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What is a No Penalty CD?

Certificates of deposit (CDs) can be a good option for people who are looking to park their cash for a short period of time and potentially earn more than a general savings account.

The downside of a traditional CD is that your money will be tied up until the CD matures (which could be several months to five years). If you need your money sooner, you will typically pay an early withdrawal penalty.

A no-penalty CD is similar to a traditional CD, except that there is no fee charged for making a withdrawal before the CD matures.

The trade-off is that no penalty CDs aren’t as easy to find, and may offer a lower interest rate than traditional CDs.

Read on to find out if a no-penalty CD might be a good option for your savings goals, plus how these CDs compare to other high-interest savings options.

Recommended: What Is a Certificate of Deposit?

No Penalty CDs Explained

A no-penalty CD is a type of deposit account that’s structured like a traditional CD in that money is placed into the account for a set period of time—usually around a year.

During that period, interest accrues, often at a higher rate than a standard savings account.

That rate is locked in until the end of the CD term, also known as its maturity date.

Unlike traditional CDs, there is no fee or loss of earned interest if the money is withdrawn before the account matures.

Funds usually need to be kept in the account for at least a week before they can be withdrawn. But as long as that short milestone is met, a no-penalty CD is a very flexible option.

No Penalty CDs versus Traditional CDs

Opening one or more CDs can be an effective way to house your savings. It’s one of several ways to earn more interest than you might in a traditional savings account.

But before deciding which CD to choose, it helps to understand the intricacies involved in each type.

With a traditional CD, money can’t be withdrawn from that account without incurring a penalty fee.

Early withdrawal penalties vary, depending on the individual financial institution, but the penalty typically involves losing a certain number of days or months’ worth of interest.

The length of time varies by each bank or credit union, but depending on how early you withdraw your funds from a CD, you could possibly lose some of the principal or initial deposit.

For example, a bank may charge a CD early withdrawal penalty as 120 days (or four months) of interest payments.

If the CD has only been open for three months, you’d not only lose the account’s accumulated interest but an additional month of daily interest would also be deducted before the cash could be withdrawn.

Generally, the farther away you are from the CD’s maturity date, the higher the penalty will be.

That’s why long-term CDs aren’t typically recommended to house short-term emergency savings. When that surprise expense pops up, it could end up costing money to access the funds.

Of course, every bank has different terms and conditions. Before opening any account, it’s important to understand all of the details to avoid getting caught off guard with unexpected charges.

Pros and Cons of a No Penalty CD

All savings accounts come with both risks and benefits. A no-penalty CD may not be right for everyone, so let’s dive into some of the pros and cons.

Like all CDs, no penalty CDs come with a fixed interest rate until it matures. No matter what happens to rates within the market, that original APY is guaranteed.

A high-yield savings account, on the other hand, can drop the rate at any time based on market conditions.

Another benefit of a no-penalty CD is that cash continues to be kept liquid.

Whether it’s intended for an emergency fund, a down payment on a house, or to pay for a wedding, this type of CD can be a useful tool that balances both flexibility and setting money aside for a financial goal with a specific timeline.

On the flip side, this type of account may offer a lower interest rate compared to traditional CDs.

While no penalty CDs may pay a higher APY than a traditional bank savings account, these CDs may not pay as high an APY as some online savings accounts.

Also keep in mind that although a no-penalty CD does allow you to access funds, it’s usually a one-time event.

Banks typically require all of the funds in the no-penalty CD to be withdrawn that one time and will then close the account, which means the rate lock is out the window.

Another limitation of a no-penalty CD (as well as a traditional CD) is that once you invest, you can’t add to it. You can, however, open another no penalty or traditional CD.

Recommended: Investing in CDs

Finding a No Penalty CD

No penalty CDs aren’t as common as their traditional counterparts. But they can be found through several online banks, making it convenient to open, fund, and manage the account.

Some local banks and credit unions may also offer this type of CD.

Shopping for a no-penalty CD is the same as evaluating any other financial product.

In addition to comparing interest rates, it’s also a good idea to look for account minimums, as well as the minimum time after depositing your money before withdrawals are allowed (typically around a week, but this can vary).

Some banks also offer tiered interest rates for no deposit CDs, with higher rates offered for higher deposit amounts.

Whatever no penalty CD you are considering, it’s smart to read the fine print.

Some banks may advertise a “no penalty CD” but are really offering something quite different, such as a 12-month CD that only allows you to withdraw your money penalty-free in the event of an emergency, such as a job loss.

Alternative Options

A no-penalty CD can be a great way to earn higher interest on your savings than you would get in a standard savings account, yet still, maintain flexibility.

It’s not the only option, however. Here are some others to consider.

High-yield checking account

An interest-bearing checking account helps earn some extra cash on the money used on a day-to-day basis.

It’s one of the most flexible options because there are no transaction limits and both a checkbook and debit card can be linked to the account.

