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How Does a 401(k) Work?

You may know that a 401(k) allows you to make payroll-deducted contributions to a retirement account before taxes are taken out, but how does it work? Employees can either become participants in a 401(k) by voluntary enrollment or by automatic enrollment with the ability to opt-out. Contributions go in before taxes are taken out, and this can reduce an individual’s taxable income or even income bracket for the year. Continue reading...

Who Establishes a 401(k)?

Employers make the decision to establish a 40(k), but it has to be good enough for employees to want to participate. An employer is responsible for establishing a 401(k) and for overseeing it as the sponsor and fiduciary. A self-employed individual can also establish an Individual 401(k), which has the same contribution limits and requires none of the testing or auditing of a regular plan. Other options for work-site retirement plans are SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs, and various kinds of profit-sharing and deferred compensation arrangements. Continue reading...

What are the 401(k) Contribution Limits?

The contribution limits of 401(k)s are generally increased year-to-year and published by the IRS. As of 2016, an individual can contribute up to $18,000, or 100% of compensation, into their 401(k) account on a pre-tax basis. This is the employee’s contribution only, and does not include employer contributions. There is a $35,000 window that can hold employer contributions, which may contain matching contributions as well as a profit-sharing component for a total of $53,000 in employee/employer contributions per year. Continue reading...

What is a Cash-Balance Plan?

Cash balance plans are a type of pension in which the benefit is stated as a future account balance rather than an income stream. A Cash-Balance Plan is very similar to a normal Pension Plan. You do not technically contribute anything to the plan (unless you are an owner-employee), and you don’t have any control over the assets which are managed on your behalf. In a normal pension, the benefit waiting for you in retirement is a monthly income stream, but in a Cash Balance plan, your future benefit is stated as an account balance, which you will be able to take as either a lump sum or an income stream. Continue reading...

What is a Matching Contribution?

Employers can contribute to an employee’s 401(k) on a matching basis. Some employers will make additional contributions to your 401(k) based on the amount of your own contributions. Matching can be done on a dollar-for-dollar basis, meaning that for every dollar you contribute to your account, they will add a dollar as well. It can also be done using a factor, such as ½, meaning they will contribute a dollar every time you contribute two. Continue reading...

What are the Vesting Rules for My Self-Employed 401(k)?

There is no vesting required for self-employed 401(k) (aka Solo K) plans, since you are the employer and the employee. Vesting is a process in which assets that were completely owned by one party are eventually made the property of another party who has had use of the assets. In retirement plans, employer contributions typically have a vesting schedule, partially to give employees a reason to stick around for a few more years. Continue reading...

What is the Triple Tops (Bearish) Pattern?

The Triple Tops pattern appears when there are three distinct minor Highs (1, 3, 5) at about the same price level. The security is testing the upper resistance level (horizontal line formed by (1, ­3,­ 5), but the price ultimately declines as buyers give up. This type of formation potentially happens when investors can not break the resistance price. There is a distinct possibility that market participants will sell out, and the price can move down with big volumes (leading up to the breakout). Continue reading...

What is bottom-up investing?

Bottom-up investing is the practice of looking for solid companies and investing in them as opposed to investing in indexes and basing that decision on broader market/macro conditions. In bottom-up investing, an investor or advisor takes the stance that the best investment portfolio will not be a broad allocation across market indices, but that an optimal portfolio should be built from the bottom-up with the stocks and bonds of individual companies whose fundamentals and individual potential have been analyzed. Continue reading...

What is IRS Publication 521 on Moving Expenses?

IRS Link to Publication — Found Here Publication 521 details the methods and requirements for tax deductions related to moving expenses, where the move is necessary to start a new job or maintain a job that requires relocation. The IRS requires that the situation passes tests regarding the distance of the residence to the new job and the time spent at the new job. If an individual moves in order to take a new employment opportunity, he or she may re Moving expenses include travel expenses as well as storage, transportation, and labor costs connected with moving furniture and whatnot. Continue reading...

