9 Best Books to Read Before Buying a Home

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For most people, buying a home is the biggest purchase decision of a lifetime. In fact, it’s one of the biggest decisions, period. 

Your mortgage is probably the largest debt you’ll ever take on, and taking care of a house is one of the largest responsibilities. Next to getting married or having children, it’s hard to think of anything that will have a greater impact on your life. 

With so much at stake, it makes sense to learn as much as possible about the process before you take the plunge. You can find lots of articles about home buying online, of course, just like any other subject. But for a really in-depth take on the topic, you can’t beat a good book.

Best Books to Read Before Buying a Home

There are literally hundreds of books on home buying, covering the subject from every possible angle. Some real estate books provide a walk-through of the whole process. Some focus on the legal details. And some are all about getting the best deal on a mortgage.

With so many books to choose from, how do you find one that’s useful for you? To get started, look at what books other people have found most helpful. The books on this list all get good reviews from finance professionals, as well as ordinary homeowners.


1. “Home Buying Kit for Dummies” by Eric Tyson & Ray Brown 

All the books in the “Dummies” series explain complex topics — from computer languages to sports — to people who know nothing about them. “Home Buying Kit for Dummies” takes the same approach. It covers all the basics of buying a home in an easy-to-digest form.

This comprehensive guide covers every step of the home-buying process, including:

The book is ideal for first-time home buyers because it assumes no prior knowledge. It’s all in plain English, with no fancy lingo. You can read it from cover to cover or dip into it as needed to learn about specific topics.

To aid reading, the pages are peppered with icons marking key points. These include a light bulb for tips, a warning sign for pitfalls to avoid, and a deerstalker cap for topics to research on your own. They make it easy to spot important info at a glance.


2. “Buying a Home: The Missing Manual” by Nancy Conner 

The “Missing Manuals” series deals mostly with computer software and hardware. But it’s branched out into finance, another subject that ought to come with instructions. In this volume, Conner, a real estate investor, walks you through the home-buying process from start to finish.

“Buying a Home: The Missing Manual” is a step-by step guide to all the ins and outs of home buying. Its includes chapters on:

  • Choosing a real estate agent, mortgage lender, and lawyer
  • Choosing the right neighborhood
  • Finding your dream home 
  • Figuring out how much to offer on a house 
  • Financing your down payment
  • Comparing mortgages
  • Inspections
  • Closing costs

And it does all this with simple language and handy, bite-size chunks of information. Fill-in forms throughout the book help you apply the author’s expert advice to your specific situation.


3. “NOLO’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” by Ilona Bray J.D., Alayna Schroeder & Marcia Stewart 

The legal website NOLO is the top place to find legal advice online. Along with its free articles, the site offers an array of do-it-yourself forms, books, and software. This walk-through guide to homebuying is just one example.

“NOLO’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” covers most of the same topics as the Dummies and Missing Manual books, but from a different angle. It focuses on all the legal ins and outs of the home-buying process.

Although three attorneys wrote this book, it doesn’t rely on their knowledge alone. It draws on the knowledge of 15 other real estate professionals, including Realtors, loan officers, investors, home inspectors, and landlords. It’s like having your own private team of experts. For example:

  • A real estate agent offers tips on how to dress for an open house. 
  • A mortgage broker explains the risks of oral loan preapprovals. 
  • A closing expert discusses the importance of title insurance. 

Along with the expert advice, the book provides real-world stories from over 20 first-time home-buyers. Their experiences let you preview the process before jumping in yourself.


4. “Home Buyer’s Checklist: Everything You Need to Know — But Forgot to Ask — Before You Buy a Home” by Robert Irwin 

Every home-buying guide talks about the need for a home inspection. However, there are many problems home inspectors don’t always look for. The only way to detect them is to ask the right questions. In “Home Buyer’s Checklist,” Robert Irwin tells you what those questions are.

Irwin is a real estate professional with over three decades of experience. He knows all about the hidden flaws in homes and how to track them down. Irwin walks you through a house room by room and points out possible problem areas, such as:

  • Doors and door frames
  • Windows and window screens
  • Fireplaces
  • Light fixtures
  • Floors
  • Woodwork
  • Attic insulation

For each area, he notes possible problems and how to spot them. He also explains what they cost to fix and what damage they can cause if you don’t fix them. And he helps you use that information to your advantage in negotiating the price of the house.

Armed with this information, you can avoid unpleasant surprises when you move into your new home. It won’t make your house’s problems go away, but it will prepare you to deal with them — and keep the money in your pocket to do it.


5. “The 106 Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them)” by Gary Eldred

To first-time homebuyers, the real estate market is a big, confusing place. In “The 106 Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them),” Gary Eldred offers you a map to help you find your way around.

Eldred’s guide draws on the real-world experiences of homebuyers, home builders, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders. They shed light on the mistakes homebuyers make most often, such as:

  • Believing everything a real estate agent says
  • Underestimating the cost of owning a home
  • Buying in an upscale neighborhood that’s on the decline
  • Paying too much for a house
  • Letting your agent handle the price negotiations
  • Staying out of the housing market due to fear

With the help of Eldred’s examples, you can avoid these pitfalls and find a house that’s both a comfortable home and a sound investment.


6. “No Nonsense Real Estate: What Everyone Should Know Before Buying or Selling a Home” by Alex Goldstein 

As both a Realtor and a real estate investor, Alex Goldstein has been on both sides of a real estate transaction. This gives him a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t in the home buying process.

In “No Nonsense Real Estate,” Goldstein puts that experience to work for you. He offers a step-by-step guide to the home buying process in language a first time home buyer can easily understand. This comprehensive guide covers:

  • The economics of the housing market in simple terms
  • The pros and cons of working with a real estate agent
  • What to look for in a home
  • Assembling a real estate team
  • Types of homes, such as single-family homes, condos, and co-ops
  • Traditional home loans and non-bank financing
  • Tips for sellers to get the best price on a home
  • The five elements of a successful real estate negotiation
  • Real estate contracts and closing costs
  • The eight steps of a real estate closing
  • The basics of real estate investing
  • A real-world case study of a home purchase
  • A list of frequently asked questions
  • A glossary of real estate terms

As a bonus, all buyers of the book gain access to a library of training videos and materials. They can help you find a real estate agent in your area, evaluate investment properties, and more.


7. “The Mortgage Encyclopedia” by Jack Guttentag

One of the most intimidating parts of buying your first home is getting your first mortgage. Not only is it likely the biggest loan you’ve ever taken out, there are dozens of options to consider. And the jargon loan officers use, from “escrow” to “points,” doesn’t make it any easier.

