Tradeking and Zecco to Merge – More Capabilities, Same Great Pricing

Like so many other industries, there are small players and big players.

Little fish in a very large pond may be another applicable cliché to describe this story.  The pond is the brokerage business and that pond is big.

Companies like Fidelity, the world’s largest retirement account holder has 13.5 million accounts, E*Trade, one of the most well known of the brokers for retail investors has 3.9 million accounts and TD Ameritrade has 5.7 million.

In the past, there were plenty of smaller discount brokers but most were bought by the larger firms.

Schwab acquired OptionsXpress for $1 billion and TD Ameritrade acquired Thinkorswim for an undisclosed amount.

As the big brokers keep getting bigger, there was little room to compete if you were still holding on as one of the smaller firms in the highly competitive field of discount brokerage.

[Related: Best Online Brokers for Inexpensive Trades]

This was true for two small firms, Zecco and Tradeking.
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Is Social Security Really a Retirement Plan?

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Most of us commonly think of Social Security as almost synonymous with retirement — but it was never planned to be.

When it was established in the 1930s it was set up to be primarily an anti-poverty program—or “social insurance”—dealing with old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression collapsed incomes across the board and wiped out the savings of many of the elderly.  The government responded by implementing Social Security to remedy many of these economic ills.

Strictly speaking, it was never intended to be a retirement plan as much as a supplement for lost wages.

The Depression is now deep in the history books and with it, the original intent of Social Security.  Today it’s mostly seen as a retirement plan.

But is it really?

Why you can’t rely on Social Security alone

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Is Gold a Good Investment Right Now?

Since reaching a high price of $1,913 back on August 23rd of 2011, gold seems to have fallen off the investment radar screen.

In fact it seems the only time gold is ever on that screen is when it’s on its way to establishing new record prices.

Now that gold has settled comfortably in the mid-$1,600 range no one seems to be paying much attention.

But how should we take that?

Will gold slowly drift its way back down below the $1,000 mark, or will it—as some claim—continue to rise to ever higher prices punctuated by periods of price stability? And should we even consider gold as an investment?

Why invest in gold at all?

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Is YOUR Employment Picture Brighter?

The most recent figures show that the rate of unemployment has dropped to 8.2%, down from a recession high of over ten percent.

That’s an impressive drop, but it is, after all, a statistic.

The real question might be, are the statistics real?

By “real” I mean do they accurately describe what people are actually seeing?

Is the improvement the product of government jobs programs, changes in the statistical count, or are most of the new hires part-timers at the Golden Arches?

Remember, that percentage you hear about is the OVERALL average unemployment.  Truth is, there are many areas and groups that have much higher unemployment numbers.

Below are some employment categories that I think tell more about the employment situation in America than the unemployment numbers.
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The $100 Startup Only72 Sale – Follow Your Passion and Make Money Doing It

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How do you answer “what do you do?” when you meet someone for the first time?  Do you give a sheepish answer?  Do you shrug off the question because you don’t truly love the work you do?

I’ve been in that position!

Ever wish you could start your career over?

Would you love to create your own business that you love?

Do you want to be your own boss?

Chris Guillebeau has travelled to over 175 nations.  He’s looking to visit every country on Earth.  Oh, and he’s only in his early thirties (in contrast, I’ve been to about 5 countries besides the U.S. and except for Canada, all the others are Caribbean tourist destinations).

That in itself is a pretty cool and interesting feat!

But how does he pay for all that travelling?

Well, Chris has a certain knack for taking his ideas and turning them into profit.

In his latest book The $100 Startup, Guillebeau culls together information from 50 case studies of individuals who have built businesses that earn $50,000 and more, many of which started out with $100 or less.

The book is a simple guide to help you find your own personal expertise that you can build a business into.  Read valuable lessons from other successful entrepreneurs and see how you can do the same.

Sounds like a pretty cool book, right?

It’s on my reading list and it’s not even out yet.

Only72 Sale

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Bank of America Mortgage to Lease Pilot Program

Although the foreclosure crisis is making far less headlines than it once did, it is still a big problem in America.

In fact, underwater mortgages are back to 2011 levels, currently at 11 million homes or 22.8% of all residential mortgages.

For those 11 million homeowners, an underwater mortgage represents an impossible financial situation to rectify because homeowners can’t sell their home but also can’t afford the payments and for most, it will likely be many years, at least, before they see the value of their home return if they see it at all in their lifetime.

When a homeowner can’t meet their mortgage obligation, the bank or mortgage lender holding the loan suffers because the bank still has to make the payment to the investors holding the loan.  These toxic loans aren’t draining the balance sheets of these large banks but it does affect profitability and that’s bad for business at a time when banks have underperformed the stock market since 2009.

For four years, banks have tried to get these bad loans off their books.
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President Obama Signs STOCK Act – No Congressional Insider Trading

If you’re a retail or individual investor you may feel like the little guy can’t win in the stock market.

The individual investor is a little fish in the vast ocean we call the world’s investment market and only the biggest of the investors can actually get ahead.

Many of us have said that in the past but we were hoping that it wasn’t true.  The market is supposed to be set up so everybody has the same information and although insider trading is difficult to police, some high profile cases over the past couple of years have made big investors a little less likely to share illegal information when others aren’t looking.

How does it make you feel to know that insider trading was not only legal, but your elected officials were taking part?

Thanks to the recent signing of the STOCK Act, or Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge Act, members of Congress can no longer profit from insider trading. Continue Reading