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Retirement Accounts401(k) and 403(b) PlansIndividual Retirement Accounts (IRA)SEP and SIMPLE IRAsKeogh PlansMoney Purchase/Profit Sharing PlansSelf-Employed 401(k)s and 457sPension Plan RulesCash-Balance PlansThrift Savings Plans and 529 Plans and ESA
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What is a 457 Plan?

A 457 is a deferred compensation arrangement that is available to some government employers and non-profit organizations. A 457 Plan, offered to state and local public workers and employees of a few nonprofit organizations, functions similarly to a 401(k) or 403(b): the contributions are automatically deducted from your paycheck before taxes and transferred into your account, where they grow tax-deferred until retirement. 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...

Is there such a thing as a “presidential election cycle” impact on stocks?

Some analysts have popularized the notion that the 4-year presidential election cycle holds secrets to bear and bull markets. Found in publications such as the Stock Traders Almanac, The Presidential Election Cycle is the theory that different phases of the presidential term are correlated to broad market conditions. As will many such theories, it may not hold up under a lot of scrutiny, but there are some correlations to be found. Continue reading...

What Rights Does Owning Shares of Corporation Give You?

Shareholders of a company are part-owners of the company, and they are entitled to two things: voting for board members, and participation in earnings. Owning shares (even one single share!) of a publicly-traded corporation entitles you to the right to vote in elections for the Board of Directors, as well as the right to receive a proportional amount of all the profits of the company. These rights apply to common stock, which is generally the kind of stock traded on exchanges. Of course, you also have the right to sell your shares on the stock exchange at any time, in what is known academically as the Secondary Market. Continue reading...

What is Medicare Part C?

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is offered in a few variations by several third-party carriers. These plans are approved by Medicare and a person must still pay their Part B premiums to get them, but the Medicare Advantage plans are designed to be more appealing with their deductibles and copays than original Medicare Part A and Part B. Medicare Part C, is a private plan that is mandated to be at least equal in coverage to Part A and Part B. Continue reading...

If I Want to Establish a SIMPLE IRA, Do I Have to Establish One for All Employees of My Business?

In general, the answer is “Yes,” but there are a few exceptions. If you decide to establish a SIMPLE IRA, every eligible employee must be offered a SIMPLE IRA account. An employee is eligible if they have earned $5,000 in compensation during any two previous years, and are expected to earn $5,000 the current year. If an employee is unwilling to participate, the employer must open up a SIMPLE IRA on behalf of the employee. Continue reading...

What is the commodity selection index?

The Commodity Selection Index (CSI) is a momentum indicator based on the Directional Movement Indicator and the Average True Range. It helps commodities traders find momentum in commodities futures that seem to be the best candidates to make the trader money in the short term, based on volatility and also the cost of holding the position. This momentum indicator uses multiple other indicators for price, volume, and volatility to find short term trends. It may identify situations where a price movement is likely to persist. This is certainly not a guarantee, and even if a trend is strong there are often retracements and unexpected reversals. Continue reading...

How Can I Establish a SIMPLE IRA?

A SIMPLE IRA must be established by an employer with fewer than 100 employees. An employer can establish a SIMPLE IRA if they have no more than 100 employees who earned $5,000 or more during the preceding calendar year. The employer cannot have any other type of qualified retirement plan going while a SIMPLE IRA is in effect. SIMPLEs should be established between Jan 1 and October 1 of the first year of the plan, unless the business started after that. Plans can be set up relatively quickly and can even use automatic enrollment if employees are given the ability to opt-out. Continue reading...

What Are the Contribution Limits For My Thrift Savings Plan?

Contribution limits for the TSP are the same as regular 401(k)s. Employees and employers using the TSP will have the same contribution limits as 401(k) plans. An employee can defer up to $18,000 a year in 2016, plus a $6,000 catch-up deferral if the employee is over 50 years old. The employer can contribute up to a maximum total balance of $53,000 (or $59,000 if the employee is over 59 ½), including employee deferrals. There is a standard 1% employer flat contribution, and some Federal employees will also receive a match. 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 Foreign Investment Funds (FIF) tax?

New Zealand and Australia, in particular, have instituted a tax regime for offshore investments that fall into the definition of Foreign Investment Funds (FIFs). FIFs will generally be mutual fund companies that are based overseas, but can also include cash value life insurance underwritten by a foreign company and some stock portfolios from overseas stock exchanges. The US has the PFIC tax, which is a passive foreign investment corporation tax. The PFIC category generally applies to mutual funds or pooled investment companies from foreign countries. Continue reading...

When Can I Start Receiving My Social Security Benefits?

