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Corporate BasicsBasicsCorporate StructureCorporate FundamentalsCorporate DebtRisksEconomicsCorporate AccountingDividendsEarnings

What is Risk?

Risk can be defined as exposure to the possibility of loss of an asset. Risk might be used to denote the cause of the potential loss, or the probability of the loss. In finance, it is common to hear about the correlation between risk and return; more risk may yield a higher return, but it also has the potential for more loss. The situation requires that an investor willing to take such a risk must provide the capital to fund the investment which may grow or may fail. Continue reading...

How Do I Invest Money in My Cash-Balance Plan?

Employees do not have control of their own accounts in a Cash Balance plan, but they can possibly influence how much is contributed each year. Contributions to a Cash Balance plan should not be adjusted more than once every few years, but they can be adjusted. In small partnerships without many, or any, employees, there is likely to be more flexibility, or willingness for the owners of the business to jump through the hoops required to have the plan re-worked. Such changes could require a new plan document. Continue reading...

What is the VIX?

VIX is the ticker of the volatility index of the S&P 500. The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index projects the volatility of the S&P 500 going forward by creating a composite of the volatility priced-in (implied) on various S&P 500 options. Since it is created using the prices of options, it serves as a gauge of market sentiment, and is often called the "fear gauge" since it will spike when the market plunges. Continue reading...

What is currency risk?

Countries, investors, and international businesses have to frequently assess currency risk, which is the chance that exchange rates will change unfavorably at inopportune times. An investment in a foreign security or company, or income payments coming from foreign sources, can be at risk for exchange rate changes. If an investor or company has financial interests which are based in another currency, or if the investor engages in Forex trading, currency risk looms over the future value of the holdings, on top of any typical market risk. Continue reading...

What is Unsystematic Risk?

Unsystematic risk is idiosyncratic or unique risk that does not reflect a direct correlation with the risk present in the market, or systematic risk. Most securities and portfolios experience risk and variations which are not attributable to the market as a whole, and this is known as unsystematic risk. Systematic risk, on the other hand, is the risk borne by all investors in the market, where broad changes in the market cannot be avoided through diversification of a portfolio. Continue reading...

Who Offers Defined Benefit Plans?

Any employer can offer a Defined Benefit plan, but not many do anymore. Before the introduction of Defined Contribution Plans, most large corporations such as General Electric, General Motors, etc. offered only Defined Benefit Plans. Over the years, it has put a huge burden on these corporations to guarantee the performance of these plans. If the plan has not performed according to the assumptions, the company would have to contribute the difference, which would have to come from their profits. In order to shift the burden to the employees, most companies now offer Defined Contribution Plans (such as 401(k)s, etc.) instead of Defined Benefit Plans. Continue reading...

What is market risk?

Market risk is the chance that an investment will not maintain its value when it is dependent on the many factors that influence the health of the economy and the stock market. Investors must be aware that investing money in a stock or mutual fund is to tie the fate of that money to the fate of the company or companies that they have invested in. The other side of the coin, of course, is the potential for gains. The potential gains of an investment are the premium that is paid to an investor in exchange for allowing a company or mutual fund to take risks with the investor’s money. Continue reading...

What is Systematic Risk?

Systematic risk is the broad risk of fluctuations and downturns in the market as a whole, which it is said cannot be eliminated through diversification. Systematic risk is also known as market risk, which is the exposure of all investors to the broad movements and downturns of the market as a whole. Theoretically it cannot be controlled for through simple diversification, since that would only bring a portfolio closer to the broad market performance, with a Beta closer to 1. Continue reading...

What is the Equity Risk Premium?

The Equity Risk Premium (aka, Equity Premium) is the expected return of the stock market over the risk-free rate (U.S. Treasuries). This number basically refers to the amount an investor should expect in exchange for accepting the risk inherent in the stock market. The size of the equity risk premium varies depending on the amount of risk of a portfolio, the market, or a specific holding investment, against the risk-free rate. Continue reading...

What is Counter-Party Risk?

Counter-party risk is the risk that the person on the other side of the trade will not meet his or her contractual obligations. In other words, it’s essentially the risk of doing business with someone. In financial contracts, counter-party risk is also known as “default risk.” Continue reading...

