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What Is Operating Leverage?

Operating leverage looks at the relationship between a company’s fixed costs (e.g. rent), its variable costs (e.g. shipping), and revenue. The higher a company’s fixed costs relative to its variable costs indicates a high operating leverage.

Knowing whether a company’s operating leverage is high or low is important because those two factors, when taken into account with revenue, have an impact on profitability. A company with higher fixed costs has a higher degree of operating leverage (DOL), which then determines how much revenue is needed after costs are met — i.e. after the break-even point — to make a profit.

Operating Leverage Definition

The definition of operating leverage is fairly straightforward: It’s the amount of a company’s fixed costs relative to its variable costs. But the impact of operating leverage is best understood in relation to revenue.

That’s because a company with lower fixed costs has a lower break-even point before revenue begins to generate a profit. A company with higher fixed costs, i.e. higher operating leverage, has to work harder to cover its fixed costs and reach that break-even point. What are some of those costs?

Fixed Costs and Variable Costs

Many people are familiar with the idea of a fixed expense vs. a variable expense, as these apply to everyday life as they do in business.

•   Fixed expenses. These are certain business expenses that rarely vary, like commercial rent, for example. It doesn’t matter how much a company earns or loses in a given month, the amount of rent owed on their lease is set at a fixed rate until the contract expires.

Fixed expenses tend to be related to time: e.g. X salaries per year for X employees, the cost of liability insurance, loan payments.

•   Variable expenses. These expenses are related to the selling of a product or service, e.g. inventory and shipping costs, or marketing and sales. Another would be a “work for hire” employee who may or may not stay with the company.

Recommended: How to Read Financial Statements: The Basics

Examples of Hybrid Semi-variable and Semi-fixed Costs

Sometimes costs blend together to create semi-fixed or semi-variable costs. For instance, a business may promise a plant supervisor a weekly salary of $1,500, plus 1% of the cost price for every widget produced under that manager’s supervision.

The fixed cost is the manager’s weekly salary of $1,500. That remains the same from pay period to pay period.

The variable cost is the 1% unit production percentage paid to the manager as an income incentive. That 1% payout is largely unknowable when the promise is made, making it a variable cost.

In another example, a company may pay its corporate finance manager a salary, which represents a fixed cost. Yet that same company may also pay its line workers on a production basis, based on a per-product wage formula. In that scenario, the same company may have dual fixed and variable costs in the same cost pipeline (i.e., salaries and wages), making those costs semi-variable and semi-fixed costs.

When trying to understand a business’s profitability and scalability, combining different metrics with operating leverage, like the asset turnover ratio, may also be helpful.

💡 Quick Tip: Investment fees are assessed in different ways, including trading costs, account management fees, and possibly broker commissions. When you set up an investment account, be sure to get the exact breakdown of your “all-in costs” so you know what you’re paying.

Understanding the Degree of Operating Leverage (DOL)

Since every business deals with a combination of fixed and variable expenses, understanding the degree of operating leverage is the next step in gauging a company’s path to profitability.

When a company has higher fixed costs, the break-even point is also higher. But once that point is reached, every additional dollar in revenue has the potential to generate more profit because fixed costs stay the same, regardless of changes in production (volume).

When a company’s variable costs are higher the break-even point may be lower, but additional revenue also potentially drives up the variable costs (because those costs rise as volume rises). This impacts profitability.

High Operating Leverage and Low Operating Leverage: A Comparison

Some industries tend to have a higher DOL and some tend to have a lower DOL. Those with higher fixed costs often include leases for land or buildings, or heavy R&D. Retailers are among those with lower fixed costs vs. their much higher variable costs (merchandise is pretty variable).

High Degree of Operating Leverage

Low Degree of Operating Leverage

Airlines and automotive Food services (e.g. restaurants)
Energy Retailers (e.g. fashion)
Telecommunications Professional services
Pharmaceuticals Ecommerce

For example an airline has high fixed costs: It has to maintain a fleet of aircraft, pay fuel, salaries, insurance, and so on. A consulting firm has higher variable costs — i.e. the salaries and commissions of its consultant staff.

Recommended: How Fundamental Analysis Can Help Your Investing Strategy

Operating Leverage Formula

The operating leverage formula is a useful way to compare companies within the same industry.

Mathematically, the formula for operating leverage looks like this:

Operating Leverage = [Quantity (Price – Variable Cost per Unit)] / Quantity (Price – Variable Cost per Unit) – Fixed Operating Cost

Example Scenario and Calculation

For example, say Firm ABC has sold 1,000,000 hammers for $12 each. Firm ABC also has $10,000,000 worth of fixed costs, for expenses for machinery, office equipment, employees, among other costs. With unit sales at $12 each and $10 million in fixed costs, Firm ABC pays $0.10 per unit to make each hammer.