However, some banks charge a monthly account fee or require a certain minimum balance in order to qualify for this extra incentive. And interest rates on these accounts tend to be lower than other short-term savings options.

High-yield savings account

High-yield savings accounts, which are offered by many banks and credit unions, typically come with a higher interest rate than a checking account or traditional savings account.

It’s easy to transfer money between accounts, but withdrawals may be limited to six per month and there may be fees for dropping below a minimum balance.

High-yield savings accounts are also offered by online banks. Because these banks only operate online (and, as a result, tend to have lower operating costs), online savings accounts often offer higher interest rates than high-yield savings options at brick-and-mortar banks.

Online savings accounts typically allow you to deposit checks and move money back and forth between accounts but may have limits on how many withdrawals you can make per month.

Recommended: Is a High Interest Savings Account Right for You?

Money market account

A money market account (MMA) is a low-risk investment account (deposits may be placed in government bonds, CDs, or commercial paper) that tends to offer higher interest rates than a traditional savings account.

Depending on what’s happening in the market overall, an MMA may be in line with that of an online-only bank account.

Money market accounts often allow you to write checks and may also come with a debit card, but there may be limitations on how often you can write a check or withdraw your money.

These accounts may also require a high minimum balance to avoid monthly fees, especially for higher yield tiers.

Cash management account

A cash management account (CMA) is a cash account offered by a financial institution other than a bank or credit union.

CMAs are designed to merge the services and features of checking, savings, and investment accounts, all into one offering.

Generally, when you put money into a CMA, it earns money (often through low-risk investing that is done automatically), while you can also access it for your daily spending.

This allows CMAs to function similarly to a traditional checking account, yet pay interest that is often higher than most savings accounts.

Some brokerage firms require a large minimum deposit to open a CMA, or may charge monthly fees for anyone under that minimum.

For people who are interested in streamlining their accounts, as well as saving for a short-term goal, a CMA can be a good option.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking for a higher return on your savings than you’re getting at the bank, but still want some liquidity, a no-penalty CD could be the right choice for your financial goals.

These CDs may offer lower interest rates, however, than you would get with a traditional CD. So it’s a good idea to shop around for rates to see which bank is offering the best deal.

Also keep in mind that with any type of CD, when you do withdraw your money, you will likely need to take it all at once, rather than a little here and a little there.

Other ways to help your savings grow, yet still keep it liquid, include a high-yield checking or savings account, an online savings account, a money market account, and a cash management account.

Before you commit to any savings vehicle, consider the purpose of your savings, when (and how often) you will need to access it, as well as what the terms, deposit and balance minimums, and fees will be.

Looking to grow your savings, but still, have access to it at any time? You may want to consider opening a SoFi Money® cash management account.

SoFi Money allows you to spend and save in one account, while also offering a competitive interest rate to help you meet your savings goals. Plus, there are no account or minimum balance fees to worry about.

Check out everything a SoFi Money cash management account has to offer today!

SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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Can You Negotiate Rent?

The surprising answer? Yes.

It may sound intimidating (or simply futile). But, with a little research and a well-thought-out approach, it may be possible to negotiate your monthly rent, and land a better deal.

Your chances of successfully lowering your rent will likely depend on a number of factors, including the going rate of comparable rentals in your area, the value you present to your landlord, and the state of the rental market and economy in general.

To reduce the awkwardness of bringing up the subject (because, yes, haggling can be uncomfortable), and increase your chances of sweetening your deal, you may want to try some of these smart negotiating techniques.

The Benefits of Negotiating Rent

The obvious payoff of reducing your rent is more cash left over at the end of the month.

But you may also want to consider the longer term benefits. Let’s say you’ve successfully negotiated your monthly rent down by $100.

It’s nice to have that extra $100, of course. But over the course of a year, that monthly savings adds up to $1,200.

Let’s say you applied that $1,200 yearly savings to paying down credit cards or a student loan debt (rather than paying the minimum).

You might be able to save significantly on interest payments, and also boost your credit score (which could help you save money in the future by helping you to get loans and credit cards with better terms).

Or, you could funnel that monthly $100 saved into a high-yield savings account or cash management account, and start building a downpayment on a home (if you’d prefer to own vs. rent) or an emergency fund, or working towards another savings goal.

If you were to invest an extra $100 into your 401k or other retirement fund each month, it could yield a significant income stream decades from now. (If you’re already contributing to these accounts, be aware of the annual limits.)

In addition, by learning how to negotiate, you’re also developing a lifelong skill of standing up for yourself and cutting better deals as an experienced negotiator, which could pay off in other areas of your life.

Timing it Right

As eager as you may want to cut a good deal, and as quickly as possible, it can be wise to time your approach to maximize your chances of success.

That means negotiating at the right moments, when your landlord may be more amenable to cutting a deal.

Those timed might include:

•  The end of the month, when other tenants may have vacated the property and your landlord may enjoy the stability of a long-term tenant.

