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What is Effective Annual Interest Rate?

Also known as the annual equivalent rate (AER), the effective annual interest rate is the actual annual interest rate on a bond or loan when it compounds more than once a year. The effects of compounding will make the AER higher than the annual interest rate if the security compounds greater than annually. Continue reading...

What is an Interest Rate?

An interest rate is a simple financial principle that’s been around for centuries, whereby a borrower has to pay for money borrowed. The interest rate is agreed to between the lender and the borrower, and there may be provisions under which the rate could change over the course of  a loan. In simple terms, an interest rate is the cost of money. Continue reading...

What are Current Yields?

The current yield on a bond takes into account its annual interest payment but also the price at which it can be sold. The yield on a bond held to maturity is fairly straightforward. However, if the bond you are holding is trading at a price higher or lower than where you purchased it, the current yield would be different than the yield to maturity. For example, if you purchased a 5% bond at a price of $100, but the current market price was $90, your current yield would be significantly lower than 5%. To calculate, simply divide annual cash inflows by market price. Continue reading...

What is a Bond Coupon?

A bond coupon is the interest rate that a bond issuer agrees to pay to the bondholder, representing the interest earned from owning the bond. Bond coupons are fixed at the time the bond is issued and remain constant throughout the bond's life. The fixed nature of bond coupons makes them an attractive investment for investors seeking predictable income streams. Continue reading...

What is Maturity?

Maturity is the amount of time an investment exists - once the security matures, it is paid off to the investor and concludes the transaction. Maturities are most commonly used in the fixed income context, with bonds having maturities consistent with when their principal is paid back to the investor. What is Yield to Maturity? How Do I Structure My Bond Portfolio? Continue reading...

What is a Certificate of Deposit?

A Certificate of Deposit, commonly referred to as a CD, is a financial product that essentially pays risk-free interest (though typically at very low rates). CDs are typically offered by banks and credit unions, and usually span in duration from one month to 5 or 10 years. They are FDIC guaranteed up to $250,000, so customers may generally consider them risk-free. But because there is very little risk to purchasing a CD, they also typically pay very low annual interest rates. Continue reading...

What is Income Tax?

Income tax is paid to the government based on the amount of income earned. There are federal income taxes, and some states have their own income taxes, too. As an employee for a company, income taxes will be withheld from paychecks using the company’s best estimation of your annual earnings. At the end of the year it may turn out that they withheld too much, and the government may give you a tax refund for what was overpaid. Continue reading...

What is Annual Percentage Yield (APY)?

APY is an annualization of an interest rate which may be assessed on a different schedule, such as on a monthly basis, and is useful for comparing debt and loan agreements that use different schedules. Annual Percentage Yield is a way to compare products and loans with different interest rates and different schedules for calculating the interest. It is a calculation of the effective annual rate, and it takes into account the effects of compounding interest, which a similar calculation for APR (Annual Percentage Rate) does not do. Continue reading...

How Do I Become a Millionaire?

Even people who only make an average salary (teachers, janitors) can easily become millionaires. Doing so boils down to following a very basic formula: work, save, and invest. Let's look for instance at three different scenarios where a person invests $100/month, $500/month, and $1,000/month (very realistic goals), and let's also assume a reasonable growth rate of 6% per year. For $100/month, it will take you roughly 66 years. For $500/month, it will take you about 40 years, and for $1,000/month, it will take you approximately 30 years. Continue reading...

What factors affect currency exchange rates?

Currency exchange rates will fluctuate with various macroeconomic factors such as inflation, interest rates, trade balance, and so on, as well as political climate. Currency exchange rates are influenced by a number of factors, with some experts listing 5, some experts listing as many as 10. The main variables that will affect exchange rates are inflation rates, interest rates, the trade balance / current account, speculation in Forex markets, and government policies and interventions. Continue reading...

What is a Yield Curve?

A yield curve is an illustration of the current duration-to-yield relationship for bonds of the same credit rating but different durations. As a general rule, the longer the duration of the loan, the more risk you take on (since you don't know what might happen with that corporation in the future), and therefore, you demand a higher reward (i.e., higher coupon). The yield curve for any bond (not just the US Treasury Bonds) changes daily based on many economic and market factors. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Open Market Committee?

