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What should I look for in a good Mortgage Calculator?

Mortgage payment arrangements can be engineered in a number of ways, and a good mortgage calculator will give you enough flexibility to input the terms of your own. Ideally a mortgage calculator will be flexible enough to let you input the following: an adjustable rate, a rate cap, optional mortgage “acceleration” payments, balloon payments and resets, impound account calculations which take into account the property taxes and insurance you pay, as well as calculations which take any origination fees into account. 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 should I look for in a good “Rent or Own a House” calculator?

The decision process to rent or own a home can be made a little easier with a good rent-or-own calculator. In the ideal “Rent or Own a House” comparison calculator, you should be able to input the following: an assumed appreciation rate for residential real estate in the area, the cost of maintaining an owned home, rent increases, and potential tax benefits of owning versus renting. Make sure to use realistic or even pessimistic assumptions on the inputs, because once time has passed there will be no way to fix overly optimistic assumptions. Continue reading...

What should I look for in a good Investment Performance Evaluation calculator?

A good investment performance calculator will give you the ability to input various cash flow scenarios and compute weighted returns, among other options. A really useful investment performance calculator will allow you to input various cash flow scenarios and to see weighted returns based on these. Dollar-and-time-weighted performance, dividend cash flows, deposits and withdrawals, as well as fees paid for various transactions, will all be incorporated in a good calculator. Continue reading...

How Long Will It Take Me to Pay Off Debt?

Paying off debt depends on a variety of factors, like the total amount of debt, your payment schedule, the principal amount, and interest rates. There are plenty of financial calculators you can access on the web, which would allow you to calculate your payment schedule. Your financial advisor should also have software available to run these numbers for you, or in the very least, a financial calculator to run the numbers quickly. The 'inputs' you need to complete the calculation are: the size of your debt, your planned payments, and the interest rate you’re paying. Continue reading...

How do I Calculate my Expenses?

Keeping track of your expenses is one of the most important (and basic) steps to leading a responsible financial life. It might be tempting to “eyeball” your expenses and somehow get by without a plan, but in almost all cases, such carelessness will spell financial disaster. Budgeting your money for specific categories of expenses and carefully documenting the actual spending is critical. You should add up amounts spent on monthly mortgage and car payments, rent, groceries, clothing, entertainment, utilities, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses, and try to get as close to possible to a monthly budget. Continue reading...

How Do I Calculate my Net Worth?

Calculating your net worth is a simple and worthwhile endeavor, and should be done once a year to measure your progress. Generally speaking, your net worth is the sum of all of your assets, minus the sum of your liabilities. For example, to calculate your net worth, you would need to add up the dollar values of all of your assets – usually consisting of your house, your cars, savings accounts, retirement accounts, CDs, cash, etc…, and your most valuable possessions (you don’t need to include your desk lamp into the calculations). 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 are Financials Stocks?

Financial stocks are those that make up the financial sector, which encompasses banks, lenders, wire houses, and other companies that facilitate the flow of capital and debt. Real estate companies can also fall under this category. Financials tend to do well when yield curves are steep and the regulatory environment favors banks. When credit markets aren’t under strain financials tend to perform well. Continue reading...

Should I pay for financial planning services?

Any professional that you work with for financial planning is going to be compensated for the work they do, but there are different ways they earn their pay. Whether it’s worth it to you is another question. If you have enough knowledge and time on your hands, and your investment portfolio is not very complicated, you may be able to manage it on your own. This can save you some money on financial advisor fees. Continue reading...

How often should I call my financial advisor?

While a client should be involved in communication efforts as well, it’s really the advisor that should be reaching out with information and scheduling appointments at least once a year. You should definitely discuss your investment portfolio with your Financial Advisor at least annually. Even if nothing has changed, it’s important to keep communication lines open. On the other hand, doing that more than once a quarter without a pressing need to do so might lead you to make poor decisions based on emotions and shortsightedness, rather than on investment discipline. Continue reading...