•  90 days or so before your current lease expires. That’s enough time to offer to sign another lease, but only at terms favorable to you. If you’ve been a good tenant, and the market is soft for new tenants, your odds of renegotiating a lower rent may be stronger.

•  At the beginning of the calendar year. Typically, winter is a slow time for property rentals, especially in the colder climates when moving is more difficult, and it may be harder for landlords to find new tenants. Stepping into the vacuum with an offer to stay another year–at a lower monthly rental price– might give you some new-found leverage.

Knowing What the Competition is Charging

To help build your case when approaching your property owner about a rental deduction, it can help to know the lay of the land.

If you can prove that you could live more inexpensively in a nearby rental, your landlord may be more inclined to grant a discount, rather than lose your business to the competition.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to do a little digging and comb through online listings to find out the rents of comparable units or properties in the area.

Perhaps a similar one-bedroom apartment for rent has an amenity that’s not offered at the apartment you’re currently in, or considering. You might point out how these factors make the landlord’s rental terms somewhat higher than the going market rate.

When you speak to the landlord, it may help to have a printout of comparable apartments that are slightly lower in rent and, if the unit has been unoccupied, have this information on hand as well.

You may also want to check what other apartments in the same complex or rented out elsewhere by the same landlord currently cost. This can help keep you from overpaying for an apartment, and may also help you negotiate a lower rent.

Offering a Lump Sum

If you can afford it, adding a lump-sum payment–say, three months of rent upfront–may strengthen your bargaining power, and boost your odds of reducing your overall rent payment.

That’s because many landlords prefer having rent in hand, and not having to worry about late or no rental payment from tenants.

What’s more, offering an upfront, lump-sum payment is one way to show a landlord that you’re serious about being a solid tenant.

A landlord may be more amenable to doing business with a tenant who is willing to go the extra mile–and may be more likely to get on board with a rental discount.

Considering a Longer Lease

If you particularly like the house or apartment you’re renting, you might consider offering the landlord a longer lease in exchange for lower rent payments.

If, for example, a landlord is offering a 12-month lease to a new tenant, at a fixed monthly rental price, and you agree to extend that lease to 18 or 24 months, you might be in a stronger position to ask for a rental discount.

All things being equal, landlords tend to favor tenants who’ll be around for the long haul, and may be more likely to green-light a lower rent for a longer lease arrangement.

Cashing in on a Referral

Landlords typically loathe empty apartments, so if you can help fill a rental unit with a referral or two, it might put you in a better negotiating position to ask for a rental price deduction for helping out.

Rental unit owners usually have to pay for classified ads to lease their open units. In addition, landlords often have to put some sweat equity into showing units, chasing down tenant leads, and vetting potential lease applicants.

By bringing your landlord good, qualified, and stable tenants, you may be able to become a valuable asset for your landlord, and help build a more robust case for a rental deduction in the process.

Not just focusing on price

Yes, the primary goal in a rental negotiation is to bring the price down.

But in case that conversation proves fruitless, you may also want to consider some other perks or benefits you could ask for in lieu or a rent reduction.

Some ideas:

•  A prime parking space (especially in urban areas.)

•  New appliances and/or fixtures in your home or apartment.

•  New or larger storage space.

•  “First dibs” on better apartments or homes in your complex, once they free up.

•  A waiver of fees and charges on things like gym memberships, parking privileges, community rooms, water or trash removal, or other services and amenities.

•  Extra parking passes for guests.

•  Allowing you sublet for the summer (if you plan to be away).

•  One or two months free.

Giving your Landlord a Heads Up, and Being Polite

Nobody likes to be ambushed on financial matters. That’s why you might have more success if you call your landlord well ahead of when you need to sign the lease, and politely let them know that you’d like to discuss the terms of the lease, and are wondering if they would be open to a price reduction.

You might then suggest having a meeting (in person tends to be best, since it can be harder to say “no” to someone when you’re sitting face-to-face) some time in the next week or two.

This gives your landlord some time to consider the situation–while also giving you some time to build your case.

In addition, giving your landlord some lead time shows you’ve put some thought into the matter–-and it also shows you respect your landlord’s time and schedule.

Keep in mind that you have a right as a renter to negotiate rent, but being diplomatic and respectful to your landlord will likely yield a better result than being aggressive.

Highlighting Your Value as a Tenant

When you do meet with your landlord to negotiate the terms of your lease, it can be helpful to make a good case for keeping you on (or bringing you in) as a tenant.

For example, you might want to have a record of all your on-time payments, your solid credit score, and any history of providing referrals for this landlord.

You may also want to mention your willingness to extend your lease, that you’re courteous to other tenants, keep the property in good shape, and any other points in your favor.

Any and all of these factors could help persuade your landlord to give you a better deal.