Jack Guttentag’s “The Mortgage Encyclopedia” offers a solution. The author, a former professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, tells you everything you need to know about how mortgages work and what your options are. The book includes:

  • A glossary of mortgage terms, from “A-credit” to “Zillow mortgage”
  • Advice on nitty-gritty issues such as the risks of cosigning a loan and the pros and cons of paying points versus making a larger down payment 
  • The lowdown on common mortgage myths, traps, and hidden costs to avoid
  • At-a-glance tables on topics like affordability and interest costs for fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages

For first-time homebuyers grappling with the details of choosing and signing a mortgage, it’s a must-read.


8. “How to Get Approved for the Best Mortgage Without Sticking a Fork in Your Eye” by Elysia Stobbe 

Another book that focuses on mortgages is “How to Get Approved for the Best Mortgage Without Sticking a Fork in Your Eye.” As the whimsical title suggests, mortgage expert Elysia Stobbe understands how frustrating the mortgage approval process can be. 

To keep you sane, she helps break the process down into bite-sized chunks of info that are easy to manage. Her guide walks you through such details as types of mortgages, loan programs, interest rates, mortgage insurance, and fees. 

Stobbe explains how to find the right lender, choose the best real estate agent to handle negotiations, and find an appropriate type of loan. She also devotes a lot of space to mistakes you should avoid. And she supports it all with interviews with top real estate professionals.


Buying a home is such a huge, complicated process that it’s often hard to figure out where to start. In “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask,” Ilyce R. Glink addresses this problem by breaking the process down into a series of questions.

This approach makes it easy to find the information you want. Look through the table of contents to find the question that’s on your mind, then flip to the right page to see the answer. Glink tackles questions on all aspects of home buying, such as:

  • Should I buy a home or continue to rent?
  • How much can I afford to spend?
  • Is a new construction home better than an existing home?
  • What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a broker?
  • Where should I start looking for my dream home?
  • What should I look for at a house showing?
  • How does my credit score affect my chance of getting a mortgage?
  • How do I make an offer on a home?
  • Do I need a home inspection?
  • What happens at the closing?

Glink combines advice from top brokers, real-world stories, and her own experience to provide solid answers to all these questions. And she wraps it up with three appendices covering mistakes to avoid and simple steps to make the home-buying process easier.


Final Word

All the books on this list offer a good grounding in the basics of home buying. But if you’re looking for more details on any part of the process, there’s sure to be a book for that too.

You can find books on just about every aspect of home buying. There are books on every stage of the process, from raising cash for a down payment to preparing for your closing. There are books about home buying just for single people and books on buying a home as an investment.

And once you move into your new home, there are more books to help you organize it, decorate it, and keep it in repair. Just search for the topic that interests you at Amazon, a local bookstore, or your local public library.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Become a Mortician and Other Jobs in the Funeral Industry

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There are a lot of reasons for thinking about becoming a funeral director, the funeral industry’s preferred term for mortician.

For one, the unemployment rate is low. For another, there’s always a need.

And, it is one of the careers that does not require a bachelor’s degree that still pays well. Funeral directors make an average of $55,000 a year. That’s the average and some directors with more experience bring in more than $70,000. As far as school, most states require an associate’s degree, an apprenticeship/internship, and passing a licensing exam.

If working with bereaved families and preparing bodies for burial or cremation seem like something you would be good at, consider this well-paying career path. The funeral industry is estimated to be worth $16 billion in the United States in 2021.

Read on to find out how to become a mortician.

The Difference Between a Mortician and Funeral Director

First, let’s clarify some terms. What are the differences between mortician, funeral director, embalmer and undertaker? They have similar roles but slightly different duties.

In 1895, an American publication called The Embalmer’s Monthly put out a call for a new term for undertakers. The winner was mortician, a made-up word and thank goodness for Morticia Addams, right? Now, the industry uses funeral director for the person arranging the funeral service.

Most funeral directors are licensed morticians and embalmers. They have studied mortuary science and prepare bodies, but they also arrange the other aspects of funeral services. Funeral directors help the bereaved plan the memorial service (and might conduct it if there is no clergy) and arrange for cremation and burial. Funeral directors deal directly with the clients.

An embalmer can work for a funeral home, but also elsewhere — medical schools, hospitals, and morgues. They mainly prepare bodies, and don’t work with clients. The term undertaker is the British term for funeral director and is seldom used in the U.S. except when referring to the popular professional wrestler, The Undertaker.

What Does a Funeral Director Do?

Funeral directors deal with both the living and the dead. Funeral directors arrange for moving the body to the funeral home. They file the paperwork for death certificates, obituaries, and other legal matters.

Preparing a body for the funeral service may or may not include embalming (cremation doesn’t require embalming), but it needs to be dressed, cosseted (put in the best and most natural appearance), and casketed (placed in the coffin).

Funeral services are difficult times for people. The funeral director needs to have compassion for people navigating their pain and sorrow. While an interest in science is necessary, an important quality for someone who wants to become a mortician or funeral director is empathy.

The funeral director guides the grieving through the decisions that have to be made for the funeral service. This not only includes choosing the coffin, but placing the obituary, arranging the wake and service and creating a program for it, shipping remains, and more.

The Changing Funeral Business

Most funeral homes are independently owned. While often smaller businesses don’t have the deeper pockets of corporations, their size allows them to be more nimble in evolving their business. Funeral services have transformed from somber and sorrowful times to celebrations of life with some funeral homes even providing spaces for outdoor gathering complete with grills.

In recent years, more women are graduating in mortuary science. Some people might become funeral service workers as a second career instead of inheriting the business, which has been a traditional entry into the industry. The National Funeral Directors Association encourages its members to seek out, hire, and train more women and non-binary people.

You can find mortuary science stars on social media, including the popular YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician. There are funeral directors’ TikTok videos, and mortician AMAs (ask me anything) on Reddit.

Get Started in the Funeral Business

Most states require a two-year associate’s degree in mortuary science or related areas, an apprenticeship or internship, and passing the national or state’s license exam. Ohio and Minnesota are the only two states that require a bachelor’s degree to be a funeral home director. Colorado does not have any education requirements, but licenses funeral homes instead. Kentucky doesn’t license funeral directors but does license embalmers.

The National Funeral Directors Association is your go-to source for state-by-state details of working in the funeral industry.

If you were also thinking about joining the military, the Navy is the only service branch with its own morticians. For that you need a high school diploma or GED, and then you would get training through the Navy as a hospital corpsman-mortician.