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the monetary policy-making body of the Federal Reserve System. The FOMC makes the decision on “raising” or “lowering” interest rates, which refers to moves in the federal funds rate. The FOMC consists of 12 members, which is comprised of the seven members of the Board of Governors and 5 of the 12 Reserve Bank presidents. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York always has a seat on the FOMC, while the other presidents rotate for one year terms. This policy-making body meets eight times a year to decide monetary policy, which consists of setting the benchmark interest rate and make decisions regarding the supply of money. All dependent on economic conditions. Continue reading...

How Do I Structure My Bond Portfolio?

There are three major ways to structure a bond portfolio: a ladder strategy, a barbell strategy, and a bullet strategy. A ladder strategy is structured by purchasing bonds of varying maturity dates, all at the same time. This means there will be several opportunities to make decisions at different dates in the future, so the owner of this portfolio keeps his or her options open to some extent, and has some liquidity over the course of the duration. A ladder might be used when rates are expected to stay about the same. Continue reading...

What is a Corporate Bond?

A corporate bond is a debt security issued by a public or private company to raise capital. They are generally issued in multiples of $1,000 or $5,000, and the issuing company must agree to pay a certain interest rate typically determined by their creditworthiness and earning history/potential. Often times the corporation issuing the debt must use their physical assets as collateral, and it is often found that corporations are more likely to issue debt during an environment when interest rates are low, so they can borrow at attractive rates. Corporate debt that matures in less than one year is called ‘commercial paper.’ Continue reading...

What is Duration?

Duration refers to the amount of time before a fixed income product will return the investment (principal and interest) to the investor. The bigger the duration number, the greater the interest-rate risk or reward for bond prices. For example, an investor should generally expect to receive better interest from a 30-year duration bond versus a 10-year, since the investor has to hold the note for longer to receive all interest payments and principal. Continue reading...

What is a Bond Ladder?

A bond ladder is a portfolio of bonds that have different maturities, that may range from months to years in difference. A bond ladder is designed to reduce interest rate risk and create predictable income streams. An investor will build a bond ladder often in an effort to reduce interest rate risk and also to create predictable income streams, where coupon payments happen at different times and principal is also returned in various intervals. Continue reading...

What is a Zero Coupon Bond?

A Zero Coupon Bond is one that does not make interest payments - the bondholder only receives the face value back at time of maturity. The bond purchaser typically pays a deep discount for the bond, and the gain made over the life of the investment is the difference between the amount paid for the bond and the face value returned to the investor when the bond matures. What is a Bond Coupon? Is There Anything Else I Need to Know About Bonds? Continue reading...

What is a Callable Bond?

A callable bond, also known as a “redeemable bond,” is one where the issuer has the ability to pay off the debt prior to its maturity date, with certain conditions. Which the issuer has the right to redeem prior to its maturity date, under certain conditions. The primary reason that an issuer would choose to “call” a bond is that interest rates have declined since the bond was issued. By calling the bond, the issuer generally has to opportunity to refinance that debt at a lower rate. Once called, the issuer will notify the creditor and pay off the debt, typically with a slight premium added to close the deal. Continue reading...

What should I look for in a good “Lease or Buy a Car” calculator?

Calculators are available to help you decide whether to lease or buy a car. Despite the advice of our older family members, many financial decisions will benefit from the use of math and technology, instead of just “rules of thumb,” and they will depend on the circumstances present at the time of the decision. Despite the fact that you may have purchased a vehicle or two in the past, you might benefit from using an online calculator that can help you compare whether it might be in your best interest to lease the vehicle this time or buy it. Continue reading...

What is a Treasury Note?

Treasury notes are government-issued coupon bonds with maturities between 1 and 10 years. A large secondary market exists for Treasury Notes, and they can be acquired at issue in a competitive bid or a noncompetitive bid auction. They are extremely popular for their marketability and six-month interest payment schedule. They do have interest rate risk, since treasuries issued with higher interest rates will make the ones already issued with lower rates less valuable. Continue reading...