Here’s what that equation looks like in mathematical terms, and what the operational leverage outcome winds up being:

Operating Leverage = [1,000,000 x ($12 – $0.10)] / 1,000,000 x ($12 – $0.10) – $10,000,000 = $11,900,000/$1,900,000 = 6.26 or 626%

Based on that calculation, a 10% increase in revenue will result in a 62.6% operating income (i.e. profit) increase for Firm ABC.

But if you ran the numbers for Company XYZ, another hammer manufacturer, with different fixed costs and different variable costs, the amount of profit generated by an increase in revenue would also be different — and this could provide an important point of comparison for investing in one company vs. another.

💡 Quick Tip: Distributing your money across a range of assets — also known as diversification — can be beneficial for long-term investors. When you put your eggs in many baskets, it may be beneficial if a single asset class goes down.

How to Use Operating Leverage

Operating leverage helps to determine a few things. First, it’s used to measure the break-even point for a company. That’s the point at which expenses are covered and profit is zero — knowing this can help set appropriate per-unit prices.

That’s because changes in revenue naturally impact operating income, but calculating the DOL can reveal what that means for individual companies: i.e. how much will a 10% change in revenue affect profit? A high DOL company might see higher profits once fixed costs are covered. But if revenue decreases, there would be downward pressure on its margins.

Knowing the DOL can also help assess whether a company is getting the most out of its fixed-cost assets (e.g. the cost of the factory, machinery, maintenance), or are there efficiencies that might help generate higher operating income (profit)? By managing fixed cost items better, a company might increase profits without needing to move other levers like price or number of units sold.

The Takeaway

Operating leverage is an important metric in business. It can help analysts or investors better understand a company’s fixed costs relative to its variable costs, and how revenue will impact profit owing to the difference in break-even points.

For example, a company with higher fixed costs has higher operating leverage than a company with higher variable costs. So the higher DOL company will see a substantive change in profits as sales increase past the break-even point.

A company with higher variable costs (and lower operating leverage) will see a smaller profit on each sale — but because it has lower fixed costs, it likely won’t need to increase sales as much to cover those items.

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What does it mean to have high operating leverage?

When a company has higher fixed costs it’s said to have a higher degree of operating leverage. This means the break-even point for that company is also higher. After that point, every additional dollar in revenue has the potential to generate more profit because fixed costs stay the same, regardless of changes in production (volume).

What does it mean to have low operating leverage?

When a company’s variable costs are higher, it has lower operating leverage (i.e. lower fixed costs). In that case the break-even point for that company is lower, and a lower proportion of additional revenue will go toward profit, because variable costs go up as sales rise.

How do you improve operating leverage?

One way to improve operating leverage is to reduce fixed costs where possible. This will lower the break-even point for a company and potentially increase profits. That said, different companies are structured differently, and improving operating leverage may require changes in variable costs versus a company that will benefit by lowering its fixed costs.

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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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Are Scholarships Taxable?

Are Scholarships Taxable?

Generally, scholarships used to pay for qualified educational costs at an eligible educational institution aren’t considered taxable income. The same goes for any grants used to pay for college tuition and fees.

However, there are some cases in which scholarship or grant money may be taxable. For example, if you have money left over after covering your qualified education expenses and use it for other costs (such as room and board or school supplies not required by your program), these funds typically count as taxable income.

If you or your student received scholarship funding, it can be helpful to know ahead if it will contribute to your tax liability. Here’s what you need to know about identifying taxable scholarships and handling filing requirements.

Scholarships That Are Tax-Free

Students can be exempt from paying taxes on their college scholarships if they satisfy certain criteria. For one, they must be enrolled at an accredited college, university, or educational institution that maintains regular attendance.

Additionally, scholarship funds must be used to pay for qualified education expenses — a determination made by the IRS. Under this definition, qualified education expenses include the following:

• Tuition

• Mandatory fees (e.g., athletic and tech fees)


• Equipment and supplies (e.g., lab equipment)

When it comes to textbooks, equipment, and supplies, anything that is required by your school to complete coursework would be free from taxes. If you use the funding towards an extra-curricular activity, such as a club or intramural sport, however, the amount you spend would be considered taxable.

If the scholarship is used for a certificate or non-degree program, the entire amount is taxable whether or not funds are used for qualified education expenses.

It’s important to note that any scholarship funds leftover after paying for qualified education expenses would become taxable income.

