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  • What is FOREX?

    If you spend much time reading financial blogs, you've probably seen the term Forex thrown around more than once. Forex is short for the foreign exchange market, which is used for trading currencies; this allows businesses to convert their cash on hand from one currency to another, allowing them to pay for goods from another country in the currency of that country. Many people attempt to make money by guessing how one currency will fare against another; essentially you use one currency to buy another currency, with the expectation that the second one will be worth more. The foreign exchange market is the largest market in the world, and the most liquid.

    Forex is particularly popular because it's easy to get started and the market operates 24 hours a day, except weekends. In April 2010, average daily turnover was estimated to be $3.98 billion, of which $1.005 trillion was spot transactions (where currency is bought for immediate delivery, defined to be two days from when the trade is executed, or one day when swapping US dollars for Canadian dollars), $362 billion was in forward contracts (which amount to going long or short on a currency), and $1.714 trillion was Forex swaps (where equal amounts of the same currency are bought and sold, but for different times); the remaining $129 billion was not correctly reported. 34.1% of this trading occurs in London, 16.6% in New York City, and 6.0% in Tokyo. As brokers and dealers negotiate directly with one another, there is no central exchange; however, quoted prices are usually the London market price. The market is dominated by large traders, including banks and governments; the 10 largest traders account for 77% of trading volume . Generally these large traders are continually buying and selling currencies; the difference between what they buy currency for and sell it at is called the bid/ask spread. Generally, the currencies are traded in units of at least 100,000.

    Another option is carry trade, where investors borrow currencies with low interest rates and use them to buy more expensive currencies;  in the past, it was particularly popular to borrow yen (as the Bank of Japan set very low interest rates) to exchange for US dollars. This trade collapsed in 2008, leading to the rapid appreciation of the yen; this has been partially blamed for the credit crunch that lead to the financial crisis.

  • Retirement Planning for Women

    Why should retirement planning be any different for women than for men? For the most part, it isn't; however, because women generally make less and live longer than men, they need to save a higher percentage of their income in order to be sure of having sufficient funds available for retirement. Additionally, they're more likely to work in part-time positions that don't offer access to retirement plans.

    An additional issue is that women often invest more conservatively when they're young, when they should be investing aggressively to build the nest egg they'll need in later years.  Additionally, many employer-sponsored plans require that you work for a certain number of years to become fully vested; leaving the workforce at the wrong time to take care of children can thus wreak havoc on your financial plans.

    Some of the problem can be alleviated simply by choosing a job that provides a good retirement plan, and spending more time working, particularly when you're making a high salary; working longer before retirement is generally a good idea, as you put off when you'll need to start withdrawing from your retirement account, allow the money in it to grow longer, and contribute more when you're at (presumably) your highest salary.

    If you're married, you should be aware of how much of your husband's benefits you'll be entitled to, should you outlive him. You can calculate the social security benefits you'll be entitled to based on both your and your husband's contributions at the official Social Security website.

    Additionally, if you're not currently working and your husband is, you may be eligible to make a spousal IRA contribution; this allows you to contribute to your husband's traditional or Roth IRA, increasing the amount you can invest in the retirement shelter. To qualify for this, you must be married (obviously!), file a joint federal income tax return, and have taxable compensation at least equal to the amount you wish to contribute.

  • Cash Flow Notes

    A cash flow note is a contract wherein the borrower promises to repay the lender; essentially, you are trading a lump sum payment now for the promise of a continuing stream of income later. There are a number of common types of cash flow notes, discussed below. Like any other asset, they can be bought and sold; some are fairly complicated, and all should be purchased only after completing due diligence.

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  • Virtual Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and Checking Accounts

    Ever since the advent of online shopping, many people have worried over whether it's safe to reveal their credit card information online. A virtual debt card or credit card is the solution; it works just like a regular card, but restricts charges to a certain amount or retailer. Many banks and credit card companies provide virtual card numbers at no charge. Paypal, for example, offers a virtual debit card that generates a unique number each time you make a purchase, with the money coming from your bank account, credit card, or paypal credit.

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  • Do You Need a Debt Settlement Attorney?

    If you've decided to try debt negotiation, one big question remains: should you attempt to handle it yourself, or hire a debt settlement attorney? And if you do hire one, exactly what will he do for you?

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  • Term Life Insurance

    When other people rely on your income, one of the most important things you can do is to purchase life insurance. Until you have a sizable estate, this is the best way to ensure that your family will be taken care of should something happen to you.

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  • Checking Account Promotions

    Some days, it seems as if every bank out there is trying to get you to open a checking account with them, and most are willing to offer you some bonus to do it.  The day of this writing, for example, the author got an offer of $75 to open a new checking account with Chase bank (as he already has two, he declined). What should you look for (and avoid) when considering a checking account promotion?

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  • Debt Relief

    Feeling overwhelmed by your bills? One of the worst feelings in the world is that of being overwhelmed by your debt, of being in the hole and not knowing how to get out. Fortunately, there is help available; while there's no quick fix, there are things you can do to help remove yourself from the trap you're currently caught in.

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  • Debt Negotiation

    Everybody loves to negotiate, don't they? Well, no..most people seem to hate it. However, if you've reached the point where you simply can't pay your bills, debt negotiation (also known as debt settlement) might be the answer. Debt negotiation is when you negotiate with your creditors to reduce your outstanding debt; in some cases, credits will accept a smaller amount rather than chase you into bankruptcy.

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  • Investing for Dummies

    No, I'm not calling you a dummy! That guy over there, maybe. The one who's investing in individual stocks without doing any research, getting in and out of stocks almost every day, and failing to save a sufficient amount for retirement. You wouldn't do any of those things, would you?

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