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What is a Distributed Ledger?

What is a Distributed Ledger?

A distributed ledger is a records system in which the same information is held redundantly across many nodes in a network, and is essential to blockchain technology. Centralized databases used to be the primary way that important records of transaction histories and so forth were held.  Databases validate the identity of those requesting access to the records by asking for and retaining personally identifying information. If that office building were to lose power, was hacked, or was destroyed, it is possible for all of the information to be lost or given over to hands of bad actors. Even with cloud storage backups, the security and financial risk to any one of these storage depositories remain a problem. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between a Blockchain and a Database?

What is the Difference Between a Blockchain and a Database?

Blockchains use distributed ledgers, which are decentralized and do not rely on centralized databases. Databases are the traditional way to store information and to keep it secure. When companies store information about their customers, or about the business itself, it is usually kept in a database connected to servers that handle requests for the information. The design for such a system tends to look like a wagon wheel:  a central hub with numerous spokes connecting it to the outer wheel.  Layers of security are heaped onto centralized servers and permit access to various levels of information is given to specific users. Continue reading...

What is Blockchain Technology?

What is Blockchain Technology?

Blockchain technology is a decentralized network structure used to obtain consensus on changes to a ledger shared and distributed throughout a system. Blockchain technology allows for peer-to-peer trust-less validation and record-keeping that is superior to centralized database systems in many situations, in terms of security, reliability, and efficiency. Blockchains tend to be integrated with smart contract technology that serves as the mechanical-legal framework for interactions between the co... Continue reading...

What are Marketable Securities?

What are Marketable Securities?

Marketable securities is a term referring to assets / securities that can be converted to cash easily, at least within a year. Examples of marketable securities are stocks, bonds, or CDs you might buy at the bank. What makes an asset a marketable security is its ability to be redeemed for cash quickly at a known market price. What is a Broker-Dealer? What is an Illiquid Security? Continue reading...

What is an Illiquid Security?

What is an Illiquid Security?

An illiquid security is one that cannot easily be sold or exchanged for cash on a timely basis. The lack of ready buyers tends to create a fairly sizable discrepancy between what a seller wants and what a buyer is offering, versus an orderly market where assets change hands at high volumes and therefore have high liquidity. An illiquid security should generally be held only if the investor/owner has a long-time horizon, and therefore can handle the risk of not being able to offload the asset easily. Continue reading...

What is a Security?

What is a Security?

A security is a marketable ownership contract which entitles the owner to the right to use the contract as a type of currency backed by a specific asset, which could be partial ownership in a company, a debt (bond), or a derivative interest. Securities are broadly categorized into debt securities (e.g., bonds), equity securities (e.g., stock), and derivatives (e.g., futures, options, etc.). They will generally be issued by a company or government entity and will entitle the owner of the contract the right to trade the ownership interest for value in the open market. Continue reading...

What is a Junior Security?

What is a Junior Security?

Junior Securities come last in the pecking order if a company gets liquidated; common stock shares are the most prevalent example. Junior securities are securities such as common stock which would be the last in order to receive any payout if the company were to go bankrupt. Examples of securities which are senior are Preferred Stock and Bonds; senior securities receive service first in the event of company insolvency. Continue reading...

Are Social Security Benefits Taxed?

Are Social Security Benefits Taxed?

Many people do not realize that their Social Security Benefits may be taxed. If you have a taxable income in retirement above a certain threshold, up to 85% of your social security benefits can be taxed. The calculation for the threshold income actually includes half of your social security benefits. Whether or not you trigger taxation on your benefits will depend on your “combined” income, which is a sum of your adjusted gross income (taxable income, which can include taxable sources such as qualified retirement plans), your nontaxable interest (from Muni bonds in particular, Roth IRAs are excludable), and half of your household Social Security benefits. Continue reading...

What does Equity or Security Mean in the context of Capital Markets?

An equity or security generally refers to an individual position owned within a portfolio. An equity generally signifies some level of ownership in a corporation. When a person has ‘equity in a company,’ it generally means they own some portion of it and have a claim on the company’s value. An equity is another way of referring to a stock, which also represents a shareholder’s stake in a company. A security is a broader term, which refers to an instrument of ownership. Stocks are considered securities, but fixed income or debt holdings can also be labeled securities within a portfolio. Continue reading...

How Does Social Security Work?

How Does Social Security Work?

Social Security uses mandatory payroll taxes to grow trust funds that are used to pay income to retirees and other qualifying persons. Any surplus that is collected in a given year and not paid out is used to purchase Treasury Bonds, which pay a guaranteed rate of interest to the trusts and allows the government to use this surplus money in the meantime. When you receive your paycheck, you’ll see a deduction for FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), which is a “combined payroll tax” for both Social Security and Medicare. Continue reading...

When Will Social Security Go Bankrupt?