Scholarships Considered Taxable Income

How are scholarships taxable? According to the IRS, scholarships used for expenses outside the scope of qualified education expenses must be reported in gross income — making them taxable.

Scholarship funds used for the following costs are considered taxable by the IRS:

• Room and board

• Travel

• Medical expenses

• Optional equipment (e.g., new computer)

But are scholarships taxable income in any other situations?

Scholarships that are awarded in exchange for services like teaching or research, often known as fellowships, are classified as taxable compensation in most cases. Students would have to pay taxes even if their fellowship money is used to pay for tuition and other qualified education expenses.

However, there are a few exceptions when education-related payments could be tax-exempt. Specifically, students do not have to pay taxes on funds received for required services through the following scholarship programs:

• National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program

• Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship and Financial Assistance Program

• Student work-learning-service programs operated by a work college

Other forms of financial aid could be considered taxable income as well.

Earnings through the Federal Work-Study program are subject to federal and state payroll taxes. If you stay below 20 hours a week while enrolled full-time, you won’t have to pay FICA (taxes for Medicare and Social Security) taxes.

Even Pell Grants — a federal aid program for students with significant financial need — are taxable if they’re not used for qualified education expenses.

Making it Legal: Reporting Taxable Awards

If a college scholarship is considered taxable, the student would need to report the scholarship (or portion of the scholarship) on their tax return.

Some students may receive a W-2 form from the scholarship provider outlining the taxable amount. Otherwise, they may need to calculate and enter the amount on their own tax return.

The student would report any taxable amount of a scholarship, grant, or fellowship as follows:

• If filing Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR, you would include the taxable portion in the total amount reported on Line 1a of your tax return. If the taxable amount wasn’t reported on Form W-2, enter it on Line 8 of Schedule 1 (and attach the form).

• If filing Form 1040-NR, you would report the taxable amount on Line 8 and fill out and attach a Schedule 1.

If you have questions about whether or not any portion of your scholarship money is taxable and how to report those funds on your tax return, it’s a good idea to consult a tax professional for personalized guidance.

How Education Tax Credits Fit in

Students and their family members may be eligible to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) or the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) if they paid for college and related costs in the past year. Take note that you can’t use both tax credits for the same student in the same year.

To claim either tax credit, you’ll need Form 1098-T from your college. This form shows any reportable transaction for an enrolled student.

To qualify for the AOTC or LLC, you could have paid educational expenses out of pocket or with student loans. Expenses that were paid for by tax-free scholarships are not eligible for a tax credit.

The AOTC and LLC differ in scope and eligibility, so it’s helpful to compare both to see which may apply and provide a greater tax return.

American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)

The AOTC can be used for qualified education expenses — tuition, fees, textbooks, and necessary supplies — for a student’s first four years of college.

The maximum credit currently stands at $2,500 a year for eligible students. This is calculated as 100% of the first $2,000 in qualified education expenses paid for an eligible student plus 25% of the next $2,000 in qualified education expenses.

If the AOTC reduces your taxes to zero, it’s possible to have 40% of the remaining credit (up to $1,000) refunded.

Eligibility for the AOTC is based on the tax filer’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). If you’re filing separately, your MAGI must be $80,000 or less to qualify for the full AOTC credit. The threshold is $160,000 for married filing jointly.

It’s possible to receive a reduced AOTC amount if filing separately with MAGI between $80,000 and $90,000 or $160,000 and $180,000 for married filing jointly.

Recommended: 23 Tax Deductions for College Students and Other Young Adults

The Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC)

The LLC can apply to a broader range of expenses than the AOTC. It can be used to claim up to $2,000 for tuition and related educational expenses for undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree courses. Costs of non-degree programs that improve job skills are also eligible for the LLC.

This credit does not have a limit on the number of years it can be claimed on your tax return. However, the LLC has stricter income requirements.

For Tax Year 2022, the amount of your LLC is gradually reduced (phased out) if your MAGI is between $80,000 and $90,000 ($160,000 and $180,000 if you file a joint return).

You can’t claim the credit if your MAGI is $90,000 or more ($180,000 or more if you file a joint return).

Recommended: Can You Deduct Your Child’s Tuition from Taxes?

Don’t Forget Deductions

If you’re paying interest on a student loan, you may be eligible to deduct up to $2,500 of that interest with the student loan interest deduction. To be eligible, interest payments must be legally obligated and your filing status can’t be married filing separately.

There are also income requirements, which can vary annually, to factor in for the deduction calculation. For the tax year 2022, the filer’s MAGI must be less than $85,000 (or $170,000 if filing jointly) to be eligible for the full $2,500 deduction.

