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Net Income vs Retained Earnings

Net income (NI), or net earnings, is the amount of money a company has left after subtracting operating expenses from revenue. Retained earnings goes a step further, subtracting dividend payouts to shareholders.

Companies have several different types of earnings, each of which provide different information about their revenues and insight into their financial health. On a company’s balance sheet — which is a key piece of information in evaluating a company’s stock value — it will report details about its expenses and earnings, including retained earnings and net income.

What Is Net Income?

Net income (NI) is an indication of how profitable a company is. It is a basic calculation showing the difference between its earnings and expenses, which can include labor, marketing, depreciation, interest, taxes, operational expenses, and the cost of making products.

How to Calculate Net Income

The net income formula below can be used to calculate the net income of a company:

Net Income = Revenue – Expenses

For example, if a company makes $50,000 in revenue during an accounting period and has $30,000 in expenses, their net income is $20,000.

Understanding Net Income

Net income is often referred to as the bottom line, since it appears on the bottom line of a company’s balance sheet and is the basic calculation of a company’s profit.

NI is used when calculating earnings per share, and is one of the key figures investors use when evaluating companies. When people talk about a company being in the red or in the black, they are referring to whether the company has a positive or negative net income.

It’s important to note that net income can be manipulated through the hiding of expenses and other means. It can be hard to figure out if this is happening, but investors might want to be wary of this and look into what numbers are being used in the net income calculation, and a good time to do so may be around a company’s earnings call.


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What Are Retained Earnings?

Retained earnings (RE) may also be referred to as unappropriated profit, uncovered loss, member capital, earnings surplus, or accumulated earnings.

Profitable companies try to strike a balance between reinvesting in their business and paying out dividends to please shareholders. After a company completes dividend payouts, they retain the amount of earnings that are left, and may decide to reinvest them into the business to continue to grow, pay off loans, or pay additional dividends.

It’s useful to understand RE when looking into companies to invest in, because they show whether a company is profitable or if all of their earnings are going towards dividends. If a company’s retained earnings are positive, this means they have money available to invest and put towards growth.

On the other hand, if a company has negative retained earnings, it means they are in debt, which is generally not a good sign.

How to Calculate Retained Earnings

Use the following formula to calculate the retained earnings of a company:

Retained earnings = Beginning retained earnings + Net income or loss – Dividends paid (cash and stock)

All of this information is available on a company’s balance sheet. In order to find beginning retained earnings one will need to look at the previous period’s balance sheet.

For example, if a company starts with $8,000 in retained earnings from the previous accounting period, these are the beginning retained earnings for the calculation. If the company makes $5,000 in net income and pays out $2,000 in dividends to shareholders, the calculation would be:

$8,000 + $5,000 – $2,000 = $11,000 in retained earnings for this accounting period. Since retained earnings carry over into each new accounting period, profitable companies generally have increasing retained earnings over time, unless they decide to spend them.

Understanding Retained Earnings

The calculated retained earnings show a company’s profit after they have paid out dividends to shareholders. If the calculation shows positive retained earnings, this means the company was profitable during the specified period of time. If the retained earnings are negative, this means the company has more debt than earnings.

Companies can use this figure to help decide how much to pay out in dividends and how much they have available to reinvest.

Although negative RI isn’t ideal, investors should consider the company’s individual circumstances when evaluating the results of the calculation. There are some instances in which negative retained earnings are fairly normal and not necessarily a reason to avoid investing.

How To Assess Retained Earnings

When assessing the retained earnings of a company, the following factors should be taken into account:

•   The company’s age. If a company is only a few years old, it may be normal for it to have low or even negative retained earnings, since it must make capital investments in order to build the business before it has made many sales. Older companies tend to have higher retained earnings. If a company has been around for many years and has low or negative retained earnings, this may indicate that the company is in financial trouble.

•   The company’s dividend policy. Some companies don’t pay out any dividends, while others regularly pay out high dividends. This will affect their retained earnings. In general, publicly-held companies tend to pay out more dividends than privately-held companies.

•   The period of time used in the calculation. Some companies are more profitable at certain times of year, such as retail businesses. If one looks at retained earnings during the holiday season or other popular times for retail, the company may save up their profits from those times in order to get through slower times. For this reason, the same company might show different retained earnings depending on what time period is used in the calculation.

•   The company’s profitability. More profitable companies tend to have higher retained earnings.

What’s the Difference Between Retained Earnings and Net Income?

Although retained earnings and net income are related, they are not the same.

