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What is a foreign transaction fee?

Credit card companies and banks generally charge an additional percentage for all purchases made with a card in a foreign country. If you’re traveling abroad, you may want to find another way to pay. Most credit card companies and bank debit cards will charge an additional percentage on transactions made abroad, to help them pay the cost of clearing the transaction with international institutions. This is sometimes called a currency conversion fee. Continue reading...

What are Bank Fees?

Bank fees are penalties or maintenance requirements that may apply to checking, savings, or money market accounts. Banks may charge fees for specific types of transactions, if a check bounces, or just a monthly checking account fee. There are many other types of fees and reasons for them. They may be penalties, such as an overdraft fee, or they may be customary for the kind of transaction or account being used. Continue reading...

What is active management?

Active management is the practice of attempting to outperform the market with selection and timing. Active management is a thoughtful and time-consuming approach to investing and is the opposite of Passive management. Active managers seek to outperform the benchmarks for their portfolio by researching and selecting stocks and other assets based on strategies and analysis methods thought to be superior. Continue reading...

What is the Suitability Standard?

The suitability standard states that a broker-dealer is obliged to, in the very least, make investment recommendations that are suitable for their clients. The SEC defines a broker as someone who acts as an agent for someone else, and a dealer as someone who acts as a principal for their own account. The suitability standard only details that the broker-dealer has to reasonably believe that any recommendations made are suitable for clients (in terms of the client’s financial needs, objectives and unique circumstances) instead of having to place his/her interests below that of the client. An example would be a broker recommending a proprietary bond fund for a client looking for a fixed income solution. Continue reading...

What are No-Load Mutual Funds?

Mutual funds that do not charge a front-end or back-end sales load are known as no-load funds. What are Load Mutual Funds? While no-load mutual funds do not require the investor to pay sales charges (i.e., commissions) when buying or selling that fund, it’s important to remember that nothing is free, especially in the world of financial services. The portfolio manager of the fund and his team of analysts still have their salaries, bonuses, retirement benefits, and so on, and fees are needed to pay for it. Continue reading...

Should I pay for financial planning services?

Any professional that you work with for financial planning is going to be compensated for the work they do, but there are different ways they earn their pay. Whether it’s worth it to you is another question. If you have enough knowledge and time on your hands, and your investment portfolio is not very complicated, you may be able to manage it on your own. This can save you some money on financial advisor fees. Continue reading...

What is Turnover Ratio?

Turnover ratio is a term that can be used in reference to the rate at which a company goes through its physical inventory, or that a mutual fund sells and replaces its investment holdings. In the context of a company’s inventory of goods, a high turnover ratio is a positive sign. It means that a company is selling plenty of its products and is not wasting money on more warehousing space than it needs. This kind of turnover ratio is calculated as the cost of goods sold in a period divided by the average inventory during that time. In the context of mutual funds and ETFs, turnover ratio is a negative thing if it is high. Continue reading...

Is there a Benefit to Self-Managing?

An investor may be able to save money in management fees self-managing, but there are also limitations and risks. Perhaps the biggest risk is the role that emotion can play in investing. Even the most skilled professionals are tempted by emotions in the market - big declines like the financial crisis can make one second-guess whether the market has hope of recovering, and big gains can create confidence that leads to less prudent risk-taking. Continue reading...

What are the Expenses Associated with the Purchase of ETFs?

There may be fees and commissions involved in the purchase of ETFs, and ongoing expenses that reduce earnings over time. Purchasing an ETF will probably involve paying some fees or commissions to the service or broker through which you acquired the shares, but these days those commissions are fairly minimal. These fees will be the same or less than you might pay for using their services to acquire positions in other securities. ETFs are a relatively cheap way to gain an exposure to a particular sector of the market or to take a position that might otherwise be difficult and expensive to research, calculate, and engineer. Continue reading...

What is an Expense Ratio?

Generally associated with mutual funds and exchange traded funds, the expense ratio represents the total annual management fee. The expense ratio is the annual management fee charged to shareholders by ETFs and mutual funds. The annual fee typically comprises the annual management fee, 12b-1 fees (which are associated with research costs), operating costs, and all other administrative type fees that go into the product. The expense ratio encompasses all of these fees as one percentage. Continue reading...

