FDIC Insurance: What It Is And How It Works

With the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently in the news, many people are wondering what the FDIC is, exactly, and what it does.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, is an independent agency of the U.S. government. In the unlikely event of a bank failure, it protects you and reimburses your deposits, typically up to $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, per account ownership category.

People often take the FDIC guarantee for granted now, but it was created from a very real need and has kept many people and their money safe.

Here, you’ll learn more about this important aspect of banking, including:

•   What the FDIC is

•   What the FDIC does

•   How does the FDIC work

•   Which accounts are and are not eligible for FDIC protection

What Is the FDIC?

The FDIC is the shorthand way of referring to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It is an independent agency created by Congress in 1933, after the Great Depression, when thousands of banks failed. The goal was to shore up confidence in the U.S. financial system and protect Americans from losing their cash if their bank failed.

In January 1934, the FDIC began insuring deposits, covering them up to $2,500. That number has increased through the years, of course, most recently with the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. President George W. Bush signed the act to temporarily raise FDIC insurance coverage from $100,000 to $250,000 per depositor during the financial crisis. President Barack Obama made the coverage hike permanent in 2010 with the signing of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

It’s important to note how this insurance works: The standard coverage is $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category. Joint accounts may be covered up to $500,000.

Related: The Government Takes Decisive Action on Bank Closures

What Does the FDIC Do?

Since its creation, no depositor has lost any money from an FDIC-insured deposit. This means that, unlike your great-grandparents, you can put your money into an eligible financial institution, whether a savings vs. checking account or other qualifying account, and know it’s more secure than stuffing it under your mattress. (Yes, that used to be a thing for many savers.)

Also of note: Though it’s the customers’ money that’s covered by the FDIC, the agency is funded by premiums paid by the banks and from earnings on investments in U.S. Treasury securities. Customers do not pay for this insurance; they are automatically covered when they open an FDIC-insured account.

There are rules and limits you should know about, however, if you want to make the most of the FDIC’s coverage.

Types of Accounts Insured by the FDIC

The FDIC insures all deposit accounts at insured banks and savings associations up to the FDIC’s limits, including:

•   Checking accounts

•   Savings accounts

•   Money market accounts

•   Certificates of deposit (CDs)

•   Prepaid cards when the underlying funds are deposited in an insured bank (these funds are only insured in the instance of bank failure, not loss or theft)

•   Certain retirement savings accounts, but only when placed in certain types of investments and in accordance with all FDIC requirements.

   Deposit accounts, such as checking and savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, and certificates of deposit, can all be held in traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs and are eligible for FDIC insurance.

Recommended: Tips for Overcoming Bad Financial Decisions

How to Tell if Your Money Is FDIC-Insured

How can you tell for sure if your account is covered? While the FDIC insures deposits in most banks and savings associations, not all of them are protected. Every FDIC-insured depository institution must display an official sign at each teller window or teller station, so that’s an easy way to check if you bank at a brick-and-mortar location.

If you’re using an online bank or a mobile-first financial product, the company’s website should contain information about its coverage.

Or you can find out if your deposits are insured by using the FDIC BankFind tool .

Recommended: Comparing the Different Types of Deposit Accounts

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Types of Accounts Not Insured by the FDIC

Now, here are the kinds of funds not covered by FDIC insurance. Money held in these ways, even if purchased from an insured financial institution, is not protected:

•   Stocks

•   Bonds

•   Annuities

•   Mutual funds

•   Municipal securities

•   Life insurance policies

•   The contents of a safety deposit box

This is an important point to note as you think about your financial security.

Also, you may wonder about the FDIC vs. NCUA in terms of protecting your finances. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), created by Congress in 1970, covers federally insured credit unions in much the same way as the FDIC covers banks, including deposits up to $250,000. If your funds are held at a credit union, you may want to make sure it has NCUA coverage. The FDIC will not be protecting you, but it’s likely the NCUA is.

How FDIC Insurance Works

Here’s more important intel if you’re wondering, How does the FDIC work?