Similarities

Both metrics help investors understand a company’s profitability, which is a chief similarity. They’re both calculated in similar ways, too, though obviously, calculating retained earnings requires some extra steps. Net income also has a direct impact on retained earnings.

Differences

There are differences to keep in mind. For one, you may not find retained earnings on a company’s income statement, and calculating retained earnings will differ from company to company as not all firms pay out the same dividends.

Note, too, that while net income helps with understanding profit, retained earnings help with understanding both profit and growth over time.

Example of Retained Earnings vs Net Income Differences

At times, a company may have negative retained earnings but positive net income — providing a good example of the difference between the two. This is what is known as an accumulated deficit. Or the opposite may occur. For example, if a company earned $60,000 in revenue and they have $40,000 in expenses, their net income is $20,000. If they then pay out $10,000 in dividends to shareholders, the retained earnings calculation would be:

$0 + $20,000 – $10,000 = $10,000 in retained earnings

If a company has a healthy net income and retained earnings, this may be a good time for them to reinvest some of their money into growing the business. In some cases, retained earnings and net income may be the same — as when a company doesn’t pay out dividends and has no retained earnings carried over from the previous period.


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Why Do Retained Earnings and Net Income Matter?

Investors are often interested in retained earnings and net income because they help show the long-term financial health of a company. Figures such as revenue and expenses vary with each accounting period, and they don’t give as accurate a picture of debt and opportunity for growth.

Understanding how much profit a company really has after dividend payouts and expenses can better help investors assess the risk and opportunity involved with investing in a company. Since RI carry over into each new accounting period, they show how much a company has saved, earned, and spent over time. (Another calculation used for evaluating a company’s profitability and debt is the debt-to-equity ratio, which is a measure of how much debt it takes for a company to run its business.)

Retained earnings are also useful for companies to help determine how to spend their money. If retained earnings and/or net income are low, it might be best for the company to save their money rather than reinvesting it or paying out dividends. If the numbers are high, they can consider spending it.

The Takeaway

Net income and retained earnings are two useful calculations that can help investors assess a company’s health, and that can help a company decide what to do with their earnings. They’re a key part of a company’s overall financial picture.

The big difference between the two figures is that while net income looks at revenue minus operating expenses, retained earnings further deducts dividend payouts from NI. Both can help form an overall view of the profitability and risk of a company.

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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.

FAQ

Should retained earnings be higher than net income?

No, because retained earnings are derived from net income. Net income is a larger number, and retained earnings are calculated from net income.

Does retained earnings mean net income?

No, the two are similar metrics, but not the same. Net income is a company’s revenue minus expenses, and retained earnings incorporate expenses and dividends paid out.

How does net income flow to retained earnings?

Broadly speaking, retained earnings are the remainder of net income after the amount of dividends paid out to shareholders has been factored into the equation.


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.

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What Is Student Loan Exit Counseling?

College students who took out federal student loans and graduate, withdraw, or drop below half-time enrollment must complete student loan exit counseling. Student loan exit counseling, or FAFSA exit counseling, helps students better understand their federal student loans and what their options for repayment are.

What to Expect With Student Loan Exit Counseling

Depending on your school, students typically complete their exit counseling online or through an in-person meeting with a counselor at the school’s financial aid office. Schools may also offer online counseling programs to review all of the important information regarding paying back student loans. Each student should check in with their school’s website to find out their options.

How Long Does Exit Counseling Take?

Generally, student loan exit counseling takes about 30 minutes if completed online. If the student meets with a counselor or has specific questions, it might take longer. Although no one usually loves sitting through a presentation about financial planning, it’s a great idea to take advantage of the learning and soak up as much knowledge as possible.

Recommended: 9 Smart Ways to Pay Off Student Loans

How to Prepare for Exit Counseling

Before student loan exit counseling, the student must prepare some information. First, they should know the outstanding balances on their current federal student loans, which can be found on the Federal Student Aid website.
The student should gather the names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers for a close relative, two references that live in the United States, and their employer, if they have one. The Department of Education requires this information in the event that a borrower defaults on their loans and cannot be contacted.

During the student loan exit counseling, the student will also spend some time mapping out their potential salary and living expenses, such as rent and utilities, so that they can create an expected budget.

Recommended: How to Create a Budget in Six Steps

Topics Covered in Student Loan Exit Counseling

Topics you’ll encounter in student loan exit counseling include understanding your loans, plans and options to repay, how to avoid default, prioritizing financial planning, and choosing a repayment plan.

