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What is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was originally created to encourage market competition and to protect consumers by breaking up monopolies and monitoring mergers and acquisition activity. It has now branched out into more areas in the pursuit of consumer protection and fair markets. The FTC is now comprised of three bureaus: Consumer Protection, Competition, and Economics. They protect consumers from fraudulent business activity and monopolistic business practices. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission?

The FERC oversees the interstate commerce surrounding oil, energy, and natural gas. This regulation and oversight might deal with pipelines and storage facilities, permits for future exploration sites, environmental and safety concerns with projects, as well as the sale and transfer of these commodities. FERC deals with the companies engaged in the extraction, transfer, storage, and sale of energy and energy-related resources. Continue reading...

What are Federal Reserve Regulations?

The Fed has been commissioned with upholding the directive of the Federal Reserve Act. The Fed is technically an independent institution from the US Government, even though it works hand-in-hand with the Treasury Department on monetary policy issues. It functions partially as a self-regulatory organization for the banking industry, and the Regulations, which are named with letters of the alphabet, are meant to protect consumers, member banks, and the economy as a whole. The leadership of the Fed is comprised of both government appointees and private sector banking leaders. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC)?

Created about the same time as the FDIC, the FSLIC, which insured up to $100,000 in deposits at savings and loan institutions, also known as “thrifts.” In the 1980s, the “savings and loan crisis” caused the FSLIC to become insolvent. In 1989 it was disbanded by the FIRREA Act and replaced by the Resolution Trust Company (RTC) which was merged with the FDIC a few years later. During the 1980s, a huge number of savings and loan companies (“thrifts”) went bankrupt. Continue reading...

What is Appraisal Fraud?

Appraisal Fraud is the intentional misrepresentation of the value of a home using an appraiser’s statement. Appraisals are necessary for large loans and real estate transactions, and appraisal fraud is common. Fraud can be committed in this manner by the appraiser or by a person falsifying an appraiser’s statement. A common example would be overstating the value of a home so that a borrower can get a larger home equity loan. Continue reading...

What are Consumer Staples Stocks?

Consumer Staples are generally defined as companies that sell goods with inelastic demand, meaning that economic conditions generally don’t impact a consumer’s need for the product. They are also referred to as ‘non-cyclical,’ meaning that demand should not significantly waver even if the economy enters a recession. Because the earnings of consumer staples stocks is generally less volatile, they have historically outperformed other stocks during prolonged market downturns. Continue reading...

What are Consumer Discretionary Stocks?

Consumer Discretionary companies are those that sell ‘non-essential’ items, such as clothing retailers, media and entertainment, luxury goods, auto makers, and so on. Consumer discretionary companies tend to sell goods with elastic demand, meaning that demand goes up as economic conditions are good and falls when conditions are slowing or recessionary. Consumer discretionary companies are also categorically referred to as ‘cyclicals.’ Consumer discretionary stocks can also include companies in the service industry, like hotels and restaurants. Continue reading...

What is a protective put?

A protective put is an option contract that hedges against losses in a long stock position, by allowing the investor to sell the underlying security at a specific price. Sometime investors will seek to limit possible losses in a stock that they hold by purchasing a put option at a price below the current market price. This allows the investor to sell their stock at a set price if it takes a dive for any reason. Let’s assume that you have 100 shares of company ABC, which is trading at $100/share. Continue reading...

What is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change, over time, in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. The CPI is an important economic indicator, as it’s changes influence the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions and it gives an indication if an economy is experiencing adequate inflation. The most common reading on the CPI is % change from a previous period, with most developed economies generally striving for 2% annualized inflation. Continue reading...

How is the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Calculated?

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is calculated using prices of sample goods from predetermined urban areas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the CPI is a product of a series of interrelated samples. First, using data from the 1990 Census of Population, BLS selected the urban areas from which data on prices were collected and chose the housing units within each area that were eligible for use in the shelter component of the CPI. The Census of Population also provided data on the number of consumers represented by each area selected as a CPI price collection area. Continue reading...

What is the “Period Income” Option on Annuities?

The Period Income option or Guaranteed Period option on Annuities means that the entire balance, plus some interest, will be paid out to you in equal amounts over the course of a set number of years. This option may fulfill a specific need for income in a certain time of life. It used to be slightly more attractive to investors when interest rates were higher, but, today, the low interest rate environment does not give insurers enough time to generate interest for these sorts of payouts. Continue reading...

What Payout Options Do I Have?