The FDIC covers your holdings in certain accounts, as listed above. What amount of money is insured in a bank account? Usually, the limit is $250,000. It is calculated to cover both principal and interest earned by the depositor. If you have an account that has $200,000 in it and has accrued $20,000 in interest, you will be covered in the amount of $220,000.

As mentioned above, there is a standard $250,000 cap on FDIC insurance. If you have high net worth, this coverage may not be enough. As a result, you may want to keep in mind that by having money in excess of that amount in one bank or one account, you may be putting yourself at risk.

Because the $250,000 applies to each bank where you have an account, one way you may be able to increase the FDIC insurance coverage available to you is by using multiple banks.

Another option is to structure your accounts properly within a single bank. If you have any concerns about your coverage, it can be a good idea to discuss them with a representative at your bank.

Quick Money Tip: Most savings accounts only earn a fraction of a percentage in interest. Not at SoFi. Our high-yield savings account can help you make meaningful progress towards your financial goals.

What Happens if a Bank Fails?

If a bank were to fail, the FDIC would intervene in two ways:

•   The FDIC would pay depositors up to the insurance limit to cover their losses. So, if you had $10,500 in an insured account and the bank failed, you would be reimbursed for that amount. Typically, this happens within a few days after a bank closes.

•   The FDIC also takes responsibility for collecting the assets of the failed bank and settling its debts. As assets are sold, depositors who had more than the $250,000 limit in an insured account may receive payments on their claim.

How to Recover Your Money if a Bank Fails

Because of the FDIC safety net, you won’t likely see fearful customers lining up to get their money the way they did before deposit insurance was established.

Still, when a bank closes, it can cause depositors to worry and wonder how to get their money. Typically, there are one of two scenarios when a bank fails:

•   Most commonly, you would become a depositor at a healthy, FDIC-insured bank. You would have access to your insured funds at this new bank and could likely choose to keep your accounts there if you like.

•   If there is not a healthy, FDIC-insured bank that can step in quickly, the FDIC will likely pay the insured depositor by check within as little as a few days after the bank closes.

As for immediate next steps if you learn your bank is closing, the FDIC aims to post information as promptly as possible, or you can contact the agency at 877-ASK-FDIC or visit the FDIC Support Center website .

The Takeaway

Though it’s quite a rare occurrence, a bank can fail when it takes on too much risk or, as was the case recently, was exposed to interest rate risk. If your bank is covered by FDIC insurance you can receive reimbursement up to $250,000, meaning your funds aren’t lost for good. FDIC insurance covers checking, savings, money market accounts, CDs, and other deposit accounts.

The FDIC does not cover some of the other financial products or services offered by banks, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and securities.

Putting your money in a brick-and-mortar financial institution isn’t the only way to make sure it’s protected. SoFi Checking and Savings is a mobile-first online bank account that keeps your hard-earned dollars safe; all accounts receive FDIC insurance of up to $250,000 per member.

What’s more, we offer an array of great features that can make managing your money easier, such as spending and saving in one convenient place and using savings tools such as Vaults and Roundups. Plus, you’ll earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and pay no account fees, both of which can help your money grow faster.

Want security, convenience, and no account fees? Bank smarter with SoFi.
 

FAQ

How often does a bank fail?

Currently, banks fail very rarely. In the past two years, no banks failed in the United States. However, the FDIC was created in response to thousands of bank failures around the time of the Great Depression.

How does the FDIC differ from the NCUA?

FDIC insurance applies to qualifying accounts at banks. NCUA insurance covers qualifying accounts at credit unions.

How many banks are FDIC insured?

As of September 2022, the FDIC insured a total of 4,746 institutions. Of these, 4,157 were commercial banks, and 589 were savings institutions.

Are credit unions FDIC-insured?

Credit unions don’t qualify for FDIC insurance. Instead, they may be covered by the National Credit Union Administration, or NCUA, insurance.


