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IntroductionMarket AbbreviationsStock Market StatisticsThinking about Your Financial FutureSearch for AdvisorsFinancial CalculatorsFinancial MediaFederal Agencies and Programs
Investment PortfoliosModern Portfolio TheoriesInvestment StrategyPractical Portfolio Management InfoDiversificationRatingsActivities AbroadTrading Markets
Investment Terminology and InstrumentsBasicsInvestment TerminologyTrading 1 on 1BondsMutual FundsExchange Traded Funds (ETF)StocksAnnuities
Technical Analysis and TradingAnalysis BasicsTechnical IndicatorsTrading ModelsPatternsTrading OptionsTrading ForexTrading CommoditiesSpeculative Investments
Cryptocurrencies and BlockchainBlockchainBitcoinEthereumLitecoinRippleTaxes and Regulation
RetirementSocial Security BenefitsLong-Term Care InsuranceGeneral Retirement InfoHealth InsuranceMedicare and MedicaidLife InsuranceWills and Trusts
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
Personal FinancePersonal BankingPersonal DebtHome RelatedTax FormsSmall BusinessIncomeInvestmentsIRS Rules and PublicationsPersonal LifeMortgage
Corporate BasicsBasicsCorporate StructureCorporate FundamentalsCorporate DebtRisksEconomicsCorporate AccountingDividendsEarnings

What are some examples of Investment Instruments I can use?

There is a wide variety of investments available for every kind of investor: Stocks, bonds, Mutual Funds, ETFs, Annuities, real estate, private equity, hedge funds, and so on. The vehicles for these investments also vary widely – you can buy stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs, for instance, in a brokerage account at a major custodian, or an IRA or 401(k) offered through a retirement plan. Annuities and other insurance products are often sold directly from the insurance companies, and often times banks offer vehicles and accounts you can use to invest. Continue reading...

What are currency futures?

What are currency futures?

Currency futures are derivative contracts that trade on regulated exchanges around the world. Like forward contracts, they name a specific amount of one currency which is to be exchanged for a specific amount of another currency at a future date. Futures name a specific amount of one currency which will be exchanged for a specific amount of another currency at a future date. Like other derivative contracts that trade on exchanges (e.g., options), futures are transferable and are traded as the market calls for up until their expiration. Investors can short them (sell to open) and hold them long (buy to open), and can close their positions as they see fit without riding out the contract to the expiration date. Continue reading...

What is an Accelerated Return Note (ARN)?

What is an Accelerated Return Note (ARN)?

An accelerated return note (ARN) is an unsecured debt instrument that uses derivatives to offer leveraged returns and minimal loss exposure to retail investors. Accelerated Return Notes came onto the scene around 2010-2012. They are a form of structured note marketed primarily by Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. They were packaged as offering “accelerated” returns on familiar indexes and stocks. The way such returns are generated is by taking up 2x or 3x positions in calls and futures on the index or stock of choice. Continue reading...

What is a "spread"?

What is a "spread"?

Spread has several meanings in finance, but the most general usage is to describe the difference between the bid and the ask prices for a security, where a narrower spread would indicate high trading volume and liquidity. It also might refer to a type of options strategy in which an investor purchases two calls or two puts on the same underlying security but with different expiration dates or strike prices. Continue reading...

What is a Money Market?

Money markets are very short duration debt securities, essentially the equivalent of cash traded between banks and offered to investors at a very nominal interest rate. Money market securities are essentially IOUs issued by governments, financial institutions and large corporations, and they’re traded between each other in very high denominations. Retail investors can gain access to money markets via money market funds, which generally pay very low interest rates. Continue reading...

What is Dividend Recapitalization?

Leveraged Recapitalizations involve issuing new corporate bonds to finance a share buyback or large dividend, essentially rebalancing the capital structure of the business. Dividend recapitalizations will cause the share price to reduce, largely because the company’s debt-to-equity ratio has changed. This can be used to make the company look unattractive to potential acquirers. Recapitalizations are restructuring of a company’s capital. Dividend recapitalizations are sometimes called dividend recaps. Continue reading...

What is a REPO?

What is a REPO?

REPO is shorthand for Repurchase Agreement. It is a money-market practice where two entities agree to buy/sell government securities overnight and reverse the transaction the next day for the sake of providing the selling entity with short-term cash. Repurchase Agreements provide the selling party with short term liquidity, and are considered a money-market instrument. A third party usually acts as a clearing agent. Continue reading...

What is index investing?

What is index investing?

The main idea behind index investing is that markets are efficient, and, especially with the low fees of indexed funds, it can be a winning strategy. Index investing is a simple strategy of choosing the indices which reflect your investment beliefs and offer diversification, buying mutual funds or ETFs that track these indices, and holding them for a long period of time. The last 10 years have seen the propagation of index funds for any specific market, industry, country, commodity, etc. Continue reading...

Should I invest in commodities?

Should I invest in commodities?

Investing in commodities has lately become accessible to even small retail investors via ETFs. There are now literally hundreds of different commodity ETFs, linked to various individual commodities and baskets (such as agricultural baskets, commodity indices, etc.) These instruments are very complex and sometimes do not reflect the behavior of the underlying commodity. While investing in commodities may significantly diversify your portfolio, it requires profound knowledge of the behavior of the underlying assets. Continue reading...

