Rollover IRA vs. Traditional IRA: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to retirement savings, one of the building blocks of many strategies is the individual retirement account, or IRA. An IRA is a retirement plan that allows individuals to save money in a tax-advantaged way. In some cases, an individual might open a traditional IRA, and in others, they might have investments from a previous retirement plan that they need to roll over into a rollover IRA.

When it comes to a traditional IRA vs. rollover IRA, there are many similarities— but also a few differences worth noting.

What Is a Traditional IRA?

To understand the difference between a rollover IRA vs. traditional IRA, it helps to understand some IRA basics.

From the moment you open a traditional IRA, your contributions to the account are typically tax deductible, so your savings will grow tax-free until you make withdrawals in retirement. This is advantageous to some retirees: Upon retiring, it’s likely one might be in a lower income tax bracket than when they were employed. Given that, the money they withdraw will be taxed at a lower rate than it would have when they contributed.

What is a Rollover IRA?

A rollover IRA is an IRA account created with money that’s being rolled over from a qualified retirement plan. Generally, rollover IRAs happen when someone leaves a job with an employer-sponsored plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), and they roll the assets from that plan into a rollover IRA.

In a rollover IRA, like a traditional IRA, your savings grow tax-free until you withdraw the money in retirement. There are several advantages to rolling your employer-sponsored retirement plan into an IRA, vs. into a 401(k) with a new employer:

•  IRAs may charge lower fees than 401(k) providers.
•  IRAs may offer more investment options than an employer-sponsored retirement account.
•  You may be able to consolidate several retirement accounts into one rollover IRA, simplifying management of your investments.
•  IRAs offer the ability to withdraw money early for certain eligible expenses, such as purchasing your first home or paying for higher education. In these cases, while you’ll pay income taxes on the money you withdraw, you won’t owe any early withdrawal penalty.

There are also some rollover IRA rules that may feel like disadvantages to putting your money into an IRA instead of leaving it in an employer-sponsored plan:

•  While you can borrow money from your 401(k) and pay it back over time, you cannot take a loan from an IRA account.
•  Certain investments that were offered in your 401(k) plan may not be available in the IRA account.
•  There may be negative tax implications to rolling over company stock.
•  An IRA requires that you start taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from the account at age 72 (or age 70 ½ if you turn 70 ½ in 2019 or earlier), even if you’re still working, whereas you may be able to delay your RMDs from an employer-sponsored account if you’re still working.
•  The money in an employer plan is protected from creditors and judgments, whereas the money in an IRA may not be, depending on your state.

A Side-by-Side Comparison of Rollover IRA vs. Traditional IRA

  Rollover IRA Traditional IRA
Source of contributions Created by “rolling over” money from another account, most typically an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as 401(k) or 403(b). For rollover amount, annual contribution limits do not apply. Created by regular contributions to the account, not in excess of the annual contribution limit, although rolled-over money can also be contributed to a traditional IRA.
Contribution limits There is no limit on the funds you roll over from another account. If you’re contributing outside of a rollover, the limit is $6,000 per year, plus an additional $1,000 if you’re 50 or older. Up to $6,000 per year, plus an additional $1,000 if you’re 50 or older.
Withdrawal rules Withdrawals before age 59½ are subject to both income taxes and an early withdrawal penalty (with certain exceptions , like for higher education expenses or the purchase of a first home). Withdrawals before age 59½ are subject to both income taxes and an early withdrawal penalty (with certain exceptions , like for higher education expenses or the purchase of a first home).
Required minimum distributions (RMDs) You’re required to withdraw a certain amount of money from this account each year once you reach age 72. You’re required to withdraw a certain amount of money from this account each year once you reach age 72.
Taxes Since contributions are from a pre-tax account, all withdrawals from this account in retirement will be taxed at ordinary income rates. If contributions are tax deductible, all withdrawals from this account in retirement will be taxed at ordinary income rates. (If contributions were non-deductible, you’ll pay taxes on only the earnings in retirement.)
Future rollover options As long as no other (non-rollover) funds have been added to the account, this money can be rolled into a future employer’s retirement plan, if the plan allows it. The money in a traditional IRA cannot be rolled into a future employer’s retirement plan.
Convertible to a Roth IRA Yes Yes

Is There a Difference Between a Traditional IRA and a Rollover IRA?

The money you roll over to a rollover IRA can later be rolled over into an employer-sponsored retirement plan, if the plan allows it. This is not true of money in a traditional IRA.

When it comes to a rollover IRA vs. traditional IRA, the only real difference is that the money in a rollover IRA was rolled over from an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Otherwise, the accounts share the same tax rules on withdrawals, required minimum distributions, and conversions to Roth IRAs.

Can You Contribute to a Rollover IRA?

