What Is Flight to Quality?

What Is Flight to Quality?

Flight to quality, also known as flight to safety, is when investors shift their assets away from riskier investments — like stocks — into conservative securities – like bonds. This reaction often occurs during turbulent times in the economy or financial markets, and investors want to put their money into relatively safe assets.

Because flight to quality is a term that’s often thrown around in the financial media, investors need to know what it is and how it can potentially impact an investment portfolio. A flight to quality is a short-term trading strategy that might not be ideal for long-term investors. But it’s still important for investors to know how the broader trend may affect the financial markets.

What Causes Flight to Quality?

Economic uncertainty is why investors look to reorient their portfolios away from volatile investments to conservative ones. Moments of economic uncertainty that spook investors can arise for various reasons, including geopolitical conflict, a sudden collapse of a financial institution, or signs of an imminent recession.

A flight to quality usually refers to a widespread phenomenon where investors shift their portfolio asset allocation. This large-scale change in risk sentiment can generally be seen in declines in stock market indices and government bond yields, as investors sell risky stocks to put money into more stable bonds.

Though a flight to quality usually refers to a herd-like behavior of most investors during economic uncertainty, individual investors can make a similar move at any time, depending on their risk tolerance and specific financial situation.

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💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self-directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.

What Are the Effects of Flight to Quality?

During periods of flight to quality, investors tend to trade higher-risk investments for lower-risk ones. This shift commonly results in a decrease in the price of high-risk assets and boosts the price of lower-risk securities.

As mentioned above, investors can see one effect of a flight to quality in the price of major stock market indices and bond yields, as the market shifts money from the risky stocks to safer bonds.

But a flight to quality doesn’t mean that investors will necessarily shift out of one asset (stocks) into another (bonds). For example, investors worried about the economy might sell growth stocks in favor of more reliable value or blue-chip stocks, pushing the price of the growth stocks down and boosting the price of the blue chips.

💡 Recommended: Value vs. Growth Stocks

A flight to quality may also shift investment from emerging market stocks to domestic stocks or from corporate bonds to government bonds.

In addition to moving funds from stocks to bonds or other assets, investors may also move money into cash and cash-equivalent investments, like money market funds, certificates of deposit, and Treasury bills, during periods of economic uncertainty.

Real-World Example of Flight to Quality

A flight to quality occurred during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic shutdowns in 2020. Investors scrambled to figure out their portfolio positions in the face of an unprecedented global event, selling stocks and putting money into relatively safe assets.

The S&P 500 Index fell nearly 34% from a high on Feb. 19, 2020, to a low on Mar. 23, 2020, as investors sold off equities. But investors didn’t rush to put this money into high-grade corporate and government bonds, as many would have thought in a regular flight to quality. A record $109 billion flowed out of fixed-income mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) during a single week in March 2020. Instead, investors moved capital into cash and cash-like assets during this volatile period in a desire for liquidity.

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The Takeaway

A widespread flight to quality that creates volatility in the financial markets can be scary for many investors. When you see decreases in a portfolio or 401(k), it can be tempting to follow the broader market trends and shift your asset allocation to safer investments. However, this is not always the best choice, especially for investors trying to build long-term wealth.

Flights to quality have happened in the past (such as during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020), and will, in all likelihood, happen again. But even if you don’t get caught up in it, it’s good to know what’s happening in the markets, and why.

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), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

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INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE

SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

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Understanding Bond Valuation

What Is Bond Valuation?

Bond valuation is a way of determining the fair value of a bond. Bond valuation involves calculating the present value of the bond’s future coupon payments, its cash flow, and the bond’s value at maturity (or par value), to determine its current fair value or price. The price of a bond is what investors are willing to pay for it on the secondary market.

When an investor buys a bond from the issuing company or institution, they typically buy it at its face value. But when an investor purchases a bond on the open market, they need to know its current value. Because a bond’s face value and interest payments are fixed, the valuation process helps investors decide what rate of return would make that bond worth the cost.

How Bond Valuation Works

First, it’s important to remember that bonds are generally long-term investments, where the par value or face value is fixed and so are the coupon payments (the bond’s rate of return over time) — but interest rates are not, and that impacts the present or fair value of a bond at any given moment.