Licensure

You usually have to be at least 21 years old to take the exams, though you can start an internship or apprenticeship before that age. There may also be a criminal background check. Having a criminal record doesn’t mean you can’t become a mortician. You also have to submit proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.

You can also study for and take the national funeral service education board exam. The pathways to these two types of exams can be different. It is important to note that not all mortuary science programs are accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE).

You can only take the National Board Exam if you have a degree from an accredited program. Some states allow you to take the state exam even if your program is not accredited. The exams are the same. It is just more difficult to practice in a different state if you haven’t attended an accredited program.

State Licenses

Most states have information about how to become a mortician through their occupational license, public health, or funeral board sections on their website. It is important that you clarify whether the mortuary science programs are accredited for just the state license exam, or for both state and national exams. Some schools also offer Funeral Arts Certificates, which can be used for other jobs in the funeral service industry.

National License

The American Board of Funeral Service Education is the national academic accreditation agency for college and university programs in Funeral Service and Mortuary Science Education. Most states have easier reciprocity requirements to transfer your practice if you have taken the national board exam. If you have taken the state exam only, you may have to meet all of the requirements again if you move to another state.

Classwork for the License

Coursework can be broken down into roughly three categories: art, business, and science. Art? That is for the restorative arts, or visually preparing the body for a funeral service, which includes hair and makeup. There are courses which cover death traditions from many cultures and the history of funerals.

Science classes may cover embalming theory and labs, anatomy, physiology, public health, and pathology. There are chemistry and biology courses, and also usually psychology courses on grief and bereavement training.

Business classes will cover funeral home administration, accounting, requirements for a funeral service license, and some business law. There are usually classes covering legal and ethical issues that a certified funeral service practitioner will face.

Cost of Getting a License

The cost of getting a two-year mortuary science degree varies by state but your best bet will be an in-state community college. Then there will be costs associated with taking exams and getting a license.

School

There is a huge difference in how much you can pay for a mortuary science associate’s degree. In-state public schools may cost between $5,000-$8,500. Private, out of state tuition might be almost $20,000. There are the normal student loans and grants available, but there are also specific grants for students studying mortuary science (even as a second career). It seems like a great investment, since unemployment for funeral directors is extremely low.

Exam

The National Board Exam has two sections, arts and sciences. Each one costs $285. There are practice exams that you can take, which are free. In Florida, the state funeral service examining boards charge $132 for exams. Maine charges $75 plus $21 for a criminal background check. Texas charges $89. Some states have two separate exams — one for funeral services and the other for embalming.

Licenses

This is another area with variation. Using the same three states as above, Florida’s license for a funeral director costs $430 with all the fees. Maine’s is $230, and Texas costs $175 plus $93 for the application. Apparently not everything is bigger in Texas! Licenses need to be renewed periodically, which also requires continuing education credits.

Funeral Director as Entrepreneur

The funeral industry has been changing rapidly over the last few years. Cremations have increased and burials decreased. Funeral homes make less money on cremations, and have responded to this shift by finding new sources of income and new ways to help people.

Green Funerals

There are more environmentally conscious choices that funeral homes can offer, including rental coffins for services (and a plain one after), biodegradable coffins, and natural burials. Green funeral services include sourcing flowers locally, using funeral invitations and programs made of recycled paper embedded with seeds, and biodegradable water urns, which sink and dissipate for at sea services..

Pet Funerals

An estimated 67% of households in the U.S. own pets, and many of them are using funeral home services for their animals. That includes memorials, services, and burials. Despite pet cremation being infinitely (well, 90 vs.10%) more popular than burial, there are over 200 pet cemeteries in the U.S., with Florida having the most.

Other Jobs in the Funeral Industry

Besides being an intern or apprentice, you can work in the funeral industry in many other ways. Florida lists 16 separate individual and business licenses for funeral home-related activities.

Here are the common jobs in the funeral or mortician industry though keep in mind in a smaller business, the funeral director may do some of them:

  • Administrative assistants handle office work.
  • Burial rights brokers arrange for third parties to sell or transfer burial rights.
  • Cemeterians maintain cemetery grounds (think groundskeeper).
  • Ceremonialists conduct the funeral service.
  • Crematory operators/technicians assist in cremation remains.
  • Direct disposers handle cremation when there is no service or embalming.
  • Embalmers prepare the body after death.
  • Funeral arrangers work with clients to set up the funeral.
  • Funeral home manager is the best paying job in the field, the median salary for this position is more than $74,000. The manager oversees all funeral home operations.
  • Funeral service managers are similar to funeral arrangers.
  • Funeral supply sales personnel work for the funeral home-sourcing supplies.
  • Monument agents sell tombstones and other markers for the cemetery.
  • Mortuary transport drivers prepare and transport human remains.
  • Pathology technicians work in hospitals, morgues, or universities with cadavers.
  • Pre-need sales agents help clients plan their services and burials before they die.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Funeral Business Jobs

We’ve rounded up the answers to the most common questions about working in the funeral industry.

What Jobs Can You Do at a Funeral Home?

negotiate supplies, transport bodies, conduct funeral services, and work with clients to place obituaries and arrange the service. They also have sales people working on pre-need arrangements. Some funeral homes feature pet burials and have special jobs related to that.

How Much Do You Make Working at a Funeral Home?

Funeral directors average $55,000 annually. Managing a funeral home pays a median salary of $74,000. Mortuary transport drivers average over $35,000. It is a field with very low unemployment.

How Do I Get a Job in the Funeral Industry?

Most states require two years of school, a (paid) internship, and passing the appropriate license exams to become a funeral director. Other jobs may require less.The mortuary transport driver has to be able to lift 100 pounds or more and have a clean driving record.

What is a Funeral Home Job Called?

There are many. There are funeral directors, embalmers, mortuary transport drivers, and funeral service arrangers. There are also typical office jobs, such as administrative assistant and bookkeepers. There are also related jobs at crematoriums, hospitals, and mortuaries.

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Is the Stock Market Open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2021?

The good news is, investors will indeed get a Turkey Day break from their brokerage accounts. The stock market is indeed closed on Thanksgiving Day.

But don’t call it a four-day weekend: Investors still need to show up on Black Friday.

At least for a few hours.

In 2021, the stock market is closed all day on Thursday, Nov. 25, as America celebrates Thanksgiving Day. That said, stocks will begin trading on Black Friday at the normal market time, but it will be a shortened trading day. On Friday, Nov. 26, the market will close at 1 p.m.

The bond market has a similar holiday schedule, closing on Thanksgiving Day and opening for a partial session (closing at 2 p.m.) on Black Friday.

