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IntroductionMarket AbbreviationsStock Market StatisticsThinking about Your Financial FutureSearch for AdvisorsFinancial CalculatorsFinancial MediaFederal Agencies and Programs
Investment PortfoliosModern Portfolio TheoriesInvestment StrategyPractical Portfolio Management InfoDiversificationRatingsActivities AbroadTrading Markets
Investment Terminology and InstrumentsBasicsInvestment TerminologyTrading 1 on 1BondsMutual FundsExchange Traded Funds (ETF)StocksAnnuities
Technical Analysis and TradingAnalysis BasicsTechnical IndicatorsTrading ModelsPatternsTrading OptionsTrading ForexTrading CommoditiesSpeculative Investments
Cryptocurrencies and BlockchainBlockchainBitcoinEthereumLitecoinRippleTaxes and Regulation
RetirementSocial Security BenefitsLong-Term Care InsuranceGeneral Retirement InfoHealth InsuranceMedicare and MedicaidLife InsuranceWills and Trusts
Retirement Accounts401(k) and 403(b) PlansIndividual Retirement Accounts (IRA)SEP and SIMPLE IRAsKeogh PlansMoney Purchase/Profit Sharing PlansSelf-Employed 401(k)s and 457sPension Plan RulesCash-Balance PlansThrift Savings Plans and 529 Plans and ESA
Personal FinancePersonal BankingPersonal DebtHome RelatedTax FormsSmall BusinessIncomeInvestmentsIRS Rules and PublicationsPersonal LifeMortgage
Corporate BasicsBasicsCorporate StructureCorporate FundamentalsCorporate DebtRisksEconomicsCorporate AccountingDividendsEarnings

What is a Mortgage Broker?

Mortgage brokers act as agents for consumers looking for the best deal possible on a home mortgage loan. Lenders at banks may not be able to find the most competitive interest rates out there. Mortgage brokers can help consumers become more educated about the various kinds of loans out there, some of which are subsidized by the government. Mortgage brokers find and place mortgage loans with consumers who need it to buy a house. Continue reading...

What is a Broker-Dealer?

A broker-dealer is an entity that engages in the trading of securities, and can act as both an agent and a principal. Brokerages, investment banks, commercial banks, and other financial institutions can act as a broker-dealer. Broker-dealers are important to the liquidity of the markets, since they hold inventories of securities for various amounts of time to help facilitate trading, short-selling, and margin accounts. Continue reading...

What is Cash Collateral?

Cash collateral is liquid cash and cash equivalents designated as collateral for loans and debts of various sorts. One frequently used example of cash collateral is cash used in short selling of securities in a brokerage account. While securities equal to significantly more than the required cash margin can be substituted for cash, the most cost-effective and least risky way to maintain margin requirements is with cash and cash equivalents. Continue reading...

What is a Discount Broker?

Discount Broker is a financial organization that places trades at a discount to a full service broker, and also often will serve as a custodian for assets. With the onset of online trading platforms, the discount brokerage industry has seen plenty of growth over the last few years. In many cases, however, a discount broker will not offer any investment advice - hence the discounted price for trading services. An investor that wants a lot of personalized service should probably consider a full service broker over a discount broker, since a discount broker literally only focuses on trade execution and will not provide additional services, like research and advice. Continue reading...

What is Mortgage Fallout?

Mortgage fallout refers to the instance of proposed loans falling through before closing. This is something tracked by not only mortgage producers and their mortgage companies, but also economists who keep up with mortgages and the secondary market for mortgage derivatives. Since mortgages take two months or more to close, the fallout rate can indicate a stagnancy in the economy and trouble for the secondary mortgage market. 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 an Earnings Recast?

An earnings recast is a revision of previous earnings reports, in which a company has made different choices with their accounting methodology that they feel are a better representation of their accounts. A common time to do this is after a company has divested itself of a subsidiary, when it will publish recast financial statements from the preceding years that show the company’s performance without the subsidiary being included. Continue reading...

What is FINRA?

FINRA stands for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and they regulate securities firms in the United States. FINRA has no political affiliation and is charged with governing all business dealings conducted between dealers, brokers and all public investors. In other words, the rules that dictate how your financial advisor interacts with you are set forth by FINRA. In all, FINRA oversees more than 4,500 brokerage firms, approximately 160,000 branch offices and more than half a million registered securities representatives, as of 2016. Continue reading...

How Can You Buy a Stock?

There are many services online and custodians that that can facilitate stock trades. Anybody can buy shares of a publicly traded company, but it must be done through a brokerage firm or a custodian. Brokers and brokerage firms act as middle men between the buyer and the seller. Some brokerage houses such as E-Trade, Ameritrade, or Charles Schwab offer low-cost services online to anyone with a checking account, and offer no personal advice. Other brokerage firms focus on the human element, offering investment advice and making additional money through long-term client relationships and the commissions and fees that result from portfolio management. Continue reading...