To determine the present or fair value of a bond, the investor must calculate the current value of the bond’s future payments using a discount rate, as well as the bond’s value at maturity to make sure the bond you’re buying is worth it.

Some terms to know when calculating bond valuation:

•   Coupon rate/Cash flow: The coupon rate refers to the interest payments the investor receives; usually it’s a fixed percentage of the bond’s face value and typically investors get annual or semi-annual payments. For example, a $1,000 bond with a 10-year term and a 3% annual coupon would pay the investor $30 per year for 10 years ($1,000 x 0.03 = $30 per year).

•   Maturity: This is when the bond’s principal is scheduled to be repaid to the bondholder (i.e. in one year, five years, 10 years, and so on). When a bond reaches maturity, the corporation or government that issued the bond must repay the full amount of the face value (in this example, $1,000).

•   Current price: The current price is different from the bond’s face value or par value, which is fixed: i.e. a $1,000 bond is a $1,000 bond. The current price is what people mean when they talk about bond valuation: What is the bond currently worth, today?

The face value is not necessarily the amount you pay to purchase the bond, since you might buy a bond at a price above or below par value. A bond that trades at a price below its face value is called a discount bond. A bond price above par value is called a premium bond.

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*Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

How to Calculate Bond Valuation

Bond valuation can seem like a daunting task to new investors, but it is not that onerous once you break it down into steps. This process helps investors know how to calculate bond valuation.

Bond Valuation Formula

The bond valuation formula uses a discounting process for all future cash flows to determine the present fair value of the bond, sometimes called the theoretical fair value of the bond (since it’s calculated using certain assumptions).

bond valuation formula

The following steps explain each part of the formula and how to calculate a bond’s price.

Step 1: Determine the cash flow and remaining payments.

A bond’s cash flow is determined by calculating the coupon rate multiplied by the face value. A $1,000 corporate bond with a 3.0% coupon has an annual cash flow of $30. If it’s a 10-year bond that has five years left until maturity, there would be five coupon payments remaining.

Payment 1 = $30; Payment 2 = $30; and so on.

The final payment would include the face value: $1,000 + $30 = $1,030.

This is important because the closer the bond is to maturity, the higher its value may be.

Step 2: Determine a realistic discount rate.

The coupon payments are based on future values and thus the bond’s cash flow must be discounted back to the present (thanks to the time value of money theory, a future dollar is worth less than a dollar in the present).

To determine a discount rate, you can check the current rates for 10-year corporate bonds. For this example, let’s go with 2.5% (or 0.025, when expressed as a decimal).

Step 3: Calculate the present value of the remaining payments.

Calculate the present value of future cash flows including the principal repayment at maturity. In other words, divide the yearly coupon payment by (1 + r)t, where r equals the discount rate and t is the remaining payment number.

$30 / (1 + .025)1 = $29.26

$30 / (1 + .025)2 = 28.55

$30 / (1 + .025)3 = 27.85

$30 / (1 + .025)4 = 27.17

$1030 / (1 + .025)5 = 1,004.87

Step 4: Sum all future cash flows.

Sum all future cash flows to arrive at the present market value of the bond : $1,117.70

Understanding Bond Pricing

In this example, the price of the bond is $1,117.70, or $117.70 above par. A bond’s face or par value will often differ from its market value — and in this case its current fair value (market value) is higher. There are a number of factors that come into play, including the company’s credit rating, the time to maturity (the closer the bond is to maturity the closer the price comes to its face value), and of course changes to interest rates.

Remember that a bond’s price tends to move in the opposite direction of interest rates. If prevailing interest rates are higher than when the bond was issued, its price will generally fall. That’s because, as interest rates rise, new bonds are likely to be issued with higher coupon rates, making the new bonds more attractive. So bonds with lower coupon payments would be less attractive, and likely sell for a lower price. So, higher rates generally mean lower prices for existing bonds.

The same logic applies when interest rates are lower; the price of existing bonds tends to increase, because their higher coupons are now more attractive and investors may be willing to pay a premium for bonds with those higher interest payments.

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Is Investing in Bonds Right for You?

