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Mark Cussen
Mark Cussen, CFP, CMFC has 17 years of experience in the financial industry and has worked as a stock broker, financial planner, income tax preparer, insurance agent and loan officer. He is now a full-time financial author when he is not on rotation doing financial planning for the military. He has written numerous articles for several financial websites such as Investopedia and Bankaholic, and is one of the featured authors for the Money and Personal Finance section of eHow. In his spare time, Mark enjoys surfing the net, cooking, movies and tv, church activities and playing ultimate frisbee with friends. He is also an avid KU basketball fan and model train enthusiast, and is now taking classes to learn how to trade stocks and derivatives effectively.

What Is Preferred Stock vs. Common Stock – Definition, Pros & Cons

By Mark Cussen

investing in preferred stocksPreferred stock is one of the two types of stock issued by corporations seeking to bring in capital. As with common stocks or bonds, the money that is received from the sale of these shares goes into the company coffers in return for the issuance of the shares to the shareholders.

Although preferred stock does share similarities with common stock, its basic characteristics make it a fundamentally different security. Preferred stock is designed to function primarily as a fixed-income security, whereas common stock is usually considered to be a vehicle for long-term growth that often does not deliver a regular income stream. The nature and purpose of preferred stocks offers shareholders several unique advantages when compared to other investments.

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What Are Floating Rate Funds – Pros & Cons and Examples

By Mark Cussen

floating rate mutual fundMany types of mutual funds are primarily designed to pay income to investors in various forms. Some income funds invest in bonds, while others derive income from mortgages or stocks that pay dividends, such as utility and preferred offerings.

Another class of income fund also exists: the floating rate fund, also known as a prime rate fund, bank loan fund, or loan participation fund. Floating rate funds are one of the newer types of income funds to appear on the market and have gained quite a following in recent years.

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Non-Qualified Retirement Plan – Definition, Benefits & Examples

By Mark Cussen

non-qualified savings planMillions of employees save for retirement by deferring a portion of their compensation into an employer-sponsored, tax-deferred savings plan. The majority of these are known as qualified plans and fall under the jurisdiction of ERISA guidelines, which means they are subject to certain limiting requirements.

For example, these requirements can pertain to the type and number of employees who participate, as well as the amount of money that is placed in the plan by rank-and-file employees as compared to executives and owners.

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How to Become a Financial Advisor – Career Challenges & Rewards

By Mark Cussen

financial advisorIn generations past, the financial marketplace consisted of insurance agents who sold whole and term life insurance, stockbrokers who pitched individual stocks and bonds, accountants who prepared income tax returns and did corporate accounting, and bankers who offered customers security with FDIC insurance and safe-deposit boxes.

Today’s modern financial marketplace has substantially blurred the distinctions between these traditional professions, and financial advisors today are required to wear numerous hats in order to effectively do their jobs. But for those who can meet the many challenges it presents, the financial advisor career path promises substantial rewards.

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How to Become a Licensed Stockbroker – Career Challenges & Rewards

By Mark Cussen

becoming a successful stockbrokerFrom the time that traders gathered under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street until the 1970s, stockbrokers were known primarily as salespersons who got rich by recommending stocks and bonds to wealthy speculators. And while many brokers still do this today, the role of stockbrokers has evolved and expanded considerably over the past few decades. Those who decide to explore this career path will face many challenges, but can also reap substantial monetary rewards.

There are a number of steps involved in becoming a successful broker, and a plethora of career paths one can take. Your path may begin with your college education.

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Options Industry Council (OIC) – Options Trading Education

By Mark Cussen

options industry councilThe complex world of options trading can provide knowledgable investors with quick profits, regular income, and protection against losses. Unfortunately, many investors are lured by the quick-profit potential and choose to merely dabble with these instruments without knowing what they’re doing. This often leads to substantial losses.

In order to mitigate this effect and better prepare investors for the ups and downs of options investing, the Options Clearing Committee (OCC) created and sponsors the Options Industry Council (OIC). The OIC seeks to educate investors about the risks, mechanics, and characteristics of options as well as specific strategies and how to use them.

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What Is FINRA – History and Rules for Arbitration & Mediation

By Mark Cussen

Millions of securities transactions of all types and sizes take place every day in the United States. You may invest in mutual funds through your 401k at work, or engage in derivatives trading through your online brokerage account. Fortunately, a plethora of information is available to you regarding your transactions and investments. The financial firms with whom you transact business also have great incentive to treat you fairly.

