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What is Chapter 9?

Chapter 9 is a form of bankruptcy filing that is reserved for municipalities which have defaulted on their debt obligations. This could include a school district or other entities which have a municipal affiliation and the ability to generate revenue from local taxes. They cannot be made to liquidate anything. In fact, it forces the lender to accept a refinancing of the debt obligation. Because municipalities fall under state jurisdiction, the federal government, which governs bankruptcy court, does not have the ability to force liquidation of a municipal entity’s assets. Instead, this provision of bankruptcy law governs refinancing arrangements to facilitate the repayment of debts owed. Continue reading...

What are Municipal Bond Funds?

Municipal bonds funds invest exclusively in tax-advantaged municipal bond issues. Municipal Bond Funds invest in issues of municipal debt, often with the intention of using its tax advantages. Bonds held in a ‘muni fund’ might be state or local issues of general obligation or revenue bonds. Gains on muni funds are not taxable at the federal level, and if a person resides in the state in which the bond was issued, they can most likely avoid state or local taxes on gains as well. Continue reading...

What is a Mortgage Subsidy Bond?

Mortgage subsidy bond is another word for a mortgage revenue bond, which are municipal bonds which are used to fund mortgage relief programs and refinancing arrangements through the state or municipal government. In 1980, the Mortgage Subsidy Bond Tax Act established some rules and definitions surrounding mortgage subsidies and their bonds, and, more specifically, removing their exemption from federal taxation. Continue reading...

What is Bond Insurance?

Bond insurance is a contract that protects the issuer and the holder of bonds from the risk that bond payments will not be made. Bond issues from the corporate or municipal world, or from derivative sources as with asset-backed securities and CDOs, come with the risk of default-- that is, that payments will not be made on time. The major credit ratings agencies (CRAs) assign a risk of default to each bond issue with proprietary analysis methods and ratings. Continue reading...

What is Assessed Value?

Assessed value is used to determine the property taxes due on real estate. Assessed value is normally lower than the appraised value of a residential property, because it is not looking as much at the value of the home, but rather the value of the property, for property tax assessment. While the assessed value does have to do with the market value of real estate, most calculations only use average home prices the area, found in local real estate listings, as part of the valuation. The “ask” prices are going to be higher than the prices at which they’ll sell. Continue reading...

What is a Bond?

A bond is a contract which “binds” the lender to the debtor, where an individual investor is generally the lender and the debtor is the company or government which has borrowed funds. When a company or government entity needs more capital, whether to fund operations or a specific project, it can borrow money from investors instead of from a banking institution. Where there is a risk of the investor not being repaid, the interest rate will be proportionally higher. The simplest way a bond works is with set payments at set intervals that gradually repay the debt and interest owed to the investor over a set amount of time. Continue reading...

Are Social Security Benefits Taxed?

Are Social Security Benefits Taxed?

Many people do not realize that their Social Security Benefits may be taxed. If you have a taxable income in retirement above a certain threshold, up to 85% of your social security benefits can be taxed. The calculation for the threshold income actually includes half of your social security benefits. Whether or not you trigger taxation on your benefits will depend on your “combined” income, which is a sum of your adjusted gross income (taxable income, which can include taxable sources such as qualified retirement plans), your nontaxable interest (from Muni bonds in particular, Roth IRAs are excludable), and half of your household Social Security benefits. Continue reading...

What is Underwriting?

Underwriting is the process through which risks are accepted by an institution. Underwriting is the assessment of risk or the acceptance of risk after such assessment by a company or bank. Underwriters in insurance companies will assess a risk prior to the company accepting the risk; once the risk has been accepted the company bears the burden of covering the potential losses associated with the risk. The company is paid a premium for accepting the risk. Continue reading...

What are the Tax Implications of Owning Bonds?

What are the Tax Implications of Owning Bonds?

Some bonds receive preferential tax treatment. The interest you receive is fully taxable, unless the bonds are issued by municipalities, states, federal governments, or corporations with special tax-exempt statuses (such as school districts, infrastructure facilities, hospitals, and so on). The first very general rule of thumb – if you reside in a certain municipality and buy bonds of that municipality, the interest is not taxable. Continue reading...

What are Housing Bonds?

