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What is an Accounting Period?

An accounting period is a specific time frame from which documents and records have been used by accountants to arrive at reported balances and statements. An accounting period can be a fiscal year, quarter, or month, or any other time frame for which reporting is being done. At any given time, there may be different accounting periods running. Books are kept and reports are made for different tiers of accounting periods. Continue reading...

What is an Account Number?

An account number is a serialized identifier which is ascribed to a particular account holder or account at a financial institution, retailer, or other entity. Account numbers may include letters or numbers and may be of various length, but they usually exceed 5 characters. An account number is a way for a company or organization to uniquely identify the accounts associated with each individual customer. Continue reading...

Can I Take a Periodic Distribution from my Pension Plan?

Regular pension payments are periodic distributions. Yes. This will be the default option on pension arrangements, unless companies are trying to settle with pensioners for lump-sum amounts that will lessen the plan’s long term liability. The options for periodic distributions will always be for periods less than or up to a year in length. Periodic distributions can help you sleep better at night, knowing that you have a fixed stream of income for the rest of your life. It may not be enough to sustain your lifestyle completely, but it will give you a sense of financial security and prohibit overspending in a way that the lump-sum distribution does not. Continue reading...

What is an Account Balance?

An account balance is the amount either credited to or owed on a ledger assigned to a particular entity or line-item. The balance of an account is the net debit or credit assigned to it after all transactions have been documented for a current period. Transactions might be deposits, withdrawals, interest credited, fees, or other activity. The account in question could be a personal savings or checking account, or a ledger account at a business or institution, or another form of account, such as the macroeconomic concept of current national account. Accounts are said to be “in the red” when there is a net debit (negative) amount, and “in the black” when there is a net positive balance (net credit). Continue reading...

What is Accounts Payable for Accounting?

Accounts Payable is part of the Current Liabilities section of a company’s books. Accounts Payable are the short-term expenses and debts that a company must pay out in the near future. These might include utility bills and regular expenses, debt service, and bills to regular suppliers and vendors. The amounts that appear in the Payables, as they are also called, have not been paid out yet, but are scheduled to be paid within the current quarter, generally. Continue reading...

What is Accounts Receivable for Accounting?

Also simply called Receivables, the Accounts Receivable line on a General Ledger will contain the amounts owed to the company which are due to be received in the near future. If a company offers financing for the items it sells, or it has regular payments coming in for things such as rent, leases, monthly subscription or membership fees, and so on, they will have substantial numbers in their accounts receivable. Continue reading...

How do I Calculate my Expenses?

Keeping track of your expenses is one of the most important (and basic) steps to leading a responsible financial life. It might be tempting to “eyeball” your expenses and somehow get by without a plan, but in almost all cases, such carelessness will spell financial disaster. Budgeting your money for specific categories of expenses and carefully documenting the actual spending is critical. You should add up amounts spent on monthly mortgage and car payments, rent, groceries, clothing, entertainment, utilities, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses, and try to get as close to possible to a monthly budget. Continue reading...

What is Account Reconcilement?

Account reconcilement is the act of comparing and affirming multiple records of the same financial information. To “reconcile the books” is to compare different records of the same accounts to ensure that they match up. One might reconcile all the different record-keeping for the same account, such as copies of checks and receipts, to be sure that they add up to the balance and ledger shown on a bank account statement. It could be that the recipient of a check has not yet cashed it, and it is important to keep all records “synced” with one another. Continue reading...

What is a Pension?

Pensions are income streams guaranteed to employees upon their retirement. A Pension is a type of Defined Benefit Plan in which your employer promises to pay you a certain amount every month for the rest of your life. Employers who are part of the pension plans are sometimes called pensioners. An employer retains the funds in a trust, usually, and everyone’s pension assets are pooled together in what’s called a Pension Fund. Continue reading...

When Should I Start Saving Money?

The answer is simple and needs only common sense to understand: you should begin saving as soon as you can! However, because of most people’s spending habits and the day-to-day realities of life, it is often difficult to follow that advice. Let’s compare how your savings would accumulate, depending on the age at which you begin to save. Your total savings will be much greater by the time you want to retire – say when you’re 65 – if you invest $5000/year at age 25 for just 10 years, than if you continuously invested $10,000/year at age 35, or $15,000/year at age 45. Continue reading...

