deductions for the amount of taxes paid so that their entire income is not subject to taxes again in their country of citizenship. Ex-patriot workers who earn income overseas are generally eligible for tax deductions, credits, or exclusions to account for the taxes that they have already paid on their income in the foreign country. Continue reading...

What is a foreign tax credit?

A foreign tax credit (or deduction) allows a citizen who earned income in another country to reduce the amount of domestic income taxes owed if the foreign government has already taxed the income abroad. Workers who earn income in a foreign country may be entitled to a credit or deduction on their domestic income taxes if they show that this income was already taxed by the foreign government where the income was earned. In the US, there are at least three types of foreign income tax exemptions, with a foreign tax credit being one of them. Continue reading...

What is market discipline?

Market discipline is a term which describes the restraint implicitly required of financial services companies in order to remain solvent and financially strong in the face of market pressure instead of regulatory pressure. The markets can sometimes make a ruling on which companies were conducting their business according to prudent and ethical guidelines, without the need of an SEC audit or the intervention of any other regulatory agency. The companies that weren’t will lose their customers and go bankrupt, in no particular order. Continue reading...

What is IRS Notice 433 – Interest and Penalty Information?

IRS Link to Notice — Found Here Notice 433 describes penalties and the applicable interest rates for various years of non-payment when corporate taxes are not paid in a timely manner. This does not apply to individuals unless they are incorporated, and is not to be confused with Forms 433-A, -B, -D, or -F which are for individual purposes and concern applications for a Compromise Notice 746 updates the interest rates for more recent years. Continue reading...

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