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What is divergence analysis?

The analysis of convergence and divergence between indexes and other data seeks to find leading indicators where there is confirmation or non-confirmation of trends. Dow Theory was one of the first examples of such thinking. Charles Dow would watch the movements of Industrials and the Rail and compare the uptrend or downtrend of each. Where trends do not line up (e.g., one is trending downward with lower troughs and the other has “higher lows”) there is “divergence”, and non-confirmation of what was thought to be a trend in one index. Continue reading...

What is a leading indicator?

Leading indicators are economic or price data which have some degree of correlation with a movement in the market or a stock price. Leading indicators tend to happen before the market or price movement occurs. Traders and economists use leading indicators frequently to prepare for what’s next; they are based on theory as well as empirical historical evidence but like all indicators, they do not have a 100% accuracy rate – past performance does not guarantee future results. Continue reading...

What is a Non-Current Asset?

A non-current asset is an asset on the balance sheet that is not expected to convert into unrestricted cash within a year’s time. Non-current assets may include such things as intellectual property and production/operations equipment - meaning they likely do not have a need to convert to cash. From a balance sheet standpoint, non-current assets are capitalized rather than expensed - meaning the company can allocate the asset’s cost of the asset over the number of years for which the asset will be used, instead of allocating it all in the year it was purchased. Continue reading...

What is the 'Non-Current Assets to Net Worth' Ratio?

The non-current assets to net worth ratio will give the analyst an idea of how much of a company’s value is tied-up in non-current assets. As a quick refresher, ‘non-current assets’ are those that most likely will not convert to cash within a year’s time, also known as a long-term asset. Where a company’s non-current asset to net worth ratio lies depends on the industry, but generally speaking a company wants to avoid having that ratio rise above 1 to 1.5. That means the company is highly illiquid, and could be vulnerable in the event of an economic shock. Continue reading...

What is a bull market?

Bull markets are defined as periods of sustained investor confidence and market growth, as prices trend higher and indexes rise over time. These stretches are typically tied to economic growth and strength. When investor sentiment is “bullish,” investors are generally willing to take more risk. These extended periods of growth typically last for months but can last for years. There are more technical definitions of a bull market, depending on which index, commodity, and other asset is being considered. As a general rule, however, bull markets tend to see stocks rise by 20% in response to a 20% decline, before eventually declining by 20% again to signal the end of the bull run. The longest bull run in S&P 500 history took place from March 2009 to March 2020, experiencing well over 300% growth over that time. Continue reading...

What is an Accounting Convention?

An accounting convention is an established an agreed-upon method of documenting specific items on a company’s books. The most widely-used accounting conventions are part of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP), which is the only accounting methodology accepted for quarterly 10-Q filings with the SEC in the United States, and has also become the basis for regulatory accounting practices in other countries. Continue reading...

What is Adjusted EBITDA?

Basically synonymous with Normalized EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA is a non-GAAP method of making earnings valuations a little more standardized between companies. Adjusted Earnings is a valuation that has many moving parts in the form of the interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization that might be included there, in addition to the non-GAAP nature of the methods. EBITDA removes all of those moving parts and looks at the Earnings before any of the other arithmetic interferes, hence the name Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. Continue reading...

What are Accounting Earnings?

Earnings that are reported in a given year may differ for the same company if different accounting methods were used. Earnings are the revenues of the company minus the cost of good sold, expenses, and investment losses. If that seems like something that’s pretty cut-and-dried, and will look the same no matter who is doing the accounting… well, that’s not entirely correct. Earnings can be made to look different if different non-GAAP or pro-forma methods are used. If non-recurring expenses are ignored or amortized in a pro-forma accounting method, then earnings will not match up to the GAAP-based books. Continue reading...

What are currency futures?

Currency futures are derivative contracts that trade on regulated exchanges around the world. Like forward contracts, they name a specific amount of one currency which is to be exchanged for a specific amount of another currency at a future date. Futures name a specific amount of one currency which will be exchanged for a specific amount of another currency at a future date. Like other derivative contracts that trade on exchanges (e.g., options), futures are transferable and are traded as the market calls for up until their expiration. Investors can short them (sell to open) and hold them long (buy to open), and can close their positions as they see fit without riding out the contract to the expiration date. Continue reading...

What are Adjusted Earnings?

Adjusted Earnings are also known as pro forma, non-GAAP earnings, and are usually met with some cynicism. Non-GAAP methods of accounting for earnings are something that is not allowed to be used to mislead investors, according to SEC rules. GAAP stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and they represent the standards and SEC rulebook for a publicly-traded company’s accounting. There are times when it makes sense to use adjusted earnings instead of GAAP earnings because adjusted earnings will ignore non-recurring one-time expenses so that analysts can compare company performance in other areas without being distracted by a large one-time expense. Continue reading...

What is a currency certificate?