You cannot claim your own social security benefit until you have reached age 62, and you have to start taking them by the time you reach age 70. You can actually start receiving benefits while you are still working, but your benefits will be reduced if you are younger than Normal Retirement Age. Currently, you have to be 62 years or older to start receiving Social Security benefits, and this includes spouses who wish to claim spousal benefits. You must start to receive benefits at age 70. Keep in mind that the longer you defer your benefits, the greater your Social Security payments will be (until age 70 of course). Continue reading...

What is a Traditional IRA?

A Traditional IRA holds money tax-deferred until retirement. An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is an account which allows tax-deferred growth of assets. As its name implies, an IRA has to be opened in the name of the individual. A person can contribute to one, up to the annual limit, and deduct the entire amount from his or her taxes unless they are prevented from taking deductions due to participation in a workplace retirement plan and having income that exceeds certain limits. Continue reading...

What is Variable Universal Life Insurance?

Variable Life Insurance is a permanent universal life policy that has a death benefit as long as the cash value and premiums are sufficient to pay the increasing cost per-thousand, while the premiums and cash value have the option of being invested in separate accounts which behave much like mutual funds. Often the policy-owner has a choice of many investment options, and can construct an entire portfolio within the policy. Continue reading...

When Can I Access the Money in my IRA?

You have the ability to make withdrawals from an IRA leading up to retirement, but you may be penalized. You are able to withdraw money from your Traditional IRA at any time (after all, this is your money), but it can be a costly decision. If you decide to take out money before age 59½, you will most likely pay a 10% penalty in addition to regular income taxes on the amount that you withdraw. As the name Individual Retirement Account implies, the money is meant to be taken out during retirement. There are a few circumstances in which the IRS will allow you to make early withdrawals without assessing the 10% penalty. These exemptions are mostly for hardships, but first time homebuyers can get up to $10,000 out penalty-free, and college tuition costs for family members can usually be withdrawn penalty-free. Continue reading...

What is the Best Age to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits?

Generally speaking, the closer you are to age 70, the better. But everyone will need to take all of their options into account and use some planning tools or the assistance of a professional planner to arrive at an ideal cash flow scenario for retirement. All assets should be brought into consideration, as well as the possible social security benefits of both spouses and their spousal benefits. There is no one “best age” to start receiving the Social Security benefits. Everyone has a Normal Retirement Age (NRA), which determines the age at which you can receive your “full” Social Security benefits, but you can defer your benefits past this point to receive an 8% increase for every additional year you deferred your benefit. Note that benefits cannot be deferred past age 70. Continue reading...

Which is Better for Me: a Roth or Traditional IRA?

The choice between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA depends on available discretionary income and financial situation. Both IRAs have the same contribution limits. The Traditional IRA goes in pre-tax (generally), grows tax-deferred, and is taxable as income on withdrawal. The Roth goes in after-tax, grows tax-deferred, and is not taxable upon withdrawal. That’s the primary difference. This will allow you to lower your current taxable income by making Traditional IRA contributions, which may seem more appealing in a number of ways. There’s the effect of immediate gratification that leads investors to favor this way, and the fact that you’re technically paying more (by the amount of taxes you paid on the after-tax Roth) to make the same current contribution to a Roth. Continue reading...

How Do Deductible and Non-Deductible IRAs Differ?

It is possible to make non-deductible contributions to an IRA, even if you have a qualified plan at work. Traditional IRAs are a good place to stash retirement money because of the tax treatment. Some people will choose to make contributions even when they are not deductible, which gives us two kinds of Traditional IRAs: deductible and non-deductible. Deductible IRAs provide a way to lower your taxes because you can deduct contributions to your IRA from your income. Nondeductible IRAs do not allow you to deduct your contributions, but they still retain their tax-deferred growth. Unlike a Roth, these after-tax contributions will be taxed upon withdrawal as income. Continue reading...

What is Income?

Income is a stream, series, or lump sum of cash or cash equivalents that is paid to an individual or entity based on work performed, goods sold, ownership rights, or by being a creditor to whom interest is paid. It is received when a net result is positive, and is sometimes referred to as the “bottom line.” Income can be viewed from a itemized, current perspective or as a balance sheet item for an entire accounting period, such as a year. It also might be discussed as a gross (pre-tax) or net (post-tax) amount. Continue reading...

How Does a 401(k) Compare With Other Retirement Plans?

There are several types of retirement plans that employers can provide, but 401(k)s are one of the most popular. Other employer-sponsored retirement plans include SIMPLEs, SEPs, and various kinds of defined benefit plans. SIMPLE IRAs are sometimes called SIMPLE 401(k)s, because they operate under the same laws as Safe Harbor 401(k)s. They both are primarily employee-funded, and have rigid standards for employer contributions. Continue reading...

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