If your MAGI is between $70,000 and $85,000 (or $140,000 and $170,000 if filing jointly), you could qualify for a reduced deduction.

💡 Quick Tip: Need a private student loan to cover your school bills? Because approval for a private student loan is based on creditworthiness, a cosigner may help a student get loan approval and a lower rate.

The Takeaway

Scholarships, grants, and fellowships can help make college more affordable. Not only that, the funds you receive typically aren’t taxable.

A general rule is that your college scholarship is tax-free when it is used to pay for “qualified education expenses.” Exceptions include any part of the scholarship or grant you used to pay for supplemental things (not required for a course) or as payment for work or services you performed.

If scholarships, grants, other aid, and federal student loans are enough to cover the cost of your college education, you may want to consider applying for a private student loan. Loan limits vary by lender, but you can often get up to the total cost of attendance. Interest rates may be fixed or variable and are set by the lender. Generally, borrowers (or cosigners) who have strong credit qualify for the lowest rates.

Keep in mind, though, that private loans may not offer the borrower protections — like income-based repayment plans and deferment or forbearance — that automatically come with federal student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

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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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.


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Different Types of Insurance Deductibles

Different Types of Insurance Deductibles

Buying insurance coverage helps keep you protected from the full financial fallout of an accident or injury. But even with insurance, you’ll probably still be responsible for some costs when you file a claim.

An insurance deductible is the amount of money the insured party is responsible for at the time of loss or damage: it’s the cost you have to pay before the insurance company pays out its share.

Here’s what you need to know about the different types of insurance deductibles and other insurance-related costs you may face.

What Is a Deductible?

When you buy insurance, you’ll encounter several different costs depending on the type of coverage you’re purchasing. These may include monthly premiums, copays, out-of-pocket maximums, and possibly others.

The vast majority of insurance policies, whether they’re auto, health, or homeowners, carry a deductible. So what is a deductible, and how does it work?

The deductible is a sum of money you, as the insured party, are expected to pay toward a loss. Another way to think about it: It’s the amount the insurance company deducts from the total claim and asks you to pay.

For instance, say you get into a car accident in which you sustain $8,000 worth of damage and you have a $1,000 deductible. When you file your claim, you’ll pay $1,000 toward repairs and the insurance company will cover the remaining $7,000 (or up to whatever limits are laid out in your insurance contract).

Your deductible can be a fixed dollar amount or a percentage, depending on your individual plan and the kind of insurance policy you’re talking about. Homeowners insurance, for instance, is commonly offered with deductibles calculated as a percentage of the property’s total insured value.

It’s important to understand that your deductible is separate from your premium, which is the amount of money you pay each month in order to keep your insurance policy active.

Also remember that you may also be responsible for other insurance-related expenses, like copays or coinsurance, so always read the fine print carefully.

💡 Quick Tip: If you have a mortgage, a homeowners policy may be required by your lender. Surprisingly, unlike auto insurance, there is no legal mandate to carry insurance on your home.

Copay vs Deductible

With certain types of insurance — primarily health insurance products — you may be required to pay a copay each time you go to the doctor’s office or receive a covered service. This copay is separate from your deductible, and, generally, your copay doesn’t count toward your deductible amount.

As with other types of insurance, the health insurance deductible must be paid by the insured person before the insurance company begins its coverage. However, individual health plans may cover certain services, such as regular check-ups, even before the deductible is paid in full.

Here’s an example: Say you twist your ankle and visit your doctor, who orders an MRI. If your copay is $25, you’ll pay $25 at the office before or after you see your physician. If the total cost of the doctor’s care and imaging services is $1,000 and you have a $500 deductible, you may still be responsible for the full $500. Any copays you’ve paid along the way won’t be subtracted from your deductible.

Some plans may carry a coinsurance cost rather than a copay. The two are similar, but not identical. Coinsurance is an amount you pay when you receive a medical service, separate from your deductible. Unlike copays, which are charged at a fixed dollar amount, coinsurance is calculated as a percentage of the total cost of the service. Your plan might even include both copays and coinsurance.

All insurance policies are different, and your individual costs and experience may vary depending on the services you’ve received and the specific coverage you have. You can consult your insurance paperwork or contact your insurer for full details on what’s covered in your plan.

Out-of-Pocket Maximums

Health insurance policies in particular are subject to federally mandated out-of-pocket maximums. This is the highest total dollar amount you’ll have to pay toward covered healthcare over the course of a single year, including both deductibles and copays.

