The ability to stay ahead of the market is a rare skill, which is why many investors' ideas don't pan out. The ones who have a history of executing on their winning calls become renowned stock market gurus, and of course, very rich. There are people who have a knack for the analysis and devote their lives to it, and then there are those who are lucky enough to be the first to know when the news hits the tapes– those people can make out big too.

I've tried keeping on top of the finance publications for the latest market events, but by the time the news reaches my screen, the market is already back at equilibrium. I knew there were people who reaped the benefits of true inefficiencies like post-earnings announcement drift, but as an individual investor, how could I be one of the first to get my hands on such information to gain a competitive edge against the broader market?

So I asked a close friend how he and his team pinpoint and capitalize on market inefficiencies with the money he's been successfully investing for one of the largest hedge funds in New York for over a decade. Of course, hedge funds provide very little visibility, but my friend told me one of his personal sources of information,

Real Money, a membership-based website run by some of the most successful hedge fund managers, and financial advisors in Wall Street history. It's where my friend looks for breaking market news stories that impact the market, and to discover winning calls made by the site contributors, and investment strategy advice before the news hits the public outlets.

The team at Real Money is not made up of just journalists, but of professional chartists, analysts, day traders, money managers and financial advisors handpicked by Jim Cramer through his connections in the business. They've got day jobs and skin in the game, and many share the same ideas with members as they professionally execute or advise their clients on.

You'll get actionable trading advice, and stock ideas from Bruce Kamich, an accomplished chartist for many bulge bracket firms, and HUGE portfolio managers like Chris Versace, David Katz, and of course Jim Cramer, one of the most successful hedge fund managers in Wall Street history, delivered exclusively to members in real-time. You can communicate directly with the site contributors and professional money managers on the site to gain stock market knowledge and investment advice from professionals, and they'll respond inline. It's a forum of in-depth market analysis, actionable stock leads, and original, market-moving stories written by financial professionals handpicked by Cramer himself. Real Money provides exclusive information, real-time stock advice, and a look into how investment decisions are made by professionals. You can subscribe here free for 14 days with no obligations.

The site contributors don't just report the market news, but rather the stories that the market isn't seeing – clues that investors should know about, and ideas they're professionally making hay with. Cramer's "Fill or Kill" team, named for Fill or Kill orders (orders placed to buy or sell a large volume of stock that must be executed immediately, or not at all), doesn't just report the market news, but rather research and analyze the stories that the market isn't seeing—clues that give investors additional information to help them stay ahead. They create market-moving content reporting on the information they receive from Cramer, board members, management teams, and TheStreet like Doug Kass, Jack Mohr, Bruce Kamich, other team members and site contributors. This content often gets picked up by the public finance publications after-the-fact.

As a recent example, the Fill or Kill team launched an investigation about the qualifications of Lululemon's longest-standing board member, Rhoda Pitcher. Those qualifications could never be verified and after the team broke story, Pitcher stepped down, and later the news hit the public outlets, Lululemon's stock price dropped. Real Money members had this information first. Likewise, shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) dropped 7% in one day after Real Money short seller Andrew Left revealed his short position. Real Money members that follow Andrew, and acted on this idea were able to stay ahead of the curve.

The sheer volume of actionable ideas are displayed in the Real Money Ideas section, which you can follow to see whose ideas panned out—including buy price, strike price and the contributors' returns on each, and the ideas link out to the articles written on them which provide the analysis behind each decision. With this knowledge, you can decide who you want follow.

Real Money provides you with access to information that the average investor doesn't see as quickly, and a real-time market education from the best pros in the business for just $3/week. Some misjudge the amount of depth in the service, but if you take the trial you'll see how much valuable info and dialogue there is, and how many strategies it will cover. The content goes beyond market news and public knowledge.

Update: The folks at TheStreet are extending a special offer for our readers! Follow this link to get a Free 14 day trial to Real Money with no obligations! (And it's only $3/week if you choose to continue with membership!)

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

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