Getting Your New Rental Agreement in Writing

Once you’ve successfully negotiated your rent downward–or otherwise improved the terms of your lease– and have a verbal agreement, it’s a good idea to get the deal in writing.

Having both parties sign off on the new rental agreement provides you with document proof that you have a new deal in place, in the event there is any misunderstanding down the road.

The Takeaway

While rental leases may appear set in stone, they’re more flexible than many tenants think, especially if the rental market is soft in your area (meaning more rentals than renters).

Whether you’re applying to rent a new apartment or signing a new lease on your current rental, you may be able to negotiate a better price if you’re able to show two things: that the rent is higher than similar units in the area, and that you are a model tenant who pays rent on time.

It’s also a good idea to come to the table with some alternatives to a rent reduction (in case your landlord is firm on price), such as a better or free parking space, new appliances, or waiving the membership fee to the on-site gym.

If you succeed in reducing your rent (or any other monthly expenses), you may want to consider putting the money you’re saving into a cash management account, such as SoFi Money®.

SoFi Money allows you to earn competitive interest, spend, and save—all in one account. And you’ll pay zero account fees to do it.

Find out everything a SoFi Money cash management account has to offer today!

SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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A Guide to Law School Scholarships

So, you’ve been accepted to law school—congrats! You’re well on your way to embarking on a career that could help you fight for others’ rights and further the public good.

These are all laudable motivations, but chances are there’s something stronger weighing on you: How to pay for law school? It’s not necessarily clear how to find (or negotiate) scholarships for law school.

According to The Association of American Law Schools, on average, law school students paid $49,567 in tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 academic year to attend a private, out-of-state school—and, that amount doesn’t even include living expenses and other non-school costs that could pop up during graduate school.

U.S. News & World Report notes that the average annual cost of a public, out-of-state law school is $41,726, or $28,264 for in-state . (Even the lower cost option here comes to $84,792 for a three-year law program.)

Because students aren’t yet racking up those billable attorney hours, it can be helpful to research law school scholarship opportunities before applying. Here’s a broad overview of potential law school scholarships—plus some links to resources for students thinking about going to law school.

Crunching (and Swallowing) the Numbers

On the whole, according to non-profit organization Law School Transparency, law school tuition has been steadily rising over the last 35 years for all American Bar Association-approved law schools.

Per the numbers mentioned above, there might be a fair amount of sticker shock for those who haven’t yet applied for graduate school and are only thinking of someday going the lawyer route. (Here’s SoFi’s guide on how to apply to law school.) Fortunately, there are a range of options for aspiring attorneys seeking to fund law school.

In some cases, there are full-ride tuition scholarships and need-based grants out there. Full-rides of course, are not available at all law schools. If a law school doesn’t explicitly advertise or highlight information regarding full-ride opportunities, interested students can contact the school to ask. To offset the cost of attending law school, some school applicants may opt to apply only to programs that offer full- or partial- rides. One simple way to figure this out is old-fashioned Googling.

Students deciding whether to apply to law school may want to familiarize themselves with the language universities adopt to explain these scholarships. In some cases, specific scholarships are designated for particular students. Here are a few examples of how law schools describe their full-ride law school scholarship offerings— including, the University of Chicago Law School (which has several such opportunities), NYU’s Latinx Rights Scholarship, and Duke Law’s Mordecai Scholars. Magoosh, the higher education test-prep and study counseling company with the silly-sounding name, has published a 2018 list of a handful of others (along with suggestions on how to strengthen one’s resume when applying for such scholarships).

Full-ride law school scholarships can be highly competitive—with some schools offering as few as two to four per enrollment year. One potential tip for the search for scholarships is to target law schools with more tuition help.

U.S. News & World Report has organized and tabulated a list of 10 law schools that offer the most tuition assistance—reporting that “at least 77.8% of students who received grants at these schools got enough to cover more than half of tuition.” Some of the schools listed in U.S. News & World Report , like Pennsylvania State University-Carlisle, go as high as 93.2% of full-time students receiving aid in that amount.

If all of this is starting to sound like alphabet (and number) soup, there are dedicated resources like Fastweb to help prospective students find scholarships for which they may qualify. Fastweb is an online resource to help students find scholarships, financial aid, and even part-time jobs in support of college degrees.

The American Bar Association’s law-student division also has a running list (along with deadlines) of law student awards and scholarships. Additionally, the Law School Admission Council offers a list of diversity scholarships available to students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Here’s another guide on finding and applying for scholarships and one on unclaimed scholarship money.

Another resource that could be useful in factoring living expenses is this student loan calculator for aspiring law school students. Tools like this can, usually, auto-load the tuition and cost-of-living breakdowns for specific law schools. From here, it’s possible then to compare how much degrees from particular schools may end up costing.

Negotiating Wiggle Room

Doing all this research and the math around law school scholarships could put applicants in a more informed position when evaluating which program to attend—and, potentially, help them to identify schools more likely to be interested in their application.