2021 Market Holidays

Date Holiday NYSE Nasdaq Bond Markets*
Friday, Jan. 1 New Year’s Day Closed Closed Closed
Monday, Jan. 18 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Closed Closed Closed
Monday, Feb. 15 Presidents’ Day/Washington’s Birthday Closed Closed Closed
Friday, April 2 Good Friday Closed Closed Early close
(Noon)
Friday, May 28 Friday Before Memorial Day Open Open Early close
(2 p.m.)
Monday, May 31 Memorial Day Closed Closed Closed
Friday, July 2 Friday Before Independence Day Open Open Early close
(2 p.m.)
Monday, July 5 Independence Day (Observed) Closed Closed Closed
Monday, Sept. 6 Labor Day Closed Closed Closed
Monday, Oct. 11 Columbus Day Open Open Closed
Thursday, Nov. 11 Veterans Day Open Open Closed
Thursday, Nov. 25 Thanksgiving Day Closed Closed Closed
Friday, Nov. 26 Day After Thanksgiving Early close
(1 p.m.)
Early close
(1 p.m.)
Early close
(2 p.m.)
Thursday, Dec. 23 Day Before Christmas Eve Open Open Early close
(2 p.m.)
Friday, Dec. 24 Christmas Eve (Christmas Day Observed) Closed Closed Closed
Friday, Dec. 31 New Year’s Eve Open Open Early close
(2 p.m.)

* This is the recommended bond market holiday schedule from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA). This schedule is subject to change.

Stock Market Holiday Observations

When it comes to the stock and bond markets alike, if a holiday falls on a weekend, market closures are dictated by two rules:

  • If the holiday falls on a Saturday, the market will close on the preceding Friday.
  • If the holiday falls on a Sunday, the market will close on the subsequent Monday.

Stock and Bond Market Hours

The “core trading” stock market hours for the NYSE and Nasdaq are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. However, both exchanges offer premarket trading hours between 4 and 9:30 a.m., as well as late trading hours between 4 and 8 p.m.

Bond markets typically trade between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The stock markets close at 1 p.m. on early-closure days; bond markets close early at 2 p.m.

Source: kiplinger.com

Solo 401(k) vs SEP IRA: Key Differences and Considerations

Self-employment has its perks but an employer-sponsored retirement plan isn’t one of them. Opening a solo 401(k) or a Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account (SEP IRA) allows the self-employed to build wealth for retirement while enjoying some tax advantages.

A solo 401(k) or one-participant 401(k) is similar to a traditional 401(k), in terms of annual contribution limits and tax treatment. A SEP IRA, meanwhile, follows the same tax rules as traditional IRAs. SEP IRAs, however, allow a higher annual contribution limit than a regular IRA.

So, which is better for you? The answer can depend largely on whether your business has employees or operates as a sole proprietorship and which plan yields more benefits, in terms of contribution limits and tax breaks.

Weighing the features of a solo 401(k) vs. SEP IRA can make it easier to decide which one is more suited to your retirement savings needs.

Investing for Your Retirement When Self-Employed

An important part of planning for your retirement is understanding your long-term goals. Whether you choose to open a solo 401(k) or make SEP IRA contributions can depend on how much you need and want to save for retirement and what kind of tax advantages you hope to enjoy along the way.

Recommended: When Can I Retire? This Formula Will Help You Know

A solo 401(k) could allow you to save more for retirement on a tax-advantaged basis compared to a SEP IRA, but not everyone can contribute to one. It’s also important to consider whether you need to give some thought to retirement planning for employees.

If you’re hoping to mirror or replicate the traditional 401(k) plan experience, then you might lean toward a solo 401(k). Whether you can contribute to one of these plans depends on your business structure. Business owners with no employees or whose only employee is their spouse can use a solo 401(k).

Meanwhile, you can establish a SEP IRA for yourself as the owner of a business as well as your eligible employees, if you have any. It’s also helpful to think about what kind of investment options you might prefer. What you can invest in through a solo 401(k) plan may be different from what a SEP IRA offers, which can affect how you grow wealth for retirement.

Solo 401(k) vs SEP IRA Comparisons

Both solo 401(k) plans and SEP IRAs make it possible to save for retirement as a self-employed person or business owner when you don’t have access to an employer’s 401(k). You can set up either type of account if you operate as a sole proprietorship and have no employees. And both can offer a tax break if you’re able to deduct contributions each year.

In terms of differences, there are some things that set solo 401(k) plans apart from SEP IRAs. Under SEP IRA rules, for instance, neither employee nor catch-up contributions are allowed. There’s no Roth option with a SEP IRA, which you may have with a solo 401(k). Choosing a Roth solo 401(k) might appeal to you if you’d like to be able to make tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

You may also be able to take a loan from a solo 401(k) if the plan permits it. Solo 401(k) loans follow the same rules as traditional 401(k) loans. If you need to take money from a SEP IRA before age 59 ½, however, you may pay an early withdrawal penalty and owe income tax on the withdrawal.

Here’s a rundown of the main differences between a 401(k) vs. SEP IRA.

Solo 401(k) SEP IRA
Tax-Deductible Contributions Yes, for traditional solo 401(k) plans Yes
Employer Contributions Allowed Yes Yes
Employee Contributions Allowed Yes Yes
Withdrawals Taxed in Retirement Yes, for traditional solo 401(k) plans Yes
Roth Contributions Allowed Yes No
Catch-Up Contributions Allowed Yes No
Loans Allowed Yes No

What Is a Solo 401(k)?

A solo 401(k) or one-participant 401(k) plan is a traditional 401(k) that covers a business owner who has no employees or employs only their spouse. Simply, a Solo 401(k) allows you to save money for retirement from your self-employment or business income on a tax-advantaged basis.

These plans follow the same IRS rules and requirements as any other 401(k). There are specific solo 401(k) contribution limits to follow, along with rules regarding withdrawals and taxation. Regulations also govern when you can take a loan from a solo 401(k) plan.

A number of online brokerages now offer solo 401(k) plans for self-employed individuals, including those who freelance or perform gig work. You can open a retirement account online and start investing, no employer other than yourself needed.

If you use a solo 401(k) to save for retirement, you’ll also need to follow some reporting requirements. Generally, the IRS requires solo 401(k) plan owners to file a Form 5500-EZ if it has $250,000 or more in assets at the end of the year.

