Author Archive

May
15

Employer Income Tax Withholding: The Basics

If you have recently changed jobs, you’re probably familiar with the W-4 form, where you declare how many exemptions you have, for things like having dependent children, being married, or holding multiple jobs. These allowances are meant to offset the amount of tax withheld, based on approximately how much tax you will be able to deduct.

It is this withholding of taxes out of your paycheck that makes tax refunds possible every spring — the government isn’t actually paying you (unless you live in Alaska, make a small enough income to be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, or have had devastating financial losses over the past year), but rather returning your money that you have already set aside for taxes and didn’t turn out to owe. Read more.

Apr
27

Investing in Volatility: Understanding the VIX

If you follow the stock market coverage on CNBC or Bloomberg, or read the Wall Street Journal, you’ve probably seen references to the VIX, especially in politically and economically volatile times like the 2008 financial crisis or last year’s election.

While it appears in charts and tickers like a stock or exchange-traded fund, the VIX itself is not an investment product. Calculated by the Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE), the VIX Volatility IndeX is a measurement of the implied volatility across the options trading market — in other words, the higher the VIX, the more options are being bought at larger distances from a stock’s current share price. Learn more…

Apr
27

Multi Level Marketing: Too Good To Be True?

You’ve probably seen the advertisements: “Start your own business!” “Be your own boss!” “Become a part of something great!” Or the bumper stickers and even vehicle wraps advertising Mary Kay or Herbalife. Maybe you’ve gone to a friend’s house for a dinner that turned into a sales pitch, or noticed the catalogue in the office break room. But chances are, even if you didn’t know exactly how it works, you’ve seen multilevel marketing in action.

Multilevel marketing (MLM) is a system where, instead of participating in direct sales, companies set up a pyramid of affiliates to sell for them. In theory, this should create a self sustaining sales force, with the minimum possible effort from the top so the headquarters can focus on product quality and innovation.

As a “business owner” in an MLM, one would have two main responsibilities delegated to them: selling the product directly and, more importantly, recruiting others to sell for them in exchange for a slice of the commissions. Again, theoretically this makes sense — it isn’t too different from a typical dealership model — however, the problem starts to arise from the product itself. Learn more…

Apr
27

Are Futures In Your Future?

The idea seems simple enough at first: anyone can become a member of the merchant class, without ever having to physically even see their product.

Commodity futures originally developed as a way of making the market more stable, guaranteeing future prices (hence the name) for staples like wheat, corn and cattle.

Every futures contract required three pieces of information: the agreed upon type and grade of the product (corn, dried, off the cob), a quantity offered per contract (5000 bushels), and a delivery date (November 15th). At first, this contract would be retained, and on the designated date, the product would actually be sent to you from Chicago. Read more…

Apr
27

Why Everyone Needs A Living Will

According to a recent survey conducted by LegalZoom, just 41% of Americans had a last will and testament, and only 9% had a living will.

Death isn’t something anyone particularly wants to think about or plan for, but it’s essential for your loved ones to know what to do if the inconceivable does happen sooner than expected.

Both a last will and testament (often referred to simply as a will) and a living will serve as a final plan for financial and other details at the end of life. The key difference is that while a will doesn’t take effect until the subject’s death, a living will takes effect when the subject is medically incompetent to manage their own affairs, including medical care and personal finances. Read more…

Apr
27

Don’t Fear The Repo: How To Rebuild

It’s every car owner’s worst nightmare: you wake up one morning, ready to go to work, and there’s one less car in the driveway than you expected. You call the police to see if it’s been found stolen, but they let you know it’s being held at Bubba’s Towing and Wrecking, three months delinquent on its loan. Maybe you were falling behind on your payments but you still thought you could catch up… but now it’s too late. Maybe it was a technicality, some issue with your registration or insurance that you didn’t even realize you had until the car went missing. Either way, it’s Time to ask the tough questions and figure out how to rebuild. Read more…

Apr
27

Bitcoin: What’s the Big Deal

Yesterday, Bitcoin hit yet another all-time high of $2779 per BTC, before retreating nearly 20% by afternoon… and gaining more than half of that back in the overnight!

Does this sound like your kind of investing? Are you ready to make and lose thousands of dollars in a matter of hours? If so, cryptocurrencies may have a place in your wallet.

Created by a shadowy figure named Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin originated as an economic experiment, virtual coins worth about $0.10 apiece, which could be “mined” by your computer crunching through math equations while you slept. Learn more…

Apr
27

Is There Any Escape From Student Loans?

It didn’t seem so bad while you were in school – yes, you’d have to pay for it eventually, but here it is, tens of thousands of dollars a year to support not only your Master’s degree in ethnomusicology, but the biggest parties in the conference, and that one week in Cozumel you’ve sworn never to tell anyone about, and now it’s due.

You’ve already got a job lined up after graduation, but it’s not in your field (what is, anyway?), and at $13.60 per hour, with food, shelter, the health insurance penalty, and a couple of cases of beer a week to pay first, that doesn’t leave much for paying off your loans, let alone starting that 401(k) or finally going to London. Even on the income-based plan, you’re still looking at 40 years of your disposable income eaten up to pay for that education, and all of a sudden you regret everything you’ve learned, and start researching more and more drastic ways to get free… here are a few that are recommended around the Internet, some of which work, and some of which really, really, don’t. Read more…

Apr
23

Are Option Quotes All Greek To You?

Once investors move on from basic equity trading, for purposes of seeking alpha, or leverage (investments that move up and down at a faster rate parallel to the market), it’s hard to get very far without making use of options. But where most companies only have one stock, and one price for that stock, dozens of options exist for each share with options available.

Options, in general, give you (hence the name) the option to buy or sell one share of a stock at a named price, whether or not that price is the market value of the security. Like futures, options also have an expiration, or execution, date. However, unlike the commodities futures, where a forgetful investor can suddenly find themselves drowning in a tanker-truck worth of orange juice, all an expiring option does is whatever it says it will do — for example, if you have an option agreement to buy 400 shares of Wal-Mart stock for $73 each at the end of August 2017, and you do not actively exercise it, it goes into expiration. Read more…

Apr
23

When Bad Business Pays Off

According to an article in Friday’s New York Times, Vitaly Borker is back in prison.

Infamous for a previous business venture, DecorMyEyes.com, Borker believes strongly in the tenet that “any press is good press,” which he followed to its logical conclusion, running the business as erratically and counterintuitively as possible to remain in the spotlight.

Read more…

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