Investing in bonds can help diversify a stock portfolio since stocks and bonds trade differently. In general, bonds are seen as less risky than equities since they often provide a predictable stream of income. Investors can consider bonds as an investment, and those with a lower risk tolerance might be better served with a portfolio weighted highly in bonds.

Performing proper bond valuation can be part of a solid research and due diligence process when attempting to find securities for your portfolio. Moreover, different bonds have different risk and return profiles. Some bonds — such as junk bonds and fixed-income securities offered in emerging markets — feature higher potential rates of return with greater risk. “Junk” is a term used to describe high-yield bonds. You can take on higher risk with long-duration bonds and convertible bonds. Some of the safest bonds are short-term Treasury securities.

You can also purchase bond exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and bond mutual funds that own a diversified basket of fixed-income securities.

The Takeaway

Bond valuation is the process of determining the fair value of a bond after it’s been issued. In order to price a bond, you must calculate the present value of a bond’s future interest payments using a reasonable discount rate. By adding the discounted coupon payments, and the bond’s face value, you can arrive at the theoretical fair value of the bond.

A bond can be priced at a discount to its par value or at a premium depending on market conditions and how traders view the issuing company’s prospects. Owning bonds can help diversify your portfolio. Many investors also find bonds appealing because of their steady payments (one reason that bonds are considered fixed-income assets).

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), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.


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SoFi Invest®

INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE

SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

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.

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected]. Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing.
Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.


Fund Fees
If you invest in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) through SoFi Invest (either by buying them yourself or via investing in SoFi Invest’s automated investments, formerly SoFi Wealth), these funds will have their own management fees. These fees are not paid directly by you, but rather by the fund itself. these fees do reduce the fund’s returns. Check out each fund’s prospectus for details. SoFi Invest does not receive sales commissions, 12b-1 fees, or other fees from ETFs for investing such funds on behalf of advisory clients, though if SoFi Invest creates its own funds, it could earn management fees there.
SoFi Invest may waive all, or part of any of these fees, permanently or for a period of time, at its sole discretion for any reason. Fees are subject to change at any time. The current fee schedule will always be available in your Account Documents section of SoFi Invest.


Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

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What Is Impact Investing?

Impact investing is a strategy that seeks to create both financial return and positive social or environmental impact. Impact investments can be made in both publicly traded companies and private companies or funds, and can take the form of equity, debt, or other assets.

In recent years, many investors have become increasingly aware of potential adverse societal effects to which their investments may contribute. These can include effects on health, the environment, and human rights. As such, large firms and foundations have increasingly decided to put capital to work to minimize these negative effects. For investors, it helps to be aware of the growing trend of impact investing to determine whether it is a suitable wealth-building strategy for a portfolio.

How Does Impact Investing Work?

Impact investing is typically, but not always done by large institutional investors and private foundations, though individual investors can do it as well. These organizations invest in various areas, including affordable housing, clean water, and renewable energy. Impact investments in these areas can benefit both developed and emerging markets.

The term “impact investing” is relatively new, but the concept of investing for both financial return and social good is not. Impact investing began in the early 1900s, as numerous philanthropists created private foundations to support their causes.

The concept of impact investing has expanded to include a broader range of investors and investment vehicles. Impact investing may be practiced by individuals, foundations, endowments, pension funds, and other institutional investors.

The growth of impact investing has been fueled by several factors, including the rise of social media and the increasing availability of data and analytics. Impact investing is also being driven by the growing awareness of businesses and investors’ role in solving social and environmental problems. Individual investors can take this new knowledge and consider index funds that focus on various causes.

Characteristics of Impact Investments

As outlined by Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), the following are considered characteristics of credible impact investments:

•   Investor intentionality: An investor must intend to make a measurable positive impact with their investment. This requires a certain level of transparency about both financial and impact goals. The investor’s intent is one of the main differentiators between traditional investments and impact investments.

•   Utilize data: Impact investments must use data and evidence to make informed decisions to achieve measurable benefits.

•   Manage impact performance: Specific financial returns and impact goals must be established and managed.

•   Contribute to the growth of the industry: The goal of impact investments is to further social, economic, or environmental causes. Impact investing toward these goals must be intentional and measured, not just guesswork.