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Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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What Is an ESG Index? 5 ESG Indexes to Know

What Is an ESG Index? 5 ESG Indexes to Know

An index is a group of companies that reflect the performance of a certain sector. Thus an ESG index includes companies that meet certain criteria for environmental, social, and governance standards and reflect that sector.

Just as a large-cap equity index like the S&P 500 can be used as a performance benchmark for the performance of large-cap U.S. stocks, different ESG indexes can be used as benchmarks for sectors focused on sustainable or socially responsible investing (sometimes called SRI) practices.

Some indexes may also include or exclude companies as a form of risk mitigation.

The challenge is that the criteria for what constitutes sustainable investing, in any form, is inconsistent throughout the industry.

Nonetheless, recent industry research suggests that ESG investing strategies perform similarly to, and sometimes better than conventional strategies. By knowing some of the top ESG indexes, then, it’s possible to invest in funds that capture the performance of that index, and put your money toward companies whose aim is to focus on positive environmental, social, and corporate governance outcomes.

What Are ESG Indexes?

There are a number of ESG indexes maintained by major data providers which track the performance of firms that embrace ESG or SRI criteria. Why are environmental, social, and governance factors considered important enough to be the foundation of dozens of industry indexes?

Some investors believe in investing their money in the stocks of companies (or other securities) that reflect certain proactive values regarding the planet, society, and fair and ethical corporate structures. At the same time, adherence to ESG factors is increasingly considered by many stakeholders as a form of risk management. For example, investors might choose to assess a company’s ESG scores or ratings to gauge its risk exposure (as well as possible future financial performance). Consumers might want to know about a company’s environmental and social practices to inform their purchasing decisions.

While you cannot invest in an index, investors can gain exposure to ESG companies in an index by purchasing an index mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) that seeks to replicate the performance of that index (aka passive investing).

Just as there are many different flavors of equity indexes — from large cap to small cap, domestic to international, and so on — there are numerous ESG indexes. These exist in many forms, depending on the underlying metrics used to construct them, and there are hundreds of ESG index funds and ETFs that investors can access.

Recommended: How to Invest in ESG Stocks

New Growth in the ESG Sector

According to Deloitte, some 149 ESG-related funds were launched in 2021 alone, making up 22% of all funds launched by managers in that year.

The number of ESG-related funds on the market continues to grow, roughly a third of them passively managed index funds or ETFs. In 2021, socially responsible U.S. mutual funds saw record inflows of some $70 billion — a 36% increase over 2020. However, ESG funds saw substantial outflows through 2021 and most of 2022. But sustainable funds still managed to outperform non-sustainable funds through Q3 of 2022, despite challenging market conditions, according to Morningstar research as of September 30, 2022.

ESG vs Socially Responsible Investing: What’s the Difference?

There are various terms for investing according to a certain set of values — including impact investing and socially responsible investing (SRI) — and not all of them refer to green investing strategies. Some terms may be used interchangeably, but there are some key differences to understand.

•   Impact investing is a broad term that encompasses investors who seek measurable outcomes. Impact investing may or may not have anything to do with environmental or social factors.

•   Socially responsible investing is also a broader label, typically used to reflect progressive values of protecting the planet and natural resources, treating people equitably, and emphasizing corporate responsibility.

•   Securities that embrace ESG principles, though, may be required to adhere to specific standards for protecting aspects of the environment (e.g. clean energy, water, and air); supporting social good (e.g. human rights, safe working conditions, equal opportunities); and corporate accountability (e.g. fighting corruption, balancing executive pay, and so on).

ESG Investing Standards

That said, there isn’t one universally observed set of criteria that define an ESG investment or an ESG index. Rather, each ESG index and corresponding index fund is typically based on proprietary metrics of qualitative and quantitative factors relating to environmental, social, and governance factors.

These metrics may be formulated internally by investment managers/research teams, based on metrics established by popularly accepted ESG frameworks, or a combination of both.

While it’s clear where the money’s been trending with regards to ESG investments, prudent investors should still remain selective when it comes to picking an ESG fund, as how these indexes are constructed can sometimes be based on opaque methodologies.