Understanding Your Loans

During the first portion of student loan exit counseling, the student receives a summary of their student loans, including total balance, terms and conditions, and the date that the first payment is due.

Next, they’ll cover the interest rates on student loans. Each loan has a set interest rate that depends on the loan type (subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS, etc.) and the year dispersed. Students may want to write these interest rates down so that they can calculate their monthly payments in a later section.

Plans to Repay

Next, student borrowers will learn all about the rules of student loan repayment. Borrowers typically have control over the repayment plan that they choose, so it is wise to understand the pros and cons of all options. For example, income-driven repayment plans may lower the borrower’s monthly bill (in accordance with their income), but could cost a borrower more over time in interest. Keep an eye out for the major trade-offs between plans.

Borrowers are provided with a number of helpful student loan repayment calculations. Most students going through student loan exit counseling will see calculations that show how expensive it can be to utilize a grace period. Interest still accrues during a grace period and as it accrues, it is capitalized, which means it is added to the balance of the loan. Yet another calculator shows the borrower how much can be saved by making additional payments.

Here, student borrowers are also provided with logistical repayment information, like who to contact and in what scenarios you should contact your loan service provider.

Avoiding Default

Not paying loans on time and allowing student loans to fall into delinquency could have consequences in many areas of a borrower’s life. Therefore, during student loan exit counseling, there is a large focus on borrowers avoiding default on their student loans. This section will discuss the consequences for both a borrower’s federal loans (such as loss of student loan deferment options) and for career and future income (such as wage garnishment and impact to credit scores).

It will also cover options in the event that a borrower cannot make payments, such as deferment and forbearance, and the pros and cons of each of these options.

This section will also explain federal loan consolidation, student loan forgiveness programs, loan discharge for the permanently disabled, and how to settle student loan disputes.

Prioritizing Financial Planning

The borrower’s counselor or program should discuss budgeting, credit management, identity theft, and other basics of money management. Borrowers are encouraged to consider their short-term and long-term financial goals.

Though very important, the advice and education in this section are typically somewhat light. It might be a good idea for students to make note of the concepts they don’t understand and do some additional work outside of student loan exit counseling.

Repayment Information

Last, a borrower would choose a repayment plan, enter in their new contact information, employer or future employer’s information, and provide the names and contact information of references. The borrower’s loan servicer then reviews the information and provides the borrower with a repayment plan.

According to Federal Student Aid, the borrower is told to list their preferred repayment options, at which point their loan service will make a final decision and assign the borrower a repayment plan.

What Your Exit Counselor Doesn’t Tell You

Student loan exit counseling is necessary, important, and required of all students with federal student loans. But overall, the program is pretty light and quick.

Think about it: Some borrowers could have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay back and get just 20 minutes of guidance as they click through some online slides. This information very easily could be part of a full, multi-credit course at a university.

Also, there is some important information that a borrower just won’t receive in exit counseling, and that’s information on how to handle their private student loans. While there are some similarities, private student loans will have many of their own nuances that are imperative to understand.

For example, private loans determine their own repayment plans and generally don’t offer deferment or forbearance options, and they may or may not allow for advance prepayment on a loan.

Student Loan Refinancing

Federal student loan exit counselors and programs generally do not cover student loan refinancing. Refinancing is the process of paying off student loans—both federal and private—with a new loan, ideally at a lower rate of interest.

Refinancing could help potentially lower borrowers’ interest rates and combine multiple loan payments into one. Compare this to federal loan consolidation, a program offered through the government that simply takes a weighted average of the existing loans’ interest rates. The main purpose of a federal loan consolidation is to simplify monthly payments; whereas a refinance through a private lender ideally lowers your interest rate.

With refinancing, the borrower pays off your government loans with a private loan, so refinanced loans are not eligible for federal repayment programs such as income-driven repayment, deferment, and public service loan forgiveness.

For borrowers who have no plans to use these programs, it may be worth considering refinancing. You may qualify for a better interest rate through refinancing if your credit score or financial situation has improved since you initially took out your loans as a student.

Regardless, it is a great idea to go into student loans exit counseling with a clear head. Paying back your loans is no small feat, so it will be so worth it to do some hard work up-front to make the rest of the process as smooth as possible.

If you do decide to refinance your student loans now or down the line, consider SoFi. SoFi has an easy online application, competitive fixed and variable rates, and charges no fees.