Impact Investing vs Socially Responsible Investing

Impact investing is often associated with “socially responsible investing” (SRI). Both SRI and impact investing seek to generate positive social or environmental impact, but they differ in some ways.

SRI typically focuses on actively avoiding investments in companies involved in activities that are considered harmful to society, such as the manufacture of tobacco products or the production of weapons. SRI also typically focuses on promoting corporate policies considered socially responsible, such as environmental sustainability or gender diversity.

In contrast, impact investing focuses on making investments in companies or projects that are specifically designed to generate positive social or environmental impact.

Impact Investing vs ESG

The main difference between impact investing and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) is that impact investing is focused on investments that are expected to generate a positive social or environmental impact. In contrast, ESG considers a range of environmental, social, and governance factors in investing decisions.

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Why Is Impact Investing Important?

While some investors may not think impact investing is important at all, others may think the exact opposite. For those investors, impact investing may be considered important for a few key reasons.

First, it allows investors to put their money into companies or projects that they believe will positively impact society or the environment. Second, impact investing can help attract more capital to social and environmental causes.

When more people invest in companies or projects that aim to make a difference, it can help to increase the amount of money and resources available to make positive change happen. Those investments, however, may not offer the best opportunities to generate returns. While there’s no way to know for sure how an investment will shake out over time, investors should familiarize themselves with the concept of opportunity costs.

Finally, impact investing can help create jobs and support businesses working to improve society or the environment. This can have a ripple effect, as these businesses often provide goods or services that benefit the community.

💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self-directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.

Examples of Impact Investing

Impact investing is usually done by institutional investors, large asset managers, and private foundations. Some of the largest foundations and funds focused on impact investing include, but are not limited to:

•   The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: This foundation has a $2.5 billion Strategic Investment Fund. This fund makes direct equity investments, provides low-interest loans, and utilizes other impact investing tools in promoting global health and U.S. education.

•   The Ford Foundation: The foundation has committed to invest a portion of its endowment to address social problems while seeking a risk-adjusted market rate of financial return. Its mission-related investments are focused on affordable housing, financial inclusion, and other areas in the U.S. and across the Global South.

•   The Reinvestment Fund: The Philadelphia-based nonprofit finances housing projects, access to health care, educational programs, and job initiatives. It operates primarily by assisting distressed towns and communities in the U.S.

Types of Impact Investments

There are various impact investment areas, including but not limited to microfinance, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and affordable housing.

Impact investments don’t have to be equity investments either; they come in many different investment vehicles, like bonds and alternative investments.

Evaluation Methods for Impact Investors

There are many ways to measure impact investments. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a popular framework for measuring impact. The SDGs are a set of 17 goals that the United Nations adopted in 2015.

The SDGs include goals such as “no poverty,” “zero hunger,” and “good health and well-being.” Each SDG has a specific target to be achieved by the year 2030.

Impact investors often seek to invest in companies or projects that will help achieve one or more of the SDGs. For example, an impact investor might invest in a company working on a new technology to improve water quality, contributing to the SDG goal of ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.

Another popular framework for measuring impact is the Impact Management Project (IMP). The IMP is a global initiative that seeks to develop standards for measuring and managing impact.

💡 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 to Start an Impact Investment Portfolio

Though foundations and institutional investors are the heart of the impact investing world, individual investors can also make investments in companies and funds that may positively impact society. Here’s how to do it.

1.    Decide what type of investment you want to make, whether that’s in a stock of a company, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) with an impact investing strategy, or bonds.

2.    Next, research the different companies and funds, and find a diversified selection that fits your desires.

3.    Finally, make your investment with a brokerage and monitor your portfolio to ensure that your investments have a positive impact.

In order to become an impact investor, it’s wise to consider both the financial potential of an investment, as well as its social, environmental, or economic impact.

Some investors have a higher risk tolerance than others, and some might be willing to take a lower profit in order to maximize the potential positive impact of their investments.

The Takeaway

Impact investing involves making investments with aims of improving certain outcomes in the world, which may come at the expense of potential returns. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how to balance financial return and social or environmental impact. Impact investors must make investment decisions that are aligned with their values and objectives.