A reality of today’s admissions process for law school is negotiating scholarships. Some schools have a strict policy against negotiating, but others fully expect their initial offer to be countered. That’s why it can help to save acceptance letters and anything in writing from schools that offer admission.

Offer letters could then be shared with competing schools, asking if they’re able to match another university’s aid. It might be uncomfortable asking for more tuition assistance upfront, but a little discomfort now could help applicants shoulder less law school debt later on. If arguing a position makes an applicant uncomfortable, it might be worth pondering whether to become a lawyer.

Doing research on law schools (and figuring out the likely cost-of-living expenses at each institution) could help applicants to determine which scores or grades to aim for in an effort to make law school more affordable for them. Tabulating expenses (and having them on hand) may also demonstrate to universities that the amounts being negotiated are based in well-documented expenses.

Law School Scholarships

There are lots of options for law-school hopefuls to find potential scholarships. The nonprofit organization Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has compiled a list of the many law school scholarships available to applicants .

From the LSAC’s list, the Attorney Ken Nugent Legal Scholarship ($5,000) and the BARBRI Law Preview’s “One Lawyer Can Change the World” Scholarship ($10,000) are worth pinning, due to the sizable chunk of change they offer.

Many law schools themselves offer competitive scholarships to attract stronger candidates. It might be helpful to check if a school also offers in-state residents specific tuition reductions or grants—especially true, if the applicant is considering a public school in their home state.

Similarly, some law firms offer scholarships. Usually applying is a straightforward process: Many, like the Rise To Shine Scholarship , only require a short essay to be considered. On top of this, there’s the rising trend of law firms helping new hires to repay a portion of their student debt once onboarded.

Federal vs. Private Loans for Law School

Students wanting to apply to law school could consider the differences between federal and private student loans. Federal loans come with certain benefits not guaranteed by private ones (such as, forbearance or income-driven repayment).

Private loans—like SoFi’s—can also help applicants to cover the expense of graduate school. So, it might be a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of both federal and private student loan options for law school.

For example, Direct PLUS loans for grads charge 7.08% in disbursement fees for the 2019-2020 academic year. (2020 numbers aren’t out yet.) SoFi Graduate Student Loans, by comparison, have no fees whatsoever—not even late or overdraft fees. Another great resource in understanding federal loans can be found over at studentaid.gov .

It’s important to note that private student loans don’t offer the same benefits and protections afforded to federal student loan borrowers, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). If a law school applicant is interested eventually in becoming a public defender or pursuing non-profit legal work, forgiveness and forbearance perks may play a role in their decision.

In addition to the financial aid resources mentioned above, more information can be found in SoFi’s overview of private student loans for graduate school. Those interested in figuring out how to pay for law school may want to check out SoFi’s competitive-rate private law school and MBA loans.

Law School Loans from SoFi

Going to law school is a big life decision. And, law school’s attendant costs add even more weight to this choice. If students interested in law school find themselves coming up short on funds for the JD after scholarships or federal aid, additional options may be available.

Some might seek out a student loan from a private lender, to name one possibility. SoFi’s private loans for law school offer competitive rates, flexible repayment options, and access to member benefits.

You can check your rates in just three minutes to see if a SoFi Law School Loan might help you pursue that dream of becoming a lawyer.

Learn more about private student loans for law school with SoFi.

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.


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How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen

Whether you’re looking to spruce up your barbecue area or design a fully-equipped kitchen, there are plenty of options and logistics when considering an outdoor kitchen.

This guide will go through the steps of siting, designing, and building an outdoor kitchen, along with some typical costs and considerations for making your home improvement dreams a reality.

Settling on a Location

Before diving into the details of outdoor kitchen designs, settling on a location can help focus your planning and creativity. For starters, you can take stock of existing structures in the yard that could be incorporated into the design, such as patios and decks.

When envisioning options, measuring the square footage of potential kitchen areas can inform what types of equipment and accessories will fit.

Having some essential design features in mind like a grill or wood-fired pizza oven could help guide the siting process, too. If you have your eyes on heavier equipment, such as furniture or a bar, you may need to reinforce a deck or patio to safely accommodate the extra weight.

Consulting with a professional contractor is advisable to prevent sagging in the floorboards or more severe damage that could lead to a complete backyard remodel.

Slope and distance from the house could also impact the feasibility and cost. Building on an inclined surface might require a more robust foundation than a level area.

Situating an outdoor kitchen a greater distance from the home may add the expense of connecting electricity or plumbing, not to mention the practicality of walking back and forth. Adding outlets can cost between $100 and $185 each, while new wiring costs $6 to $8 per foot, excluding the cost of labor for installation.

If possible, utilizing existing structures or buildings next to the house can reduce such costs and integrate an outdoor kitchen with the rest of the living space.