You can make contributions to a rollover IRA, up to IRA contribution limits. In 2020 and 2021, individuals can contribute up to $6,000 (with an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 if you’re 50 or older). If you do add money to your rollover IRA, however, you may not be able to roll the account into another employer’s retirement plan at a later date.

Can You Combine a Traditional IRA with a Rollover IRA?

A rollover IRA is essentially a traditional IRA that was created when money was rolled into it. Hence, you can combine two IRAs by having a direct transfer done from one account to another, or by rolling money from one IRA to the other IRA.

There’s one important aspect of the transfer or rollover process that will help prevent the money from counting as an early withdrawal or distribution to you—and that’s being timely with any transfers. With an indirect rollover, you typically have 60 days to deposit the money from the now-closed fund into the new one.

A few other key points to remember: As mentioned above, if you add non-rollover money to a rollover account, you may lose the ability to roll funds into a future employer’s retirement plan. Also keep in mind that there’s a limit of one rollover between IRAs in any 12-month period. This is strictly an IRA-to-IRA limit and does not apply to rollovers from a retirement plan to an IRA.

How to Open a Traditional or Rollover IRA Account

Opening a traditional IRA and a rollover IRA are identical processes—the only difference is the funding. Open a traditional or rollover IRA by doing the following:

•  Decide where to open your IRA. For instance, you can choose an online brokerage firm where you can choose your own investments, or you can select a robo-advisor that will offer automated recommendations based on your answers to a few basic investing questions. (There’s a small fee associated with most robo-advisors.)
•  Open an account. From the provider’s website, select the type of IRA you’d like to open—traditional or rollover, in this case—and provide a few pieces of personal information. You’ll likely need to supply your date of birth, Social Security number, and contact and employment information.
•  Fund the account. You can fund the account with a direct contribution via check or a transfer from your bank account, transferring money from another IRA, or rolling over the money from an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Contact your company plan administrator for information on how to do the latter.

The Takeaway

Both a rollover IRA or traditional IRA allow investors to put money away for retirement in a tax-advantaged way, with very little difference between the two accounts.

One of the primary questions anyone considering a rollover IRA should consider is, will you keep contributing to it? If so, that would prevent you from rolling the rollover IRA back into an employer-sponsored retirement account in the future.

Whether it’s a rollover IRA you’ve created by rolling over an employer-sponsored retirement account or a traditional IRA you’ve opened with regular contributions, either account can play a key role in your retirement game plan.

Interested in learning more about growing your savings with an IRA? Explore IRA accounts at SoFi and read about the broad range of investment options, member services and investment tools available.

Find out how to save for retirement with SoFi.


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.
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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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.
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) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned 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, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

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How Safe is Blockchain? Blockchain Security Guide

How safe is blockchain technology? It has proven to be a powerful technology for protecting the integrity of vital information. But that doesn’t mean it’s entirely safe.

The technology has become increasingly prevalent in recent years as the cryptocurrency markets have moved toward center stage. One reason for its rapid adoption is that blockchain is designed to offer unparalleled security to digital information.

In its short life, blockchain—also known as distributed ledger technology—and the cryptocurrencies it powers has seen its share of successes and failures. And as its applications spread, blockchain security has become more important—and not just for cryptocurrency investors.

How Blockchain Works

In some ways, blockchain technology is like the internet, which relies on a decentralized network rather than just a single server.

Blockchain uses a decentralized, or distributed, ledger that exists on a host of independent computers, often called nodes, to track, announce, and coordinate synchronized transactions. This differs from traditional trading models that rely on a clearinghouse or exchange which tracks everything in a central ledger.

Each node in the decentralized blockchain constantly organizes new data into blocks, and chains them together in an “append only” mode. This append-only structure is an important part of blockchain security. No one on any node can alter or delete the data on earlier blocks—they can only add to the chain. That the chain can only be added to is one of the core security features of blockchain.

By referring to the chain, participants can confirm transactions. It cuts out the need for a central clearing authority.

Blockchain Security Basics

Blockchain is not immune to hacking, but being decentralized gives blockchain a better line of defense. To alter a chain, a hacker or criminal would need control of more than half of all the computers in the same distributed ledger (it’s unlikely, but possible—more on that later).

The largest and best-known blockchain networks, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, are public, and allow anyone with a computer and an internet connection to participate. Instead of creating a security crisis, having more people on a blockchain network tends to increase security. More participating nodes means that more people are checking one another’s work and calling out bad actors.

That’s one reason why, paradoxically, private blockchain networks that require an invitation to participate can actually be more vulnerable to attack and manipulation.

Permissioned vs. Permissionless Blockchains

As the names imply, permissioned or private blockchains are closed systems that require an invitation to join. This can be useful for businesses like companies and banks, which may want more control over data and thus would restrict outsiders from joining. Ripple, which was created by the banking industry as a way to make low-cost transactions, is an example of permissioned blockchains.