See if you prequalify with SoFi in just two minutes.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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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Guide to Market-on-Open Orders

A market-on-open order is an order to be executed at the day’s opening price. Investors typically have until two minutes before the stock market opens at 9:30 am ET to submit a market-on-open order. MOO orders are used in the opening auction of a stock exchange.

While investors who subscribe to a more passive type of investing strategy may not incorporate MOO orders into their daily lives, they can be important to know about. You never know, after all, when you may want to place an order before trading commences.

What Is a Market-on-Open (MOO) Order?

As noted, and as the name implies, market-on-open orders are trades that are executed as soon as the stock market begins trading for the day. They may hit the order book before then, but do not actually go through the trading process until the market is opened. Note, too, that MOO orders are only to be executed when the market opens — they are the opposite of market-on-close, or MOC orders.

These orders are executed at the opening price during the trading day, or immediately (or soon after) the bell rings opening the market on a given day.


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How Market-on-Open Orders Work

There may be different rules for different stock exchanges, but generally, the stock market operates between 9:30 am ET and 4 pm ET, Monday through Friday. Trades placed outside of the hours are often called after-hours trades, and those trades may be placed as market-on-open orders, which means they will execute as soon as the market opens for the next trading day.

An investor might place a market-on-open order if they anticipate big price changes occurring during the next trading day, among other reasons.

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Different Order Types

To fully understand how an MOO order works, it may help to first understand both stock exchanges and the different ways that trades can be executed. The latter is generally referred to as an “order type.”

Stock exchanges are marketplaces where securities such as stocks and ETFs are bought and sold. In the U.S., there are more than a dozen stock exchanges registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Exchange.

Next, market order types. Order types can be put into one of two broad categories: market orders and limit orders.

Market Order

A market order is an order to buy or sell at the best available price at the time. Generally, a market order focuses on speed and will be executed as close to immediately as possible.

But securities that trade on an exchange experience market fluctuations throughout the day, so the investor may end up with a price that is higher or lower than the last-quoted price. Therefore, a market-on-open order is a specific version of a market order.

Because it is a market order, it will happen as close to immediately as possible and at the open of the market. The order will be filled no matter the opening price of investment. There is no guarantee on the price level.

With each order type, the investor is providing specific information on how, and under what circumstances, they would like the order filled. In the world of order types, these are semi-customizable orders with modifications.

Limit Order

A limit order is an order to buy or sell a stock at a specific price. A limit order is triggered at the limit price or within $0.25 of it. At the next price, the buy or sell will be executed.

Therefore, limit orders can be made at a designated price, or very close to it. While limit orders do not guarantee execution, they may help ensure that an investor does not pay more than they can (or want to) afford for a particular security.

For example, an investor can indicate that they only want to buy a stock if it hits or drops below $50. If the stock’s price doesn’t reach $50, the order is not filled.

After-hours Trading

An MOO order is not to be confused with after-hours trading and early-hours trading. Some brokerage firms are able to execute trades for investors during the hours immediately following the market closing or prior to the market’s open.

3 Reasons to Use a Market-On-Open Orders

There are several reasons to use a market-on-open order, including the following.

Trading Outside of Operating Hours

Stock exchanges aren’t always open. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq Stock Exchange are both open between 9:30 am and 4:00 pm EST.

Anticipating Changes in Value

Traders and investors may use a market-on-open order when they foresee a good buying or selling opportunity at the open of the market. For example, traders may expect price movement in a stock if significant news is released about a company after the market closes. They may want to cash out stocks, and do so using a market-on-open order.

The News Cycle

Good news, such as a company exceeding their earnings expectations, may lead to an increase in the price of that stock. Bad news, such as missing earnings estimates, may lead to a decline in the stock price. Some traders and investors may also watch the after-hours market and decide to place an MOO order in response to what they see.

It’s also important to know that stock exchanges tend to experience the most volume or trades at the open and right before the close. Even though the stock market is open from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm, many investors concentrate their trading at the beginning and near the end of the trading day in order to take advantage of all the liquidity, or ease of trading.

Examples of MOO Trade

Let’s look at some hypothetical examples of why an MOO order might be useful:

Example 1

Say that news breaks late in the evening regarding a large scandal within a company. The company’s stock has been trading lower in the after-hours market. An investor could look at this scenario and believe that the stock is going to continue to fall throughout the next trading day and into the foreseeable future. They enter an MOO order to sell their holding as soon as the market is open for trading.