The out-of-pocket maximum does not include the amount you pay toward your monthly premium, however. Nor does it include out-of-network services or services that your plan expressly does not cover.

For 2023, the out-of-pocket maximum for a Marketplace plan can’t be more than $9,100 for an individual or $18,200 for a family. In 2024, that limit rises to $9,450 for an individual or $18,900 for a family. (The maximum is allowed to be lower, however, so consult your plan paperwork for full details.)

Do You Want a High or Low Deductible?

When shopping for insurance coverage, you’ll likely have a range of options to consider, including varying deductible costs. And when it comes to figuring out whether you want a high or low deductible, the answer is: It depends.

Generally speaking, the lower your deductible, the higher your premium will be and vice versa. This makes sense when you think about it. If you have a low deductible, the insurer will have to pay out a higher amount when you incur a loss. So in exchange for the promise of covering most of the costs when a claim is filed, the company expects you to pay more up front in the form of a higher premium.

While choosing a higher deductible can help you save money over time since your monthly premiums will be lower, it also means you’re assuming more risk. If something happens and costs are incurred, you’ll be responsible for a larger share of those expenses.

On the other hand, choosing a lower deductible means you’ll likely pay a higher premium each month. But you’ll also have less to worry about if you do need to file a claim, since the insurance company will cover more of the costs (assuming that all the damages and expenses are covered under your policy).

As with so many other financial matters, what’s right for you comes down to a number of factors, including your risk tolerance, budget, and even your lifestyle. If you participate in extreme sports, for instance, and are at risk for catastrophic injuries, you might want to pick a health insurance policy with a lower deductible and higher premiums.

Recommended: How Much Is Homeowners Insurance?

Zero-Deductible Insurance: Is It a Thing?

You may see ads for zero-deductible insurance policies and wonder if they’re too good to be true. While zero-deductible insurance policies do exist, they usually carry higher premiums than policies that do carry deductibles, and you may also be responsible for a one-time no-deductible fee or waiver.

Furthermore, some insurance coverages are required by state law to carry a minimum deductible, particularly when it comes to auto insurance.

Before you sign up for any kind of insurance coverage, be sure to read the contract thoroughly to ensure you understand what costs you’re responsible for.

Recommended: What Does Auto Insurance Cover?

Types of Deductibles

There are many different types of insurance policies with deductibles on the market. Common ones include:

•   Health insurance deductibles

•   Auto insurance deductibles

•   Homeowners insurance deductibles

•   Renters insurance deductibles

•   Life insurance deductibles

The deductible amount varies by type of insurance, company, and plan, among other factors.

💡 Quick Tip: Online insurance tools allow you to personalize your coverage for homeowners, renters, auto, and life insurance — all with zero paperwork.

The Takeaway

Purchasing insurance is an important — and sometimes legally mandated — step toward protecting yourself from the high costs of personal accidents, property damages, and medical bills. But most policies involve set costs, including deductibles. This is the portion of the claim the insured party is responsible for paying.

Whether you’re comparison shopping or switching from your current plan, it’s important to understand what your deductible will be. Having a full picture of all the costs involved can help you find coverage that fits your life and finances.

When the unexpected happens, it’s good to know you have a plan to protect your loved ones and your finances. SoFi has teamed up with some of the best insurance companies in the industry to provide members with fast, easy, and reliable insurance.

Find affordable auto, life, homeowners, and renters insurance with SoFi Protect.

Insurance not available in all states.
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Coverage and pricing is subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria.
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All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.

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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What is a PPO plan?

What Is a PPO Plan?

A preferred provider organization (PPO) is a type of health care plan that offers lower out-of-pocket costs to members who use doctors and other providers who are part of the plan’s network.

These preferred providers have signed onto the network at a lower negotiated rate than they might charge outside of the network.

PPOs also offer members the flexibility to see providers outside of the plan’s network, although they will most likely pay more in out-of-pocket costs to do so.

To learn more about PPOs, and how this type of plan compares to other health insurance options, read on.

How Does PPO Insurance Work?

When you join a PPO health plan, you’re joining a managed care network that includes primary care doctors, specialists, hospitals, labs, and other healthcare professionals. PPO networks tend to be large and geographically diverse.

If you see a preferred provider, you will likely pay a copay, or you might be responsible for a coinsurance payment (after you meet the plan’s deductible).

While you are free to see any health care provider whether or not they are in the PPO network, if you see a provider outside of the network, you may pay significantly more in out-of-pocket costs. In return for flexibility, large networks, and low in-network cost sharing, PPO plans typically charge higher premiums than many other types of plans.

PPOs are a common, and often a popular, choice for employer-sponsored health insurance.