Permissionless blockchains are public—anyone can transact on these blockchains, with no one in control. The data is copied and stored on nodes worldwide, and individuals can remain more or less anonymous. Bitcoin, Dash, Ethereum, and Litecoin are all examples of permissionless blockchains.

The Role of Miners in Blockchain Security

As Bitcoin and other forms of crypto have grown in popularity, so has the process of mining. For speculators, cryptocurrency mining is a way to receive crypto coins or tokens. For the cryptocurrencies themselves, mining contributes to blockchain security, as it’s a way to ensure the integrity of the underlying blockchain of their currencies.

Miners verify the transactions to make sure that they are valid and in line with the blockchain code. For popular crypto currencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin, they submit their proof of work (POW) algorithmic evidence supporting or denying each transaction, and receive payment in the form of coins.

How Blockchain Security Prevents Double Spending

For payments and money transfers, blockchain is useful in preventing “double-spending” attacks. These attacks are a core concern for cryptocurrencies. In a double-spending attack, a user will spend their cryptocurrency more than once. It’s an issue that doesn’t arise with cash. If you spend $5 on a sandwich, then you no longer have the $5 to spend. But with crypto, there’s a risk that a user will spend the crypto multiple times before the network finds out.

Blockchain helps prevent this. Within the blockchain of a given cryptocurrency, the entire network needs to reach consensus on the transaction order, to confirm the latest transaction, and to post them publicly.

Bitcoin was the first form of crypto to solve the problem of double spending. And it serves as an example of how blockchain helps preserve the integrity not just of currency, but of records as a whole. If someone wanted to spend the exact same bitcoin in two places by sending it to two recipients simultaneously, then the two transactions would first go into a pool of unconfirmed transactions.

The first transaction to be confirmed would be added to the coin’s blockchain as the next data block in its transaction history. The second transaction—being connected with the block in the chain that had already been added to—wouldn’t fit into the chain, and the transaction would fail.

Blockchain Security Risks

But even with the security provided by the very nature of blockchain itself in addition to a global network of nodes and miners constantly confirming and protecting the integrity of a blockchain, there are still risks.

No Human Safeguards

One risk is also a supposed benefit: blockchain creates a seamless way to execute transactions. There’s no manual intervention required to send or receive money, which eliminates some of the more human safeguards that have evolved over time. While the technology has benefits for ensuring the integrity of the assets identity, or information involved, it is completely agnostic about the sender and receiver. This is one area where a central clearinghouse can exercise valuable discretion.

While this doesn’t pose a direct risk to any crypto assets an investor may hold at the moment, it could lead to issues later. Many critics of bitcoin and other forms of crypto point to its growing use by criminal and terrorist groups to circumvent money-laundering and other bank regulators. The anonymity that crypto allows also made it popular on the Silk Road online bazaar of illegal goods and services that flourished between 2011 and 2013.

That criticism has led to increased interest from regulators in the US and abroad, which could ultimately lead to new laws about how blockchain can and can’t be used.

High Costs

Other critics point to the high cost of maintaining the networks that make blockchain function. The process of mining these coins, which is vital to their integrity and survival as a working currency, consumes vast amounts of energy. The total energy consumption of the bitcoin network is equal to the electricity needs of 2 million U.S. homes, according to Morgan Stanley.

Because miners are paid in coins, that creates a real risk. If the price of the coins go down low enough, or the price of electricity rises high enough, then people may decide the game isn’t worth the candle.

Hacker Activity

While the very nature of how blockchain works—using decentralization, consensus, and cryptography—ensures that transactions are basically tamper-proof, hackers have still found ways to defraud the system over the years. In 2019 alone, twelve crypto exchanges were hacked.

These are a few ways the system is vulnerable to hackers.

•  Phishing is one problem, in which scammers send bogus emails in an attempt to get wallet key credentials from crypto users. (Securely storing your cryptocurrencies isn’t enough—it’s also essential to stay vigilant about protecting sensitive information.)
•  There’s also a chance that one miner or a large enough group of miners could eventually gain control of more than 50% of a network’s mining power. In that case, they’d gain control over the ledger.
•  In other situations, hackers can access real-time data as it’s being routed between internet service providers.

How to Choose a Secure Blockchain Network

There are a few things a user can do to make sure the crypto exchange they select is secure. Here’s a checklist to use when choosing an exchange:

•  Does the exchange engage auditors to look for flaws in the system?
•  Does the exchange store assets in “cold storage” (someplace without an internet connection—think of a paper wallet with a private key)
•  Do they offer security options like alerts for suspicious transactions? Two-factor authentication? Multi-signature transactions?