How Much Money Should I Set Aside for Emergencies?

Research suggests that more than half of adult Americans do not have sufficient savings needed for emergency purposes. Here’s a startling but true piece of information: most surveys conducted in the past few years indicate that more than half of adult Americans do not have any kind of emergency fund at all, and even fewer have enough to cover three months of living expenses in the event of an unexpected event, like job loss or health emergency. Continue reading...

What is Financial Liquidity?

Financial liquidity refers to the ease with which an asset can be converted to cash. Assessing financial liquidity is important on a corporation’s balance sheet, as it serves as an indication of how readily a company can pay off debts or weather a crisis. Continue reading...

When Should I Start Saving Money?

The answer is simple and needs only common sense to understand: you should begin saving as soon as you can! However, because of most people’s spending habits and the day-to-day realities of life, it is often difficult to follow that advice. Let’s compare how your savings would accumulate, depending on the age at which you begin to save. Your total savings will be much greater by the time you want to retire – say when you’re 65 – if you invest $5000/year at age 25 for just 10 years, than if you continuously invested $10,000/year at age 35, or $15,000/year at age 45. Continue reading...

What is a Financial Advisor?

The term "Financial Advisor" applies to professionals who are compensated for helping to implement investment strategies, but it is a broad and non-specific term. There are thousands of people who are called “Financial Advisors” – but within this category are various professions with different specialties and compensation structures. There are Financial Advisors, Financial Planners, Investment Managers, Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs), and at times even CPAs, insurance agents, and lawyers are included in this umbrella term. Continue reading...

Do I Need a Financial Advisor?

The answer to this question will depend on the preferences and circumstances of each individual. As your assets grow and your financial picture becomes more complex (with unclear tax implications, and interdependent asset classes), then the answer is more likely to be yes. For those investors with a more modest-size portfolio, it may not be necessary. Financial modeling tools and market research publications are widely available, and while they are not one-size-fits-all answers, they can serve investors quite well when used wisely. Investors who choose not to consult an advisor must be willing to educate themselves. Continue reading...

What are the Best Financial Programs to Use?

There are many apps and online programs that investors can use, often for free, to help keep an eye on their holdings and to track their investment portfolio. In addition to the software accessible through your custodian, you might want to look at the programs available through Morningstar, Microsoft Money, and others. Apps on your phone (CNBC, TheStreet, Barron’s, MarketWatch, etc.) can keep you updated on market news related to your stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs. You can also subscribe to market commentaries delivered via email. Continue reading...

Where Do I Find a Financial Advisor?

A financial advisor can be found through an online search, at events, or through the recommendation of friends. Believe it or not, while there are thousands of resources and databases, the best way to find a Financial Advisor is to ask your friends. You will need to determine a few basic criteria when looking for a Financial Advisor, such as geographical location, his or her age bracket, years of experience, frequency and medium of communication, and the amount of fees you are willing to pay. While there are thousands of resources and databases, sometimes the easiest way to find a Financial Advisor is to ask your friends. Continue reading...

What are the Best Internet Sources for Financial Information?

The internet is overflowing with the advice, analysis, and chest-pounding of millions of self-purported gurus and market commentary services. There are plenty of well-informed and trustworthy sources out there, too. There are literally millions of websites providing you with various kinds of financial information, advice, recommendations, opinions, rumors, get-rich-quick schemes, and “facts.” There is a short list of companies that are well-established with a reputation worthy of trust: Morningstar, Moody’s, Fidelity, Schwab, Goldman Sachs, etc. Continue reading...

What is a Good Financial Advisor?

A good financial advisor should care as much about your investments as you do, and be personable and knowledgeable enough to make the relationship worth your time, money, and trust. Choosing a Financial Advisor is a bit like choosing a caretaker for your child: you would want someone who gives you a sense of security, who has professional references or the recommendation of a trusted friend, years of experience, is reliable and honest, can foster growth, and ideally, will care about your child almost as much as you do. Continue reading...

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