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5 Commonly Used ESG Indexes

Following is an overview of five ESG indexes commonly used as benchmarks for some of the largest ESG funds, and the manner in which they’re constructed.

1. S&P 500 ESG Index

The S&P 500 ESG Index consists of 307 domestic investments across the broader market. All firms included in the index must meet specified ESG criteria established by S&P Dow Jones Indices.

ESG Criteria: According to S&P, the index uses an exclusionary methodology to filter out firms within the S&P 500 that partake in undesirable business activities, defined as follows:

•   Firms operating within the thermo coal, tobacco, and controversial weapons industries.

•   Companies that score within the bottom 5% of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).

•   Companies that score within the bottom 25% of ESG scores within each global GICs industry group.

2. Nasdaq-100 ESG Index

The Nasdaq-100 ESG Index consists of 96 separate securities that meet ESG criteria established by Nasdaq. The parent index includes 100 of the largest domestic and international non-financial firms that trade on the Nasdaq exchange.

ESG Criteria: Firms must meet the following requirements, at a minimum, to qualify under the index:

•   “An issuer must not be involved in certain specific business activities, such as alcohol, cannabis, controversial weapons, gambling, military weapons, nuclear power, oil & gas, and tobacco.”

•   “…an issuer must be deemed compliant with the United Nations Global Compact principles, meet business controversy level requirements.”

•   “…have an ESG Risk Rating Score that meets the requirements for inclusion in the Index.”

3. MSCI KLD 400 Social Index

Established in 1990, the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index is one of the first and oldest socially responsible investing (SRI) indexes, making it a popular standard for evaluating long-term ESG performance.

The KLD 400 Social index comprises 402 U.S. securities that meet the ESG standards set by the MSCI ESG Research team.

ESG Criteria: MSCI uses the following methodology to determine eligibility and inclusion within the index.

•   Companies involved in nuclear power, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, military weapons, civilian firearms, GMOs, and adult entertainment are excluded.

•   Must have an MSCI ESG rating above “BB.”

•   Must have an MSCI Controversies score above “2.”

4. MSCI USA Extended ESG Focus Index

The MSCI USA Extended ESG Focus Index includes securities across the U.S. equity markets, but selects constituents from the MSCI USA parent index using an optimization process that targets companies with high ESG ratings in each sector. Companies related to segments such as tobacco, controversial weapons, producers of or ties with civilian firearms, thermal coal and oil sands are excluded.

The MSCI USA Index has 628 constituents while the MSCI USA Extended ESG Focus Index has around 321, which means an exclusion close to 49%.

5. FTSE US All Cap Choice Index

The FTSE U.S. All Cap Choice Index is part of the FTSE Global Choice Index Series. It’s designed to help investors align their investment choices with their values, by selecting companies based on the impact of their products and conduct on society and the environment., but excludes companies involved in:

•   Vice-related industries (e.g. alcohol, tobacco, gambling, adult entertainment)

•   Non-renewable energy (e.g. fossil fuels, nuclear power)

•   Weapons (conventional military weapons, controversial military weapons, civilian firearms)

•   Companies are also excluded based on controversial conduct and diversity practices

Risks and Drawbacks of ESG Indexes

As with all investments, the risks of choosing ESG-linked investments is that they may not necessarily outperform over your target timeframe. There are also unique ESG-linked issues that come with evaluating these indexes.

Diversification Risk

The primary risk of using an ESG-based strategy is the risk of underperformance and the risk of reduced diversification relative to cheaper, broader-market index funds.

This isn’t a surprise, as many of the top ESG indexes are market capitalization (“cap”) weighted, which means that the largest firms in the index bear the greatest responsibility for changes in index values.

Given that some of most popular ESG investments also track the performance of the broader-market indexes, this makes these particular indexes less attractive as part of a diversifying strategy.

Higher Costs

Another issue of concern is that some ESG funds charge higher fees and expense ratios relative to conventional funds.

While these fees aren’t necessarily head and shoulders above broader-market index funds, they can get progressively more expensive depending on how nuanced the fund’s investing strategy is. This is because ESG is a factor-based investment strategy which entails more complexity than traditional broader-market indexing.