Solo 401(k) Contribution Limits

Just like other 401(k) plans, solo 401(k)s have annual contribution limits. You can make contributions as both an employee and an employer. Here’s how annual solo 401(k) contribution limits work for elective deferrals:

Solo 401(k) Contribution Limits by Age in 2021 (Elective Deferrals) Annual contribution in 2022
Annual Contribution Catch-Up Contribution in 2021 and 2022
Under 50 $19,500 N/a N/a
50 and Older $19,500 $6,500 $20,500

The limit on 401(k) contributions, including elective deferrals and employer nonelective contributions, is $58,000 for 2021 and $61,000 in 2022. That doesn’t include an additional $6,500 allowed for catch-up contributions if you’re 50 or older.

If you’re self-employed, the IRS requires you to make a special calculation to figure out the maximum amount of elective deferrals and employer nonelective contributions you can make for yourself. This calculation reflects on your earned income, or means your net earnings from self-employment after deducting one-half of your self-employment tax and contributions for yourself.

The IRS offers a rate table you can use to calculate your contributions. You can set up automatic deferrals to a solo 401(k), or make contributions at any point throughout the year.

What Is a SEP IRA?

A SEP IRA or Simplified Employee Pension Plan is another option to consider if you’re looking for retirement plans for those self-employed. This tax-advantaged plan is available to any size business, including sole proprietorships with no employees, and its one of the easiest retirement plan to set up and maintain. So if you’re a freelancer or a gig worker, you might consider using a SEP IRA to plan for retirement.

SEP IRAs work much like traditional IRAs, with regard to the tax treatment of withdrawals. They do, however, allow you to contribute more money toward retirement each year above the standard traditional IRA contribution limit. That means you could enjoy a bigger tax break when it’s time to deduct contributions.

If you have employees, you can make retirement plan contributions to a SEP IRA on their behalf. SEP IRA contribution limits are, for the most part, the same for both employers and employees. If you’re interested in a SEP, you can set up an IRA for yourself or for yourself and your employees through an online brokerage.

SEP IRA Contributions

SEP IRA contributions use pre-tax dollars. Amounts contributed are tax-deductible in the year you make them. All contributions are made by the employer only, which is something to remember if you have employees. Unlike a traditional 401(k) that allows elective deferrals, your employees wouldn’t be able to add money to their SEP IRA through paycheck deductions.

Here’s how SEP IRA contributions work.

SEP IRA Contributions by Age

Annual Contribution Catch-Up Contribution
Under 50 Lesser of 25% of the employee’s compensation or $58,000 in 2021 and $61,000 in 2022. N/a
50 and Older Lesser of 25% of the employee’s compensation or $58,000 and $61,000 in 2022. N/a

The IRS doesn’t allow catch-up contributions to a SEP IRA, a significant difference from solo 401(k) plans. So it’s possible you could potentially save more for retirement with a solo 401(k), depending on your age and earnings. If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to follow the same IRS rules for figuring your annual contributions that apply to solo 401(k) plans.

You can make SEP IRA contributions at any time until your taxes are due, in mid-April of the following year.

The Takeaway

Saving for retirement is something that you can’t afford to put off. Whether you choose a solo 401(k), SEP IRA or another savings plan, it’s important to take the first step toward growing wealth.

If you’re ready to start saving for the future, one way to get started is by opening a brokerage account on the SoFi Invest investment platform. All members get complimentary access to a financial advisor, which can help you create a plan to meet your long-term goals.

Photo credit: iStock/1001Love


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
SOIN1021438

Source: sofi.com

New Ways to Invest in Bitcoin

The launch of an exchange-traded fund (ETF) based on bitcoin futures in October was epic. Less than a month after it opened, ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) had $1.26 billion in assets – one of the biggest ETF debuts ever. A second bitcoin futures fund, Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BTF), opened two days after the ProShares fund.

The bitcoin futures ETFs are actively managed and use similar strategies. The managers buy one-month forward futures contracts – the nearest-dated contract – tied to bitcoin prices. Every month, they close or sell those contracts before they expire and buy new contracts dated for the next month.

You can’t actually invest in bitcoin’s spot price –the price at which an asset can be bought or sold for immediate delivery – says Simeon Hyman, head of investment strategy at ProShares. “So the futures market is a good place to get bitcoin exposure,” he says. Because of the way futures contracts are sold, a certain amount of cash per contract needs to be held in collateral. That’s why these ETFs are heavy in Treasuries and cash.

Both ProShares and Valkyrie examined how their respective futures-based strategies would have performed in the past, relative to the spot price of bitcoin, and found a high correlation – a so-called beta of 0.87 to 0.99 – between the two. For context, S&P 500 index funds typically have a beta of 1.0 with the stock benchmark.

But futures investing comes with some unique risks. Because of how these securities are priced, shifts in supply and demand for the underlying asset – in this case, bitcoin – can impact contract prices and the fund’s returns.

ETFs also have limits on the amount of any given contract they can own, says Steven McClurg, Valkyrie Funds’ chief investment officer. Funds with sizable assets may be forced to purchase longer-dated futures contracts, and that can increase volatility. In early November, for instance, ProShares’ BITO held November and December contracts.

Even so, the ETFs offer an easier way to gain bitcoin exposure than buying the actual cryptocurrency. You don’t have to open a digital currency exchange account or remember any passwords. But if you plan to invest, devote only a small portion of your portfolio to this kind of futures ETF.

There are other ways to gain exposure to bitcoin and blockchain, the technology behind the digital asset. Invesco Alerian Galaxy Crypto Economy ETF (SATO) focuses on companies that enable the crypto economy, such as Canaan (CAN), a Chinese maker of servers and microprocessors used to create bitcoin. Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) has yet another approach: Every share in the trust is backed by bitcoin.

bitcoin etfsbitcoin etfs

Source: kiplinger.com

Cardless Existing Cardholders $100 Bonus With $1,000 Spend

The Offer

Direct Link to offer (holiday footer)

  • Cardless is offering their existing cardholders a bonus 10,000 points when they spend $1,000 between November 24 and December 31, 2021.

The Fine Print

  • * HOLIDAY BONUS POINTS OFFER: To be eligible to receive 10,000 bonus points, you must be an existing cardholder as of 12:00pm PT November 24, 2021 with no other open Cardless credit card accounts and you must complete $1,000 in Eligible Purchases between 12:00pm PT on November 24, 2021 and 11:59pm PT on December 31, 2021.
  • Allow up to 2 statement cycles for the bonus to appear in your rewards account.
  • To receive the bonus, your account must remain current and in good standing for the duration of this offer.
  • Eligible Purchases do not include transactions that are returned, disputed, unauthorized, fraudulent, exceed your credit limit, are made while your account is in default, or any other transaction that First Electronic Bank or Cardless may determine in their discretion is not eligible to earn points. Any bonus points earned through this offer will not be doubled per the Double Points Promotion if a cardholder is simultaneously enrolled in that promotion. This offer is not valid if you violate the terms of this offer, your Cardholder Agreement, or the Rewards Terms.
  • Still working towards your Cardless sign-up offer? We have great news: eligible purchases will count towards your currently enrolled spend bonus offers.

