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What Are the Basics of Mutual Funds?

Mutual funds come in many varieties, but here are some basics to keep in mind to help you find your way. While most people have definitely heard the term mutual fund, many people do not understand how they work and how to use them. With over 10,000 mutual funds available in the marketplace today, the average person may have a hard time selecting appropriate mutual funds for his or her portfolio, determining a good asset mix, and understanding all of the charges associated with buying, owning, and selling mutual funds. 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you to withdraw your principal amount early without penalty, but you will incur taxes and penalties if the gains are withdrawn. 457 plans do not have such stipulations.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...

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...

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...

Does IRS Rule 72(t) Provide a Way to Take Early 401(k) Withdrawals Without Penalty?

Rule 72(t) allows the owner of a 401(k) or IRA account to take “substantially equal periodic payments” from an account without owing the 10% early withdrawal penalty. Taking money out of a401(k) or IRA before age 59½ will generally cause someone to owe a 10% early withdrawal penalty. One of the ways this penalty can be avoided, however, is if the participant uses 72(t) distributions. IRS rule 72(t) is the section of the code that describes early withdrawal penalties, but it also allows “substantially equal periodic payments” to be taken from a 401(k) or IRA without owing the 10% penalty. 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...

What is Cash Collateral?

Cash collateral is liquid cash and cash equivalents designated as collateral for loans and debts of various sorts. One frequently used example of cash collateral is cash used in short selling of securities in a brokerage account. While securities equal to significantly more than the required cash margin can be substituted for cash, the most cost-effective and least risky way to maintain margin requirements is with cash and cash equivalents. Continue reading...

How Much Money Should I Set Aside for Emergencies?

Research suggests that more than half of adult Americans do not have sufficient savings needed for emergency purposes. Here’s a startling but true piece of information: most surveys conducted in the past few years indicate that more than half of adult Americans do not have any kind of emergency fund at all, and even fewer have enough to cover three months of living expenses in the event of an unexpected event, like job loss or health emergency. 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...

What are Accounting Policies?

Accounting policies are the internal controls of a company which stipulate the methods by which the books will be kept. Accounting policies are the agreed-upon accounting methods, conventions, and practices of an accounting cycle. A business must establish guidelines and training to ensure that accounts are kept in ways that satisfy their needs for documentation, security, liquidity, management, and the observation of applicable laws. Continue reading...

What are Accounting Records?

Accounting records are the supporting documents that verify the history of transactions, audits, and reports. Accounting documents are sometimes required to be kept on file for a certain number of years. They may be paper or electronic records. Records may include point-of-sale documents such as receipts and invoices, as well as inventory delivery and audit records, and the results of internal and third-party audits from various 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...

What is Cash Accounting?

Cash Accounting is the accounting method where only finalized transactions are documented. Larger, publicly traded companies are actually not allowed to use Cash Accounting because it can’t keep up with all the Payable, Receivables, and so forth that large companies have to keep on their books. Instead, larger companies are required by the SEC to use Accrual Accounting, which makes ledger entries for cash that has not yet be paid or received, among other things. Continue reading...

What is an Account Executive?

An account executive is an individual who has executive responsibility of the maintenance of client account. In certain businesses, some client accounts have a high degree of importance and priority with regards to sales and operations, perhaps because they generate significant revenue for the company. Examples of such businesses might be advertising, office products, and investment services. The title of account executive is especially fitting if there is a staff which supports the lead account executive in maintenance of the client relationship and account service, but a staff is not required to hold this title. In other businesses this position might be called an account manager. Continue reading...