Not all impact investments are created equal. Some impact investments may have a higher financial return potential than others, but may also have a lower social or environmental impact. Similarly, some impact investments may have a higher social or ecological impact but may also have a lower financial return potential. Impact investors must consider both financial return and social or environmental impact when making investment decisions.

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), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.


SoFi Invest®

INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE

SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

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.

Fund Fees
If you invest in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) through SoFi Invest (either by buying them yourself or via investing in SoFi Invest’s automated investments, formerly SoFi Wealth), these funds will have their own management fees. These fees are not paid directly by you, but rather by the fund itself. these fees do reduce the fund’s returns. Check out each fund’s prospectus for details. SoFi Invest does not receive sales commissions, 12b-1 fees, or other fees from ETFs for investing such funds on behalf of advisory clients, though if SoFi Invest creates its own funds, it could earn management fees there.
SoFi Invest may waive all, or part of any of these fees, permanently or for a period of time, at its sole discretion for any reason. Fees are subject to change at any time. The current fee schedule will always be available in your Account Documents section of SoFi Invest.


Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected]. Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing.
Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.


Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

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Guide to Personal Loan Agreements

Guide to Personal Loan Agreements

Getting a personal loan? It’s not as simple as walking into a bank and asking for a check — there’s some paperwork involved.

Your personal loan agreement is the document that contains everything you need to know about the deal you’re making with your lender, including your rights and responsibilities as well as theirs. It’s a fairly long and complex form, but breaking it down can make it easier to understand.

Here, take a closer look at personal loan agreements.

What Is a Private Personal Loan Agreement?

A personal loan agreement, as mentioned above, is a document that details exactly what is being agreed to on both sides of a personal loan — lender and borrower. At the very least, it will state how much money is being loaned and the terms and conditions of the borrower’s repayment responsibilities.

But what about a personal loan that is not with a traditional lender? Private lenders can be individuals or organizations that make loans to individuals, sometimes without the qualification requirements of traditional lending institutions. A private personal loan agreement, specifically, is drafted as part of a private personal loan — one made between a private lender and a borrower.

Any personal loan agreement is a legally binding document, so it’s important to understand it in full before you apply your signature.


💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. One question can save you many dollars.

Why Is a Loan Agreement Needed?

A personal loan agreement is essentially a protective document. It protects both the lender and the borrower by laying out, in clear terms, exactly what is being agreed to. If either party fails to uphold the agreement, action can be taken — such as the lender seizing any assets offered as collateral or sending the account to collections — both of which, obviously, would be bad for the borrower.

But the document works both ways. Lenders, too, are subject to lender liability and can be taken to court if they fail to uphold their end of the loan agreement. Although these cases are far less common than borrower default, the loan agreement is a document that can be used for the borrower’s protection as well.

How to Write a Personal Loan Agreement

Here are the usual steps to writing a personal loan agreement.

Decide Whether to DIY It or Hire a Lawyer

Depending on the specifics of your loan and situation, you could write up a simple agreement by hand or draft it on your computer and then print it out for signing. Or you might download a template from a reputable site, which can be a popular option. These are often free or are sometimes available for a small fee.

However, if the loan is complicated or you don’t want to handle the agreement yourself, you could look into hiring a lawyer to draw up the paperwork. Either way, a personal loan agreement will be a legally binding arrangement. Hiring a lawyer will likely be a costlier proposition.

Gather the Necessary Personal Details

You will need the legal names and addresses of both parties. This ensures the lender can’t ask you for anything beyond the borrowed principal (plus interest, which will also be listed).

Agree to and Spell Out the Loan Terms

The loan agreement should list the payments that will be expected each month and the expected date of the conclusion of the loan term.

The interest rate for the personal loan should also be on the personal loan agreement, likely expressed as an APR, which shows what percentage of the loan principal you’ll end up paying back in the course of one year including interest and any additional fees that may be packaged into the loan.

The interest rate will vary based on your credit score and other financial factors. If you have decent credit, you’ll likely be able to qualify for a personal loan. But generally speaking, the higher your score, the lower your rate.