Although the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is primarily responsible for creating this “safe” trading environment, another organization known as FINRA acts as the first line of defense in protecting investors and regulating the securities industry.

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U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) History & Fraud Cases

By Mark Cussen

sec seal logoThe Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is a regulatory agency that oversees a major segment of the economy along with the IRS, the Consumer Protection Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Specifically, the SEC oversees “Wall Street” where market activity is measured in the trillions of dollars and intersects with virtually every other facet of the economy.

Thousands of transactions are routed and filled instantly by sophisticated computers that take orders from buyers and sellers all over the globe. All of them fall under the jurisdiction of the SEC.

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Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) Certification – Designation Requirements

By Mark Cussen

cebs designation manBenefits make up a key element of any employee compensation package. As a result, employers must fully understand how they work in order to use them to best meet their employees’ needs.

Certified Employee Benefits Specialists (CEBS) are thoroughly trained in all aspects of employee benefits and their proper use. The CEBS certification is currently recognized as the leading credential in the employee benefits arena and is provided by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) in partnership with the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Over 100,000 professionals have earned this mark since it was first introduced in 1976.

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Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) – Insurance Designation Requirements

By Mark Cussen

clu logoThe Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation is the oldest financial credential in existence. The American College for Financial Planning in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania created it specifically for life insurance agents in 1927, and it’s been carried by insurance professionals ever since.

This credential is to life agents what the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) credential is to financial advisors. There is one important distinction, however, in that no comprehensive board exam is required to attain the CLU. In that sense, it may be somewhat easier to achieve than its counterpart.

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Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) – Requirements, ChFC vs CFP

By Mark Cussen

chfc flag logoFor decades, the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation was the premier financial and insurance planning credential sported by life insurance agents and financial planners who marketed their products and services to the public.

Then, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation was created in the 1970s and grew in popularity until it became the premier financial planning designation, partly because of its perceived lack of bias toward life insurance.

However, in 1982, the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania decided to create a new financial planning designation tailored to insurance professionals in an effort to level the playing field.

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Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) – Certification Requirements & Exam

By Mark Cussen

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is globally considered to be the premier investment management designation in the financial industry. The three levels of rigorous exams required in the CFA curriculum leave lawyers and CPAs as the only other professionals whose pre-certification requirements rival those of the CFA.

This prestigious credential is offered by the CFA Institute, formerly known as the Association of Investment Management and Research (AIMR). The designation originated in the United States in 1963 and has since spread across Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim. Today more than 90,000 certificants proudly display this credential behind their names in over 135 countries.

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Certified Financial Planner Certification – How to Become a CFP

By Mark Cussen

cfp logoSince 1985, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has issued the Certified Financial Planner designation to those who have met the educational and experiential requirements and passed the rigorous board exam. This credential is now known all over the world as the definitive professional designation for financial planners and advisors.

Different types of financial professionals earn this credential including stockbrokers, registered investment advisors, insurance agents, estate planners, bankers, and tax professionals. Many in the financial industry can benefit from carrying the CFP mark on their business card.

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Self-Directed IRA Rules & Prohibited Investments

By Mark Cussen

investment ira typesWhen you participate in an IRA (e.g. traditional IRA or Roth IRA), a custodian or trustee will serve as the administrator of your account. You’ll find a myriad of IRA custodians available, and different custodians have different rules for the kinds of investments you can include in your account. Some administrators only allow customers to purchase CDs or mutual funds, while others are more liberal and will let you hold most types of registered securities in your account.

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What Is a Variable Annuity Explained – Definition, Pros & Cons

By Mark Cussen

variable coin stacksAnnuities are among the oldest investment options – in fact they have centuries of history. Especially over the past century, fixed income annuity contracts have gained popularity with conservative investors as a safe means of growing their money on a tax-deferred basis.

But in the bull markets of the ’80s, a new type of annuity contract allowed investors to participate in the debt and equity markets and enjoy the benefits of annuities at the same time. These vehicles, known as variable rate annuities because of the variability of the returns realized, began in 1952 as a funding vehicle for pension plans. Originally started by the Teachers Insurance and Annuities Association – College Retirement Equity Fund (TIAA-CREF), these vehicles became more popular after the Tax Reform Act of 1986 closed many of the other tax loopholes that were available to investors.

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