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What is an Accountant’s Opinion?

An Accountant’s Opinion, also called an Auditor’s Opinion, is a formal document signed by a certified accountant after a review of a company’s books. Companies may be required to have an audit from an independent and unbiased third-party accountant, perhaps annually before a report to shareholders or the submission of financial documents to regulatory bodies or lending institutions. At the conclusion of a review or audit, the auditor issues an Accountant’s Opinion (or Auditor’s Opinion) letter. The two outcomes that are most common: Qualified or Unqualified. Continue reading...

What are the Tax Implications for Taking Money Out of a Roth IRA?

Distributions taken from a Roth during retirement are not subject any income taxes. Interestingly, the “cost basis” or contributions made to a Roth can be taken out at any time, including before age 59 ½, without tax or penalty. Contributions are recorded on IRS form 5498 and a copy is mailed to you, but you need to keep up with your contributions if you might want to tap into your Roth early. The earnings that accumulate must satisfy the 59 ½ requirement and the five year rule, or be used for first-time homebuyers expense, to avoid the 10% penalty and taxation. The five year rule says that the earnings in a Roth may be taxable if the Roth account is under 5 years old. Continue reading...

How Can I Establish a SIMPLE IRA?

A SIMPLE IRA must be established by an employer with fewer than 100 employees. An employer can establish a SIMPLE IRA if they have no more than 100 employees who earned $5,000 or more during the preceding calendar year. The employer cannot have any other type of qualified retirement plan going while a SIMPLE IRA is in effect. SIMPLEs should be established between Jan 1 and October 1 of the first year of the plan, unless the business started after that. Plans can be set up relatively quickly and can even use automatic enrollment if employees are given the ability to opt-out. Continue reading...

How can I invest in hedge funds?

Fund managers are allowed to accept up to 35 non-accredited investors, but for the most part you will either need to satisfy the “accredited investor” requirement of the SEC to invest directly in a hedge fund. Otherwise, there are now hedge fund indexes and ETFs that track and mimic hedge fund strategies that are accessible to everyone. You should know now that the minimum initial investment requirement to participate in a hedge fund can be quite large, such as upwards of $1 million. Continue reading...

What are My Self-Employed 401(k) Investment Options?

As with other retirement plans, this will mostly depend on the options available to you through your custodian. Solo 401(k)s will have an array of asset exposure available to you, but it may come only in the form of mutual funds. This is not unlike many larger 401(k)s. The way these plans are bundled as simple and straightforward products, without so many bells and whistles that they will attract the attention of the IRS, may cause them to be slightly more plain vanilla than the options available in some 401(k)s. Continue reading...

Who Can Put Money into an IRA?

There are some income limits and contribution limits on who can contribute to an IRA. Generally speaking, as long as you or your spouse is earning taxable income, you can contribute money to an IRA, be it a Roth or a Traditional IRA. There are limits at which you cannot contribute to a Roth IRA (in 2016, the limit is $132,000 for a single filer and $194,000 for a married couple). There are also income limits at which you are no longer able to deduct contributions to a Traditional IRA, but these are only applicable if you or your spouse has a qualified retirement plan at work. 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...

Learn Options Trading

Options are contracts used by investors to take a speculative position – or a hedge – based on expected future price movements of the underlying securities. An option is a contract which can be exercised if the price of an underlying security moves favorably. An option will be written or sold short by one investor and bought by another. It will name the strike price at which the security can be bought or sold before the expiration of the contract. Continue reading...

What is a put option?

A put option gives the owner of the option/contract the right to sell a stock at the strike price named in the contract. One kind of option is a put. A Put is a right to sell a particular asset (usually a stock) at a certain price (called the “strike price”) within a specified time-frame. The owner of the put contract doesn’t need to own the underlying stock. If the price of the stock drops below the strike price in the put, the owner of the put contract can buy the stock at the lower market price and immediately sell it at the higher strike price in the put contract. That is a speculative way to use a Put contract. Continue reading...

What is a call option?

A call option is a type of contract that allows the holder of the contract to purchase an underlying stock at a specific price, even if the market price goes higher. A call option contract gives the owner of the contract the right to purchase a particular asset, which is typically a stock, at a strike price designated in the contract during a certain period of time. For example, if the stock of company ABC is trading at $100/share, you might purchase the right to buy it at $90/share for a $12/share premium. Continue reading...

What are option strategies?