Recommended: APR vs. Interest Rate

List Payment and Legal Details

A personal loan agreement should also include the following:

•   The loan agreement may list which types of payment are acceptable, such as check, bank transfer, or credit card.

•   The personal loan contract should also list specific repayment conditions, including when payment is due and whether or not additional principal can be applied without penalty.

•   A complete personal loan agreement should include details on how any disputes will be handled between the parties involved.

•   Some personal loan documents may include the option to change your loan’s term (the period over which the loan is repaid).

•   Personal loan contracts in the United States should stipulate which state’s laws will be used to govern and interpret the agreement if the borrower lives in a different state than the lender is headquartered.

•   Severability is a clause that states that even if one part of a contract is found to be unenforceable or otherwise rendered null and void, the remainder of the agreement will still hold.

•   Penalties associated with the personal loan, such as any late fees that may be assessed, at what point the loan will go into arrears or default, or other scenarios, should be listed in the contract as well.

Sign the Document

Finally, the contract for loaning money must be signed by the borrower and the lender in order to be made legally binding.


💡 Quick Tip: Swap high-interest debt for a lower-interest loan, and save money on your monthly payments. Find out why credit card consolidation loans are so popular.

Does a Personal Loan Agreement Need to Be Notarized?

Personal loans are a type of contract, and contracts do not need to be notarized to be legally binding. All it needs is your signature. Be sure to read all the fine print in detail before you uncap that pen.

Recommended: Comparing Personal Loans vs Business Loans

Other Personal Loan Documents

Along with the signed personal loan agreement, other typical personal loan requirements include the following:

Proof of Identity

Your driver’s license or some equivalent form of photo ID will likely be necessary in order to verify your identity.

Income Verification

Lenders will consider your income when qualifying you for a loan — after all, they have good reason to be interested in whether or not you’ll be able to repay the debt. Along with asking you to list your annual income, verifying documents such as tax returns may also be required.

Proof of Address

In order to prove your residence, and therefore eligibility for any type of personal loan, you may need to provide utility statements, bank statements, or other official documents.

Getting a Personal Loan

Taking out a personal loan is a big financial responsibility, but it can also be a smart money move if you need to handle large, unexpected expenses at the last minute, or to consolidate existing debt. For someone who has bad credit, a small personal loan responsibly managed can be one way to bolster their credit score.

Just remember that all loans come at a price — interest charged — and considering the total amount you’ll pay back to the lender over time is important in order to have a full understanding of the cost of the loan.

For example, if you take out a $10,000 personal loan at a 7% interest rate to be repaid over a term of five years, you’ll pay back a total of $11,880.72, or an additional $1,880.72 in interest. That’s not including any origination fees, late fees, or prepayment penalties a lender might charge.

The Takeaway

If you’re considering a personal loan, reading the loan agreement in depth is a good way to understand for sure what you’re agreeing to. That loan agreement will contain many details about funds borrowed and how they will be repaid.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

Does a personal loan agreement need to be notarized?

No, a personal loan agreement does not need to be notarized to be legally binding — it simply needs to be signed by each party to the agreement.

What is a private personal loan agreement?

A private personal loan agreement is the binding legal contract between a borrower and a private lender for a personal loan.

Why do you need a loan agreement?

The personal loan agreement serves to outline the specific terms of the loan and protect both parties in case either fails to uphold the agreement.


Photo credit: iStock/Chaay_Tee

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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What Is a FICO Score? FICO Score vs Credit Score

A credit score is one factor used in a lender’s assessment of your creditworthiness when you apply for a lending product, such as a loan, line of credit, or credit card. It can also be a factor in lease approval, new utilities setup, and insurance rates. You can have more than one credit score, depending on what credit scoring model a lender uses.

One type of credit scoring model is the FICO® Score, which is used in 90% of lending decisions in the U.S. Since it’s such a widely used determiner, consumers are wise to pay close attention to their own score.

What Is a FICO Score?

The FICO Score is a trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation. It was the first widely used, commercially available score of its type. FICO Scores essentially compress a person’s credit history into one algorithmically determined score.

Because FICO scores (and other credit scores like it) are based on analytics rather than human biases, the intention is to make it easier for lenders to make fair lending decisions.

💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. SoFi personal loans come with no-fee options, and no surprises.

