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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...

What are Household Expenses?

Household expenses are sometimes also called a family budget. In some cases this can be limited to items purchased such as food and clothing, and services paid for such as utility bills, which only have to do with the livability of the home and the health of the family. This can be extended to included all out of pocket expenses for a family, from health insurance to school tuition. Household expenses are things that people feel that they must pay for to maintain their standard of living, for themselves and their family. You may not have to pay for natural gas to get heat and hot water, but you most likely do, and this is a household expense. The same goes for food and other necessities. Continue reading...

What Websites and Apps Can Help Me With Personal Budgeting?

There is a thriving industry committed to helping people plan and maintain a personal budget through online tools and apps. Perhaps the most-used personal budgeting tool as of this writing is Mint, which allows a user to link their bank accounts into the budgeting software, and then sends the information right into a tax filing after the new year. A list such as this is almost definitely going to be outdated by the time you read it; your favorite search engine or app store may turn up more relevant results than this. Continue reading...

What is Cash Budget?

Budgeting is the act of planning accounts for the future. A cash budget plans out the expected cash flow of a business. Sales and production estimations are used along with historical cash flow data to project where money will come from and where it will be spent in the months ahead. A cash budget tends to be laid out on a monthly basis. Accounting is the documentation of the outlay of all expenses and income from the past, while budgeting is act of building an outlay for the future. A cash budget tries to ensure that there is more cash coming in than going out; any excess cash can be rolled forward into the budget plans for the following months, and this is called a cash roll. Continue reading...

What is Lifetime Cost?

Lifetime cost is the total amount of money that a good will cost a consumer over the entire course of ownership. This included related, add-on costs such as maintenance, fuel, insurance and so on. These costs can dwarf the actual purchase price of the item. Lifetime cost is also known as total cost of ownership (TCO), and it is a budgetary way to look at the expenses that go along with the purchase of an item. Continue reading...

What is Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses?

IRS Link to Publication — Found Here Publication 503 covers tax deductions and filing guides for individuals who pay for childcare. It does not address the employer side of things, for those who provide childcare as a fringe benefit, which is covered in IRS 15-b. Tax deductions are available for parents who have to pay for child-care so that they can work at a job and earn income. Publication 503 describes the circumstances under which this type of deduction is allowed and the filing requirements for it. Continue reading...

What is the Income of the Average American?

This is a simple question, but one that varies almost exclusively based on geographical location (cost of living). According to the US Census Bureau, in 2008, the Median Household Income for the state of Mississippi was $37,818, while the figure for Maryland was $70,482. In California, the average was at $61,017, and in Arkansas it was $38,820. Since the cost of living is drastically different in various states, counties, and even cities, the figure changes drastically. In San Francisco, California, for example, the median income for 2008 was $71,957, while in Billings, Montana, the figure was $35,147 (less than half as much). 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 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 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 Withdrawal Rules for My Keogh Plan?

Withdrawal rules for Keoghs will be essentially the same as rules for IRAs and 401(k)s. Once you are age 59½, you may begin to make penalty-free withdrawals and only pay income taxes on the amount you withdraw, similar to a traditional IRA. If you decide to withdraw money before age 59½, you may have to pay a 10% penalty fee in addition to income taxes on the amount of your withdrawal. Of course, there are exceptions. One exception for most qualified plans is for employees who separate from service at or after age 55: this is the early retirement exception, and the 10% penalty will not apply. Keoghs will technically use the early withdrawal rules for 401(k)s and not IRAs, which differ slightly. Continue reading...

What are the Withdrawal Rules for My Money Purchase or Profit Sharing Plan?

The standard withdrawal rules for 401(k) accounts apply to these plans. Once you are age 59½, you may begin to make penalty-free withdrawals and only pay income taxes on the amount you withdraw. If you decide to take out money before age 59½, you will have to pay a 10% penalty fee in addition to income taxes on the amount of your withdrawal. Of course, there are exceptions that would allow you to avoid this early withdrawal fee. Continue reading...