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 took several steps to patch up the housing market after the subprime meltdown, one of which was the authorization of states and municipalities to issue mortgage revenue bonds (MRBs) which they could then use to help local lending institutions fund mortgages for lower-income Americans. Housing bonds are issued by state and local governments as a way to raise revenue that can help local banks and lending institutions fund mortgage loans to the community. Continue reading...

What Types of Bonds Are There?

Bonds are divided into a several categories, and it is possible to get substantial diversification within a bond portfolio alone. Bonds may be categorized into several types. There are investment grade bonds which are conservative and safe, high-yield bonds which are relatively risky and profitable, floating rate bonds whose coupon rate is not fixed, zero coupon bonds which only pay at maturity, and foreign bonds, and so on. Continue reading...

Who is an Assessor?

An Assessor is a government employee who finds the value of properties and other assets for tax and insurance purposes. The assessor’s office is responsible for coming up with the assessed value of real estate property in a municipality, for the purpose of assessing property taxes. Assessors may have other roles, but this is the main one. Considering that assessors have to determine a value of every piece of real property in their district, it can certainly be an overwhelming task. Continue reading...

What are Fixed Income Funds?

Fixed income funds may not be used for income at all, but are relatively safe investments that primarily consist of dividend-paying bonds. Fixed income funds, also known as bond funds, invest primarily in bonds, but might also include some preferred stock, which pays regular dividends and behaves much like debt instruments. In fact, there are also Preferred Stock Funds and ETFs that fit into this category. Continue reading...

BB-/Ba3 — Credit Rating

BB-/Ba3 — Credit Rating

BB- — S&P / Fitch Ba3 — Moody’s The BB-/Ba3 rating is given to bonds and companies who have a moderate risk of default, and this rating appears around the middle of a scale with over 20 ratings. There are two symbols in this example which are the same rating: Fitch and S&P use BB-, and Moody’s uses Ba3. These are the Big Three of the Credit Ratings Agencies (CRAs) that the SEC has sanctioned to issue ratings which can be used for internal regulation within industry groups. Continue reading...

What is Accrued Interest?

Accrued Interest applies to a bond or loan, accounting for the interest that is calculated per diem for the time between payments. Accrued Interest is the amount of interest that has "built up" between the last payment and the present, with regards to bonds and loans. If a bond is sold from one person to another, and the corporation or municipality that issued the bond pays out an interest payment at regular intervals, the sale price will have to factor-in the "accrued interest" since the last distribution, and the buyer will have to pay the seller for the accrued interest due while the latter held the bond. Continue reading...

BB/Ba2 — credit rating

BB/Ba2 — credit rating

BB — S&P / Fitch Ba2 — Moody’s A bond rated BB/Ba2 is just below investment grade and is a somewhat speculative financial instrument. Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) are the Big Three major credit ratings institutions. They each have proprietary formulas for assessing the financial strength and creditworthiness of companies, municipalities, insurers, and bond issues, The most common use of these ratings is for bonds, as investors seek to learn how likely it is that a bond will default on its payments. 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 is a Bond Purchase Agreement?

If a municipality or company decides to issue bonds, they will need to form an alliance with an underwriting entity to help them price and distribute the bonds, and the Purchase Agreement outlines their contract. Underwriters on debt issues are normally large investment banks. They help the issuer, which could be a city government or company, structure the bonds and price them in a way that is suitable to their needs, and also agrees to help them distribute them. Continue reading...

Will My Cash-Balance Payments Affect My Social Security payments?

Social security can become taxable if a person has a certain level of income in retirement. Retirement income from pensions or 401(k)s and other taxable sources will contribute to the AGI of a person in retirement, but it will not ever disqualify a person from receiving their social security check in retirement if it is owed to them. Instead, social security benefits become taxable as income if a person has enough income in retirement to trigger the social security taxes. The level is actually quite low, and has not been adjusted for inflation recently. Continue reading...

What is Yield?

Yield is a term which describes the cash return on a security investment, and does not include appreciation. Yield is the cash paid out of an investment in the form of dividends and interest received. The term does not encompass the appreciation of the investment, and it may be evaluated in different ways for different types of investments, so comparisons of yield across asset types is not standardized or recommended. Continue reading...