Who is the best custodian for my investments?

Custodians are the institutions which hold your securities for you and provide some related services. Some will have various arrangements and relationships with exchanges and broker-dealers, and some may do everything in-house; such things have bearing on what your investment options are, how much equity you must have for margin, what kind of fees you pay for various services, and so on. Different custodians tend to structure their fees and services to a particular type of clientele or a particular account size. You may outgrow the custodian you have, or you may discover that there is a better, more affordable option for an account like yours. Continue reading...

What is Abandoned Property?

Most people think of an abandoned car or even a house when abandoned property is mentioned, but it also applies to investment accounts. If physical property such as a car is left for a long enough time in a public space or privately owned space such as a storage building, the property can be deemed abandoned and the person who discovers it can become the new owner. Through a process called escheatment, investment accounts, savings accounts, bank CDs, and employee 401(k) accounts can all become assets of the state if they are determined to be abandoned. Continue reading...

What are My SIMPLE IRA Investment Options?

SIMPLE IRAs will have various kinds of investment options, depending on the trustee company that holds the plan assets. SIMPLE IRA investments are determined by the financial institution at which your SIMPLE IRA is established. When opening a SIMPLE IRA, be sure to check what investment options the financial institution offers as well as the fee structure. Standard ERISA rules apply, meaning that all employees must be offered the same thing. SIMPLE IRAs can only be held at trustee companies whose business model is on the IRS’s list of approved SIMPLE Trustees. Continue reading...

Should I pay for financial planning services?

Any professional that you work with for financial planning is going to be compensated for the work they do, but there are different ways they earn their pay. Whether it’s worth it to you is another question. If you have enough knowledge and time on your hands, and your investment portfolio is not very complicated, you may be able to manage it on your own. This can save you some money on financial advisor fees. Continue reading...

How Does a 401(k) Work?

You may know that a 401(k) allows you to make payroll-deducted contributions to a retirement account before taxes are taken out, but how does it work? Employees can either become participants in a 401(k) by voluntary enrollment or by automatic enrollment with the ability to opt-out. Contributions go in before taxes are taken out, and this can reduce an individual’s taxable income or even income bracket for the year. Continue reading...

Where Should I Open an IRA?

IRAs can be held at many kinds of institutions, even those that you only see online. It is completely your choice! IRAs can be opened at almost any large bank or brokerage firm, giving you plenty of options. Many online services make it possible to open an IRA from your phone or computer. Be sure to compare them because there are some distinctions, such as fee structures and the investments available within the account. Some institutions will only offer their proprietary funds, while others will let you access almost any investment on the market that is allowable inside of an IRA. Continue reading...

Where Do I Buy Life Insurance?

There is no clear-cut answer this question. There are many companies that offer life insurance and countless salespeople and brokers anxious to sell an insurance policy. You should buy your Life Insurance from a company that is reliable, financially stable, and reputable. You can find a policy yourself online or through an agent or advisor. Of course, you must do research and analyze the companies which you are considering very carefully. It is of utmost importance to be sure that your insurance company has policies that suit your needs and are not a scam, especially since this may be some of the most important insurance you can own. Continue reading...

What is a Market Maker?

A market maker is a broker-dealer firm or a registered individual that will hold a certain number of shares of a security in order to facilitate trading. There could be as many as 50 market makers for one particular security, and they compete for customer order flows by displaying buy and sell quotations for a guaranteed number of shares. The market maker spread refers to the difference between the amount a market maker is willing to pay for a security and the amount that the other party is willing to sell it. Continue reading...

How Much Money Does the Government Have Invested in Social Security?

As of 2016, there is about $2.8 trillion in the Social Security Trust Funds, if you include what is owed to it by the Treasury for the bonds purchased with the surplus funds every year. The funds in the Trust are partitioned from the rest of the government budget, but the surplus year to year is invested in Treasury Bonds which effectively gives the government temporary use of the funds in exchange for a market-value interest rate. Continue reading...

What are My SEP IRA Investment Options?

SEPs are able to hold a wide variety of investment options. SEP IRA investment choices are determined by the financial institution at which your SEP IRA is established. When opening a SEP IRA, be sure to find out what investment options each financial institution offers, and what the charges for various transactions are. Some custodians will only offer a small range of options, or it may be limited to their proprietary mutual fund family. Others will allow you to invest in any securities that they can trade on their brokerage platform. Continue reading...

What is a Credit Crunch?

A credit crunch is when access to liquidity dries up dramatically in rapid fashion, or becomes less accessible due to a spike in borrowing rates. Central banks will often step-in to try and curb the lack of liquidity by offering the markets access to cash at lower than market rates, in the event of a crisis. Perhaps the most famous credit crunch in history occurred in late 2007 and early 2008, when bank balance sheets became highly leveraged overnight due to mark-to-market accounting rules that were applied to the mortgage backed security portfolios on their balance sheets. Continue reading...