The Takeaway

For Blockchain, security is both a strength and a concern. Cryptocurrency transactions—including paying with crypto, investing in crypto, and crypto lending—is anonymous and protected in part by the very way blockchain technology is built. But as with most other technologies, it’s not completely immune to tampering.

That said, users can protect themselves by securely storing their private keys and not falling prey to phishing emails looking for personal information in order to hack your account.

SoFi Invest® crypto investing works on a secure platform that keeps your holdings safe. Members can buy, sell, and trade Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin alongside all their other investments.

Find out how to start investing in crypto with SoFi.


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.
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) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned 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, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.
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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Intrinsic Value vs Market Value, Explained

Intrinsic value vs market value refers to the difference between where a stock is trading and where it ought to be according to its fundamentals. The term “market value” simply refers to the current market price of a security. Intrinsic value represents the price at which investors believe the security should be trading at. Intrinsic value is also known as “fair market value” or simply “fair value.”

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “intrinsic” means “belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing.” At times, stocks become overbought or oversold, meaning their market price can rise above or below their intrinsic value.

When it comes to value vs. growth stocks, value investors look for companies that are out of favor and below their intrinsic value. The idea is that sooner or later stocks return to their intrinsic value.

What Is Market Value?

In a sense, there is only one measure of market value: what price the market assigns to a stock, based on existing demand.

Market value tends to be influenced by public sentiment and macroeconomic factors. Fear and greed are the primary emotions that drive markets. During a stock market crash, for example, fear may grip investors and the market value of many stocks could fall well below their fair market values.

News headlines can drive stock prices above or below their intrinsic value. After reading an earnings report that’s positive, investors may pile into a stock. Even though better-than-expected earnings might increase the intrinsic value of a stock to a certain degree, investors can get greedy in the short-term and create overextended gains in the stock price.

The rationale behind value vs price, and behind value investing as a whole, is that stocks tend to overshoot their fair market value to the upside or the downside.

When this leads to a stock being oversold, the idea is that investors could take advantage of the buying opportunity. It’s assumed that the stock will then eventually rise to its intrinsic value.

What Is Intrinsic Value?

The factors that can be used to determine intrinsic value are related to the fundamental operations of a company. It can be tricky to figure how to evaluate a stock. Depending on which factors they examine and how they interpret them, analysts can come to different conclusions about the intrinsic value of a stock.

It’s not easy to come to a reasonable estimation of a company’s valuation. Some of the variables involved have no direct physical, measurable counterpart, like intangible assets. Intangible assets include things like copyrights, patents, reputation, consumer loyalty, and so on. Analysts come to their own conclusions when trying to assign a value to these assets.

Tangible assets include things like cash reserves, corporate bonds, equipment, land, manufacturing capacity, etc. These tend to be easier to value because they can be assigned a numerical value in dollar terms. Things like the company’s business plan, financial statements, and balance sheet have a tangible aspect in that they are objective documents.

Calculating Intrinsic Value vs Market Value

There can be multiple different ways to determine the intrinsic value of an asset. These methods are broadly referred to as valuation methods, or using fundamental analysis on stocks or other securities. The methods vary according to the type of asset and how an investor chooses to look at that asset.

Calculating Intrinsic Value

For dividend-yielding stocks, for example, the dividend discount model provides a mathematical formula that aims to find the intrinsic value of a stock based on its dividend growth over a certain period of time. Here is what is a dividend: periodic income given to shareholders by a company.

Upon calculating the dividend discount model, an investor could then compare the answer to the current market value of a stock. If market value were to be lower, then the stock could be seen as undervalued and a good buy. If market value were to be higher, then the stock could be seen as overvalued and not worth buying or possibly an opportunity to sell short.

Another method for estimating intrinsic value is discounted cash flow analysis. This method attempts to determine the value of an investment in terms of its projected future cash flows.

While the dividend discount model and discounted cash flow analysis can be seen as objective ways to determine a stock’s value, they also have a large subjective component. Analysts must choose a timeframe to use in their model. Using different timeframes can lead to different conclusions.

Longer timeframes are often thought of as being more accurate because they include more data points. But they could also dilute the significance of more recent trends.

Example Using Dividend Discount Model

For example, if a company had years of steady dividend growth, but recently slashed its dividend by 50%, a dividend discount model analysis based on a long timeframe would show this reduction in dividend payments to be less severe than an analysis based on a shorter time frame.

The longer timeframe would include previous years of dividend growth, which would theoretically outweigh the recent reduction.

The reduction may have come from a large decrease in earnings. If that trend were to continue, the company could be doomed to the point of having to suspend its dividends (as many companies did in 2020). So in this hypothetical example, a shorter time frame could actually lead to a more realistic conclusion than a longer one.

Calculating Market Value

The determination of market value is rather simple by comparison. Someone can either simply look at what price a stock is trading at or calculate its current market capitalization. The formula for market capitalization or market cap is:

Total number of outstanding shares multiplied by the current stock price.