Recommended: Common Health Insurance Terms & Definitions

What Are the Costs of Going Out of the PPO’s Network?

If you see a provider who is not part of the plan’s network, you will likely be expected to bear more of the cost. PPOs typically use what’s called a “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) fee schedule for out-of-network services.

Insurers calculate UCR fees based on what doctors in the area are charging for the same service you were provided.

If your doctor charges more than what your insurance company determines to be usual, customary, and reasonable, you most likely will be charged for the difference between the amount charged for the service and the amount covered by your insurer.

Depending on where you live and the service you received, this difference could be significant. It may also come as a surprise to policyholders who assume their medical costs will be covered and don’t fully understand the distinction between in-network and out-of-network providers.

A good way to avoid surprise charges with a PPO (or any health plan) is to talk to your provider and your insurer before you receive treatment about the total cost and what will be covered.

💡 Quick Tip: When you have questions about what you can and can’t afford, a spending tracker app can show you the answer. With no guilt trip or hourly fee.

How PPOs Compare to Other Types of Health Care Plans

PPO plans are most often compared with health maintenance organizations (HMOs), another common type of managed care health plan.

HMOs typically offer lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs than PPOs in exchange for less flexibility.

Unlike a PPO, HMO members typically must choose a primary care physician from the plan’s network of providers. Care from providers out of the HMO network is generally not covered, except in the case of an emergency.

Also unlike a PPO, an HMO’s network of providers is usually confined to a specific local geographic area.

Another key difference between these two types of plans: HMO members typically must first see their primary care doctor to get a referral to a specialist. With PPOs, referrals are not usually required.

PPOs are also often compared to point of service (POS) plans.

POS plans are generally a cross between an HMO and a PPO. As with a PPO, POS members generally pay less for care from network providers, but may also go out of network if they desire (and potentially pay more).

Like an HMO, POS plans require a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist.

PPOs (as well as HMOs and POS plans) are very different from high deductible health plans, or HDHPs.

HDHPs charge a high deductible (what you would have to pay for health care costs before insurance coverage kicks in).

This means that you would need to pay for all of your doctor visits and other medical services out of pocket until you meet this high deductible. In return for higher deductibles, these plans usually charge lower premiums than other insurance plans.

You can combine a HDHP with a tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA). Money saved in an HSA can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses.

HDHPs are generally best for relatively healthy people who don’t see doctors frequently or anticipate high medical costs for the coming year.

Recommended: Beginner’s Guide to Health Insurance

What Are the Pros and Cons of PPO Insurance?

As with all health insurance options, PPOs have both advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few to consider.

Advantages of PPOs

•   Flexibility. PPO members typically do not have to see a primary care physician for referrals to other health care providers, and they may see any doctor they choose (though they may pay more for out-of-network providers).

•   Lower costs for in-network care. Out-of-pocket costs, such as copays and coinsurance, for care from in-network providers can be lower than some other types of plans.

•   Large provider networks. PPOs usually include a large number of doctors, specialists, hospitals, labs, and other providers in their networks, spanning across cities and states. As a result, network coverage while traveling or for college student dependents can be easier to access than with more restricted plans.

Disadvantages of PPOs

•   High premiums. In return for flexibility, PPO members can expect to pay higher monthly premiums than they may find with other types of plans.

•   High out-of-pocket costs for out-of-network care. Depending on where you live, the treatment you receive, and how your insurer calculates “usual, customary, and reasonable” fees, you may find you are responsible for a large portion of the bill when you receive care outside of the PPOs network.

•   Might be more insurance than you need. If you rarely see doctors and wouldn’t mind potentially switching doctors, you may be able to save money by going with an HMO or a HDHP.

💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

The Takeaway

PPOs are a popular type of health plan because of the flexibility, ease of use, and wide range of provider choices they offer. PPO networks tend to be large and varied enough to include a patient’s existing doctors. If not, members still have the option of going out-of-network and receiving at least some coverage from a PPO. PPO members pay for this flexibility, however.

PPOs typically come with higher premiums, along with extra costs associated with out-of-network care. That can be prohibitive for many consumers.

Your employer’s benefits department or an experienced insurance agent or broker can help you compare PPOs to other types of health care plans and determine which choice is right for your health care needs and your budget.

Before choosing a plan, it can also be helpful to track your spending for a few months to see how much you are currently spending on medical care. This can help you ballpark costs for the coming year and make it easier to compare plans.

Take control of your finances with the SoFi Insights money tracker app. Connect all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

With SoFi, you can keep tabs on how your money comes and goes.

