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What is a bear call spread?

A bear call spread seeks to make money on the sale of call options but does not believe the underlying security will increase. A Bear Call Spread strategy is utilized when one believes that the price of the underlying stock will go down (but not significantly) in the near future. It entails selling a call short at a lower price than you buy a long call, which is done to realize a net credit at the outset. Continue reading...

What is Investment Income?

Also referred to as passive income, investment income is money paid to an investor from the dividends, premiums sold, or sale of assets in their portfolio. Some investors treat it like a part-time job, such that there is nothing passive about it. In retirement, investors often receive income from bonds, preferred stock, and dividend-paying common shares. Income can be pulled from several kinds of investments, including real estate, and it is likely to be taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Continue reading...

What is Whole Life Insurance?

Whole Life Insurance provides lifelong death benefit coverage as well as a tax-deferred savings account. A large portion of your premium goes into the general account of the insurance company, and this increases the cash value available to the policy holder at a growth rate dependent on the investment and sales experience of the company. Every dollar and amount of interest which is credited to the policy cash value is vested with the policy-owner and will not decrease. Continue reading...

What is a covered call?

A covered call is when the writer or seller of a call option either owns the underlying security, or has a guaranteed way to obtain it. Investors are able to open a position for another investor to take. An example of this would be selling a call option. The seller, or “writer,” of the contract is obligated to fulfill the contractual obligation outlined in the call, namely to deliver 100 shares of the underlying stock to the owner of the call option in exchange for the strike price listed in the call contract. Continue reading...

What is a Convertible Bond?

A convertible bond, also known as convertible debt, is debt that can be converted to equity (in the form of common stock) at the discretion of the bondholder. There are typically windows that an investor can choose to convert the bond to equity, which an investor may choose to do if they have confidence the company will continue to perform well. Because a convertible bond has the option to convert to stock, it typically offers a lower interest rate since the conversion capability itself has value. Continue reading...

What is Convertible Preferred Stock?

A convertible preferred stock is one that gives the owner the option to convert shares to common stock, usually by a predetermined date. The shareholder usually has control over when to convert the shares, but in some cases there are provisions that allow the company to force conversion. An investor may choose to do this conversion if they believe the company has high upside potential, and they want common stock exposure which would allow them to participate more in market gains. Continue reading...

What is currency convertibility?

Currencies may work fine in a particular country or region, but it may happen that certain currencies are not convertible into other currencies or gold. Sometimes this is by choice, such as was formerly the case with closed economies like the People’s Republic of China, Soviet Russia, Cuba, and others. Most currencies are convertible into other currencies. Banks, at least the central banks of countries, tend to have reserves of most foreign currencies with their citizens do business. Continue reading...

What is a Cash Conversion Cycle?

A business with a fast ‘cash conversion cycle’ can efficiently use funds and resources to fulfill the different needs of the business and to generate more business. In the simplest terms, the ‘cash conversion cycle’ is an accounting and efficiency model which measures how fast a retailer can disburse cash to suppliers and then receive cash from customers. To be more descriptive, the business would use cash from Receivables, to get Inventory (and cover Payables), sell that Inventory, and Receive cash again. Continue reading...

What is Dividend Enhanced Convertible Stock (DECS)?

This is a type of automatically convertible security that comes in the form of preferred stock shares, which function basically like bonds, that experience a mandatory conversion to common stock at some point. The dividend enhancement is a higher yield payout than other share classes are offered, to compensate the investor for the lack of control he or she has, since the shares will be converted at a predetermined time by the company. Mandatory convertible shares will offer a higher yield than their counterparts, but it will only last as long as the issuing company has determined. Continue reading...

What is the Ladder Strategy for Structuring My Bond Portfolio?

The ladder provides the bondholder with a degree of freedom and some liquidity to take part in possibly improved interest rates in the future. The ladder strategy distributes your funds uniformly among bonds with various durations. For example, if you have $10,000, you buy one bond with a duration of one year, one bond with a duration of two years, etc. If the interest rates go up when the shorter-duration bonds expire, you will be able to reinvest this money with a higher coupon rate (of course, keep in mind that your longer-duration bonds would have fallen in price). Continue reading...

What is the Barbell Strategy for Structuring my Bond Portfolio?