Dividing market cap by number of shares also leads to the current stock price.

Sometimes companies engage in “corporate stock buybacks,” whereby they purchase their own shares, which reduces the total number of shares available on the market.

This increases the price of a stock without any fundamental, tangible change taking place. Value investors might say that stocks pumped up by share buybacks are overvalued. This process can lead to extreme valuations in stocks, as can extended periods of market euphoria.

The Takeaway

Using the intrinsic value vs market value method is best suited to a long-term buy-and-hold strategy.

Stock prices can remain elevated or depressed for long periods of time depending on market conditions. Even if an investor’s analysis is spot on, there’s no way to know for sure exactly when any stock will return to its intrinsic value.

Value investors try to understand stock volatility, using these periods as opportunities for rebalancing their portfolios, selling positions that might have increased a lot while adding to positions that may have fallen far below their intrinsic value. This contrasts to short-term day trading strategies or momentum swing-trading, which primarily uses technical analysis to try and predict and profit from short-term market fluctuations.

Found a stock you think is undervalued? Try SoFi Invest®, where investors can choose any of the most popular stocks and ETFs.

Check out SoFi Invest today.


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.
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) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned 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, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

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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What is Ripple XRP? Everything to Know for 2021

Cryptocurrency is a fast-moving space with new technologies and names arising on a daily basis. One of the largest and more polarizing subjects in the space is Ripple XRP, a private-company-founded platform and cryptocurrency launched in 2012. It has gained notoriety for its unique founding, structure, and operations.

Ardent supporters back its real-world adoption and growth potential. Dissenters contend that because of many of these same factors, it’s philosophically misaligned with cryptocurrency ideals and fundamentals.

Despite these contentions, Ripple XRP has grown to become a household name in cryptocurrency. Here’s everything you need to know about this cryptocurrency, and how to invest in it.

What is Ripple?

Ripple is both a currency-exchange system designed to allow fast and low-cost transactions, and a cryptocurrency in its own right. Ripple’s primary goal is to connect financial institutions, payment providers, and digital asset exchanges to provide faster and cheaper global payments.

Created in 2012 by Jed McCaleb and Chris Larsen, Ripple is perhaps better known for its open-source, peer-to-peer decentralized platform, RippleNet, which enables money to be transferred globally in any fiat or cryptocurrency denomination between financial institutions.

Ripple makes some improvements on common shortfalls associated with traditional banks. Transactions on the Ripple Network are settled in seconds even under the regular stress of millions of transactions. Compare this to banks’ wire transfers which typically can take days to weeks to complete and can cost anywhere from $15 to $30 or more if sending or receiving internationally. Fees on Ripple vary based on the transaction size but overall are minimal, with the minimum cost for a standard transaction at 0.00001 XRP.

Whereas top cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin are designed to be used primarily by individuals, Ripple’s system is designed to be adopted by banks, funds, and institutions.

What is XRP?

XRP is the currency issued and managed by Ripple (though users can also create their own currency on the platform). Ripple began selling XRP in 2012 to fund company operations, allowing its users to buy cryptocurrency, though it has taken a backseat to the company’s primary objective of developing RippleNet.

Throughout Ripple’s lifespan, leadership has reframed how XRP fits into the company’s business model, originally proclaiming it as the fuel on which its borderless payments technology runs, and later as a more efficient medium of exchange than Bitcoin.

XRP tokens represent the transfer of value across the Ripple network and can be traded on the open cryptocurrency market by anyone. Unlike Bitcoin’s popular store-of-value narrative use-case, XRP is primarily used for payments and borderless currency exchange. While Ripple’s centralized infrastructure concerns some in the cryptocurrency space, its fast transaction speeds, low transaction costs, and low energy usage provide superior performance as a medium of exchange compared to many blockchain-based cryptocurrencies.

(Need a crash course on crypto before you can read any further? Check out our guide to cryptocurrency.)

What is the XRP Price?

At the time of reporting, the XRP price is $0.474494. It’s all-time high was $3.8419 in January 2018. It went as low as $.0041 in November 2015.

How Does Ripple Work?

There are two main technologies to be aware of when it comes to Ripple and XRP. Specifically, the XRP ledger (XRPL) and the Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm (RPCA). Here’s how they work.

XRP Ledger (XRPL)

RippleNet is built on top of its own blockchain-like distributed ledger database, XRP Ledger (XRPL), which stores accounting information of network participants and matches exchanges among multiple currency pairs. The transaction ledger is maintained by a committee of validators who act like miners and full-node operators to reach consensus in three to five seconds—versus Bitcoin’s 10 minutes. Because there are no miners competing to confirm transactions for block rewards, validators verify transactions for no monetary reward.

