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What is backtesting?

Analytical financial theories and trading strategies can be “backtested” by applying them to historical data. Backtesting is to simulate what it would have been like to use a certain strategy or indicator in the past. Because markets are more complicated than a simple algorithm, such as an assumed future rate of return, it is preferable and somewhat more dramatic to use actual historical data for testing. There is an abundance of historical market data available to those who would like to use it for backtesting a theory, strategy, or indicator. Continue reading...

What is the Ladder Strategy for Structuring My Bond Portfolio?

The ladder provides the bondholder with a degree of freedom and some liquidity to take part in possibly improved interest rates in the future. The ladder strategy distributes your funds uniformly among bonds with various durations. For example, if you have $10,000, you buy one bond with a duration of one year, one bond with a duration of two years, etc. If the interest rates go up when the shorter-duration bonds expire, you will be able to reinvest this money with a higher coupon rate (of course, keep in mind that your longer-duration bonds would have fallen in price). Continue reading...

What is the Barbell Strategy for Structuring my Bond Portfolio?

A barbell strategy avoids intermediate-term bonds and equally invests in very short term and very long term durations. The barbell strategy divides a sum, for instance $10,000, equally among bonds with short durations and bonds with long durations. If the interest rates will go up sharply, the proceeds from your short-duration bonds will be reinvested into new bonds with much higher coupons. If the interest rates drop sharply, the proceeds from the bonds with shorter durations will be reinvested at a much lower coupon, but on the other hand, your long-duration bonds will rise sharply in price. Continue reading...

What is delta hedging?

Delta hedging is the process of reducing exposure to potential loss resulting from price fluctuations in the security underlying his or her options positions by bringing the delta – or price relationship between options and their underlying securities – of a portfolio to zero, or closer to it (a position called ‘delta neutral’ or ‘delta hedged’). This is accomplished by purchasing financial instruments which counterbalance each other's exposure to price fluctuations, often adding short or long positions in other options or the underlying securities themselves. Continue reading...

What is a straddle?

Straddles are options strategies that use both a call and put on the same underlying asset at the same strike price and expiration. The Straddle strategy involves either buying a call and a put with the same strike price and expiration, or selling a call and a put with the same strike price and expiration. The former is known as a Long Straddle, and the latter is known as a Short Straddle. Long straddles profit from significant price movement in either direction on the underlying asset. Continue reading...

What kind of hedge funds exist?

Hedge funds can employ many strategies and focus on virtually any kind of investing style or market. They also have the flexibility to change their strategy as they see fit. Morningstar and other services will group hedge funds into categories and provide benchmarks based on their average performances. As of 2016, there are over 12,000 hedge funds, and over half of those are required to report to the SEC. Continue reading...

What does 'Poison Pill' Mean?

A ‘poison pill’ is a maneuver by a company to make itself less attractive to a hostile takeover. It can be used in an effort to avoid the takeover altogether, or at least to make the takeover more painful for the bidder. One type of poison pill is a “flip-in,” which allows shareholders to buy shares of the company being targeted at a discount, which makes the takeover more expensive and more difficult. Continue reading...

What Websites and Apps Can Help Me With Personal Budgeting?

There is a thriving industry committed to helping people plan and maintain a personal budget through online tools and apps. Perhaps the most-used personal budgeting tool as of this writing is Mint, which allows a user to link their bank accounts into the budgeting software, and then sends the information right into a tax filing after the new year. A list such as this is almost definitely going to be outdated by the time you read it; your favorite search engine or app store may turn up more relevant results than this. Continue reading...

What are the Best Financial Programs to Use?

There are many apps and online programs that investors can use, often for free, to help keep an eye on their holdings and to track their investment portfolio. In addition to the software accessible through your custodian, you might want to look at the programs available through Morningstar, Microsoft Money, and others. Apps on your phone (CNBC, TheStreet, Barron’s, MarketWatch, etc.) can keep you updated on market news related to your stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs. You can also subscribe to market commentaries delivered via email. Continue reading...

What is the role of asset allocation in my investments?

The single best control mechanism over the performance of your investments is the maintenance of an asset allocation strategy. When testing various methods of predicting and controlling returns in a portfolio, researchers found that having and maintaining an asset allocation strategy was the method that reaped the most predictable returns – with 80-90% accuracy. Asset allocation is the distribution of various asset classes and investments into a portfolio mix in a deliberate way to gain specific amounts of exposure to each investment. It is a practice used to diversify and manage risk. Asset Allocation is a dynamic process; it’s not something you do once and forget about. Continue reading...

