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What is an Unrealized Gain?

Gains and losses are only "real" when shares are sold or withdrawals are made, but up until that point the gains were more of a notional amount, and are said to be "unrealized." A more salient way to understand unrealized gains is to look at the opposite: unrealized losses. If a person makes an investment of $1,000 and the value of the shares drops sharply the next week, has the person lost any money? The answer of course is no, not unless he sells the shares and takes the lower market price for them. Continue reading...

What is a ratio call spread?

Ratio call spreads are options strategies where the investor combines purchased calls and short calls at the same expiration but with different strike prices. A Ratio Call Spread starts off as a delta-neutral strategy, which means that even if you have two long calls and one short call, the sensitivity of your overall position to move in the underlying is equal whether it moves up or down by small amounts. Continue reading...

What does Capital Gain Mean?

A Capital Gain refers to the profits or gains made from selling a security at a higher price than the original purchase price. In stock trading, if an investor sells a stock for more than they bought it for (or the price inherited), the profit realized is a capital gain. The same applies to gains made in real estate. To note, assets held within tax-deferred accounts, like IRAs and 401(k)s, do not trigger capital gains when sold for profits. It only applies to taxable assets, like stocks held in a brokerage account. The capital gains tax is the tax paid on net capital gains in a given year. Continue reading...

What is a Limit Order?

A Limit Order is a type of order to buy or sell a security, where the trader wants to set a specific price for the trade, or any price that’s better than the price set. From a buy and sell standpoint, a buy limit order would be designed to have the trade executed at the designated price, or any price lower than that. A sell order is just the opposite, where the trader hopes to execute the trade at a minimum set price. Limit orders typically have a period of time before they are canceled, if the designated price is not reached by a certain period. Continue reading...

What are the IRA Contribution Limits?

The IRS adjusts the contribution limits year to year to accommodate cost-of-living adjustments. There are limits to how much money you can deposit annually into your IRA, and these limits are adjusted for cost-of-living by the IRS. These limits change at least every few years, so you will want to check the current IRS tables on their website. There are full deduction limits, and there are also limitations that may make some or all of these contributions non-deductible. Continue reading...

What is a Stop Limit Order?

A Stop-Limit Order basically automates the preferences of an investor or trader, to reduce exposure to price uncertainty even after a trade ticket is entered, by stipulating a price at which the search for a bid/ask price is to begin, but limiting the range of prices at which an order can actually be entered or executed. A Stop-Limit Order has two parts: the Stop Price and the Limit Price. The stop price is like an amendment or contract rider on a security that is held which stipulates that if the price of the security crosses the Stop price, the search for an agreeable price begins. Continue reading...

What are the 401(k) Contribution Limits?

The contribution limits of 401(k)s are generally increased year-to-year and published by the IRS. As of 2016, an individual can contribute up to $18,000, or 100% of compensation, into their 401(k) account on a pre-tax basis. This is the employee’s contribution only, and does not include employer contributions. There is a $35,000 window that can hold employer contributions, which may contain matching contributions as well as a profit-sharing component for a total of $53,000 in employee/employer contributions per year. Continue reading...

What is Form 6781: Gains and Losses from Section 1256 Contracts and Straddles?

IRS Link to Form — Found Here Form 6781 is used to calculate and report gains and losses due from Section 1256 contracts, which covers futures on commodities and indexes, as well as their derivatives, and from straddles, which are options strategies defined under Section 1092. 6781 is used to report positions in futures and options at the end of the year even if no gains or losses were realized through trades. The value of the positions will be marked-to-market at the end of the year, and these will serve to compute the gains and losses for these purposes. Continue reading...

How to use a Gann Fan in trading

W.D. Gann developed a suite of technical analysis tools around the 1930s, with Gann Fans being among the most essential in his toolkit. Gann fans are a collection of lines placed on a price chart that, in theory, help traders gauge potential price changes. Gann theorized that prices were likely to be sequentially bound by markers; that is, if a price broke through one marker, it would be likely to use the next ones as its new support or resistance level. The range between the lines gets wider the further they extend from the origin, which makes Gann fans suitable for long-term charting in which the number of traders and the size of total market cap grows over time. Continue reading...

What are the contribution limits for my Roth 401(k)?

Roth 401(k) contributions have the same limits as regular 401(k) contributions. The contribution limits for your Roth 401(k) are the same as the contribution limits for a traditional 401(k), which, in 2016, is $18,000, but these limits are adjusted upwards to account for inflation. If you’re over 50, you can add a catch-up contribution of $6,000 on top of the $18,000 for a total contribution of $24,000. Continue reading...

What is IRS Publication 544 on Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets?