A currency certificate is also called a foreign exchange (Forex) certificate (FEC), and it validates that the bearer is entitled to a certain amount of foreign currency upon the redemption of the certificate, or that a certain amount of foreign currency was exchanged for it. This is not to be confused with a certificate of currency, which is proof that some types of insurance are currently in effect. Currency certificates have been historically used in countries with closed or controlled economies, such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China. Continue reading...

What is Adjusted Gross Margin?

Adjusted Gross Margin accounts for the cost of maintaining inventory, which regular Gross Margin does not. Gross margin can be calculated offhand as the selling price of a good minus the price paid for the good (cost of goods sold). This is the simplest calculation for profit. The Adjusted Gross Margin takes into account the cost of maintaining an inventory as well, which is a step in the direction of accounting for the expenses of the business operation as a whole. Continue reading...

What are the Withdrawal Rules From My 457 Plan?

457 plans are the only retirement plan that does not require you to wait until a certain age to avoid an IRS penalty on withdrawals. Unlike 401(k)s and 403(b)s, you are allowed to take money out of a 457 Plan before the age of 59½ without a 10% early withdrawal penalty, but only if you’ve separated from service. Separation from service can mean retiring or just leaving to take a job elsewhere. Roth IRAs allow you to withdraw your principal amount early without penalty, but you will incur taxes and penalties if the gains are withdrawn. 457 plans do not have such stipulations. All other retirement accounts require certain exception criteria to be met for the IRS not to penalize you for early withdrawals. Continue reading...

How can I invest in hedge funds?

Fund managers are allowed to accept up to 35 non-accredited investors, but for the most part you will either need to satisfy the “accredited investor” requirement of the SEC to invest directly in a hedge fund. Otherwise, there are now hedge fund indexes and ETFs that track and mimic hedge fund strategies that are accessible to everyone. You should know now that the minimum initial investment requirement to participate in a hedge fund can be quite large, such as upwards of $1 million. Continue reading...

What Payout Options Do I Have?

Payout options in the realm of annuities tend to be guaranteed by the insurance company providing the annuity, and may come in many forms depending on the investor’s preference. Annuities can pay income to the annuitant in a few ways. One of the ways is to turn the entire balance of the annuity into a pension-like income stream for life, or jointly on two lives. The payout tends to be higher than the safe withdrawal rate than investors can use in an investment account, and it provide guarantees and surety where it wouldn’t exist otherwise. You can also elect to have these payments start off slightly lower, and then to increase at a guaranteed rate, to keep up with the cost of living. Continue reading...

What is currency convertibility?

Currencies may work fine in a particular country or region, but it may happen that certain currencies are not convertible into other currencies or gold. Sometimes this is by choice, such as was formerly the case with closed economies like the People’s Republic of China, Soviet Russia, Cuba, and others. Most currencies are convertible into other currencies. Banks, at least the central banks of countries, tend to have reserves of most foreign currencies with their citizens do business. Continue reading...

Can I Withdraw Money From My Pension Plan?

This is rarely an option, but the IRS does allow it. In general, you can’t withdraw money from a Pension Plan before you retire. You also may not be able to make non-recurring withdrawals after retirement, unless it is a lump-sum settlement. If your plan allowed it, the IRS would treat it just like withdrawals from a 401(k). Withdrawals before 59 ½ would be penalized with a 10% early withdrawal tax. Continue reading...

How is a 403(b) Different From a 401(k)?

403(b)s are essentially the same as 401(k)s but there are a few notable differences. A 403(b) is extremely similar to a 401(k); the main difference is the type of employer than can offer each. 403(b)s are offered by public educational institutions, non-profit hospitals, non-profit organizations, religious groups and some government organizations. Due to the negotiating powers of many of those institutions, and their non-profit status, the administrative fees are smaller and they are not subject to some of the administrative oversight imposed on 401(k)s. Most 403(b)s are not subject to ERISA, which means they don’t have to satisfy as many auditing and reporting requirements. Continue reading...

What Happens If I Withdraw Money From My Pension Plan After I Retire?

Usually such withdrawals will be in the form of income payments, but there may be other options. If the plan administrator allows it, you can make non-recurring (one-time) withdrawals from a pension fund. This is usually not allowed, however. The regular qualified plan distribution rules will apply as far as the IRS is concerned, and they may charge a 10% penalty if the withdrawals are taken before age 59½. After you retire, you’ll typically have two options: a fixed monthly payment for the rest of your life (also known as a Life Annuity), or a lump-sum payment. Continue reading...

Who Can Contribute to a Roth IRA?

Most people will be able to contribute to a Roth, but once your income hits certain limits, you may need to find another way. Many people use Roth IRAs to make after-tax retirement contributions that will not be taxable upon withdrawal. If you have earned income under certain income limits, you can fund a Roth for yourself and even for a non-working spouse. Roth IRAs cannot be opened by everyone: the income limits are based on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and marital status. Continue reading...