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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
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What are the Basics of Life Insurance?

Life insurance guarantees that a death benefit is paid if an insured person dies while the policy is in effect. Various kinds of life insurance exist, and people buy various amounts of coverage for different purposes, most often to provide for the insured’s dependents if the insured dies prematurely. Life insurance represents a contractual obligation by a company to pay a death benefit to an insured person’s designated beneficiaries if the person dies while the policy is in force. Continue reading...

What is Publication 15-b on Fringe Benefits?

IRS Link to Publication — Found Here IRS Publication 15-b outlines the different types of fringe benefits available to employees and describes which ones are taxable to the employee and which ones are not. Fringe benefits might include anything from the use of a company car to an employee life insurance policy paid for by the employer. Fringe benefits may be provided to regular employees or independent contractors (1099 employees). Some examples of fringe benefits include tuition reduction, group disability and cafeteria plans, and childcare benefits. Continue reading...

What is a 529 Plan?

529 plans are accounts designed to help families save for the future college expenses of young family members. A 529 Plan is designed to help you save money now to pay your child’s college expenses later. Investment companies who design a plan, which looks similar to a retail mutual fund account or IRA, will partner with state governments to offer the state’s official 529 plan. Families can invest in a 529 and gain access to an array of mutual funds. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between Cash-Balance Plans and Other Retirement Plans?

Cash Balance plans are Defined Benefit plans, but are not much like Pensions as you may know them, or other types of retirement plans, for that matter. On one side of the retirement isle you have defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s and SEPs and so on, where the contributions are certain, or at least ascertainable, while the ending balance or benefit of each employee’s account is unknown, or at least does not have to be (and in most cases isn’t). Continue reading...

What is a Keogh plan?

Keogh plans are any type of qualified plan at a sole proprietorship or partnership. Keogh plans come in various forms, and this is because they are actually quite a broad category. IRS Publication 560 (found here) divides workplace retirement plans into SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs, and Qualified Plans. This last category, Qualified Plans, includes profit-sharing plans, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, money purchase plans, and defined benefit plans such as pensions and salary continuation plans. 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...

What are My Keogh Plan Investment Options?

Keoghs can hold a wide range of investments, and it will mostly depend on your plan trustee. Keogh plans have the ability to include many investment options, from stocks to bonds, certificates of deposit to cash value life insurance, and so on. Keep in mind that Keogh Plan investments are usually determined by the financial institution at which your Keogh Plan is established. When opening a Keogh Plan, be sure to check what investment options the financial institution offers, and how much in fees and commissions they would charge for these investments. Standard ERISA rules apply, so all employees must be offered the same options. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits For My 529 Plan?

Parents and family members, or actually anyone, can contribute up to the annual gift tax exclusion limits, and beyond. Several people can fund 529 plans for the same person or child, and any one person can maintain as many 529 plans as they would like. Each person can contribute up to the annual gift tax exclusion amount, which in 2016 is $14,000, per beneficiary. 529 plans have a special provision that allows the owner of the account to exceed the gift tax exclusion by contributing up to $70,000 at once – but no contributions can be made for 5 years after that, because this provision is really just allowing you to accelerate the contributions. Continue reading...

What is a Dividend Rollover Plan?

Dividend rollover plan is another, rarely used way to refer to a Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP). Unfortunately just reinvesting dividends in a systematic way will not get you out of any tax implication associated with the dividends attributed to your account. An automatic dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP) is an option in some investment accounts and financial products. Any dividends paid out will be reinvested in the same mutual fund, ETF, or stock at the earliest possible opportunity. Continue reading...

What are the 457 Plan Contribution Limits?

Contribution limits depend on if you are making contributions as a government employee, a non-profit employee, or a highly compensated employee. Government employees can defer up to $18,000, plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution for those over 50, in 2016. These plans use the same elective deferral limits as 401(k)s. A non-governmental, non-profit employee can only contribute the $18,000, and is not allowed to make the $6,000 catch-up. Both of these types of employees are allowed to use the alternate catch-up provision of 457s, however. Continue reading...

Who Offers Defined Benefit Plans?