Best Day Trading Guide

Day traders, by definition, trade on a very short-term time frame, seeking to generate profits by opening and closing positions hour-by-hour and having the majority of their positions closed by the end of the day. Short-term profits and income are the goals with most day-traders, and the term is used more and more for “amateur” traders who trade from home and treat it as their primary occupation without being part of a brokerage firm. Day trading has become more and more prevalent for independent, non-affiliated investors who trade from their computers at home for hours a day. Continue reading...

What is a covered call?

A covered call is when the writer or seller of a call option either owns the underlying security, or has a guaranteed way to obtain it. Investors are able to open a position for another investor to take. An example of this would be selling a call option. The seller, or “writer,” of the contract is obligated to fulfill the contractual obligation outlined in the call, namely to deliver 100 shares of the underlying stock to the owner of the call option in exchange for the strike price listed in the call contract. Continue reading...

Stock Portfolio Definition

All of the investments held by an individual or mutual fund or other entity are referred to as that person or entity's portfolio. These investments can range from securities to cash to real assets held for the purpose of preservation, growth, or income; essentially anything that is part of a long-term financial strategy that is held separate from daily operations and cash flow can be considered part of a portfolio. The gains and losses of all the singular investments held are totaled up to find the overall return of the portfolio. Continue reading...

What is a time spread?

A ‘Time Spread,’ also called a Calendar Spread or a Horizontal Spread, involves the use of multiple options of the same type (either all calls or all puts), with the same strike price but different expiration dates. Generally traders will sell a near-term option (take a short position) and buy a far-term option (take a long position). The strategy is virtually identical whether calls or puts are used. Continue reading...

What is a bear call spread?

A bear call spread seeks to make money on the sale of call options but does not believe the underlying security will increase. A Bear Call Spread strategy is utilized when one believes that the price of the underlying stock will go down (but not significantly) in the near future. It entails selling a call short at a lower price than you buy a long call, which is done to realize a net credit at the outset. Continue reading...

How Do I Take Money From My 401(k) After I Retire?

Different 401(k) custodians will have different distribution options available to participants in retirement. After you retire, you have at least two disbursement options: lump-sum distribution and periodic distribution. If you take a lump-sum distribution that is not bound for an IRA, you will incur a significant tax bill, since all 401(k) distributions are taxable. Periodic distributions may mean that every so often you can choose an amount to be paid out to you on a quarterly basis, for example, while your investments remain intact and you attempt to accrue more interest on your money. Continue reading...

What is a market neutral fund?

Market neutral funds might be hedge funds or mutual funds or ETFs whose strategy is not based on bullish or bearish market predictions but instead seeks to be in a position to profit whether the market goes up or down. Most mutual funds and ETFs out there are inherently bullish — you invest in those funds because you believe or hope that the industry or geographic region or cap-size that they invest in will grow in the future. Some funds offer bears a place to hole-up when the bubble inevitably bursts (or so they think). Continue reading...

What is a covered straddle?

A covered straddle is a bullish options strategy, where the investors write the same number of puts and calls with the same expiration and strike price on a security owned by the investor. If an investor owns a stock and is bullish about where it’s price is headed, they may use a covered straddle strategy to provide them the ability to buy more shares at a set price (the call option portion of the straddle) while also giving them the option to sell the security at the same price (the put portion of the straddle). Continue reading...

What is a vertical spread?

A Vertical Spread involves the strategy of buying and selling an equal number of options on the same underlying security with the same expiration date, but different strike prices. Vertical Spreads can be both bullish and bearish, depending on your view of the underlying security. If you use calls, you are constructing a Vertical Bull Spread, and if you’re using puts, you’re constructing a Vertical Bear Spread. Continue reading...

How to use Bollinger Bands in trading?

Bollinger Bands were developed by famous trader John Bollinger as a technical analysis tool to discern the likely trading range of a security. A Bollinger Band is typically two standard deviations from a moving average line, both above and below the average. Standard deviation is another word for the average volatility of a price over a length of time. It is typical for a trader looking up the historical price chart for a security to compare it to a moving average line. Continue reading...