Creating an Outdoor Kitchen Design

After hashing out where to build, it’s time to delve into the details of the outdoor kitchen design. While browsing through dream kitchens on HGTV and Pinterest can provide inspiration and creative ideas, being realistic with your budget and desired kitchen features can keep you on track for realizing your backyard sanctuary.

To avoid the impulse of keeping up with the Joneses, it may be beneficial to make a ranked list of possible equipment and design components alongside a budget.

Keeping in mind your own cooking habits and diet can be a useful litmus test to determine what you may use frequently and what could likely accumulate dust. It’s also worth considering how many people you’d like to accommodate.

If you’re overwhelmed with ideas but don’t know where to begin, finding a focal point to design around is one option to consider. For instance, barbecue connoisseurs may want to orient the outdoor kitchen design around the grill, whereas skilled mixologists might prefer to showcase their craft behind a central bar area.

Here are some further ideas for accessories and appliances to outfit an outdoor kitchen.


For many households, grilling is an essential component for cookouts and summer gatherings. Besides choosing whether to go with gas or charcoal, there is a choice between built-in and rolling grills.

On one hand, a built-in grill can look sharp and tailored within an outdoor kitchen design. But on the other, the grill can’t be wheeled away for additional entertainment space when you’re not cooking.

Opting for a freestanding grill could help stretch your budget further and add some flexibility to an outdoor kitchen design.

Kitchen Island

The cook in the household is probably familiar with the challenges of simultaneously hosting and putting a meal together. In some cases, kitchen layouts can separate the cook from the rest of the party, which is not always ideal.

Adding a kitchen island for a mixed-use of counter space and seating can further integrate the cooking and dining space to bring everyone together at a dinner party or family gathering. Opting for the roll-away variety can help you customize an outdoor kitchen depending on the occasion.


Including a sink in an outdoor kitchen is useful for cooking, easy clean up, and sanitation.

The practicality of installing a sink and plumbing also depends on how far the outdoor kitchen is from the house. Carrying dirty dishes and pans a short distance for washing inside may not be worth the added cost of plumbing for some people.


Whether storing food or drinks, a fridge can keep an outdoor kitchen stocked and ready and cut down on trips between the house. This requires running electricity for ongoing operation. For a full-size fridge, you can expect the cost to average between $1,000 and $2,000.


As the cook in any family can attest, counter space is big help when it comes to staging and preparing food. On top of stains and wear and tear over time, outdoor kitchen countertops may need to be weather resistant too.

Marble is a popular interior countertop surface, but it’s cost and vulnerability to staining and wear mean it’s not the most durable. Some more hardy choices include slate and granite. Tile is a cheaper sturdy alternative, but typically requires more maintenance to clean the grout and replace cracked pieces.

For a functional amount of space, consider having at least 18 inches on each side of a sink, as well as 18-24 inches on either side of a grill.


To house all your outdoor kitchen utensils, pots, and pans in one place, cabinets are a good bet.

Similar to the countertops, durability is a key factor to consider alongside cost. Using a marine-grade paint or stain on wood cabinets can improve their weather resistance and tie in the outdoor kitchen design with the house.


Unless the outdoor kitchen will be built on an existing porch or patio, adding lighting may be a necessary investment to make a backyard dinner party possible.

As mentioned previously, extending electrical wiring and adding outlets comes with costs. Given that 5% of home energy expenditures go towards lighting, going with solar lights could save on both the electric bill and wiring.


After construction is completed, landscaping can further beautify the outdoor kitchen space and provide privacy and shade in the way of bushes or trees. Landscaping costs can be as little as $500 to $700 for smaller jobs, though this is an easier opportunity than say plumbing or electric to recoup some money as a DIY project.

Choosing a Shelter

Even in the fairest of climates, having some protection from the sun and assurance you won’t be caught in the rain can be an asset to an outdoor kitchen design. In addition to making a more comfortable space, a shelter could also increase the lifespan of your outdoor kitchen equipment and furniture.

Check out some possible options that can protect and enhance an outdoor kitchen design.


Awnings are an option for shading an outdoor kitchen area. Based on size and materials used, a built-in awning costs between $1,380 and $4,100 on average.

Canvas awnings are not the most durable choice for areas that can have harsh weather conditions, but they can be removed and stored during winter and inclement weather to extend their lifespan. Metal awnings are another option, and are generally cheaper and sturdier.

Upgrading to a mechanically retractable awning will likely increase cost, but can be handy in locations where weather changes quickly and frequently.


A framed gazebo can protect furniture and kitchen equipment while creating a comfortable space for cooking and dining. Whereas awnings are often attached to a structure or need to be taken down seasonally, gazebos can offer longevity and more options for placement.


Composed of vertical posts and overhead cross-beams with open lattice, pergolas can add some architectural appeal to an outdoor kitchen area. The structure is well-suited for growing vines to increase shade while allowing for ample breeze.

The Takeaway

After figuring out the location, dimensions, and trimmings for your outdoor kitchen design, you can begin itemizing costs within a budget.