Example 2

Or maybe a company reports quarterly earnings at 7 am on a trading day. The report is positive and the investor believes the stock will rise rapidly once the market opens. With an MOO order, the investor can buy shares at whatever the price may be at the open.

Example 3

Though this won’t apply to the average individual investor, MOO orders may also be used by the brokerage firms to fix errors from the previous trading day. A MOO order may be used to rectify the error as early as possible on the following day.

Risks of MOO Orders

It is important to understand that if a MOO order is entered, the investor receives the opening price of the stock, which may be different from the price at the previous close.

Volatility at the Open

Considering the unpredictable and inherent volatility of the stock market, the price could be a little bit different — or it could be very different. Investors that use MOO orders to try and time the market may be sorely disappointed in their own ability to do so, but only because timing the market is exceedingly difficult.

Most investors will likely want to avoid trying to weave in and out of the market in the short-term and stick with a long-term plan. Some investors may use MOO orders with the intention of taking advantage of price swings, but the variability of the market could trip up a new investor.

Because the order could be filled at a price that is significantly different than anticipated, this may create the problem of not having enough cash available to cover a trade.

Using Limit-on-Open Orders

An alternative option is to use a limit-on-open order, which is like an MOO order, but it will only be filled at a predetermined price. Limit-on-market orders ensure that a transaction only goes through at a certain price point or “better.” As discussed, there are other types of limit orders out there, too, for given situations. For instance, there may be a context in which it’s best to use a stop loss order, rather than a limit-on-open or similar type of order.

The downside of doing a limit-on-market order is that there is a chance that the order doesn’t get filled.

Liquidity Issues

With an MOO order, there could also be a problem of limited liquidity. Liquidity describes the degree to which a security, like a stock or an ETF, can be quickly bought or sold.

As mentioned, there tends to be greater liquidity at the beginning of the day and at the end, and investors will generally not have a problem trading the stocks of large companies, because they have many active investors and are very liquid.

But smaller companies can be less liquid assets, making them slightly trickier to trade. In the event that there is not enough liquidity for a trade, the order may not be filled, or may be filled at a price that is very different than anticipated.


💡 Quick Tip: Newbie investors may be tempted to buy into the market based on recent news headlines or other types of hype. That’s rarely a good idea. Making good choices shouldn’t stem from strong emotions, but a solid investment strategy.

Creating a Market-on-Open Order

Creating a market-on-open order is fairly simple, but may vary from trading platform to trading platform. Generally speaking, though, a trader or investor would select an option to execute a MOO when filling out the details of a trade they wish to make.

For instance, if you wanted to sell 5 shares of Company A, you’d dictate the quantity of stock you’re trying to sell, and then choose an order type — at this point, you’d select a market-on-open order from what is likely a list of choices. Again, the specifics will depend on the individual platform you’re using, but this is generally how a MOO is created.

Applying Your Investing Knowledge With SoFi

Market-on-open orders are submitted by investors when they want their order executed at the opening price and be part of the morning auction. An investor may use this order if they want to capture a stock’s price move up or down as soon as the trading day starts.

However, MOO orders don’t guarantee any price levels, so it may be risky for an investor if shares don’t move in the direction they were expecting. Unlike limit orders though, they are more likely to get executed.

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.

FAQ

What is a market-on-open order?

Market-on-open (MOO) orders are stock trading orders made outside of normal market hours and fulfilled when the markets open. Trades execute as soon as the market opens.

What is market-on-open limit on open?

A limit-on-open order, or LOO, is a specific form of limit order that executes a trade to either buy or sell securities when the market opens, given certain conditions are met. Usually, those conditions concern a security’s value.

What is the difference between market-on-close and market-on-open?

As the name implies, market-on-close orders are executed when the market closes at 4 pm ET, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). Conversely, market-on-open orders are executed when the market opens at 9:30 am ET, Monday through Friday.


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.

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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Quant Trading: What It is and How to Do It

Quant Trading: What It Is and How to Do It

Quant trading is a trading strategy that relies on quantitative analysis, employing statistical and mathematical models to find profitable trades.

Quantitative analysis takes advantage of the massive amount of market data, as well as recurring trends, to offer investment insights and evaluate stock performance. As a strategy, quant trading uses that analysis of a given stock’s metrics, including price and volume, to predict performance and make bets based on those predictions.

What is Quantitative Trading?

Historically, quant trading has been the province of large, institutional investors and hedge funds, who have had access to sophisticated research and computer models that make it easier to use technical analysis to research stocks. But that’s starting to change, with more individuals taking advantage of the tools that the internet has provided to engage in a host of quantitative trading strategies.