Option strategies are implemented by investment professionals to profit from the price movement of an underlying strategy, and can also be used as a hedge against losses or to preserve profits. Various option strategies have been developed over the years to take advantage of the behavior of the underlying assets. Some of these are designed to be conservative, and others are intended to be aggressive. Sometimes these strategies are known by epic-sounding names such as Iron Butterfly and Iron Condor. Continue reading...

How Do Deductible and Non-Deductible IRAs Differ?

It is possible to make non-deductible contributions to an IRA, even if you have a qualified plan at work. Traditional IRAs are a good place to stash retirement money because of the tax treatment. Some people will choose to make contributions even when they are not deductible, which gives us two kinds of Traditional IRAs: deductible and non-deductible. Deductible IRAs provide a way to lower your taxes because you can deduct contributions to your IRA from your income. Nondeductible IRAs do not allow you to deduct your contributions, but they still retain their tax-deferred growth. Unlike a Roth, these after-tax contributions will be taxed upon withdrawal as income. Continue reading...

How are option prices computed?

Option prices are decided by the buyers and sellers in the marketplace, but are tied closely to the amount of risk inherent in the agreed upon expiration date and strike price. Option prices change as the market factors in the relevant information. The main factor is the strike price. The closer an option’s strike price is to the actual market price of a security, the higher it’s price will be. Once it’s in-the-money, it has inherent value that makes it essentially the same price as the market security that underlies it. The expiration date of the contract is also a factor because if the expiration date is closing in, and the strike price is not quite close enough to the market price of the underlying asset, there is little chance that the option will be useful. Continue reading...

What Happens If I Withdraw Money From My Cash-Balance Plan Before I Retire?

In general, this won’t even be an option for many. Cash balance plans do not permit partial withdrawals. If you have separated from service at the employer, you can take your entire vested amount with you. You can cash out your balance and pay income taxes on it, as well as a 10% IRS penalty if you’re younger than 59 ½. This penalty may also be avoided if you separated a from service after age 55; these rules are the same for 401(k)s and other qualified plans. Continue reading...

What is a Variable Annuity?

Variable annuities generally provide investors with downside protection for a fee (the insurance guarantee), while also providing market exposure that may give the investor upside potential. A variable annuity is characterized by offering market exposure, and the risk and upside potential that comes with it, in the form of “separate accounts” which are institutional-level mirrors of retail mutual funds. Typically a variable annuity will not deplete the amount of your initial investment with sales charges, and may even credit your annuity with an initial bonus amount of several percent. Continue reading...

What are the basics of options?

Options are contracts used by investors to take a speculative position – or a hedge – based on expected future price movements of the underlying securities. Many investors are scared when they heard the word "option" and perceive it as a risky, speculative investment. Options certainly can be risky, but they don’t have to be. In fact, certain options strategies are far more conservative than many available investments in the marketplace. Continue reading...

What is Form 1099-Q?

IRS Link to Form — Found Here Distributions from qualified educational accounts such as 529s will be reported on a 1099-Q. This will be submitted by the institution serving as the custodian of the account. Qualified tuition programs (QTPs) might include Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) or 529 plans, and distributions from these plans are not taxable when used for qualified educational expenses, such as college tuition. Continue reading...

What is a short position in options trading?

Taking a short position is selling a security that you don’t own because you anticipate that its value is set to fall. In simple terms, an investor that takes a short position is betting against it. “Shorting” is the opposite of being “long” in a security, where being “long” means to actually own it and to wait for it to appreciate. When you contact your broker or custodian to take a short position on a security, you essentially sell shares you don’t own, and then after a period, you have to return those shares to the custodian. Continue reading...

What is the minimum investment in a typical hedge fund?

Hedge funds can require initial investments that are quite large. This may be somewhere between $250,000 to $10,000,000. They will generally only accept Accredited Investors, meaning high net worth individuals that pass SEC standards which exempt the fund from some reporting and disclosure requirements. While the minimum investment varies, most Hedge Funds will accept only so-called accredited investors. Continue reading...

Can I Take a Loan From My Pension Plan?

Generally this won’t be an option that your plan allows, but the IRS has approved it if the employer wants to. Generally speaking, you cannot. Hypothetically, if allowed in the plan document, and if the pension fund had enough of a surplus to handle such withdrawals, the IRS might find it permissible. The laws concerning such loans are the same for all qualified accounts, such as 401(k)s. An enrolled actuary would need to help you define when a loan might be allowable in particular deferred benefit plan. A Pension’s main goal is to pay out in retirement for the duration of the obligation, which may be your life and possibly the life of your spouse. Because of the massive liability they shoulder, pensions are inherently rigid and uncompromising when it comes to loans and withdrawals. Continue reading...