Anyone can become an XRP validator, but in order to gain trust and be used by others on the network, validators must make Ripple’s unique node list (UNL), deeming them a trusted Ripple validator. These centralized validators are critical to prevent double-spending and censorship of transactions. There are only 35 active XRP validators; six are run by Ripple.

Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm (RPCA)

XRP’s design is predicated on speed and cost, as opposed to decentralization. Unlike different types of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are built on the blockchain and validated by miners through the Proof of Work consensus mechanism, Ripple confirms transactions through its own consensus mechanism, the Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm (RPCA).

By avoiding Proof of Work’s energy-intensive mining, Ripple transactions require less energy than Bitcoin or Ethereum, are confirmed faster, and cost less. However, this speed is ultimately achieved because of XRP’s centralized infrastructure, which some argue makes the network less secure, censorship-resistant, and permissionless than open-source blockchain networks.

Ripple Cryptocurrency Token Supply

Unlike many other cryptocurrencies, XRP is not mined. The token’s entire supply was created when the network first launched in 2012 and Ripple executives intermittently tap into an escrow to release segments of the supply to sell on the open market.

In other words, unlike Bitcoin’s decentralized economy, XRP’s supply and issuance is centralized and governed by a few authorities. Because the total supply already exists, no more will be created into existence, thus making XRP fixed in quantity and not inflationary.

As of January 2021, only 45 billion XRP tokens are in circulation, out of the maximum total 100 billion. Due to the vast circulating supply, XRP has had one of the largest market caps of any cryptocurrency, even briefly eclipsing that of Ethereum’s second-largest cap late in the 2017-2018 bull market.

Ripple Crypto and Regulatory Trouble

In late 2020, Ripple became the target of an SEC investigation . The regulatory body determined that Ripple Labs Inc. and two of its executives, Co-Founder Chris Larsen and CEO Bradley Garlinghouse, had raised over $1.3 billion through an “unregistered, ongoing digital asset securities offering” to finance the company’s operations. Consistent with recent cryptocurrency rules set by the SEC, Ripple’s leaders were charged with unlawful issuance of securities in the form of sales of its XRP token, raising questions about compliance with cryptocurrency taxes.

The XRP price crashed amid the fallout, from over $0.60 to under $0.30, as prominent crypto exchanges began delisting the token and Ripple executives, including Founder Jed McCaleb, sold off personal XRP holdings worth millions.

Is Ripple a Good Investment?

Though XRP has been impacted by Ripple’s legal blow, XRP is an independent token that can and does function somewhat outside of Ripple’s business model. The crash in price and soured fundamental outlook may not paint a bright picture of XRP as an investment to some. Whether XRP recovers and continues to evolve with the rest of the crypto herd remains to be seen, but as investors look for value in undervalued assets, it doesn’t hurt to do further research and form an educated conclusion.

Pros and Cons of Ripple XRP

Because Ripple is different in some ways from other cryptocurrencies, it makes sense to review its perceived pros and cons before making any investing decisions.

Pros of Ripple XRP

•  Fast speeds
•  Low fees
•  Fixed supply
•  Interest/tentative adoption by financial institutions

Cons of Ripple XRP

•  Centralized infrastructure, governance, issuance
•  Corruptible validators
•  Unsupported by many exchanges

How to Invest in XRP

To start investing in Ripple, you first need to join a crypto exchange. Signing up for an account could include different verification processes, depending on the exchange. Once you’re signed up, you’re ready to trade or buy Ripple XRP. You can trade any current crypto you own, or you can buy a major cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum and then use that to buy Ripple XRP.

The Takeaway

Ripple XRP is a global digital payments system that sacrifices decentralization for performance. The network and technology is owned and at least partly run by Ripple, the private company, which controls the underlying infrastructure, supply, and some of the limited network validators. While Ripple strays from the conventional decentralization model adopted by leading cryptos Bitcoin and Ethereum, it conforms to some degree through its own specially-designed infrastructure.

Although Ripple’s primary goal is providing a borderless payments and currency exchange gateway for financial institutions, its native cryptocurrency XRP has taken on a life of its own and is actively traded and analyzed by investors. With high-ranking metrics such as fast and inexpensive transactions, some investors argue XRP is a strong competitor to large cryptocurrency blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Conversely, Ripple XRP’s centralization has been a major philosophical and security concern for others—including US regulatory bodies.

Cryptocurrency is an exciting new technology that’s disrupting money as we know it. With SoFi Invest®, members can invest in some of the most popular cryptocurrencies—Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

Find out how to invest in cryptocurrencies with SoFi Invest.


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.
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) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned 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, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

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.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.

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What is a Financial Crisis?

The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to contain it shut down large portions of the economy and brought on a financial crisis. What this crisis will look like in the future remains unknown, but financial crises are not new phenomena. Here’s a look at what a financial crisis entails and what we can learn from crises of the past.