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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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Basics of the Time Value of Money (TVM)

If you’ve ever heard the expression, “A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow,” then you know the basic definition of the time value of money. Essentially, having $1,000 today is more valuable than having $1,000 a year from now because of the potential for growth over that time period.

Other factors can also influence the time value of money, or TVM. For example, inflation naturally increases over time, and that can lower the purchasing power of future dollars. In short: Money you can put to work now is usually worth more than the same amount down the line.

Investors and business owners use TVM as a way to compare values of certain sums of money over different time periods.

Recommended: How to Build an Investment Portfolio for Beginners

What Is the Time Value of Money?

The time value of money is the relationship between a dollar at one point in time and the value of that same dollar at another point in time. For example, $50 today likely won’t have the same value as $50 a year from now, just as $1 million now is not the same as $1 million 20 years ago (when a million dollars bought more than it does now).

You don’t need to know the formula for time value of money to understand the basic forces at play here. First, there is the potential for a present sum of money to earn a profit (if you invest it) or to gain interest (if you save it or buy debt instruments like bonds) over time.

Inflation is also an important consideration when calculating the time value of money. As goods get more expensive, each dollar will purchase less than it did the year before. For example, the historic rate of inflation is about 2% per year. If you consider how much $10,000 can buy today, it would buy roughly 2% less in a year — about $9,800 worth of goods.

So the time value of money is a framework for comparing lump sums of money and/or payments across different time periods. Dollars can be future, present, or past — almost like different currencies.

The definition of the time value of money may seem like a purely academic concept, but has many real-world applications. Time value of money is used in personal finance, real estate, and investing decisions.

💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that opening a brokerage account typically doesn’t come with any setup costs? Often, the only requirement to open a brokerage account — aside from providing personal details — is making an initial deposit.

How Does Time Value Work?

The time value of money can look at both the present and future value of money and the value of cash flows. It allows both institutional and retail investors to compare payments or sums of money over different time frames.

Within a business context, calculating the time value of money using a TVM formula is important because it can help with decision making, e.g. about acquiring a new business or developing a new product. If you put $X amount of cash into a new line of business, what is the future value of that amount? And would the new investment equal or exceed it — or not (in which case it might not be a good use of your capital)?

To determine the value of money over periods of time, investors can use a formula that takes into account the present value and future value of a specific amount, and how it will change over time.

How to Calculate TVM for a Future Value

Quite often, investors are called upon to evaluate the future value (FV) of a present dollar amount. That formula is:

FV = PV x [1 + (i / n)](n x t)


•   PV – Present value of money

•   FV – Future value of money

•   i – interest rate or other amount that can be earned on the money

•   t – number of years being considered

•   n – number of compounding periods of interest per year

Let’s say you have $2,000 that’s earning 5% per year in interest payments. You could keep your money where it is, or you could consider another investment opportunity. In order to decide, it helps to know what the future value of your cash will be, given current parameters.

In this case, the calculation would look like this, employing the FV formula above:

FV = $2,000 x [1 + (5% / 1) ](1 x 2)

FV = $2,000 x [1 + 0.05](2)

FV = $2,205

This calculation tells you that your money is likely to be worth $2,205 in two years, assuming nothing changes. This could help you gauge whether the new opportunity would be likely to deliver a higher or a lower return.

How to Calculate TVM for a Present Value

It’s also possible to consider a future sum that’s being offered, and what that translates to in present dollars. Let’s say you could earn $2,000 now or be given $2,200 in a year. You’d need to calculate what the present value of $2,200 is.

To determine whether it makes sense to wait one year for an extra $200, here’s how to calculate the present value of that future amount, assuming you could earn 5% in the coming year.

PV = FV / (1 + (i / n)(n x t)

PV = $2,200 / 1 + ( 5% / 1)(1 x 1)

PV = $2,095

In this case, the present value of the $2,200 being offered in one year is higher than taking just $2,000 now ($2,095). Which suggests that waiting to take the $2,200 payment might be a better move.

If there are multiple times per year when interest compounds, the result can be quite different. If interest compounds daily, monthly, quarterly or yearly can have a big effect on the TMV calculation (see below for more on compounding).

Why Is the Time Value of Money Important?

Time changes the value of money. Being able to calculate the present vs. the future value of money enables you to make better choices about how to invest and spend your money.

Therefore, TVM is inherently important in both an investing and a business context because it can help you gauge the value of different opportunities, and assess which makes the most sense financially.

Time Value of Money and Compound Returns

For the individual investor, there is perhaps no way in which the time value of money is more important than with the potential for earning compound returns.