What are the Risks Associated With Stocks?

Stocks are inherently risky, and an investor has risk of capital loss. As with most things in life, no risk yields no return. Theoretically, the greater the risk, the greater the potential return. A new company which has not established itself yet will have a decent chance of crashing and an investor can lose all invested capital. But — what if it takes off? Your potential gains in such a situation are potentially vast. There is a point when the rate of increased return per degree of risk begins to slow down. Continue reading...

What Does Market Risk Premium mean?

Market Risk Premium refers to the expected return on a risk asset, minus the risk-free rate. A good barometer for the risk-free rate is using a U.S. Treasury bond, which is largely considered a risk-less asset if held to maturity. To give an example, let’s say the annual expected return on Stock ABC is 11%, and a 1-year U.S. Treasury pays 2%. In this case, the market risk premium is the difference between the two, or 9%. Continue reading...

What are Risk-Weighted Assets?

International banking regulations set forth in the Basel Accords require that institutions maintain a certain amount of capital relative to the amount of risk-weighted assets (RWA) they have. Conservative investments such a treasury notes have a risk weighting of zero, while corporate bonds have a weighting of .20, and so forth. The exact weighting system is laid out in Basel agreements. The system is designed to reveal a bank’s level of exposure to potential losses, and the capital requirements are there to balance out the risks and to protect the global economy from a meltdown in the financial system. Continue reading...

What is the ‘Risk-Free Rate of Return’?

The risk-free rate of return is the rate an investor can get on a risk-free asset at a given time. It is usually the current yield on a 10-year treasury, which is backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government and is considered risk-free. The risk-free rate is used in several calculations and considerations in finance, to show what return can be earned in the current market environment without being exposed to any risk. Continue reading...

How Do I Measure My Risk Tolerance?

Your risk tolerance should be a measure of how willing you are to absorb losses in your portfolio. Studies in behavioral science show that investors loathe losses about two and a half times more then they enjoy gains. Everyone can likely relate to this stat. But, to be a successful investor that achieves long-term equity like returns, one has accept some level of risk inherent in the stock market. Continue reading...

What is the Risk/Return Trade-Off

There are investments which have the potential for very high returns, but they will always be that much riskier than the lower-yielding alternatives, and this is part of the risk/return trade-off. The relationship between risk and return is a positive linear relationship in most theoretical depictions, and if an investor seeks greater returns, he or she will have to take on greater risk. This is called the risk/return trade-off. For more stability and less risk, an investor will have to sacrifice some potential returns. Continue reading...

What is the “Riskless” (or Risk-Free) Rate of Return?

For comparisons of the risk/return ratio of an investment, one must start with a benchmark of a risk-free rate of return in the current market. Since U.S. Treasury bills are backed by the full faith, credit, and taxing power of the U.S. Government, they are considered “riskless,” or as close to riskless as we can get. The current yield on a 10-year Treasury note is generally considered the risk-free rate of return. Continue reading...

What does it mean to Accept Risk?

The notion of who bears risk for various sorts of failures, circumstances, or losses is a prevalent one in the financial world, and many institutions make all of their money accepting risks. To accept a risk is to bear the burden of loss or replacement if an event occurs that causes an asset to lose value or disappear. There is a bright side to this, however. There is a real and theoretical “risk premium” due to those who accept a risk. Continue reading...

What is a Bond Ladder?

A bond ladder is a portfolio of bonds that have different maturities, that may range from months to years in difference. A bond ladder is designed to reduce interest rate risk and create predictable income streams. An investor will build a bond ladder often in an effort to reduce interest rate risk and also to create predictable income streams, where coupon payments happen at different times and principal is also returned in various intervals. Continue reading...

What is Duration?

Duration refers to the amount of time before a fixed income product will return the investment (principal and interest) to the investor. The bigger the duration number, the greater the interest-rate risk or reward for bond prices. For example, an investor should generally expect to receive better interest from a 30-year duration bond versus a 10-year, since the investor has to hold the note for longer to receive all interest payments and principal. Continue reading...