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What is an Interest Rate?

An interest rate is a simple financial principle that’s been around for centuries, whereby a borrower has to pay for money borrowed. The interest rate is agreed to between the lender and the borrower, and there may be provisions under which the rate could change over the course of  a loan. In simple terms, an interest rate is the cost of money. Continue reading...

What is Annual Percentage Yield (APY)?

APY is an annualization of an interest rate which may be assessed on a different schedule, such as on a monthly basis, and is useful for comparing debt and loan agreements that use different schedules. Annual Percentage Yield is a way to compare products and loans with different interest rates and different schedules for calculating the interest. It is a calculation of the effective annual rate, and it takes into account the effects of compounding interest, which a similar calculation for APR (Annual Percentage Rate) does not do. Continue reading...

What Does Debt Financing Mean?

Debt financing occurs when a company borrows money or secures financing through loans, with the obligation to repay the money (typically with interest). Generally, a corporation will engage in debt financing by selling bonds in the marketplace or to private investors, or with promissory notes or commercial paper. Generally the terms of the bond or the loan will have the company commit as collateral assets of the business, such as real estate, cash on hand, or fixed assets. Continue reading...

What is a Yield Curve?

A yield curve is an illustration of the current duration-to-yield relationship for bonds of the same credit rating but different durations. As a general rule, the longer the duration of the loan, the more risk you take on (since you don't know what might happen with that corporation in the future), and therefore, you demand a higher reward (i.e., higher coupon). The yield curve for any bond (not just the US Treasury Bonds) changes daily based on many economic and market factors. Continue reading...

What is Maturity?

Maturity is the amount of time an investment exists - once the security matures, it is paid off to the investor and concludes the transaction. Maturities are most commonly used in the fixed income context, with bonds having maturities consistent with when their principal is paid back to the investor. What is Yield to Maturity? How Do I Structure My Bond Portfolio? Continue reading...

What is Effective Annual Interest Rate?

Also known as the annual equivalent rate (AER), the effective annual interest rate is the actual annual interest rate on a bond or loan when it compounds more than once a year. The effects of compounding will make the AER higher than the annual interest rate if the security compounds greater than annually. Continue reading...

What is a Federal Credit Union?

Federal Credit Unions are essentially banks that are owned by their clients instead of publicly traded or what-have-you. Instead of being part of the FDIC, they have the National Credit Union Association (NCUA). They tend to be able to offer higher interest rates on savings and lower interest rates on loans than banks can, due to their mutual-ownership structure. Credit Unions operate as non-for-profit businesses, which can allow their management to use 457 retirement plans, but they are not associated with the Federal government. They do, however, charter under federal regulations, as opposed to state banks. Continue reading...

What Does Debt Mean?

Debt is money owed from one party or parties to another, plain and simple. Whether it’s money borrowed, loaned, credit, or a good sold for which payment has yet to be received, debt lives on just about every company and government’s balance sheet. Debt has a negative connotation generally, but it is not always a bad thing - in fact, having certain type of debt is good! Especially if the corporation or person borrows money at an attractive interest rate in order to invest in an asset that they expect to generate a higher return. In order to maintain a good credit standing, it is imperative that a borrower make interest payments on time and never default on debt. Continue reading...

What is a No-Cost Mortgage?

No-Cost Mortgages waive the initial closing costs by making a repayment structure for those costs into the interest payments on a mortgage loan. Closing costs can range from 2%-5% of the total cost of the home, and include attorney fees, underwriting fees, application fees, and so on. These costs are deferred and are paid in the form of additional interest on the loan. Closing costs are separate from down-payments of equity, and are a miscellaneous hodgepodge of a wide range of fees associated with closing a mortgage deal. These costs are sometimes covered by the seller, but most often they are paid by the buyer. Continue reading...

What is Collateral?

Collateral is an asset/property that a borrower commits to a lender in exchange for a loan, which will be forfeited if the borrower defaults. A loan that has collateral attached to it will generally carry a more favorable interest rate, but that is not necessarily always the case. Some examples of collateral are a house when you take out a mortgage, your car when you take out an auto loan, or the stocks in your portfolio if you take your account on margin. Continue reading...