Financial Crisis Definition

During a financial crisis, asset prices drop rapidly, usually over the course of days or a few weeks. This drop is often accompanied by a stock market crash as investors panic and pull money from the market. It may also be associated with bank runs in which consumers withdraw assets for fear they will lose value if they remain in the bank. This type of downturn may be the beginning of a recession.

Recessions are a general period of economic decline during which unemployment may rise, income and consumer spending may fall, and business failures may be up. (To stay up-to-date on the current financial crisis and possible recession visit SoFi’s Recession Help Center.)

Common Causes of Financial Crises

There are a number of situations that can cause a financial crisis, including the bursting of financial bubbles, defaults on debt, and currency crises.

Stock market bubbles occur when stock prices rise precipitously, often driven by speculation and investors overvaluing stocks. As more people jump on the bandwagon and buy stocks, prices are driven higher, a cycle that is not based on the stock’s fundamental value. Eventually this situation becomes unsustainable and the bubble bursts. Investors sell and prices drop quickly.

A failure to meet debt obligations can also lead to a financial crisis. For example, a country may be unable to pay off its debts. This may happen as a country starts to face higher interest rates from lenders worried that the country may not be able to pay back their bonds. As lenders require higher bond yields to offset the risk of taking on a country’s debt, it becomes more and more expensive for that country to refinance. Eventually the country will default on its debt, which can cause the value of its currency to drop.

A currency crisis occurs when a country’s currency experiences sudden volatility as a result of factors such as central bank policies or speculation among investors. For example, a currency crisis may occur when a country’s central bank pegs its currency to another country’s floating currency (one whose value depends on supply and demand) and fails to maintain that peg.

Examples of Financial Crises

The modern financial crises date back hundreds of years, perhaps to the South Sea Bubble of 1720. Here’s a look at a handful of other well-known financial crises that happened in the United States and abroad:

America’s First Financial Crisis

The stage for the United States’ first financial crisis was set in 1790. At that time, the U.S. had few banks, and Alexander Hamilton wanted to bring the financial system to par with the systems that existed in Britain and Holland. To do so he started the first central bank, known as The First Bank of the United States (BUS). To get the bank off its feet, the public could buy shares in the bank with a mixture of cash and government bonds.

Two problems swiftly arose. The demand for government bonds to buy shares lead some investors—led by one William Duer—to try and corner the bond market by borrowing widely to buy bonds. Also, the BUS quickly dwarfed other banks, becoming the nation’s largest lender. Investor flush with credit began to use their newfound cash to speculate in futures and short sales markets.

In spring of 1792, the BUS ran low on hard currency and cut lending. Duer and his cohort were forced to take on new debt to pay off old debt, and tightening credit, led U.S. markets on a downward spiral.

Knowing the financial system he’d worked hard to build was on the verge of collapse, Hamilton was forced to use public funds to buy back U.S. bonds and prop up the price of those bonds. Additionally he had to direct money to failing lenders, and allowed banks with collateral to borrow as much as they wanted with a penalty rate of 7%. Not only was this America’s first financial crisis, it was also the first instance of a government bailout, setting a precedent for future financial crises.

Stock Crash of 1929

Perhaps the granddaddy of financial crises, the 1929 stocks crash came at a time when stock speculation led to booming markets. New technologies, such as radio, were particularly popular investments. At the same time, however, consumer prices were falling and established businesses flagging, creating tension within the economy.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates, in an effort to slow the overheated markets. Unfortunately, the hike wasn’t big enough to slow the economy. It ended up further hurting already weakening businesses, and industrial production continued to fall.

The market crashed October 28 and October 29, 1929. The 29th came to be known as Black Tuesday. By mid-November the market was down 45%. By the next year, banks began to fail. Customers began withdrawing cash as fast as they could, causing bank runs.

The crisis devastated the economy, forcing businesses to close and causing many people to lose their life savings. The crisis sparked the Great Depression, and the Dow wouldn’t climb to its previous heights for 25 years.

The crash led to a number of financial reforms. The Glass-Steagall legislation separated regular banking, such as lending, from stock market operations. It also gave the government power to regulate banks at which customers used credit to invest.

The government also set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC) to help prevent bank runs by protecting customer deposits. The creation of the FDIC helped stabilize the financial system, because individuals no longer felt they needed to withdraw their money from the bank at the slightest sign of economic trouble.

1973 OPEC Oil Crisis

In October 1973, the 12 countries that make up the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to stop exporting oil to the United States in retaliation for the U.S. decision to offer military aid to Israel. As a result of the embargo, the U.S. experienced gas shortages, and oil prices in the U.S. quadrupled.

Though the embargo ended in March of 1974, its destabilizing effects are largely blamed for the economic recession of 1973–1975. High gas prices meant American consumers had less money in their pockets to spend on other things, lowering demand and consumer confidence.