IRS Link to Publication — Found Here This guide is a reference for the tax implications of sales, transfers, barters, exchanges, forfeits, repossession, condemnation and abandonment of property. Where gains or losses are manifested, the guide helps to differentiate between capital gains and ordinary gains, as well as how to figure and report the gains or losses. Often when people sell or dispose of property in various manners there is a question of what the tax implications are, how much of the transaction is taxable, and whether any amount of it can be applied toward tax deductions. This guide, Publication 544, will outline all of the necessary filing forms and reporting practices for almost any kind of sale or disposition of property. Continue reading...

What is a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

A limited liability company (LLC) establishes a separate entity from the sole proprietor or partners in a business which shields them from some of the liability associated with the business. An LLC is a business entity that creates a distinction between the business’s assets and liabilities and the assets and liabilities of the owner or partners. Sole proprietors and partnerships who do not file for this distinction leave themselves and all of their personal assets at risk, in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy. Continue reading...

What is Capital Appreciation?

Capital appreciation is an increase in the value of an owned stock. Capital Appreciation occurs when the market price of a stock you own increases. For more information on stock prices, see "Why Does the Price of a Stock Change?" Until you decide to sell the shares, you have what is called Unrealized Gains on Capital Appreciation. Something to be wary of: having unrealized gains can be summed up with the old English proverb, "don't count your chickens before they hatch." Continue reading...

What Does Capital Loss Mean?

Capital Loss refers to a loss realized when a security is sold for less than it was purchased for. In stock trading, if an investor purchases stock ABC for $30 / share, and then sells the stock a few months later for $22 / share, they have realized an $8 / share capital loss. At the end of every year, as per U.S. tax policy, capital losses can be used to offset capital gains, so as to help an investor reduce their tax burden. A common year-end strategic approach is to “harvest” capital losses in an effort to offset any capital gains made from trading that year. Continue reading...

Why Do You Want to Own the Shares of a Publicly Traded Corporation?

The idea is that a shareholder’s interest in a growing publicly traded company will become more valuable over time. The simplest answer is: to make money! Owning shares of a company’s stock is known as taking a long position, and this is done in the belief that the company is going to increase its earnings and profit margin into the future, or will at least remain steady. There are three ways to make money on stocks: Continue reading...

What is Dividend Arbitrage?

Arbitrage opportunities can be found in a few different places in the market, when risk-free profit can be made. If a stock is purchased before the ex-dividend date, and a put is exercised when the share price falls after the dividend is distributed, it is known as dividend arbitrage. Arbitrage is when an investor finds a situation where one thing can be exchanged for another, such as the same thing on two different exchanges or similar fixed instruments which can be swapped, when no risk is taken and a profit is gained. Continue reading...

What is an ETF? Definition

ETFs are very popular and useful investment vehicles that offer affordable diversification and professional portfolio management. An ETF is a basket of securities that is designed to ‘mimic’ the performance of an index, sector, or category of securities. For example, the ETF with ticker SPY is designed to track the performance of the S&P 500, and the company that creates the ETF (in this case Barclays iShares) builds the ETF simply by purchasing the 500 stocks in the S&P 500. Investors can purchase shares of the ETF as a means of gaining instant access to all 500 stocks in the S&P 500, thus tracking its performance. Continue reading...

What are the Tax Implications for Making a Profit (or Loss) On a Stock?

Gains on stock investments will be taxable in the current year unless they can be offset with losses. Stocks that appreciate in value do not incur any tax liability while they are held, unless they pay dividends. Dividends will generally be taxable as ordinary income. For this article we will focus on capital appreciation instead of dividends. Capital appreciation can be considered long-term gains or short-term gains by the IRS upon the sale of the shares. A stock held for less than a year will incur short-term capital gains taxes, which are taxed at ordinary income rates. Continue reading...

How Do Deductible and Non-Deductible IRAs Differ?

It is possible to make non-deductible contributions to an IRA, even if you have a qualified plan at work. Traditional IRAs are a good place to stash retirement money because of the tax treatment. Some people will choose to make contributions even when they are not deductible, which gives us two kinds of Traditional IRAs: deductible and non-deductible. Deductible IRAs provide a way to lower your taxes because you can deduct contributions to your IRA from your income. Nondeductible IRAs do not allow you to deduct your contributions, but they still retain their tax-deferred growth. Unlike a Roth, these after-tax contributions will be taxed upon withdrawal as income. Continue reading...

What is a Variable Annuity?

Variable annuities generally provide investors with downside protection for a fee (the insurance guarantee), while also providing market exposure that may give the investor upside potential. A variable annuity is characterized by offering market exposure, and the risk and upside potential that comes with it, in the form of “separate accounts” which are institutional-level mirrors of retail mutual funds. Typically a variable annuity will not deplete the amount of your initial investment with sales charges, and may even credit your annuity with an initial bonus amount of several percent. Continue reading...