What Is the FICO Score Range?

FICO’s base range is 300 to 850: The higher the score, the lower the lending risk a lender might consider you to be.

•   Exceptional: 800 to 850

•   Very Good: 740 to 799

•   Good: 670 to 739

•   Fair: 580 to 669

•   Poor: 300 to 579

Recommended: What Is Considered a Bad Credit Score?

How Is a FICO Score Calculated?

There are five main components of your base score, each having a different weight in the calculation:

•   Payment history: 35%

•   Amounts owed: 30%

•   Length of credit history: 15%

•   Credit mix: 10%

•   New credit: 10%

About two-thirds of your base FICO score depends on managing the amount of debt you have and making your monthly payments on time. Each of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — supply information for the calculation of your credit score, so it can vary slightly even if your creditworthiness doesn’t fluctuate.

The base FICO Score range may not be the range used in all credit and lending decisions. There are also industry-specific scores, such as one specifically for auto loans (FICO Auto Scores), others for credit card applications (FICO Bankcard Scores), and multiple FICO scores used by mortgage lenders.

Industry-specific FICO scores range from 250 to 900, compared to the 300 to 850 range for base scores.

What Is a Good FICO Score?

Strictly referencing the base FICO Score range, a “good” score is between 670 and 739 on the overall scale of 300 to 850.

But what’s considered acceptable for credit approval might vary from lender to lender. Each lender has its own requirements for credit approval, interest rates, and loan terms, and may assign its own acceptable ranges. Lenders may also use factors other than a credit score to determine these things.

Recommended: Average Personal Loan Interest Rates & What Affects Them

Why Is a FICO Score Important? What Is a FICO Score Used For?

As mentioned above, the FICO Score is used in 90% of lending decisions in the U.S. When a consumer applies for a loan or other type of credit, the lender will look at their credit report and credit score. If there are negative entries on the credit report, which may be reflected in a decreased FICO Score, the applicant may not have a chance to explain those to the lender. Especially in mortgage lending decisions, the lender may have a firm FICO Score requirement, and even one point below the acceptable number could result in a denial.

But what if you’re not applying for credit in the traditional sense? Your FICO Score is still an important number to pay attention to because it’s used in other financial decisions.

•   Renting an apartment. Landlords and leasing agents generally run a credit check during a lease application process. They may or may not look at the applicant’s actual credit score — landlords have a lot of flexibility in how they make leasing decisions — but they do tend to look at the applicant’s credit history and how much debt they have in relation to their income — factors that go into a FICO score calculation.

A few late payments here and there may not affect your ability to rent an apartment, but a high debt-to-income ratio may. If you have a lot of income going toward debt payments, the landlord may be concerned that you won’t have enough income to pay your rent.

•   Insurance. One of the industry-specific FICO Scores is formulated for the insurance industry (think auto insurance and property insurance). Insurers will typically look at more than just a person’s FICO Insurance Score, but it is one factor that goes in determining qualification for insurance and at what rate. The assumption is that a person who is financially responsible will also take more care when it comes to their home and car.

•   Utilities. You may not think of a utility bill as a debt, but since utilities like gas, electric, and phone are billed in arrears, they technically are a form of debt. “Billed in arrears” means that you are billed for services you have already used. Utility companies want to make sure that you will be able to pay your monthly bill, so they may run a credit check, which may or may not include looking at your FICO Score.

Recommended: What Credit Score Is Needed to Rent an Apartment in 2024?

What Affects Your FICO Score?

We briefly touched on how a FICO Score is calculated, but what goes into those different categories? Let’s look at those in more detail.

Payment History (35%)

Do you tend to pay your bills on time or do you have a history of late or missed payments? Your payment history is the most important factor in the calculation of your FICO Score. Perfection isn’t necessary, but a solid track record of regular, on-time payments is important. Lenders like to be assured that a borrower will make their payments, and a past payment history tends to be a good predictor of future payment habits.

Both installment (personal loans, mortgage loans, and student loans, for example) and revolving credit such as credit cards can affect your payment history. Since it’s such an important factor, how can you make sure it’s a positive one for you?