If you come to realize you’re biting off more than you can chew, it’s okay to do the project in pieces. After all, cooking in your outdoor kitchen could be up to five times cheaper than ordering from a restaurant, thus helping pad your savings further.

There are also options to finance an outdoor kitchen project, such as personal loans.

Personal loans are repaid with monthly payments of principal plus interest. Generally, there is some discretion on how the borrower spends the money, whether on an outdoor kitchen or paying off credit card debt.

Building an outdoor kitchen could also qualify for a home improvement loan.

In contrast to a home equity loan, a home improvement loan from SoFi doesn’t require using an applicant’s house as collateral or approval from an appraiser.

Ready to dine al fresco? Check out home improvement loan options from SoFi.

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.


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How Long Will My Savings Last?

If only we had access to a reliable crystal ball, how simple saving for retirement could be. Instead, the process can feel more like a Magic 8 Ball® inquiry, finding fresh and fleeting new answers to the familiar question “How long will my savings last?”

Telling you to concentrate and ask again, that it is uncertain or better not to tell you are a few ways to answer common queries of this childhood toy, but signs point to yes for a breakdown of the many factors that can impact how long your retirement savings have to go.

What Factors Affect My Retirement Savings?

While it isn’t always easy to save money in your 20s, when many workers might still be paying off student loan debt, starting to save for retirement sooner than later could mean hundreds of thousands more in accumulated investments when it’s time to retire.

There are a few other variables that can come into play when deciding how long retirement savings might last:

Retirement Plan Type

Whether it’s a defined benefit plan like a pension, or a defined contribution plan like an employer-sponsored 401(k), 403(b), or 457, the kind of account you contribute to will likely have an impact on how much and what method you use to save for retirement:

Pension Plan

With a pension plan, retirement income is usually based on an employee’s longevity with the company, how much was earned, and their age at the time of retirement. Pensions can be a reliable retirement savings option because they reward long-term employees with a regular payment, typically once per month. One potential downside, however, is that pension plans can be terminated if a company is acquired, goes out of business, or decides to update or suspend its employee benefits offerings.

401(k) Plan

With a 401(k) plan, participants can contribute either a percentage of or a predetermined amount from each paycheck, and it might be matched by their employer up to a certain amount. Unlike a pension plan, the amount of retirement funds the participant saves is based on how much they personally contributed, whether they received an employer match, the rate of return on their investments, and how long they’ve had the plan.

IRA or Roth IRA

An Individual Retirement Account (or sometimes Arrangement), or IRA, is a retirement account that’s not sponsored by an employer. There are no income limits for a Traditional IRA (outside of tax deductible contributions), so it can be an appealing savings option for people who haven’t quite crystallized how high their earnings could go. A Roth IRA, on the other hand, has limits on contributions based on filing status and income level.

Less Common Plans

Other types of retirement plans like Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) and Profit Sharing Plans are less common and have their own unique benefits, drawbacks, and details.

Social Security

Social Security is a federally run program used to pay people aged 65 or older a continuing income. If eligible for the funds, they could be used to supplement or sustain savings in retirement.

Expected Rate of Return On Investments

If a person puts money into a defined contribution plan or makes investments in stocks, bonds, real estate, or other assets, there are a number of return outcomes that could affect their retirement savings.

An investment’s performance is about more than just appreciation over time. Learning how to calculate the expected rate of return on the investment can help you get a clearer picture of what the payoff will look like when it’s time to retire.

Unexpected Expenses

One never really knows what retired life might bring. Lots of unexpected expenses could arise.

An extensive home repair or renovation or maybe even a costly relocation to another state or country might make an unforeseen dent in retirement funds.

A major medical incident or the factoring in of long-term care can be another unexpected expense, as are caregiver costs if you or a family member need help.

Some seniors are surprised to learn that health care can get costly in retirement and Medicare may not always be free. Many of the services they might need could require out-of-pocket payments that eat into savings
As much as we might not want to imagine such scenarios, there could be the chance of a divorce during retirement, which could cause a redraft of the savings plan.

Creating a budget to estimate expenses is a great way to get ahead of any surprising financial setbacks that could sneak up down the line.


Inflation can take a hefty toll on retirement savings. Even average rates of inflation might have a significant impact on how much retirement funds will actually be worth when they’re withdrawn. For example, $1,500 in January 2000 had the same buying power as $2,293.68 in March of 2020.

Understanding how inflation can affect your retirement savings might ensure you have enough funds padded out to support you for the long haul.

Market Volatility and Investment Losses

Regardless of financial situation or age, checking in on retirement accounts and the climate on Wall Street could help clarify how market swings might affect your retirement savings.

Retirees with defined contribution plans might suffer financial losses if they withdraw invested funds during a volatile market. Not panicking and having enough emergency funds to cover 3-6 months of living expenses can help you weather the storm. Talking to an investment advisor about rebalancing a portfolio to reduce risk is another option for getting ahead of this unexpected savings speedbump.