A barbell strategy avoids intermediate-term bonds and equally invests in very short term and very long term durations. The barbell strategy divides a sum, for instance $10,000, equally among bonds with short durations and bonds with long durations. If the interest rates will go up sharply, the proceeds from your short-duration bonds will be reinvested into new bonds with much higher coupons. If the interest rates drop sharply, the proceeds from the bonds with shorter durations will be reinvested at a much lower coupon, but on the other hand, your long-duration bonds will rise sharply in price. Continue reading...

What is a straddle?

Straddles are options strategies that use both a call and put on the same underlying asset at the same strike price and expiration. The Straddle strategy involves either buying a call and a put with the same strike price and expiration, or selling a call and a put with the same strike price and expiration. The former is known as a Long Straddle, and the latter is known as a Short Straddle. Long straddles profit from significant price movement in either direction on the underlying asset. Continue reading...

What does 'Poison Pill' Mean?

A ‘poison pill’ is a maneuver by a company to make itself less attractive to a hostile takeover. It can be used in an effort to avoid the takeover altogether, or at least to make the takeover more painful for the bidder. One type of poison pill is a “flip-in,” which allows shareholders to buy shares of the company being targeted at a discount, which makes the takeover more expensive and more difficult. Continue reading...

What kind of hedge funds exist?

Hedge funds can employ many strategies and focus on virtually any kind of investing style or market. They also have the flexibility to change their strategy as they see fit. Morningstar and other services will group hedge funds into categories and provide benchmarks based on their average performances. As of 2016, there are over 12,000 hedge funds, and over half of those are required to report to the SEC. Continue reading...

What Websites and Apps Can Help Me With Personal Budgeting?

There is a thriving industry committed to helping people plan and maintain a personal budget through online tools and apps. Perhaps the most-used personal budgeting tool as of this writing is Mint, which allows a user to link their bank accounts into the budgeting software, and then sends the information right into a tax filing after the new year. A list such as this is almost definitely going to be outdated by the time you read it; your favorite search engine or app store may turn up more relevant results than this. Continue reading...

What are the Best Financial Programs to Use?

There are many apps and online programs that investors can use, often for free, to help keep an eye on their holdings and to track their investment portfolio. In addition to the software accessible through your custodian, you might want to look at the programs available through Morningstar, Microsoft Money, and others. Apps on your phone (CNBC, TheStreet, Barron’s, MarketWatch, etc.) can keep you updated on market news related to your stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs. You can also subscribe to market commentaries delivered via email. Continue reading...

What is market neutral?

Market neutral is a term used to describe strategies of investing that are poised to benefit whether the market goes up or down, or even if it stays stagnant. Some professionally managed funds might take a market-neutral stance in their entirety, or investors might employ market-neutral strategies for specific parts of their portfolio. Market Neutral means that your position as an investor is neither bearish nor bullish, and you may be able to profit whether the market moves up or down, or even if it doesn’t move at all. Options traders, for instance, have a wide variety of market-neutral positions that they can take, since profiting may depend more on the presence of volatility rather than price movement in one direction or another. Continue reading...

Stock Portfolio Definition

All of the investments held by an individual or mutual fund or other entity are referred to as that person or entity's portfolio. These investments can range from securities to cash to real assets held for the purpose of preservation, growth, or income; essentially anything that is part of a long-term financial strategy that is held separate from daily operations and cash flow can be considered part of a portfolio. The gains and losses of all the singular investments held are totaled up to find the overall return of the portfolio. Continue reading...

What is the role of asset allocation in my investments?

The single best control mechanism over the performance of your investments is the maintenance of an asset allocation strategy. When testing various methods of predicting and controlling returns in a portfolio, researchers found that having and maintaining an asset allocation strategy was the method that reaped the most predictable returns – with 80-90% accuracy. Asset allocation is the distribution of various asset classes and investments into a portfolio mix in a deliberate way to gain specific amounts of exposure to each investment. It is a practice used to diversify and manage risk. Asset Allocation is a dynamic process; it’s not something you do once and forget about. Continue reading...

What is a strangle?

A strangle is an options strategy which is profitable if the price of the underlying security swings either up or down because the investor has purchased a call and a put just out of the money on either side of the current price of the underlying. To execute a strangle an investor chooses an underlying security which he or she anticipates will experience some price volatility around a given expiration date for options, but is not sure which way it will go, so a call and a put are both purchased. Continue reading...