Top Stock Chart Patterns

Chart patterns are shapes that sometimes appear in the charts of securities prices. Some of them may prove useful to you. Some frequently discussed chart patterns include Head and Shoulders, Double/Triple Bottom/Top, Cups and Saucers, Flags and Pennants, and others. Generally, it can be useful to compare and connect the troughs to each other and the peaks to each other to see if there is a trend confirmation if the breadth is narrowing, or if a reversal might be imminent. Continue reading...

What are Hardship Withdrawals from my 401(k)?

The IRS Code allows for certain penalty-free withdrawals, and gives the plan administrator the freedom to define certain other hardship exemptions. Certain kinds of retirement plan withdrawals are excluded from the 10% early withdrawal penalty tax. These include medical expenses which exceed 7.5% or 10% of Adjusted Gross Income, distributions to the family members of active duty military personnel who have been called to active duty, and distributions needed if the participant becomes disabled. Continue reading...

What is Chapter 7?

Chapter 7 is a type of bankruptcy filing that allows an individual to liquidate enough assets to repay their debts and to then be free and clear of debt obligations. This can help get a credit rating back on track sooner than another type of filing such as Chapter 13. Chapter 7 is for people with incomes below their state’s median income. By liquidating enough assets to pay off creditors, a debtor can use Chapter 7 to take care of all debts at once, or to have some of the debts forgiven if the debtor does not have adequate assets for liquidation. Continue reading...

If I Leave My Job, Will I Still Get a Pension?

You may not be vested in a pension if you lave too early, or you may have to accept a lower payout. This depends on how many years you worked for your employer, and other factors which are described in your pension plan document. In some cases, the employer can specify a minimum number of years you have to work for the company in order to receive a Pension. Otherwise, the amount you receive will be vested in portions over a few years, until you will be able to leave your job and keep 100% of the accrued Pension benefits. Continue reading...

What is a SEP IRA?

A SEP is like a profit-sharing plan that uses some Traditional IRA rules. A SEP IRA is a benefit for employees that uses employer contributions to fund retirement investment accounts for each employee. Contributions are made on a pre-tax basis, the account grows tax-deferred, and the withdrawals are taxed as income. The employer contributions are immediately vested to the employees, who can exercise discretion with investment choices and allocations, among the investment options available in the plan. Continue reading...

What are the Vesting Rules for my SEP IRA?

All SEP contributions are immediately vested for employees. SEPs are funded entirely by employer contributions, and these contributions are immediately vested for the employee. In other words, the contribution belongs to you immediately after it has been made, notwithstanding standard withdrawal rules. Withdrawal rules for a SEP are the same as those for Traditional IRAs. Continue reading...

What is the Head-and-Shoulders Top (Bearish) Pattern?

The Head and Shoulders pattern has five points to it. There is the left shoulder, the left side visit to the neckline area, the head, the right side visit to the neckline, and the right shoulder. A head and shoulders pattern appears as a baseline with three peaks, the outside two are close in height and the middle is highest. The image below is an example of the bearish head and shoulders pattern: Continue reading...

How Does Vesting Work?

Vesting is the schedule or process by which certain assets are eventually considered the property of an individual who uses them. If your employer provides some sort of matching, flat, or profit-sharing contribution to your retirement account at work, you will probably not be allowed keep the entire amount that they contributed if you change jobs or retire before a certain number of years have passed. 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 the Vesting Rules for My SIMPLE IRA?

Employer contributions to SIMPLEs are immediately vested to the employee. The employer’s contributions into SIMPLE IRAs do not have any vesting restrictions. In other words, the contribution belongs to you immediately after it has been made, notwithstanding standard IRS rules for withdrawals from retirement accounts. SIMPLEs do have some restrictions during the first two years, however, that are known as the ‘Two Year Rule.’ Continue reading...

What is the Rectangle Top (Bullish) Pattern?

The Rectangle Top pattern forms when the price of a security is stuck in a range bound motion. Two horizontal lines (top: 1, 3, 5) and (bottom: 2, 4) form the pattern as the security bounces up and down between support and resistance levels. Depending on who gives up first ­ buyers or sellers ­ the price can breakout in either direction. This pattern is commonly associated with directionless markets. Usually the pattern performs better when there is a strong uptrend leading into the formation. Continue reading...

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