What is Credit Debt?

Credit debt or credit card debt is a type of consumer debt that is incurred through a short-term revolving loan facility. The most common of course is a credit card company issuing a card to a client to make purchases, with the client being responsible for minimum payments plus whatever interest rate applicable. Removing credit card debt from one’s balance sheet is often an effective way of improving your financial life. Continue reading...

What is the Interest Coverage Ratio?

Also known as the debt service ratio, The interest coverage ratio is a measure of how many times a company can pay the interest owed on its debt with EBIT. To calculate it, you simply divide EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) by interest expense. A company with a low interest coverage ratio means it has fewer earnings available to make interest payments, which can imply solvency issues and could mean a company would be at risk if interest rates go up. Continue reading...

What is a Fixed Income Security?

A fixed income security is one designed to pay interest/coupon payments on a predetermined basis, or a fixed schedule. Fixed income securities are often used by late stage retirees who need safe, reliable income streams. Fixed income securities still have risk, such as interest rate risk where if interest rates rise the price of a fixed income security can fall. Examples of fixed income securities are U.S. Treasuries, municipal bonds, or CDs. Because fixed income products carry relatively low risk, it generally translates into relatively lower returns. Continue reading...

What are Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs)?

Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) are bond-like investments backed by debts such as mortgages. The mortgages or debt obligations are pooled together and divided into tranches based on the maturity date and coupon payments and sold as securities (CDOs). If interest rates change and the borrowers in the underlying pools can refinance their debts, the CDOs will experience some volatility as the obligations are paid off early, but how much volatility depends on which tranche the investment is in. Continue reading...

Whats is Commercial Paper?

Commercial Paper is an unsecured short-term loan that a highly rated corporation can issue to finance short-term obligations, like accounts receivable or inventory builds. The high quality paper is typically issued in increments of $100,000 and with a duration of no more than 270 days, which actually makes it a safe investment since the solvency/cash flow of a business is predictable over such a short stretch. Continue reading...

What are Mortgage-Backed Securities?

Mortgage-backed securities (MBS) are products that bundle mortgages together and are traded like securities for sale on the markets. Typically investment banks build these products by bundling mortgages with different interest rates and risk premiums, with the hope of the investor gaining a higher yield than can be found from traditional risk-free products, like U.S. Treasuries. Mortgage-backed securities got an infamous name during the 2008 financial crisis, as many of the packaged loans were subprime in nature. Many MBS products lost incredible value during the crisis, particularly following ruling FAS 157, which required banks to mark their value to market. Continue reading...

What should I look for in a good “Lease or Buy a Car” calculator?

Calculators are available to help you decide whether to lease or buy a car. Despite the advice of our older family members, many financial decisions will benefit from the use of math and technology, instead of just “rules of thumb,” and they will depend on the circumstances present at the time of the decision. Despite the fact that you may have purchased a vehicle or two in the past, you might benefit from using an online calculator that can help you compare whether it might be in your best interest to lease the vehicle this time or buy it. Continue reading...

How Long Will It Take Me to Pay Off Debt?

Paying off debt depends on a variety of factors, like the total amount of debt, your payment schedule, the principal amount, and interest rates. There are plenty of financial calculators you can access on the web, which would allow you to calculate your payment schedule. Your financial advisor should also have software available to run these numbers for you, or in the very least, a financial calculator to run the numbers quickly. The 'inputs' you need to complete the calculation are: the size of your debt, your planned payments, and the interest rate you’re paying. Continue reading...

What is the LIBOR?

The LIBOR is the benchmark interest rate that the world’s leading banks pay each other for short-term loans (interbank rate). It stands for ‘London Interbank Offered Rate’ and essentially serves as the benchmark that global banks use to determine the interest cost of short-term loans. The rate then becomes useful in determining - and as a reference point - for government bonds, mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and derivatives. 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...

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