Some of the most common quantitative trading strategies include statistical arbitrage, high-frequency trading and algorithmic trading. Most of those tactics involve trades with very short time horizons.

What different quant strategies have in common is that they use data-based models to locate trading opportunities, and to calculate the likelihood of a positive outcome for those opportunities. Unlike some investment strategies, it doesn’t rely on deep research of the companies underlying the securities themselves. Rather, it looks to statistical methods and computer models to find promising trades.

How Quant Traders Track Data Points

Most quant traders start by tracking specific data points. While most commonly tracked data points are price and volume, any metric can be used to build a strategy. There are some traders who even build programs to monitor social media for investor sentiment.

Quant traders use that data to discover trends or correlations that have proven to be predictive of certain outcomes, such as a stock going up or down. Then they will build a model to identify those trends and correlations as they occur. Some investors, especially high-volume investors, will even go so far as to automate their trading to execute purchases and sales whenever those conditions arise.

For example, a quant trader who believes in the power of market momentum might write a computer program that teases out stocks that have won in previous upward market swings. When the markets begin another bull run, a simple version of that program will either alert the trader to those stocks, or buy them directly. A more complex version of the program might identify a common metric for the stocks that had excelled during the last runup, and then build a repository of those stocks for when the next upward swing.

That example could equally apply to stocks in a down market, or stocks during sinking interest rates, or stocks during periods of persistently low unemployment. A quant trader looks at the math to anticipate the next market moves.

Getting Started With Quant Trading

For an investor who is looking to build their own models for quant trading, they need to find the right software to get started. Some of these programs can be expensive, and many require a major time investment to use them well. So it’s helpful to do some research before choosing a software package.

If an investor is looking for software that will help them build models, spot opportunities, and execute trades, then the stakes of choosing the right software are even higher. These software packages are typically provided by brokerages, or from specialized software firms. Most ready-made quant trading software suites will offer free trial versions that allow customers to try them out. But they can come with blind spots, or shortfalls that can cost an investor real money. That’s why some more tech-savvy and adventurous investors will go so far as to build their own software to identify—and act on—investment opportunities.

Features to Look for in Quant Trading Software

Most ready-made trading software packages offer real-time market data and price quotes. Quant traders want access to company fundamentals such as P/E ratios, earnings and other metrics updated in real time. And lacking that, they should look for software programs that allow them to easily integrate outside data sources, which can open up new and unique possibilities for research and discovery.

Recommended: How to Calculate Earnings Per Share

Depending on the breadth of their outlook, quant traders may want to trade across several different markets. But each exchange might provide data via a different digital language. Be sure that any software package can integrate feeds in these different formats, or that it has access to popular third-party data purveyors such as Bloomberg or Reuters.

While those capabilities will help quant traders focus on the right data and build the right models, there’s another side, namely trading on those models. This is where finding or building the right software can make or break a quant trader.

For quant traders, especially traders who make many short-term trades in the course of a day, one vital feature for software comes down to latency. If it takes 0.2 seconds for a price quote to get to your software vendor’s data center from the exchange, and it takes 0.3 seconds for it to get from there to your screen, and then 0.1 seconds for the trading software you use to process the data, and then another 0.3 seconds for the trading software to receive the data, analyze it, and make a trade, that matters. Especially in quant trading, time is money. But the lag continues. It may take 0.2 seconds for a trade order to get to a broker, and another 0.3 seconds for the broker to deliver that trade order to the exchange.

Especially in a stock hat’s seeing heavy volume, that 1.4 seconds could mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful trade. That means that any delay in a software constitutes a real disadvantage to a quant trader, and should be considered when buying software.

Pros and Cons of Quant Trading

Emotion can be one of the biggest obstacles to successful trading. Investors may hold onto losing positions too long, thinking they’ll turn around. And they may let winning investments run too long, and lose money when they take a turn. But computer models have no emotions. That’s one reason why quantitative trading is so popular.

That said, quantitative trading can come with its own unique problems. The main one is that the financial markets are always changing. The rules, trends, correlations, cycles and even fundamental logic of the markets often seem to change with dizzying speed. As a result, even the most back-tested and seemingly promising quantitative trading model will occasionally fail. And while many models and trading programs may be profitable for a time, a successful quant trader is always looking for the next big change.

Some investors may find that using fundamental analysis on stocks offers a bit of the best of both worlds. Fundamental analysis incorporates both quantitative and qualitative analysis, in an effort to create a better overall picture of a given stock.