Payout options in the realm of annuities tend to be guaranteed by the insurance company providing the annuity, and may come in many forms depending on the investor’s preference. Annuities can pay income to the annuitant in a few ways. One of the ways is to turn the entire balance of the annuity into a pension-like income stream for life, or jointly on two lives. The payout tends to be higher than the safe withdrawal rate than investors can use in an investment account, and it provide guarantees and surety where it wouldn’t exist otherwise. You can also elect to have these payments start off slightly lower, and then to increase at a guaranteed rate, to keep up with the cost of living. Continue reading...

What’s So Special about an IRA?

When compared to other methods of investing, there are benefits to using an IRA. An IRA provides tax deferred growth of your assets, and the result of such growth, over the years, can be quite remarkable in comparison with a regular savings account. Using an advanced calculator online – or asking an advisor or a CPA to run some calculations for you – can be an eye-opening experience. For most investors, mutual funds will be their best option for cost-efficient diversification. Holding mutual funds outside of an IRA or 401(k) means that the investor will have some taxes, whether long term gains or short term gains, passed on to him or her from the mutual fund company every year that the fund experiences gains. Continue reading...

What is Chapter 12?

Chapter 12 is a category of bankruptcy filing that can be made by a family farmer. It is otherwise similar in structure to Chapter 13 bankruptcy, where the debtor can prove an income and a trustee serves as intermediary between the debtor and the creditors. A family farmer will still be permitted to operate the farm once he has filed Chapter 12 bankruptcy. Like a Chapter 13 filing, the debtor will be allowed to propose a debt repayment schedule that he or she believes would be successful over the following 3-5 years. Some assets would be liquidated to pay off debts, but most of it would be paid according to the repayment schedule, under the care of a trustee who would serve as the proxy for the debtor in the remainder of the dealings with the creditors. Continue reading...

What is Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage insurance may refer to a few kinds of insurance that protects the lender in a mortgage loan. It might be mortgage life insurance, mortgage title insurance, private mortgage insurance (PMI), or another form of protection. Usually the borrower will pay the premiums for such insurances. Mortgage insurance protects the bank or lending institution from various risks that might prevent them from being repaid for their loan. This might include the risk that a borrower will default on payments or that the borrower might die. Continue reading...

What is market saturation?

Market Saturation is the point at which there are few consumers that are still interested in buying a product because those who were ever likely to already have done so. Saturation can be said to exist for all similar products in a market. This may call for different strategies which could keep a company going. One is that products can be made to wear out after a certain amount of time and need replacement. Another is that the business can shift its focus to subscription or service-based income. Continue reading...

What are TIPS?

Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) are coupon-paying treasuries issued by the US Government whose principal amount adjusts with inflation. When a consumer buys Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS), they experience a few benefits when compared to other investment options. One benefit is that the security is backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government. Another benefit is that the principal amount adjusts automatically for inflation with the Consumer Price Index. Continue reading...

What is Diminishing Marginal Utility?

The decrease in the usefulness or demand for something as more and more of it is introduced or produced. The easiest way to conceptualize diminishing marginal utility is by thinking of a factory into which you must put workers who will produce goods. The first group of workers you hire increases the productivity immensely compared to what was being produced before they were hired. The second group of workers helps a lot also, but not quite as much as the first. Some of the workers have downtime now for a few minutes a day when no work is being done. You hire a third bunch of workers to increase production to get closer to your competitors, and it works, but now some of the workers are supervisors and the new hires don’t have the same drive and sense of ownership in the company. Continue reading...

What is Abandonment Value?

The Abandonment Value is the salvage value left if a capital project is stopped short at an unknown time. Authors Robichek and Van Horne (1967) offered a very concise argument for the importance of including an Abandonment Value in the calculations leading to a company decision to undertake a long-term capital project. The calculation is useful for risk assessment, and tries to find the value at which project assets could be liquidated if the project could not be continued for some reason. Continue reading...

What is a Variable Cost?

When budgeting for companies, some expenses are fixed overhead and some are variable, which depend on the amount of work being done. The direct cost of materials and labor are a good example of variable costs that will fluctuate with production levels. There may be an equation that the company can use to reliably predict these variable costs, but they are not fixed costs. From an accounting perspective, of course, these costs would be in separate sections. Fixed costs include warehousing, depreciation, insurances, rent, taxes, salaries, and so forth. These can be put into the budget before anything else happens or any orders have been taken for the year. The variable costs must be taken into account on the fly. Continue reading...