What is alpha in investing?

What is alpha in investing?

Alpha is a risk ratio which measures gains or losses relative to a benchmark, indicating whether an investor is being compensated with a return greater than the volatility risk being taken. Alpha’s counterpart, the Beta figure, measures how closely an investment follows movements in the market as a whole or, when examining mutual funds, how similarly the funds move to their relevant indexes. Alpha is expressed as integers, which can be translated into percentage points above or below a benchmark for a time period. Investors are interested in higher Alpha figures: the larger the positive Alpha, the more the fund in question has outperformed its benchmark. An Alpha of 2 indicates a performance 2% greater than its benchmark; inversely, a -2 Alpha would denote 2% underperformance. Continue reading...

Who is the best custodian for my investments?

Who is the best custodian for my investments?

Custodians are the institutions which hold your securities for you and provide some related services. Some will have various arrangements and relationships with exchanges and broker-dealers, and some may do everything in-house; such things have bearing on what your investment options are, how much equity you must have for margin, what kind of fees you pay for various services, and so on. Different custodians tend to structure their fees and services to a particular type of clientele or a particular account size. You may outgrow the custodian you have, or you may discover that there is a better, more affordable option for an account like yours. Continue reading...

How do I Invest in commodities?

How do I Invest in commodities?

Commodities can be acquired through brokerage services that can access the commodities markets, or you can buy the stocks of companies that bring commodities to market. Investors can also gain exposure to commodities through mutual funds and ETFs that focus on them. There are a few ways to invest in commodities. One simple way is to purchase the stock of companies that produce commodities. You can also invest through futures contracts, which are agreements to buy a certain amount of a commodity at a certain price at some point in the future; this is the primary way that commodities are traded. They can also trade at spot, which means at the current price, or through the use of other derivative instruments, such as options on futures contracts. Continue reading...

What is Momentum Investing?

Momentum investors usually have their own models for determining whether they think a price trend (to the upside or downside) is set to continue - sometimes it’s looking at a 3 month trend, sometimes a few weeks, sometimes even longer. The idea is that once a trend is established, an investor can buy into its continuance (if its an upward trend), or sell into (or sell short) if it is an established downward trend. Momentum investing is by no means a proven method, but sophisticated investors will try to use models to increase their probabilities of success. Continue reading...

What is an Investment Center?

An investment center is an almost autonomous division of a company whose purpose is to generate returns on invested money. Cost center and profit center are terms used for various kinds of business divisions when observed from a solely financial, instead of operational, standpoint. These categories help a business to identify and group its similar assets for evaluation. A cost center can be turned into a profit center if it manages to reduce costs enough to generate a profit. Continue reading...

Why Should I be Extremely Careful with Commodities ETFs?

There are some things to keep in mind when investing in commodities and their ETFs. Most commodities trading revolves around who owns a hard asset and when. ETFs occupy a space in the commodities world that is somewhat unique. An ETF such as the Crude Oil Index does not physically buy millions of barrels of oil and store them. It buys financial instruments which theoretically should reflect the price of oil. Continue reading...

What is beta in investing?

What is beta in investing?

Beta is a volatility indicator that denotes how closely an investment follows movements in the market as a whole; when examining mutual funds, it indicates how similarly the funds move to their relevant indexes. It is often referenced with its counterpart, Alpha; a risk ratio which measures gains or losses relative to a benchmark, indicating whether an investor is being compensated with a return greater than the volatility risk being taken. Continue reading...

What is passive investing?

What is passive investing?

Passive investing relies on market indices and unmanaged approaches to investing, with the idea being that attempting to beat the market is futile, especially if such attempts involve fees and speculation. Passive investing favors buy-and-hold strategies using no-load, low-fee index funds and other securities meant to be held long-term, in a portfolio allocation suiting the investor that will usually be rebalanced over time to prevent overweighting anything. Continue reading...

What is an Investment Bank?

An investment bank is a financial institution that typically specializes in large, complex transactions, such as underwriting an Initial Public Offering (IPO), mergers and acquisitions, direct investment into start-up firms, or advising large institutional clients on investments/transactions. In short, investment banks help create the bridge between large enterprises and the investor. In that sense, IPOs are one way to accomplish this, but they also help businesses secure financing in other ways, such as through bond issues or derivative products. Continue reading...

What is Investment Analysis?

What is Investment Analysis?

Investment analysis is the practice of evaluating assets or securities in terms of value, risk and return, as well as correlation with other assets. It is to determine their possible place within various strategies and portfolios. Some analysis will be done seeking the best option for specific asset classes, some analysis will focus on the best overall portfolio for a given situation. Analysis is done using quantitative metrics and indicators, some of which can be considered fundamental analysis tools and some of which are technical analysis tools. Continue reading...

What is Investment Banking?

Investment banking activity is different than traditional banking. Investment banks often serve as intermediaries that underwrite a new issue of stock and help to distribute it. They also trade in their own accounts, run hedge funds, and generally invest and speculate in ways that most institutions can’t. Investment banks can assist with new issues of stocks and bonds, purchasing large blocks of them to distribute at a premium. Continue reading...