The Takeaway

Quant trading—once the province of institutions and hedge funds—has gone mainstream. Individuals are getting in on this strategy, using data to try and predict the markets, rather than relying on emotion and instinct.

For individuals ready to jump into investing, SoFi Invest® online brokerage offers an active investing solution that allows you to choose your stocks and ETFs without paying commissions. SoFi Invest also offers an automated investing solution that invests your money for you based on your goals and risk, without charging a SoFi management fee.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


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.

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.

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Lessons From the Dotcom Bubble

If you’ve been watching this year’s tech stock rollercoaster with an odd sense of déjà vu, you’re not alone.

Members of the market-watching media have noted the strong parallels between today’s tech sector and what went down when the dot-com bubble burst back in 2000. And those similarities—rising stock valuations, an increase in initial public offerings (IPOs), and a focus on buzz over basics—have some experts pondering if history is repeating.

If you—or your parents, or your grandparents—were affected by the 2000 dot-com crash, you may be wondering if there’s something you can do to help protect your portfolio this time around.

Here are five lessons from the dot-com bubble and the financial crisis that followed.

What Caused the Dotcom Bubble, and Why Did It Burst?

Back in the mid-1990s, investors fell in love with all things internet-related. Dot-com and other tech stocks soared. The number of tech IPOs spiked. One company, theGlobe.com Inc., rose 606% in its first day of trading in November 1998.

Venture capitalists poured money into tech and internet start-ups. And enthusiastic investors—often drawn by the hype instead of the fundamentals—kept buying shares in companies with significant challenges, trusting they’d make it big later.

But that didn’t happen. Many of those exciting new companies with optimistically valued stocks weren’t turning a profit. And as companies ran through their money, and fresh sources of capital dried up, the buzz turned to disillusionment. Insiders and more-informed investors started selling positions. And average investors, many of whom got in later than the smart money, suffered losses.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index had climbed from under 1,000 to above 5,000 between 1995 to 2000. The gauge however slid from a peak of 5,048.62 on March 10, 2000, to 1,139.90 on Oct. 4, 2002. Many wildly popular dotcom companies (including Kozmo.com, eToys.com, and Excite) went bust. Equities entered a bear market. And the Nasdaq didn’t return to its peak until 2015.

What Can Investors Today Learn from the Past?

Every investment carries some risk—and volatility for stocks is generally known to be higher than for other asset classes, such as bonds or CDs. But there are strategies that can help investors manage that risk. Here are some lessons:

1. Diversification Matters

One of the most established strategies for protecting a portfolio is to diversify into different market sectors and asset classes. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

It may be tempting to go all-in on the latest hot stock, or to invest in a sector you’re intrigued by or think you know something about. But if that stock or sector tanks, as tech did in 2000, you could lose big.

Allocating across assets may reduce your vulnerability because your money is distributed across areas that aren’t likely to react in the same way to the same event.

Diversifying your portfolio won’t necessarily ensure a profit or guarantee against loss. And you might not be able to brag about your big score. Over time though, and with a steady influx of money into your account, you’ll likely have the opportunity to grow your portfolio while experiencing fewer gut-wrenching bumps along the way.

2. Ignoring Investing Basics Can Have Consequences

Even as the stock market began its meltdown in 2000, individual investors—caught up in the rush to riches—continued to dump money into equity funds. And many failed to do their homework and research the stocks they were buying.

Prices didn’t always reflect underlying business performance. Most of the new public companies weren’t profitable, but investors ignored poor fundamentals and increasing warnings about overvalued prices. In a December 1996 speech, then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned that “irrational exuberance” could “unduly escalate asset values.” Still, the behavior continued for years.

When Greenspan eventually tightened up U.S. monetary policy in the spring of 2000, the reaction was swift. Without the capital they needed to continue to grow, companies began to fail. The bubble popped and a bear market followed.

From 1999 to 2000, shares of Priceline Inc., the name-your-own-price travel booking site, plunged 98%. Just a couple months after its IPO in 2000, the sassy sock puppet from Pets.com was silenced when the company folded and sold its assets. Even Amazon.com’s shares suffered, losing 90% of their value from 1999 to 2001.

And it wasn’t just day traders who were losing money. A Vanguard study showed that by the end of 2002, 70% of 401(k)s had lost at least one-fifth of their value, and 45% had lost more than one-fifth.

