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What are market cycles?

Markets are said to experience cycles of various length and magnitude. Cycles tend to be defined in retrospect and it is not always evident what part of a cycle the market is in. Cycles can be of various length and magnitude, with current cycles existing as minor subtexts of the larger cycles. In Elliott Wave Theory, for instance, cycles of various levels exist simultaneously, with the longer cycles exhibiting “self-similar” patterns to the shorter-term cycles, as in naturally occurring fractals in nature (since Elliott’s theory is that the market is a natural phenomenon, just like the breeding cycles of rabbits). Continue reading...

What is Earnings Season?

Earnings season describes not one, but four times in a year, when corporations release their quarterly earnings reports. Investors look forward to this time because they are able to get an update about how the year is going, compared to projections. After each fiscal quarter ends, there are a few weeks in which companies file their quarterly reports with the SEC and announce their current earnings and sales numbers. Each of these periods is known as earnings season. Continue reading...

What is the Size of our National Debt?

The total United States national debt is $19.3 trillion as of fiscal year (FY) 2016. Total debt is near what the U.S. produces in annual GDP, and a majority of our national debt is public debt — money owed to those who have Treasury obligations. The U.S. also owes a large amount of money to foreign countries (foreign debt), but a majority of U.S. debt is held domestically. As of June 2012, the three countries who hold the most of our national debt are: Continue reading...

What is a Loss?

A loss refers to reduction in the value of an investment, or in business terms, to having expenses outweigh revenues. In a company’s fiscal year, if their operating and total expenses outweigh their revenues, they are operating at a loss. If those companies are not supported by private capital and operate at a loss for too long, it can easily lead to bankruptcy or closure. Newer businesses often run at a net loss for the first few years, while they rush to build labor and capital infrastructure, with costs such as equipment, buildings, technology, employees, and rights. Continue reading...

What is Profit and Loss (P&L) Statement?

A Profit and Loss Statement, also referred to as an “income statement,” is a corporate statement that summarizes the revenues, costs and expenses incurred by a company during a specific time period, such as a quarter or a fiscal year. The main difference between a P&L statement and a balance sheet is that the P&L is designed to show changes in line items over the period analyzed, versus a balance sheet which simply shows a comprehensive snapshot of a company’s asset and liabilities on a set date. Continue reading...

What is a 10-k?

A 10-k is an annual filing required by the SEC for companies over a certain size, which provides the regulators with more detail than can be found in an Annual Report. If a company has over $10 Million in assets and equity shares divided among 500 or more people, it must file a 10-K within 60 days of the end of the fiscal year, as well as 10-Q filings quarterly, whether it is publicly or privately traded. The 10-K will include specific details that companies may not have put in their Annual Report to shareholders, such as executive compensation, subsidiaries, audited financial statements, lawsuits, and so on. Continue reading...

What is the Price to Sales Ratio (P/S Ratio)?

The Price to Sales Ratio, also known as the PSR, is a valuation metric that looks at a stock’s market price versus its per share revenue. Alternatively, you can calculate it by dividing a company’s total market capitalization by its total revenue in the most recent fiscal year. The ratio indicates how much value (how much investors are willing to pay) is placed on each dollar of revenue generated by the company. Continue reading...

What is Fiscal Policy?

Fiscal Policy refers to the tactics used by a central government to influence the nation’s economy, whether by setting tax and/or spending policies. Fiscal policy is related to monetary policy, in that they are both aimed to either boost an economy or temper growth to avoid overheating. A fiscal policy conducive to growth would aim to have low taxes and higher level of spending. When a government invokes “austerity” measures, it means they are trying to cut spending most likely to reel-in budget deficits or overall debt levels. Continue reading...

What is an Accounting Period?

An accounting period is a specific time frame from which documents and records have been used by accountants to arrive at reported balances and statements. An accounting period can be a fiscal year, quarter, or month, or any other time frame for which reporting is being done. At any given time, there may be different accounting periods running. Books are kept and reports are made for different tiers of accounting periods. Continue reading...

What is a bear market?

Bear markets are loosely defined as periods when markets experience declines in magnitude of 20% or more. More specifically, bear markets are a period in which a major index like the S&P 500, for example, declines by 20% or more, with this decline sustained for a period over two months or so. Consequently, many investors become “bearish” – they lose confidence in the market, sell off their securities they do not believe will recover soon, and sit on the sidelines. There have been 25 bear markets since 1929, for an average of one every 3.4 years. Continue reading...

What is a Bear Squeeze?