Any employer can offer a Defined Benefit plan, but not many do anymore. Before the introduction of Defined Contribution Plans, most large corporations such as General Electric, General Motors, etc. offered only Defined Benefit Plans. Over the years, it has put a huge burden on these corporations to guarantee the performance of these plans. If the plan has not performed according to the assumptions, the company would have to contribute the difference, which would have to come from their profits. In order to shift the burden to the employees, most companies now offer Defined Contribution Plans (such as 401(k)s, etc.) instead of Defined Benefit Plans. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between a Thrift Savings Plan and Other Retirement Plans?

The main difference is that the TSP is only for Federal employees. A Thrift Savings Plan is essentially a 401(k) for employees of the federal government. It functions in the same ways and is subject to the same limitations. The contribution limits and catch-up limits are the same, as well as the employer contribution limit. The plan actually has lower fees than most 401(k)s, so that’s one difference. The investment options are fairly limited, but not much more than regular 401(k)s. There are basically 5 index funds to choose from and then a series of target-date funds that blend the index funds. Continue reading...

What is a Thrift Savings Plan?

A Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a 401(k)-style plan for Federal employees. A Thrift Savings Plan functions the same way a 401(k) does – you can elect to contribute a portion of your salary, known as an employee deferral or employee contribution, and the money will be allowed to grow in the account tax-deferred. The TSP is only available to Federal Employees and United States military personnel. There is a flat contribution of 1% from the employer, and, depending on the type of Federal job, employees may be eligible for a matching contribution from the employer. Continue reading...

What is a Dividend Reinvestment Plan?

A Dividend Reinvestment Plan, referred to as DRIP, is a plan offered by corporations that allows investors to reinvest their dividends in full or partial shares of additional stock, on the dividend payment date. Accessing a DRIP is typically a good long-term investment play - it allows for the investor to repurchase shares at a discount to the share price, and by accumulating additional shares over time increases equity ownership in the company. Continue reading...

How Can I Use the Money From My 529 Plan?

You can technically use it however you see fit if you are willing to pay the 10% IRS penalty. Money from 529 Plans can be used for tuition, books, supplies, room and board and, as of recently, computers and electronic necessities. Always check if you’re not sure that an expense is covered by the 529 plan. Money used for anything other than the specified costs will be subject to federal income taxes and a 10% penalty on the earnings. You can also transfer the account to another beneficiary or yourself if you or someone else will need the money for college one day, without incurring any penalties or taxes. Continue reading...

What are the Vesting Rules for My Keogh Plan?

Vesting rules depend on the type of Keogh contributions being made. The IRS imposes certain rules on Keogh Plans, which includes vesting restrictions. Different employers might have totally different vesting schedules, as long as they satisfy the IRS rules. It depends on the type of contribution being made, such as matching or profit-sharing or money-purchase contributions, whether the plan is a QACA, and so on. Many contributions are immediately vested, while some are gradually vested over a few years, and some are on a cliff-vesting schedule. Continue reading...

Can I Take a Loan From my Cash-Balance Plan?

The IRS permits such loans, but it is rare to find a plan that allows it. In the vast majority of cases, you cannot. Though the IRS permits it, the administrative burden of a defined benefit plan is already significant for an employer, and it is much more likely that they will not make a provision for loans in the plan document. As far as the IRS is concerned, generally speaking, these plans have the same rules as other qualified plans. If a small partnership or LLC with a cash balance plan wants to put loan provisions into their plan document, they can do it. Continue reading...

Will Having a 529 Plan for My Child Impact His/Her Eligibility For Financial Aid in the Future?

It will be factored in when considering financial aid eligibility. Unfortunately, having a 529 Plan may affect your child’s eligibility for financial aid in the future. If a parent owns the account, in 2016 the financial aid office will take 5.64% of the account’s value (and all other non-retirement investment accounts) into consideration when determining how much financial aid a student can receive. 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...

Can Something Happen to My Defined Benefit Plan?

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will insure benefits up to a point, but it may not replace the full value of a pension if a plan goes belly-up. While the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) insures thousands of Pensions across the country, the entire benefit of your Defined Benefit Plan is in no way guaranteed. Some corporations can “freeze” your pension, meaning they stop the counter on the number of years you’ve worked, and use that as the number to calculate your monthly payments. Many pensions today are struggling after the long period of low interest rates on fixed instruments like government bonds. Continue reading...