Valuing a Stock

There are many different ways to analyze a stock you’re interested in—with technical, quantitative, and qualitative analysis, and by asking questions about red flags. It can help in determining whether a company is undervalued or overvalued.

Even if you’re familiar with what a company does, and the products and services it offers, it can help to look deeper. If you don’t have the time to do your due diligence—to look at price-to-earnings ratios, business models, and industry trends—you may want to work with a professional who can help you understand the pros and cons of investing in certain businesses.

3. Momentum Is Tricky

Momentum trading when done correctly can be profitable in a relatively short amount of time—and successful momentum traders can turn out profits on a weekly or daily basis. But it can take discipline to get in, get your profit and get out.

Tech stocks rallied in the late 1990s because the internet was new and everybody wanted a piece of the next big thing. But when the reality set in that some of those dot-com darlings weren’t going to make it, and others would take years to turn a profit, the momentum faded. Investors who got in late or held on too long—out of greed or panic or stubbornness—came up empty-handed.

Identifying a potential bubble is tough enough, and it’s only the first step in avoiding the fallout should it eventually burst. Determining when that will happen can be far more challenging. If day-trading strategies and short-term investing are your thing, you may want to pay attention to the trends and your own gut, and get out when they tell you it’s time.

4. History May Repeat, But It Doesn’t Clone

Sure, there are similarities between what’s happening with today’s tech sector and the dot-com bubble that popped in 2000. But the situations are not exactly the same.

For one thing, investors today may have a better grip on what the Internet is, and how long it can take to develop a new idea or company. Some stock valuations today are, indeed, stretched but not as stretched as they were during the dot-com bubble.

And though a strong recovery from the Covid-19 recession could prompt the Fed to cool things down in the future, Fed Chair Jerome Powell has said the central bank is in no hurry to raise benchmark short-term interest rates or to begin reducing its $120 billion in monthly bond payments used to stimulate the economy.

So though it can be useful to look at past events for investing insight, it’s also important to look at stock prices in the context of the current economy.

5. You Can’t Always Predict a Downturn, But You Can Prepare

The dot-com stock-market crash hit some investors hard—so hard that many gave up on the stock market completely.

That’s not uncommon. Investors’ decisions are often driven by emotion over logic. But the result was that those angry and fearful investors lost out on an 11-year bull market. You don’t have to look at every asset bubble or market downturn as a signal to run for the hills. Also, if the market decline is followed by a rally, you could miss out.

One strategy—along with diversifying your portfolio—may be to keep a small percentage of cash in your investment or savings account. That way you’ll have protected at least a portion of your money, and you’ll be set up to take advantage of any new opportunities and bargains that might emerge if the stock market does go south.

Investors should also really look at a company’s fundamentals as well. Does a business make sense? Does it seem like they can grow their sales and keep costs low? Who are the competitors? Do you trust the CEO and management? After deep research into these topics, if the company is still attractive to you, then it could make sense to hang on to at least some of the shares.

If you’re a long-term investor who’s purchased shares in strong, healthy companies, those stocks could very well rebound. But this is an incredibly difficult process that even seasoned investors can get wrong.

The Takeaway

Asset bubbles like the dot-com bubble can have different causes, but the thing they tend to have in common is that investors’ extreme enthusiasm leads them to throw caution to the wind.

In the late-‘90s and early-2000s, that “irrational exuberance” led investors to buy overpriced shares in internet companies with the expectation that they couldn’t lose. And when they did lose, the dot-com craze turned into a dot-com crash. Investors who thought they had a piece of the next big thing lost money instead.

Could it happen again? Unfortunately, there’s really no way to know when an asset bubble will burst or how severe the fallout might be. But a diversified portfolio can offer some protection. So can paying attention to investing basics and doing your homework before putting money into a certain stock. And it never hurts to ask for help.

With a SoFi Invest online brokerage account, investors can diversify their portfolio by putting money into stocks, ETFs or partial stocks called Fractional Shares. Do-it-yourself investors can trade on the Active Investing platform. Investors who prefer a more hands-off approach can have their portfolio managed for them with Automated Investing. And members can rely on SoFi’s educational resources and professional advisors for help.

Check out SoFi Invest today.



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.

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.

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

Stock Bits
Stock Bits is a brand name of the fractional trading program offered by SoFi Securities LLC. When making a fractional trade, you are granting SoFi Securities discretion to determine the time and price of the trade. Fractional trades will be executed in our next trading window, which may be several hours or days after placing an order. The execution price may be higher or lower than it was at the time the order was placed.

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