•   Making payments on time, every time, is the best way to make sure your payment history is a positive one. Having a regular routine for paying bills is a good way to accomplish this.

•   Automating your payments may help you make at least the minimum payment on credit accounts.

•   Checking your credit report regularly for errors or discrepancies can help catch things that might have a negative effect on your FICO Score if left uncorrected. You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Amounts Owed (30%)

The amount of debt you owe in relation to the amount of debt available to you is called your credit utilization ratio, and it’s the second-most important factor in the calculation of your FICO Score. Having debt isn’t at issue in this factor, but using most of your available debt is seen as relying on credit to meet your financial obligations.

Credit utilization is based on revolving debt, not installment debt. If you’re keeping your credit card balance well below your credit limit, it’s a good indicator that you’re not overspending. If you have more than one credit card, consider the percentage of available credit you’re using on each of them. If one has a higher credit utilization than the others, it might be a good idea to use that one less often if you’re trying to increase your FICO Score.

Length of Credit History (15%)

This factor’s percentage may not be as high as the previous two, but don’t underestimate its importance to lenders. As with payment history, lenders tend to look at a person’s credit history as predictive of their credit future. If there is no credit history or short credit history, a lender doesn’t have much information on which to base a lending decision.

Since the amount you owe is such an important factor in your FICO Score, you might think that paying off and closing credit accounts would have a positive effect on your score. But that might not be the best strategy.

Revolving accounts like credit cards can be a useful tool in your financial toolbox if used responsibly. A credit card account with a low balance and good payment history that has been part of your credit report for many years can be an indicator that you are able to maintain credit in a responsible manner.

Installment loans like personal loans are meant to be paid off in a certain amount of time. The account will remain on your credit report for 10 years after it’s paid off.

Paying off a personal loan is certainly a positive thing, but paying off a personal loan early could cause the account to stop having that positive effect earlier than it otherwise would.

Recommended: 11 Types of Personal Loans & Their Differences

Credit Mix (10%)

Having multiple types of credit can have a positive effect on your FICO Score. Being responsible with both revolving and installment credit accounts shows lenders that you can successfully manage your debts.

•   Revolving accounts are those that are open-ended, such as a credit card. You can borrow money up to your credit limit, repay it, and borrow it again. As long as you’re conforming to the terms of the credit agreement, the account is likely to have a positive effect on your credit report and, therefore, your FICO Score.

•   Installment accounts are closed-ended. There is a certain amount of credit extended to you and you receive that money in a lump sum. It’s repaid in regular installments over a set period of time. If you need additional funds, you must take out another loan. A personal loan is one example of an installment loan.

Credit mix won’t make or break your ability to qualify for a loan, but having different types of debt indicates to lenders that you’re likely to be a good lending risk.

New Credit (10%)

Though lenders like to see that a person has been extended credit in the past, too much new credit in a short amount of time can be a red flag to lenders.

When you apply for a loan or other type of credit, the lender will typically look at your credit report. This is called a credit inquiry and can be a hard inquiry or a soft inquiry. A soft inquiry may be made by a lender to pre-qualify someone for credit or by a landlord for a lease approval, for example.

During a formal application process, a lender might make a hard inquiry into your credit report, which can affect your credit score. FICO Scores take into account hard inquiries from the last 12 months in your credit score calculation, but a hard inquiry will remain on your credit report for two years.

💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the larger the personal loan, the bigger the risk for the lender — and the higher the interest rate. So one way to lower your interest rate is to try downsizing your loan amount.

FICO Score vs Credit Score

These two terms — FICO Scores and credit scores — are often used interchangeably. More accurately, though, is that a FICO Score is one type of credit score, the one most often used by lenders when making their decisions. There are multiple types of credit scores, each of them using analytics to create a rating that illustrates a person’s creditworthiness.

The Takeaway

Your FICO Score is affected by how you manage your personal finances, whether that’s a personal loan, line of credit, credit card, or other type of credit product. Although it’s not the only credit score lenders use, it is the one used in the majority of lending decisions in the U.S. Personal loans are one financial tool that can be used to add some variety to your credit mix. If managed responsibly with regular, on-time payments, your FICO score could be positively affected by having an installment loan like this in the mix.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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