What is Account History?

Account history is a term especially useful for investment accounts, where transactions beyond a current month or year’s records are useful for reference. Most people are familiar with the transaction history that is available for the current month, quarter, or year on an individual’s savings, checking, and credit card accounts. These are often called “activity ledgers” or something similar. Account history that reaches further back might be more useful for investment accounts, where the current value of investments, and their cost basis, will depend heavily on account history from potentially years in the past. This sort of query can be made easily with online investment account viewing software from a broker or custodian company. Continue reading...

Do I Need Life Insurance if I have an Annuity?

If an annuity or pension will pay your spouse a survivor’s benefit that is adequate to support his or her lifestyle, then you may not need to a life insurance policy to cover this need. Annuities are seen as longevity insurance which protect against outliving money, while life insurance protects beneficiaries if the insured person dies younger than expected. If something happens to you and you have an annuity, your surviving spouse would either continue to receive periodic benefits or take a lump-sum distribution, depending on what kind of payout option you chose when you signed the contract. In the case of the lump sum it may only be for the amount of principal that had not been paid out yet in annuity payments. Continue reading...

What is Earnings Season?

Earnings season describes not one, but four times in a year, when corporations release their quarterly earnings reports. Investors look forward to this time because they are able to get an update about how the year is going, compared to projections. After each fiscal quarter ends, there are a few weeks in which companies file their quarterly reports with the SEC and announce their current earnings and sales numbers. Each of these periods is known as earnings season. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between Cash-Balance Plans and Other Retirement Plans?

Cash Balance plans are Defined Benefit plans, but are not much like Pensions as you may know them, or other types of retirement plans, for that matter. On one side of the retirement isle you have defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s and SEPs and so on, where the contributions are certain, or at least ascertainable, while the ending balance or benefit of each employee’s account is unknown, or at least does not have to be (and in most cases isn’t). Continue reading...

What is a Margin Account?

A margin account is one in which an investor uses borrowed money to purchase additional securities. An investor is almost always required to use the securities in the account as collateral for the borrowed money. The objective of a margin account is for the investor to magnify gains, but the opposite can also be true, and losses may lead the investor to have to sell securities in the account to cover the loan balance. There’s more upside in a margin account, but there’s more downside too. Continue reading...

What are Accounts Payable?

On a balance sheet, Accounts Payable is a section under ‘Liabilities’ that details the obligations the company has to pay off short-term debts. Goods and services rendered to a company by suppliers, banks, utilities, and so forth will need to be paid for in the short term, and these bills are accounted for in the Accounts Payable. In a Company's Balance Sheet, the Payables will appear in the Current Liabilities section, and these tend to have cycles of 30-90 days in which they should be paid. Continue reading...

What are Accounts Receivable?

Accounts Receivable is part of the Assets on a Balance Sheet, and it details the money due to the company from its customers or debtors in the near future. Accounts Receivable will include money which should be received by the company from those who owe it. This appears in the Current Assets section of the Balance Sheet. The money should be receivable within the next 30 or 90 days, generally. This might be rent payments or other bills which are paid regularly or after the goods or services have been rendered. An account receivable also might include interest due. 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...

What are Accounting Controls?

Internal control systems and procedures can ensure the accuracy and reliability of financial accounts at a business. Accounting controls are meant to ensure that the numbers being put onto the books are accurate. Internal controls are the practices that employees are trained to do, and may be audited on, which general involve some oversight or double-checking to filter out mistakes. This not only prevents mistakes, but also malfeasance, embezzlement and fraud. Accounting done wrong can result in criminal penalties, bankruptcy, and tax problems. Continue reading...

What is the Accounting Cycle?

The Accounting Cycle includes all of the documentation that is collected and all of the controls and systems in place to ensure accurate accounting. The Accounting Cycle begins with the point of sale, with documentation for the transaction (invoice or receipt) and the internal expenses and inventory. There are conventions, controls and systems in place to account for and control the flow of information in a company at each stage of the process to ensure that accounts are as accurate as possible. The Accounting Cycle may refer to the length of time between trial balances, such as monthly, quarterly, or annually. Continue reading...