What are My Keogh Plan Investment Options?

Keoghs can hold a wide range of investments, and it will mostly depend on your plan trustee. Keogh plans have the ability to include many investment options, from stocks to bonds, certificates of deposit to cash value life insurance, and so on. Keep in mind that Keogh Plan investments are usually determined by the financial institution at which your Keogh Plan is established. When opening a Keogh Plan, be sure to check what investment options the financial institution offers, and how much in fees and commissions they would charge for these investments. Standard ERISA rules apply, so all employees must be offered the same options. Continue reading...

What is a Lifeline Account?

Lifeline accounts are offered by some banks, and are required in some states to be offered by all banks — they give low-income individuals an opportunity to bank without paying fees or observing a minimum balance. This is done in an effort to promote social mobility by giving everyone access to banking services. You are likely to be able to find a bank that offers free checking accounts anyway, but some states have mandated that banks allow for so-called “lifeline accounts,” which have fewer features than other checking accounts but which may be the only banking option available for low-income banking customers. Continue reading...

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...

Who Manages ETFs?

Several large and well-known investment banks and companies are major players in the ETF industry. There are several large investment houses which specialize in managing ETFs such as Barclays, ProShares, Vanguard, and Guggenheim Partners, LLC. ETFs are also managed by investment firms such as Schwab, Credit Suisse, and Eaton Vance. Even New York Life’s Mainstay Investments recently acquired Index IQ. The ETF industry has been growing rapidly in the last 10 years, with more investors choosing to use them, more ETFs on the market, and more investment companies choosing to offer them. Continue reading...

What is an Investment Manager?

An investment manager’s job is to adhere to the guidelines set forth in a prospectus while directing the decision-making process for a pooled investment company such as a mutual fund. He must remain accountable to the shareholders and observe SEC regulations while attempting to generate the best returns possible. Investment managers direct the flow of assets and trading in an investment account, usually a pooled investment using the funds of various numbers of investors, while seeking to serve the best interests of the investors whom he serves. Continue reading...

How many investment choices should I have in my portfolio?

You can get substantial diversification through mutual funds and ETFs, but it is good to have increasing amounts of diversification the larger a portfolio is. Here are some general guidelines: If your portfolio is less than $50,000, probably 4-5 Mutual Funds will suffice. If your portfolio is from $50,000-$100,000, you might consider adding a few more exotic Mutual Funds or buying a couple of ETFs. Continue reading...

What is Account Activity?

Account activity is any credit or debit activity in a checking or savings account, or investments, withdrawals, dividends or fees in an investment account. Account activity is the transactional history that will appear in ledger statements from a checking, savings, money market, investment, or other kind of financial account. This usually refers to transactions that were originated by the account owner, such as buying and selling securities or withdrawing and depositing in bank accounts, but could also include activity such as dividends, interest, fees, and other sorts of automated activity generated by the custodial institution. Continue reading...

What is active money management?

Active management is when an investor or money manager attempts to outperform an index or benchmark, using tactical strategies. Many economists and financial professionals believe that the markets are efficient. This means that all available financial information has already been built into the prices of securities, and that you cannot outperform the market by making specific selections of stocks, timing the market, reallocating your assets regularly, following the advice of market pundits, or finding the best portfolio managers. Continue reading...

Can I Leave My 401(k) With My Former Employer?

Generally a plan will allow you to leave your assets in there indefinitely, but this is probably not ideal for you. Most custodians will be happy to hold onto your account dollars as long as you’re willing to leave them there. They don’t have to spend any time servicing your account since you can’t make contributions and probably aren’t even able to reallocate your assets, and they will continue to make money on your account with the built-in fees. You may be charged inactive account fees or small account fees as well. Continue reading...

What are Actively-Managed ETFs?

At their conception, ETFs only tracked indexes, but today there is also demand for actively-managed ETFs. ETFs tend to look a lot like passive index mutual funds, except that they can trade intra-day like stocks, while mutual funds only settle within 24 hours. In the last decade or so, there has been an increasing market for actively-managed ETFs as well. It is somewhat ironic that the popularity of actively-managed mutual funds has decreased while an abundance of actively-managed ETFs has appeared. The popularity of ETFs has grown enough for fund managers to attempt more and more things. Continue reading...