Why Should I be Extremely Careful with Commodities ETFs?

There are some things to keep in mind when investing in commodities and their ETFs. Most commodities trading revolves around who owns a hard asset and when. ETFs occupy a space in the commodities world that is somewhat unique. An ETF such as the Crude Oil Index does not physically buy millions of barrels of oil and store them. It buys financial instruments which theoretically should reflect the price of oil. Continue reading...

How Often Can I Contribute to My 401(k)?

Generally 401(k) contributions will be automatically deducted from payroll. Contributions to a 401(k) account are generally taken out of compensation during payroll, before taxes are withheld. For example, if you receive monthly paychecks, the contributions into your 401(k) occur monthly. Some employers may be more flexible and allow employees to make deposits when it is convenient, or to adjust their contributions at year-end, but larger employers will probably not have time for that, unless it is built into the plan interface in a way that makes it convenient for the payroll department at the sponsoring place of employment. Remember, any contributions must be within the limits allowed by the plan. Excess contributions must be corrected promptly. Continue reading...

What Are the Contribution Limits for my Self-Employed 401(k)?

There is a high possible contribution you can make to your own 401(k), but you still have to pay attention to the limits. As of 2016, you may contribute up to $53,000 annually to your Self-Employed 401(k), plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution if you’re over 50. If your spouse is also on the payroll, you are allowed to have a combined contribution of up to $106,000, or $118,000 if you’re both over 50. Continue reading...

What is Probate?

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process that takes place after a person’s death, during which legal documents (such as wills and trusts) are reviewed and enforced. A person’s will generally must be validated by the court, after which the person’s assets are distributed to the heirs accordingly. If there is no will, then the probate court will decide how to distribute the assets, which may not be consistent with the deceased’s actual wishes. Continue reading...

What is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA)?

An RIA is an asset manager that is registered with the SEC (in whatever state(s) they operate) and complies with certain rules and regulations. RIAs typically earn their revenues through management fees, which are almost always based as a percentage of assets under management — the average management fee is between 1% - 2%. Having management fees as a percentage of assets allows for the interest of both parties to align - as the assets grow, so does the nominal amount of fees the RIA earns. Continue reading...

What is IRS Publication 54, Tax Guide for US Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad?

IRS Link to Publication — Found Here Publication 54 is a guide for those earning income in a foreign country. There are several tax deductions which might be available and several forms and filing practices that one will need to be familiar with when taking employment elsewhere. US Citizens and long term resident green card holders will need to let the IRS know how much they are making even if they are employed in a foreign country. Continue reading...

A-/A3 — credit rating

A-/A3 — credit rating

A- — S&P / Fitch A3 — Moody’s Rating institutions assign various levels of credit ratings to signify the chance of default; the A-/A3 rating is considered Investment Grade, but it is getting closer to the Junk Bond range. If a company or debt issue has a rating of A-/A3, it means that S&P and Fitch have given it an A- and Moody’s has given it an A3 rating. They have their own symbology for their ratings system but these are at the same level on both scales: these ratings are at the 6th or 7th degree from the top possible ratings, which is AAA/Aaa. 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...

Will My Pension Payments Affect My Social Security Payments?

Not in the way you’re probably thinking, but the answer may be yes. Generally speaking, the answer is no. Your Social Security payments depend on two factors only: the age you started to receive Social Security benefits, and the amount of contributions you made to Social Security over the years. Your pension comes from your employer, and Social Security comes from the government. However, your tax liabilities might depend on the combination of your pension and Social Security benefits, and you social security benefits can actually be taxed. In one of the few calculations that has not been indexed for inflation lately, if your retirement income is over a certain number, up to 85% of your social security may be subject to tax as income. Continue reading...

How Many Dollars do We Have in Circulation?

According to the Federal Reserve, there are over 1.7 trillion U.S. Dollars in circulation. This number has been drastically increasing throughout the last few years, mostly due to programs such as Quantitative Easing. As of 2016, QE programs have ended and the Fed's balance sheet is shrinking, but M2 money supply still remains at elevated levels. What is the Size of our National Debt? What is Currency in Circulation? Continue reading...