Other factors beyond the embargo, including wage-price controls and the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, exacerbated the financial crisis. Wage-price controls forced business to keep wages high, keeping them from hiring new employees. In a series of monetary moves, the Federal Reserve quickly raised and lowered interest rates. Businesses unable to keep up with the changes protected themselves by keeping prices high, which contributed to inflation.

The period’s high unemployment, stagnant economic growth, and inflation came to be known under the portemanteau “stagflation.”

Asian Crisis of 1997–1998

The Asian financial crisis began in Thailand in July 1997. It spilled over to other East Asian nations and eventually had ripple effects in Latin American and Eastern Europe.

Before the crisis began, Thailand had pegged its currency to the U.S. dollar. After months of speculative pressure that depleted the country’s foreign exchange reserves, Thailand devalued its currency, allowing it to float on the open market. Malaysian, Indonesian and Singapore currencies were devalued as well, causing high inflation that spread to East Asian countries, including South Korea and Japan.

Growth fell sharply across Asia, investment rates fell, and some countries entered into recession.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in, providing billions of dollars of loans to help stabilize weak Asian economies in Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea.

In exchange for its loans, the IMF required new rules that led to better financial regulation and oversight.
Countries that received the loans had to raise taxes, reduce public spending, and raise interest rates.

Global Financial Crisis of 2007–2008

The origins of the Global Financial Crisis are complicated. They started with government deregulation that allowed banks to use derivatives in hedge fund trading. To fuel this trading the banks needed mortgages and began lending to subprime borrowers who had questionable credit. When interest rates on these mortgages reset higher, borrowers could no longer afford their payments.

At the same time, housing prices dropped as demand for homes fell and borrowers who could no longer afford their payments were now unable to sell their homes to cover what they owed on their mortgage. The value of the derivatives collapsed and banks stopped lending to each other, resulting in a financial crisis and eventually the Great Recession.

As a result of the financial crisis, the government took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and bailed out investment banks on the verge of collapse. Additionally, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill to prevent banks from taking on too much risk again in the future.

European Sovereign Debt Crisis

The European Sovereign Debt Crisis followed swiftly on the heels of the Global Financial Crisis. The crisis largely began in Greece in 2009 as investors and governments around the globe realized that Greece might default on its national debt.

At that point the nation’s debt had reached 113% of its GDP. Debt levels within the European Union were supposed to be capped at 60%, and if the Greek economy slowed down it might have trouble paying off its debt. By 2010, the E.U. discovered irregularities in the Greek accounting system which meant that its budget deficits were higher than previously suspected. Bond rating agencies subsequently downgraded the country’s debt.

Investors were concerned that similar events might spread to other members of the E.U., including Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy who all had similar levels of debt. In response to these concerns investors in sovereign bonds from these countries demanded higher yields to make up for the increased risk they were taking on. That meant the cost of borrowing rose in these countries. And because rising yields lowers the price of existing bonds, eurozone banks that held these bonds began to lose money.

Eurozone leaders agreed on a 750 billion euro rescue package that eventually reached 1 trillion euros by 2012.

Investing During a Financial Crisis

Investing during a recession or financial crisis may not sound like a whole lot of fun. Watching stock prices plummet can give even the most seasoned investor heart palpitations. But keeping an investment plan on track during a crisis is critical to future success. In the face of a financial crisis, there are a few considerations to make.

First, watching a market spiraling out of control may inspire panic, tempting investors to pull their money out of stock. However, that may be exactly the wrong instinct. Bear markets are almost always followed by a recovery, and selling assets may mean that investors lock in losses and miss out on subsequent gains.

Second, investors may want to consider buying more stock when markets are down. Purchasing stock when prices are low during a bear market may provide the opportunity for increased profits as the market turns around.

Down markets can be a good opportunity for investors to stress test their risk tolerance. If falling prices lead to panic, an investor may realize their portfolio carries too much risk for their tastes and may decide to rebalance a portion of their portfolio into more conservative investments. Beware of rebalancing during a financial crisis, however. It can be hard to predict how investments will fair once the market turns around. So it can be better to wait until markets stabilize before making any big moves.

In the end, it’s important to remember that investing is a long-term proposition. Diversified investment portfolios that take an investor’s goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance into account are typically designed to weather short-term financial storms.

If you have questions about building a portfolio, allocating your wealth or how market conditions will affect your financial situations, it can help to talk to a financial planner.

As a SoFi member, you can make a complimentary appointment with a SoFi Financial advisor, who can answer questions you may have regarding your portfolio and the market. Downloading the SoFi app can also help you stay up-to-date on market developments.

Learn more about SoFi Invest® today.


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.
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) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned 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, http://www.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.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

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