Investors who were bearish on a stock may have chosen to short-sell shares in the hopes that they could cover at a lower price. Short selling is when a broker facilitates the actions of an investor who wishes to take on the risk of replacing sold shares of a particular stock because he or she believes the price will be lower when he or she replaces the inventory. The broker passes the proceeds of the sale (minus a fee) along to the investor who is taking the risk of replacing the shares, and charges the investor interest or fees as long as the shares are outstanding. Investors need to cover the short before prices go up and it results in a loss for them. Continue reading...

What Happens If I Withdraw Money From My Pension Plan After I Retire?

Usually such withdrawals will be in the form of income payments, but there may be other options. If the plan administrator allows it, you can make non-recurring (one-time) withdrawals from a pension fund. This is usually not allowed, however. The regular qualified plan distribution rules will apply as far as the IRS is concerned, and they may charge a 10% penalty if the withdrawals are taken before age 59½. After you retire, you’ll typically have two options: a fixed monthly payment for the rest of your life (also known as a Life Annuity), or a lump-sum payment. Continue reading...

What is the “Life with Period Certain” Option?

In a “life with period certain” annuity payout option, the insurance company will pay the annuitant a set income for as long as the annuitant lives. If the annuitant dies before the “period certain” expires, the company will continue to pay the income to the beneficiaries until the period certain expires. If the period certain is 20 years, it would be called a “Life with 20 Years Certain” payout option. Continue reading...

How Do I Invest Money in My Pension?

Employees are not able to control investments in a Pension Fund, but you can control a few variables. You cannot direct investments in your pension. Since a pension is a type of Defined Benefit Plan provided by your employer, the company worries about the investments, and you will receive a fixed monthly payment that is calculated based on your age, salary, and number of years worked for the company. Continue reading...

What are the Withdrawal Rules for My SIMPLE IRA?

SIMPLE IRAs have the same withdrawal rules as Traditional IRAs, with one notable exception. SIMPLE IRA contributions and earnings may be withdrawn at any time, but there are certain penalties that apply. If you are under the age of 59½, you must pay a 10% penalty fee in addition to income taxes on your withdrawal. If the early withdrawal occurs within two years of receiving your first employer contribution, the 10% penalty is increased to 25%. Continue reading...

What Are the Vesting Rules for My SIMPLE IRA?

Employer contributions to SIMPLEs are immediately vested to the employee. The employer’s contributions into SIMPLE IRAs do not have any vesting restrictions. In other words, the contribution belongs to you immediately after it has been made, notwithstanding standard IRS rules for withdrawals from retirement accounts. SIMPLEs do have some restrictions during the first two years, however, that are known as the ‘Two Year Rule.’ Continue reading...

What are the Tax Implications for Taking Money Out of a Roth IRA?

Distributions taken from a Roth during retirement are not subject any income taxes. Interestingly, the “cost basis” or contributions made to a Roth can be taken out at any time, including before age 59 ½, without tax or penalty. Contributions are recorded on IRS form 5498 and a copy is mailed to you, but you need to keep up with your contributions if you might want to tap into your Roth early. The earnings that accumulate must satisfy the 59 ½ requirement and the five year rule, or be used for first-time homebuyers expense, to avoid the 10% penalty and taxation. The five year rule says that the earnings in a Roth may be taxable if the Roth account is under 5 years old. Continue reading...

What are the 403(b) Contribution Limits?

The contribution limits are increased over time with cost-of-living adjustments. 403(b) contribution limits are currently the same as 401(k) limits, and are adjusted for inflation at the same rate. As of 2016, if you are under age 50, you may contribute up to $18,000. If you’re over 50, you can also make a catch-up contribution of up to $6,000, for a total of $24,000 for the year. 403(b)s also allow an additional form a catch-up for employees who have been at the job for over 15 years and whose contributions in the past average out to less than $5,000 per year. These catch-ups are called Fifteen Year Cap Expansion Option or just service-based catch-ups. Continue reading...

What is FICA?

FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes are handled by the Social Security Administration, as they are payroll withholdings that go toward Social Security and Medicare funds. Most people will have half of their FICA paid by their employer, but self-employed people must pay it all on their own, which is called the “Self-Employment Tax.” FICA is a tax on employees and employers that funds the Social Security and Medicare programs of the United States. Continue reading...

What is defined as a market correction?

Sometimes a stock or index will reflect prices that have become inflated or overvalued in the short-term as a result of bullish conditions. In some cases, due to shift in sentiment or a negative news story in the headlines, stocks may retreat suddenly and without notice. A market correction is a sharp, sudden decline in stock prices, where they fall in value by around 10% - 20% over a short period, usually no longer than 6 months. Corrections are frequent occurrences (typically an average of once a year) and are a normal and healthy part of equity investing. Continue reading...