What are the Withdrawal Rules From My Self-Employed 401(k)?

Individual 401(k)s will have the same withdrawal rules as regular 401(k)s. The withdrawal rules for a Self-Employed 401(k) are identical to the rules for a traditional 401(k). If you want to avoid a 10% early withdrawal penalty, you’ll need to keep the money in your account until you reach age 59½, but if you separate from service after 55 you may be able to make withdrawals penalty-free. If you really need the money early, certain exceptions for disability, medical expenses, 72(t) annuitized distributions, and plan loans can allow you to sidestep the penalty. Withdrawals for any other reason, including hardships, are still subject to the penalty. Continue reading...

When Do I Have to Withdraw Money from My Roth IRA?

Roth IRAs are not subject to RMDs, which means you aren’t forced to make withdrawals. In most retirement accounts, Required Minimum Distributions will be mandatory once the account holder turns 70 ½ years old. This does not apply to Roth IRAs. They are basically the only tax-advantaged retirement account that does not have to take RMDs. This is partially because the IRS wants to make sure they get some of the taxes out of the money that was invested on a pretax basis. Continue reading...

When Do I Have to Start Taking Money Out of My IRA?

The IRS requires IRA owners to take distributions starting at age 70 ½. By April 1st of the year following the year you turn 70 ½, the IRS needs to see a distribution from your IRA that satisfies the Required Minimum Distribution rule. The RMD is calculated using a table published by the IRS, and each age is assigned a different “factor.” The factor is a number, and you divide the balance of your IRA or 401(k) by that number to reveal the amount that will satisfy your RMD obligation. The factor decreases incrementally as the ages increase. Continue reading...

When Can I Access Money in My Roth IRA?

Roth IRAs have some interesting provisions that make them a little more liquid than other retirement accounts. Roth IRAs contain after-tax contributions that actually remain accessible to you at any time, without tax or penalty. The stipulations on withdrawals are only concerned with earnings in the account, not the principal amount. In order to withdraw earnings without paying a 10% penalty and income taxes, you must be at least 59½ and five years must have passed since you first began contributing. Continue reading...

What are the Withdrawal Rules for My SEP IRA?

SEP IRAs are subject to the same withdrawal rules as Traditional IRAs. SEP IRA contributions and earnings may be withdrawn at any time, but there are penalties that may apply, using the same rules as those applied to Traditional IRA withdrawals. If you are under the age of 59½, you must pay a 10% penalty fee in addition to income taxes on your withdrawal. Of course, there are certain exceptions to the penalties: first time home-buyers expenses up to $10,000, medical bills, educational expenses, and a few others. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Budget?

A budget is a plan for expenses that seeks to keep them within the limitations of revenue inflows so that a business or organization does not operate at a deficit. The Federal Budget is much larger and more complicated that most budgets, but it works similarly. Because the use of funds is such an important issue on such a large scale, there are several steps needed to create and enact a budget. A Federal Budget is created every year. It originates with a proposed budget from the President. The two houses of Congress go through significant deliberation in committees and on the floor, working on the Appropriations Bills. They then reconcile their budgets between the two houses and send it to the President for approval. Continue reading...

What does the term "Financial Literacy" mean?

Unlock the Power of Financial Literacy! 🚀 Learn why it's crucial in today's ever-changing financial landscape. Discover key aspects, benefits, and strategies for improving your financial know-how. Start your journey to financial empowerment now! 💰 #FinancialLiteracy #Finance Continue reading...

Is the 50/30/20 Budget Rule the Key to Financial Success?

The 50/30/20 budget rule, championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, has gained popularity as a straightforward and effective approach to managing personal finances. This rule offers a clear blueprint for budgeting, helping individuals allocate their after-tax income into three distinct categories: needs, wants, and savings. But does this budgeting strategy hold the key to financial success? Let's explore the 50/30/20 rule in detail and its potential benefits. Continue reading...

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