Our Verdict

I’m not positive if this promotion is for all Cardless members, but it seems to be showing on the footer of many/all Cardless cards. Hopefully you got an email about this as well or else you can try contacting customer support to confirm that it applies to you.

Sounds like any $1,000 of spend will count, as stated in the email: “Eligible airfare, hotel stays, restaurant meals, gas, grocery transactions and other eligible purchases will count toward the 10,000-point bonus, which you’ll automatically earn after spending $1,000.”

Hat tip to FearTheZ

Source: doctorofcredit.com

What Is IPO Due Diligence?

An Initial Public Offering, or IPO, represents the first time a private company makes its shares available for trade on a public stock exchange. As part of the IPO process, private companies must perform due diligence to ensure that they’ve met all the requirements for going public. This ensures that the company follows all registration and disclosure guidelines established by the Securities Act of 1933.

Broadly speaking, IPO due diligence is similar to the due diligence performed in any other situation involving large amounts of capital. Just as an investor may research certain aspects of a company before deciding to purchase shares, a company that’s planning an IPO must have an understanding of the various factors that could positively or negatively affect its success.

If you’re interested in investing in IPOs, it’s helpful to know what goes on behind the scenes and how the IPO due diligence process works.

Recommended: How to Buy IPO Stocks

IPO Due Diligence Process

IPO due diligence typically takes place within the first 60 days of a company beginning the IPO process. During the IPO due diligence process, the IPO underwriters and IPO attorneys will work together to perform the necessary background research to gain a better understanding of the company, its management and its financials. This involves gathering the follow information:

1. Organizational Data

During the first stage of the IPO due diligence process, the underwriters and attorneys gather information about the company’s organizational structure. This may include requesting copies of any or all of the following:

•   Articles of incorporation

•   A list of the company’s shareholders and committees

•   An overview of the number of shares owned per individual shareholder

•   Annual business reports for the previous three years

•   Company business plans or strategic plans

•   A breakdown of the company’s organizational structure, including board members, directors, and employees

The underwriting team may also request a copy of a certificate in good standing from the State Secretary, along with information on organizational decision-making.

2. Licensing and Taxation

The next step in IPO due diligence involves collecting information about the company’s licensing and taxes. At this stage, the IPO underwriter and/or attorneys may request copies of:

•   All business licenses currently issued to the company

•   Annual tax returns

•   Government licenses and permits held by the company

•   Employment tax filings

•   Comprehensive reports of the company’s tax filing data

The underwriting team may look back three years or more when analyzing income tax returns and tax filing information.

3. Board and Employee Information

Due diligence can also extend to information about the company’s board of directors, its managers, and its employees. At this phase of IPO due diligence, underwriters and attorney may request:

•   A list of all individuals it employees

•   Information about employee status, including each employee’s position and salary

•   Details regarding employee benefits and bonuses, according to position

•   A copy of company policies relating to sick leave or conflict resolution

•   Details about employee insurance benefits, including health, disability and life insurance

•   Copies of resumes for leading personnel

•   Copies of employee audits

With regard to employee audits, underwriters can look back two to three years.

4. Financial Information

A company’s finances can come under close scrutiny during the IPO due diligence process. When considering financial information, the IPO underwriting and legal team may review:

•   Copies of broker or investment banking arrangements

•   Company financial statements records, including previous financial audits

•   A list of all financial accounts help by the company

•   Copies of financial analyst reports

•   Information about the company’s inventory holdings

•   Details regarding the company’s accounting and amortization methods

•   A list of all fixed and variable expenses

The time frame for which underwriters can review financial information can stretch from the previous three to five years, depending on what they’re examining.

Recommended: How to Read Financial Statements

5. Customer/Service Information

Due diligence also takes into account interactions with customers and service practices. During this step, the underwriting team may request:

•   Reports or information about the products and services offered by the company

•   Details about consumer complaints filed against the company

•   Information about legal approvals for the company’s products and services

•   Copies of the company’s trading policies

•   Details regarding the company’s marketing strategies as well as copies of marketing materials

The underwriters may also need to see copies of customer supply or service agreements.

6. Company Property

Last but not least, IPO underwriters will examine property holdings owned by the company. This can include reviewing information about:

•   Business locations

•   Real estate agreements and/or franchise licenses

•   Trademarks and copyrights held by the company

•   Approved patents held by the company

•   Trademark complaints, if applicable

•   Official contracts showing the purchase of real estate

The underwriters may also ask for a full inventory of any physical or real property the company owns.

Objective of IPO Due Diligence

During due diligence, the underwriting team is working to gain a full understanding of how the company operates, how it’s structured, how healthy it is financially, and whether there are any potential issues that could be a roadblock to going public. The due diligence process effectively clears the way for the next steps in the IPO process.

The IPO due diligence process ensures that there are no surprises waiting to crop up that could derail a company’s progress. It’s also an opportunity for the underwriting team, the IPO attorneys and the company itself to assess any potential risk factors that may affect the IPO’s outcome.

Benefits of Due Diligence Process

IPO due diligence has benefits for both the company and investors.

IPO Due Diligence Benefits to the Company

•   Due diligence offers an opportunity to explore the viability of an IPO, based on the company’s business model, financials, capital needs and anticipated demand for its shares.

•   Due diligence also allows the company to avoid going afoul of regulatory guidelines, and it can help to identify any issues the company may need to address before going public.

IPO Due Diligence Benefits to Investors

•   The due diligence process can reveal more about a company than the information in the initial red herring prospectus. In IPO investing, a red herring refers to the initial prospectus compiled for SEC registration purposes.

•   If investors feel confident about the information they have, that could help to fuel the success of the IPO which can mean more capital raised for the company and better returns for those who purchase its shares.

Next Steps in Filing IPO

Once the underwriting team has completed its due diligence, the company can move on to the next steps involved in how to file an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Again, that includes:

•   SEC review

•   IPO roadshow

•   Pricing

•   Launch

•   Stabilization

•   Transition to market

The SEC review typically takes between 90 and 150 days to complete. Now, it’s up to the SEC to determine that all regulatory requirements have been met. Usually, the team conducting the review includes one or more attorneys and one or more accountants.

Next, comes the roadshow. During the roadshow, the company presents details about the IPO to potential investors. This step of the IPO process allows the company and underwriters to gauge interest in the offering and attract investors.