Ways to Calculate How Much You Might Need to Retire

Are you on track for retirement? That’s something that can be calculated in many ways, which vary in efficacy depending on who you ask.

Here are a few formulas and calculations you can use to consider how much to save for retirement:

The Four Percent Rule

The Four Percent Rule, first used by financial planner William Bengen in 1994, assesses how different withdrawal rates can affect a person’s portfolio to ensure they won’t outlive the funds. According to the
, “assuming a minimum requirement of 30 years of portfolio longevity, a first-year withdrawal of 4 percent, followed by inflation-adjusted withdrawals in subsequent years, should be safe [for retirement].” Bengen has since adjusted the rule to 4.5% for the first year’s withdrawal.

The jury is out on whether 4% is a safe withdrawal rate in retirement, but many people have used it to weather poorly performing stock markets.

Fidelity also recommends withdrawing 4% to 5% from retirement savings yearly, with adjustments for inflation.

The Multiply by 25 Rule

This one can get a little controversial, but the Multiply by 25 rule, which expanded upon Bengen’s 4% Rule with the 1998 Trinity Study , involves taking a “hoped for” annual retirement income and multiplying it by 25 to determine how much money would be needed to retire.

For example, if you’d like to bring in $75,000 annually without working, multiply that number by 25, and you’ll find you need $1,875,000 to retire. That figure might seem scary, but it doesn’t factor in alternate sources of income like Social Security, investments, etc.

This rule has been banked on by many retirees. However, it’s based on a 30-year retirement period. For those hoping to retire before the age of 65, this could mean insufficient funds in the later years of life.

The Replacement Ratio

The Replacement Ratio helps estimate what percentage of someone’s pre-retirement income they’ll need to keep up with their current lifestyle during retirement.

The typical target in many studies shows 70-85% as the suggested range, but variables like income level, marital status, homeownership, health, and other demographic differences all affect a person’s desired replacement ratio, as do the types of retirement accounts they hold.

Also, the Replacement Ratio is based on how much a person was making pre-retirement, so while an 85% ratio might make sense for a household bringing in $100,000 to $150,000 per year, a household with higher earnings—say $250,000—might not actually need $212,000 each year during retirement. A way to supplement this calculation could be to estimate how much of your current spending will stay the same during retirement.

Social Security Benefits Calculator

By entering the date of birth and highest annual work income, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Social Security Calculator can determine how much money you might receive in estimated Social Security benefits during retirement.

Other Factors To Calculate

Expected Rate of Returns

Determining the rate of return on investments in retirement can help clarify how long your savings could last. An investment’s expected rate of returns can be calculated by taking the potential return outcomes, multiplying them by the likelihood that they’ll occur, and totaling the results.

Here’s an example: If an investment has a 50% chance of gaining 30% and a 50% chance of losing 20%, the expected rate of returns would be 50% ⨉ 30% + 50% ⨉ 20%, which is an estimated 25% return on the investment.

Home Improvement Costs

If a renovation is looking like it will be necessary down the line, you might calculate how much that home repair project could cost and factor it into your retirement planning.

You might also consider using an inflation calculator to uncover what your buying power will really be worth when you retire.

Making Retirement Savings Last Longer

If you’re still wondering how long your savings will last or seeking potential ways to make it last longer, a few of these strategies could help:

Lower Fixed Expenses

Unexpected expenses are likely to creep up regardless of how much you save, but by lowering fixed expenses like mortgage and rent payments, food, insurance, and transportation costs, you might be able to slow the spending of your savings over time. Setting a budget is a solid way to see this in black and white.

Maximize Social Security

While opting into Social Security benefits immediately upon eligibility at 62 might sound appealing, it could significantly reduce the benefit over time. With smaller cost of living adjustments later in life, a lengthy retirement (people are living longer than ever before) could mean less money when you need it the most.

Stay Healthy

Unexpected medical expenses might still occur, but by safeguarding health and wellbeing earlier in life, you could avoid costly chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.

Keep Earning

Whether it’s staying in the full-time workforce for a couple more years or starting a ride-share side hustle during retirement, continuing to bring in money can help you stretch your savings out a little longer.

Get Good Advice

Financial planning can get even more complicated during retirement. Finding someone who’s smart, qualified, and reliable for advice on the available options is one way to help stay on course with retirement goals and make your retirement savings last as long as possible.

When it comes to planning for retirement, your future doesn’t have to be quite so uncertain. By talking to a real, human advisor about the many factors that impact how long your savings will last, you might settle on exactly what you need to set aside to get you there.

SoFi Invest® gives members free access to financial advisors available to talk about your big picture financial goals—like saving up for retirement or the path that leads you there.

Learn how SoFi Invest® can help you save for retirement.

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 . The umbrella term “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.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
Disclaimer: The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.

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