To earn compound returns is to earn a rate of return on both the initial principal invested and all subsequent profits. As profits grow, so does the potential to earn more — and all that this exponential growth requires is that you stay invested.

The key to harnessing the raw power of compound returns is to spend as much time invested as possible — another example of the time value of money. Each year of positive returns is fuel for greater future returns.

This can be hard for investors to wrap their heads around because the results can take decades to reveal themselves. To understand compound returns, and the phenomenon of compounding in general, it helps to start with a comparison of simple and compound interest.

💡 Quick Tip: When you’re actively investing in stocks, it’s important to ask what types of fees you might have to pay. For example, brokers may charge a flat fee for trading stocks, or require some commission for every trade. Taking the time to manage investment costs can be beneficial over the long term.

Comparing Simple Interest to Compound Interest

With simple returns, a rate of return is produced on the principal investment in each period. An example is a basic Treasury note or bond that pays a 5% rate of return on $1,000 each year for five years. Each year the bondholder receives a $50 payment ($1,000 x 5%). The amount is not reinvested (i.e. there is no compounding), and at the end of five years the investor gets back the principal, and makes a profit of $250 (5 x $50) for a total of $1,250.

The time value of money has a bigger impact when you have a savings bond that pays 5% that compounds semi-annually. At the end of the five years, the investor’s initial $1,000 investment has grown to approximately $1,276. This is a total profit of $276, compared to simple interest’s $250. While this might not seem like much, this gap will continue to grow as compound return growth increases.

Likewise, the more frequent the compounding is, the greater the potential for growth would be. Thus compounding is an important factor in the time value of money as well.

Factors Affecting Compound Returns

There are four variables at play when calculating compound returns: the rate of return, the principal invested, the duration, and the frequency of compounding (e.g. monthly, quarterly, annually).

Check out a compound returns calculator for a better understanding of how these variables interplay. What you’ll find is that all factors can have a powerful impact on the time value of money.

Investors should also consider inflation. Inflation, or rising prices over time, also has a compounding effect. Investors can consider using a time value of money formula for inflation, and think about ways to hedge against inflation.

How Does Inflation Impact the Time Value of Money?

Inflation is another reason that money is typically worth more in the present than in the future. As time goes on, inflation erodes the purchasing power of money. So the same amount of money can’t buy as many goods in the future as it can today.

This is sometimes called inflation risk, and it refers to the need for investors to factor in the potential gains of an investment over time vs the impact of inflation, so they can protect their money. Invested money that gains more than the rate of inflation won’t lose value over time.

Recommended: Is Inflation a Good or Bad Thing for Consumers?

Working With the Time Value of Money

Investors use the time value of money to understand the worth of money in relation to time, which helps them understand the value of their funds in the present and the future and how to invest them.

As noted above, factors such as interest rates, inflation, and risk all affect investments over time, so having formulas to help make decisions is a useful tool. Here are some other factors to consider.

Discount Rate

To decide whether the future cash flows from an investment will be worth more than the money required to fund the project now, in the present, you can use something called the discount rate. The discount rate is the rate of interest used to assess the present value (PV) of those future dollars.

For example, if you put $1,000 into an account or investment with a guaranteed 5% annual return, the future value of that money will be $1,050 in a year. So the discount rate in this case is 5%; you would discount $1,050 by 5% to arrive at its PV.

Sinking Funds

There is also the option to use the TVM calculation for so-called sinking funds, which is actually a savings strategy.

If you’re saving up for something in the future and know how much you need to save, you can figure out how much you need to save each month or year to reach that goal if you are earning interest on those savings.

Real Estate Investments

An investor might look at a property in a high-growth neighborhood and predict that it will be worth a certain amount in five years, but they want to calculate whether it is actually a good investment. They can use the TVM calculation to discount that estimated future value to find out the current value and see how the two compare.

Investing With SoFi

The time value of money (TVM) is an important concept for investors. It underscores the notion that time affects the value of money, along with other factors, and being able to calculate TVM in different scenarios, from investing to business, can help you decide whether one choice is likely to be more profitable over time.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


Why use the time value of money concept?

A dollar now is almost always worth more than that same dollar in the future, owing to that dollar’s potential for growth (and the diminishing effect of inflation) over time. Using TVM formulas, it’s possible to gauge the long-term impact of different choices so you can make the more profitable one.

Is the time value of money concept always true?

Yes, for the simple reason that it’s always possible to invest your money now and gain some interest over time, even a minor amount.

What are some factors that may affect the time value of money?

The main factors that can impact the time value of money are the rate of interest, the number of years the money will earn that rate, and how often interest compounds.

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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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