IPO pricing usually involves a closer look at the company’s financials, including its valuation and cash flow. Underwriters may also consider valuations for similar competitors when determining the appropriate IPO price.

After setting the IPO price, the underwriters and the company will schedule the IPO launch. Once the IPO launches, investors can purchase shares of the company. The underwriter does the steering on price stabilization movements during the 25 days following the launch, after which the company transitions to market competition, concluding the IPO process.

The Takeaway

IPO due diligence is an important part of the IPO process. Thanks to due diligence, investors who want to purchase IPO stock can feel confident that a company about to go public complies with all relevant SEC regulations.

If you’re interested in purchasing IPO stock, it’s easier than you might think to gain access to newly-launched companies. With a brokerage account on the SoFi Invest investment app, members can invest in IPOs.

Photo credit: iStock/porcorex


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
IPOs: Investing early in IPO stock involves substantial risk of loss. The decision to invest should always be made as part of a comprehensive financial plan taking individual circumstances and risk appetites into account.
SOIN1021434

Source: sofi.com

Seeking Alpha Review – Is the Premium Subscription Worth It?

At a glance

Seeking Alpha Logo

Our rating

  • What It Is: Seeking Alpha is a stock market news and research website that produces more than 10,000 articles per month, designed to give readers investment ideas and tools for evaluating different investments.
  • Membership Fees: Basic, Free; Premium, $29.99 per month or $239.88 annually ($19.99 per month); Pro, $299 per month or $2,388 annually ($199 per month).
  • Pros: Detailed research and opinions from bears and bulls, proprietary rating systems, intuitive stock screener, portfolio monitoring, earnings calls and transcripts, and notable calls from Wall Street experts.
  • Cons: Relatively high monthly fee, many of the premium features can be found free elsewhere, few tools for technical traders, and the vast amount of information can overwhelm newcomers.

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

Everything you read when it comes to learning how to invest tells you that research is the foundation of profitable investment choices. One of the best research tools for the fundamental investor is found at SeekingAlpha.com.

Seeking Alpha is an investment research service fueled by more than 7,000 contributors who produce more than 10,000 articles per month, with each having a unique stance on the topics they cover. Investors can benefit quite a bit from the company’s free services, but if you’re willing to pay for the premium service, even more tools are unlocked.

What Is Seeking Alpha?

At its core, Seeking Alpha is a crowdsourcing website that sources valuable investment research through a vast consortium of contributors. Seeking Alpha was designed for individual investors who are interested in choosing individual stocks. 

The vast majority of the content on the website is available for free for the first 10 days after publication. However, if you’re interested in in-depth research, stock screening tools, and proprietary rating systems, you’ll need to sign up for one of the company’s subscription services.


Pricing

There are three different pricing models available.

  1. Basic. The Basic subscription is absolutely free. With this subscription, you’ll gain access to free articles for the first 10 days after their publication as well as some portfolio management tools. For most casual investors who aren’t interested in diving deep into research and fundamental analysis, the Basic subscription is a great fit. 
  2. Premium. The Premium service unlocks all articles on the website regardless of their age. Premium members also get access to a customized news platform, an intuitive stock screener, proprietary Quant ratings, unlimited conference call transcripts, earnings call audio, and exclusive author ratings. In exchange, members agree to pay $29.99 per month or $239.88 paid annually ($19.99 per month). You can also try before you buy with the company’s 14-day free trial. 
  3. Pro. The Pro service comes with a price tag that will turn off most mom-and-pop investors at $299 per month or $2,388 paid annually ($199 per month). Designed for investors who manage large portfolios, the Pro service offers a curated collection of the most in-depth research offered through the platform. 

Key Features

As a research-centric service, the vast majority of key features offered by Seeking Alpha have to do with getting to know the companies you invest in before risking your hard-earned money on them. Some of the most exciting features you’ll gain access to when you sign up include:

Thorough Investment Research

With more than 7,000 contributors offering up more than 10,000 articles per month, you’ll have everything you need to research just about any publicly traded company and make a quality investment decision.

The vast majority of these articles are labeled as investment ideas that fall into one of the following categories:

  • Long Ideas. Long ideas are investment ideas centered around stocks that the authors believe will head up in value in the long term. 
  • IPO Analysis. Initial public offerings, or IPOs, are a hot topic among investors, and tools that help determine whether an IPO is priced fairly and has strong potential to grow in value are invaluable. The IPO analysis offered by Seeking Alpha is one of the best ways to go about analyzing an IPO trade.
  • Quick Picks. Quick picks are articles centered around stocks based on a specific investment theme or fundamental data. 
  • Fund Letters. Fund letters is a curated list of select letters from professionally managed funds to their investors outlining the investing landscape and their goals moving forward. 
  • Editor’s Picks. Editor’s picks are articles that are hand-selected by the editors at Seeking Alpha based on in-depth research, the author’s track record, and other factors.  
  • Stock Ideas by Sector. The Stock Ideas by Sector section of the Seeking Alpha website lets you quickly scan through any sector of the market. 

Beyond the basic search functions of the website and access to all articles regardless of how old they are, Premium members also enjoy a customizable news dashboard that displays articles on stocks and investment strategies they’re interested in first, making combing through the vast sea of content on SeekingAlpha.com far easier. 

Note that although investment ideas are shared on the company’s website, nothing on the site constitutes investment advice. The author couldn’t possibly know your unique goals, financial capabilities, risk tolerance, and other factors that make you, well, you. The platform is designed as a research tool. You should never blindly make an investment just because the title of an article on the platform suggests big gains are ahead. 

Article Sidebar

The article sidebar is a feature that’s only available to Seeking Alpha Premium subscribers, but it alone is worth the subscription fee for many investors. 

When making investment decisions based on what you read online, it’s important to validate the source of the research and ensure the author and the stock are worth following in the first place. The Article Sidebar makes this simple to do at a glance by offering a brief bullish and bearish synopsis of the stock, stock ratings from the authors on the platform, a real-time stock price chart, and ratings for the author who contributed the piece.

Quant Ratings

Technology and computerized trading algorithms have reshaped the investing industry. Today, the market is more active than ever before, and algorithms provide a trove of data on the potential of any investment. 

However, the details offered up by these algorithms are often difficult to understand, and therefore often are ignored by novice investors. 

The good news is that Seeking Alpha offers its readers quant ratings, which algorithmically rate stocks in an easy-to-understand way. These ratings are based on five key factors: value, growth, profitability, EPS revisions, and momentum.