When Will Social Security Go Bankrupt?

Most estimates project that the Social Security Trust Funds will be depleted by 2037. The system could still function at 70% of their full obligations by transferring cash flow directly from social security taxes to the retired beneficiaries, which most people don’t realize when they spread the news that the system is tanking. Adjustments to the system and interest rates could change how this plays out and keep it operating closer to full capacity. Continue reading...

How are Social Security Benefits Computed?

How are Social Security Benefits Computed?

Social Security retirement benefits are computed by finding the average monthly income of a worker during the highest-earning 35 years of employment, and then it plugs that amount into a formula for to determine their full benefit at Normal Retirement Age (NRA). A person may then choose to take benefits before or after NRA, with applicable reductions or additions. There are different equations for spousal benefits, survivor’s benefits, and maximum family benefits. Continue reading...

What is the Investment Advisors Act of 1940?

The IAA sought to regulate an industry that was deemed to be of public concern and within the Federal jurisdiction, though it did define some state-specific jurisdictions. It defines investment advisors and made laws dealing with fraud, advertising, non-public client information, disclosures, handling of client funds, and so forth. The Investment Advisors Act of 1940 established definitions for the capacity in which an investment adviser and investment advice could be defined, and made rules concerning the standards by which advisors should operate. Continue reading...

What is a Fixed Income Security?

A fixed income security is one designed to pay interest/coupon payments on a predetermined basis, or a fixed schedule. Fixed income securities are often used by late stage retirees who need safe, reliable income streams. Fixed income securities still have risk, such as interest rate risk where if interest rates rise the price of a fixed income security can fall. Examples of fixed income securities are U.S. Treasuries, municipal bonds, or CDs. Because fixed income products carry relatively low risk, it generally translates into relatively lower returns. Continue reading...

What are Asset-Backed Securities?

An Asset-Backed Security, or ABS, are bonds or notes backed by financial assets. It is an example of “securitization.” The assets within the ABS generally tend to consist of different kinds of debt receivables, such as credit cards, auto loans, home equity loans, and so forth. Banks build portfolios of receivables in making loans and issuing credit, and then in many cases package these loans together and sell them to investors (known as “securitization”). Continue reading...

How Much Does (and Will) Social Security Pay?

How Much Does (and Will) Social Security Pay?

Social Security uses a formula that applies a factor to your average monthly income from the 35 years in which you earned the most. The benefit will be calculated for your Normal Retirement Age (67 for most people today), and you should receive statements in the mail keeping you updated on your projected or actual Social Security Retirement Benefits. Every year, you should get a statement from the Social Security Administration that provides you with exact numbers. The amount depends on the age at which you retire, and the contributions you made to Social Security over the years. The formula uses the 35 years in which you earned the most, and divides it by the total number of months in 35 years, which is 420, which leads to your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME). Continue reading...

What Kinds of Social Security Benefits Exist?

What Kinds of Social Security Benefits Exist?

Social Security benefits are streams of income available for retired workers, their spouses, children and dependents, and survivors. It provides insurance against longevity, disability, and, to some extent, the death of the primary contributor. Social Security benefits are available to a worker and their dependents if the worker has triggered eligibility, which usually calculated as earning over $5,040 for 10 years, but is modified if the worker dies or is disabled at a young age. Benefits can be paid to multiple people within a household (and an ex-spouse) based on one worker’s contributions to the system, up to a Maximum Family Limit, which is somewhere between 150-180% of a worker’s full benefit amount. Continue reading...

What is an Asset-Backed Security?

Asset-backed securities are bonds or notes that come in several forms, but they typically use the cash flows from debt repayment as the asset that backs them. The assets that back the bonds called asset-backed securities (ABS) can be basically anything with a fairly predictable cash flow, but debt repayment cash flows tend to be used the most. These include credit card debt, home equity loans, auto loans, student loans, and so forth. Continue reading...

What are the Projections for Social Security Benefits?

What are the Projections for Social Security Benefits?

It looks like the Social Security Trust Funds may be depleted by 2037. The system can most likely continue while paying reduced benefits that come directly from the current social security taxes to the workforce. Estimates are that the Social Security Administration could pay about 70% of its obligations at that point. There is enough money to pay Social Security benefits at the current rate until about 2037. Continue reading...

What are Mortgage-Backed Securities?

Mortgage-backed securities (MBS) are products that bundle mortgages together and are traded like securities for sale on the markets. Typically investment banks build these products by bundling mortgages with different interest rates and risk premiums, with the hope of the investor gaining a higher yield than can be found from traditional risk-free products, like U.S. Treasuries. Mortgage-backed securities got an infamous name during the 2008 financial crisis, as many of the packaged loans were subprime in nature. Many MBS products lost incredible value during the crisis, particularly following ruling FAS 157, which required banks to mark their value to market. Continue reading...