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10-k

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that all publicly traded companies file a Form 10-k every year. The filing date, ranging from 60 to 90 days after the end of a company’s fiscal year, depends on the value of the publicly held shares. The 10-k discloses detailed information about a company’s finances, including total sales, sales by product line or division for the past five years, revenue, operating income, earnings per share, and equity, as well as other corporate information such as by-laws, organizational structure, holdings, subsidiaries, lawsuits in which the company is involved, and the company’s history.A company’s Form 10-k becomes public information once it is filed, and you can find the report in the SEC’s EDGAR database. As an investor, you can learn more about a company from its 10-k than from its less detailed annual report.


12b-1 fee

A number of load and no-load mutual funds levy 12b-1 fees on the value of your mutual fund account to offset the fund's promotional and marketing expenses. These asset-based fees, which get their name from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling that describes them, typically amount to somewhere between 0.5% and 1% annually of the net assets in the fund. A fund that charges 12b-1 fees must detail those expenses, along with other fees it imposes, in its prospectus.


401(k)

You participate in a 401(k) retirement savings plan by deferring part of your salary into an account set up in your name. Any earnings in the account are federal income tax deferred. If you change jobs, 401(k) plans are portable, which means that you can move your accumulated assets to a new employer's plan, if the plan allows transfers, or to a rollover IRA.With a traditional 401(k), you defer pretax income, which reduces the income tax you owe in the year you made the contribution. You pay tax on all withdrawals at your regular rate. With the newer Roth 401(k), which is offered in some but not all plans, you contribute after-tax income. Earnings accumulate tax deferred, but your withdrawals are completely tax free if your account has been open at least five years and you’re at least 59 1/2.In either type of 401(k), you can defer up to the federal cap, plus an annual catch-up contribution if you’re 50 or older. However, you may be able to contribute less than the cap if you’re a highly compensated employee or if your employer limits contributions to a percentage of your salary. Your employer may match some or all of your contributions, based on the terms of the plan you participate in, but matching isn’t required.With a 401(k), you are responsible for making your own investment decisions by choosing from among investment alternatives offered by the plan. Those alternatives typically include separate accounts, mutual funds, annuities, fixed-income investments, and sometimes company stock.You may owe an additional 10% federal tax penalty if you withdraw from a 401(k) before you reach 59 1/2. You must begin to take minimum required distributions by April 1 of the year following the year you turn 70 1/2 unless you’re still working. But if you prefer, you can roll over your traditional 401(k) assets into a traditional IRA and your Roth 401(k) assets into a Roth IRA.


403(b)

A 403(b) plan, sometimes known as a tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) or a tax-deferred annuity (TDA), is an employer sponsored retirement savings plan for employees of not-for-profit organizations, such as colleges, hospitals, foundations, and cultural institutions. Some employers offer 403(b) plans as a supplement to — rather than a replacement for — defined benefit pensions. Others offer them as the organization’s only retirement plan.Your contributions to a traditional 403(b) are tax deductible, and any earnings are tax deferred. Contributions to a Roth 403(b) are made with after-tax dollars, but the withdrawals are tax free if the account has been open at least five years and you’re 59 1/2 or older. There’s an annual contribution limit, but you can add an additional catch-up contribution if you’re 50 or older.With a 403(b), you are responsible for making your own investment decisions by choosing from among investment alternatives offered by the plan. You can roll over your assets to another employer's plan or an IRA when you leave your job, or to an IRA when you retire.You may withdraw without penalty once you reach 59 1/2, or sometimes earlier if you retire. You must begin required withdrawals by April 1 of the year following the year you turn 70 1/2 unless you are still working. In that case, you can postpone withdrawals until April 1 following the year you retire.


457

These tax-deferred retirement savings plans are available to state and municipal employees. Like 401(k) and 403(b) plans, the money you contribute and any earnings that accumulate in your name are not taxed until you withdraw the money, usually after retirement. The contribution levels are also the same, though 457s may allow larger catch-up contributions. You also have the right to roll your plan assets over into another employer's plan, including a 401(k) or 403(b), or an individual retirement account (IRA) when you leave your job.


529 college savings plan

Each 529 college savings plan is sponsored by a particular state or group of states, and while each plan is a little different, they share many basic elements. When you invest in a 529 savings plan, any earnings in your account accumulate tax free, and you can make federally tax-free withdrawals to pay for qualified educational expenses, such as college tuition, room and board, and books at any accredited college, university, vocational, or technical program in the United States and a number of institutions overseas. Some states also exempt earnings from state income tax, and may offer additional advantages to state residents, such as tax deductions for contributions.You must name a beneficiary when you open a 529 savings plan account, but you may change beneficiaries if you wish, as long as the new beneficiary is a member of the same extended family as the original beneficiary.In most cases, you may choose any state’s plan, even if neither you nor your beneficiary live in that state. There are no income limits restricting who can contribute to a plan, and the lifetime contributions are more than $300,000 in some states.You can make a one-time contribution of $60,000 without incurring potential gift tax, provided you don’t make another contribution for five years. Or, you may prefer to add smaller amounts, up to the annual gift exclusion.


529 prepaid tuition plan

With a prepaid tuition plan, you purchase tuition credits at current rates to be used at some point in the future when your beneficiary attends one of the colleges or universities participating in the plan. Most prepayment plans are sponsored by individual states and apply to the public institutions in the state, some state plans cover both public and private institutions in the state, and the Independent 529 plan includes more than 200 participating private institutions nationwide. In the case of state plans, either you or your beneficiary may have to live the in the sponsoring state.You owe no income tax on any appreciation in the value of the tuition credits if they are used to offset tuition, and you may be able to transfer the face value of the credits to a nonparticipating school if your child doesn’t attend a participating one. Some states and the Independent plan guarantee that your credits will cover the cost you prepay.


8-k

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that all publicly traded companies use Form 8-k to report anything that could have a significant effect on the financial position of the company or the value of its shares. Events and changes that must be reported — in most cases within four days — include bankruptcy, mergers, acquisitions, amendments to the corporate charter or by-laws, a change of directors, a change in the fiscal year, and even a change of name or address of the company.A company’s Form 8-k becomes public information once it is filed, and you can find the report in the SEC’s EDGAR database. These 8-k filings are designed to level the playing field between general investors and investors who have special access to information about a company.


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