Factor Scorecards

Factor investing has become a popular concept. The idea is that by investing in stocks that come with risk premiums like small-cap, value, growth, and other characteristics, you’ll be able to beat the average market performance in your portfolio. 

When analyzing these factors, Seeking Alpha offers an easy-to-understand score ranging from A+ to F.

  • REIT Scorecard: On scorecards for real estate investment trusts (REITs), Seeking Alpha provides scores based on funds from operations as well as adjusted funds from operations. 
  • Dividend Stock Scorecard: Dividend stocks are a great way to generate income through your investments. The Dividend Stock Scorecard takes various factors into account, considering not only whether the stock pays competitive dividends, but also whether those dividends are sustainable. 

Earnings Call Transcripts & Recordings

Earnings reports are some of the most important events in the stock market. Every quarter, publicly traded companies are required to provide updated financial information, letting investors in on the financial stability and growth prospects for the company. 

Basic members have access to earnings call transcripts, but if you want to listen to the recorded calls, you’ll need to upgrade to a Premium subscription. 

Earnings Estimates & Surprises

Basic members have access to past earnings data from the company’s they’re interested in as well as information on dividends. 

For premium members, the data becomes a bit more intuitive, offering analyst forecasts and earnings surprises, which show the extent to which the company beat or missed earnings expectations in recent quarters. 

Notable Calls

Across Wall Street, there are tons of investment grade funds and investing professionals that manage money for individual investors. These fund managers often provide quarterly letters to their investors outlining the state of the market and how they plan on capitalizing on it in the future. 

The Notable Calls section of the website, only accessible by Premium and Pro members, is a curated list of these quarterly announcements from some of the most well-respected hedge funds and investment-grade funds. 

Intuitive Stock Screener

Stock screeners make it easy to find the types of opportunities you’re looking for in the stock market. It seems as though every investing-centric website offers one. However, the screener offered by Seeking Alpha is one of the best in the business. 

As with any stock screener, you’ll be able to screen opportunities by volume, sector, stock price, and more. However, what’s unique about the Seeking Alpha screener is that it lets you screen stocks based on the company’s proprietary Quant Ratings and Factor Scores. 

So, if you’re looking for a technology stock that has both a high Quant Rating and Factor Score and is experiencing exceptionally high volume, you won’t have any issues digging an opportunity up. 

Personalized Alerts

Personalized alerts are available to all Seeking Alpha subscribers. These alerts come via email, informing you of any news and analyst upgrades or downgrades of the stocks you’re interested in. 

While the service is available to all users, Premium members get all the data in the email they receive, while Basic members must click to the Seeking Alpha website to see the full information associated with the alert. 

Portfolio Monitoring

Investors are able to connect their live investment portfolios to Seeking Alpha and monitor their holdings through the platform. Through the portfolio monitoring service, you’ll be able to track your portfolio and pinpoint the investments that are doing best and worst for you. 

Moreover, when you attach your portfolio, you’ll receive alerts when news and opinion articles are published around a ticker you invest in. Premium members enjoy faster time-to-delivery, ensuring you’re one of the first to see the news on stocks you invest in. 


Advantages

Seeking Alpha is one of the most successful investing-centric websites online today, and that popularity didn’t just happen out of the blue. There are several benefits to taking advantage of the services provided by the company, the most significant being:

1. Investing Ideas

Finding quality investment opportunities is arguably one of the most difficult parts of the investing process. Seeking Alpha is essentially a curated list of the best investment ideas produced by thousands of authors. 

Considering the sheer scale of content produced, you’ll be able to find quality ideas no matter whether your preferred style of investing is growth, value, or income.  

2. Free Services

For many investors, the content available under the Basic membership will provide everything you need to make wise decisions in the stock market.  

3. Proprietary Scores

The proprietary scoring system used by the company to provide at-a-glance information about stocks is second to none. Not only does the company take general fundamental data into account when creating these scores, it adds in a risk premium factor that’s difficult to find elsewhere.

4. Portfolio Monitoring

When managing your own self-directed investment portfolio, monitoring your performance in the market is key. The company makes this simple for both free and paid users, including email alerts when important news is released about a stock you’ve invested in.  


Disadvantages

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to consider signing up for this service. However, as with any rose, there are some thorns to be mindful of before grabbing a fistful and taking a whiff:

1. Not the Best Option for Technical Traders

If you’re a swing trader or day trader who relies heavily on technical analysis, you won’t find much value in the service. The company’s core focus is on providing fundamental data and research, and it leaves most technical data to companies that focus on providing that type of information. 

2. Many Features Are Found Elsewhere Free

While the company does make it easy to access tools in one space, much of what it provides can be found elsewhere for free. For example, there are tons of websites that publish free opinion articles on stocks, and a simple search on Google will provide a list of articles on the stocks you’re interested in. 

Moreover, stock screeners, portfolio monitoring services, and earnings data are all widely available for free online. However, it is worth mentioning that most free services don’t go as far in depth as the tools available at Seeking Alpha. 

3. It’s Expensive

Sure, $29.99 per month doesn’t sound like much, but if you have a beginner investment portfolio that consists of $1,000 in stocks, you’ll have to earn a return of nearly 3% per month just to cover the cost of the service. As such, the Premium service is most worthwhile for investors who have a portfolio value of at least $10,000. 

4. No Buy Recommendations

Seeking Alpha is not an alert service. In fact, the disclaimer on all articles on the website suggest that investors should make their own decisions. There are plenty of services with similar pricing that actually offer alerts, recommending when investors should buy or sell stocks. If you’re looking for an alert service that does so, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  


Final Word

All in all, Seeking Alpha is a great tool for the fundamental investor who takes the time to research what they’re buying before diving into a stock. With so many authors and articles on the platform, investors are able to see stocks they’re interested in from multiple points of view, helping to avoid investing based on a few skewed opinions. 

Moreover, Seeking Alpha is a great add-on service to those who use the Motley Fool Stock Advisor, which gives two trade ideas per month. By cross-referencing the ideas provided through the Motley Fool or another alert service with the in-depth research Seeking Alpha provides, you’ll be able to form educated opinions about whether the recommendations are worth following. 

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The Verdict

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Our rating

Seeking Alpha is a valuable research tool for the fundamental investor. While it doesn’t offer much for technical traders and has a relatively high premium membership fee (starting at $29.99 per month), it is a great option for active investors looking to add detailed research to their repertoire of tools.

While there are plenty of benefits for paying subscribers, the service is relatively expensive compared to its competitors, and some premium features can be found elsewhere for free. However, active fundamental investors will benefit greatly from the detailed research and proprietary scoring system Seeking Alpha offers.

Editorial Note:
The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: moneycrashers.com