Typically, the longer the time frame for comparison, the greater the risk for underperformance becomes, net of fees.

Inconsistency of ESG Standards

Perhaps the biggest drawback of ESG-investing is the inconsistent reporting among industry firms, and the desire for more uniformity among which ESG frameworks are applied.

In other words, the ESG criteria established at one institution for their index or funds has little or no bearing on the ESG criteria employed by another firm.

Because sustainable investing has grown over the past decade, there has been an industry-wide movement towards greater consistency in ESG criteria and reporting. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has even recently undertaken efforts to codify aspects of financial reporting when it comes to ESG-related investments.

Nevertheless, these efforts remain in their early stages, and investors should continue to be discerning when it comes to picking ESG-linked investments.

Relevance of ESG Criteria

Existing ESG frameworks run the gamut when it comes to which metrics they choose to apply; whether these metrics are actually relevant to the underlying investments can be debated. For example, metrics related to carbon emissions may be relevant to heavy industry, but how relevant would those metrics be to the financial or technology sectors?

To address the issue of relevance, some ESG-linked funds have introduced an additional factor to correctly weight relevance of certain criteria. However, individual investors would do well to identify and assess when these solutions are applied.

Finally, expect to encounter data consistency issues when trying to quantify information that is naturally qualitative, particularly when management at each firm has wide discretion over how they choose to represent those metrics.

The Takeaway

There’s no doubt that enthusiasm for ESG investing has grown over the past decade, and continues to gain traction. Understanding ESG indexes and how they apply sustainability rules and criteria to the companies in the index can help investors understand the corresponding index mutual funds and ETFs they may want to invest in.

Due to the sheer number of ESG-centric investments available to date, it’s a good idea to be selective when reviewing the underlying strategy of each fund, and understanding the underlying methodology of how each index constructs its portfolio.

Exploring and incorporating sustainable strategies in your portfolio can be easy when you open an online brokerage account with SoFi Invest. The app allows you to buy and sell shares of stocks, ETFs, fractional shares, IPO shares, and more. Even better, SoFi members have complimentary access to advice from professionals, who can answer any questions you may have.

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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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.


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

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Guide to Risk Neutral Probability

Guide to Risk Neutral Probability

“Risk neutral,” in the context of investing, means that an investor focuses on the expected gains of a potential investment rather than its accompanying risks. This concept comes up frequently in options trading, as it’s one of the core tenets in how options are valued.

Risk neutrality is more of a conceptual focus for valuation than a strategy that’s applied on a daily basis. It’s often used as a conceptual framework for the valuation of options and other complex derivatives by sophisticated investment firms.

What Is Risk Neutral?

Risk-neutral investors are solely concerned with the expected returns of an investment, regardless of its underlying risks. When confronted with a gamble versus a sure thing, risk neutral investors are indifferent as long as the expected value of both options balance out.

Risk Neutral vs Risk Averse

Contrast risk neutrality with “risk aversion,” which does consider risk and strongly prefers certainty when comparing investment alternatives. While risk averse investors consider expected value, they will also demand a “risk premium,” or additional benefit, for taking on any additional risk in a transaction. This is what leads to their preference for the more “certain” option, even when the mathematical expected value of two alternative investments is the same.

Risk neutral investors are indifferent between investment options with the same expected values, regardless of the accompanying risk factors. The concept of risk does not play into a risk-neutral investor’s decision-making process, and no risk premium is demanded for uncertain outcomes with equal expected values.

In reality, most retail investors are risk averse, e.g. they have a low risk tolerance, rather than risk neutral. It’s easy to spot this investor preference, given the incessant focus of financial firms on mitigating risk. Terms like “risk-adjusted returns” are frequently used, and entire doctrines in behavioral economics and game theory are built around the cornerstones of loss or risk-aversion.

The difference between risk-neutral vs. risk-averse investors can be illustrated using an example comparing separate sets of probabilities.

Example of Risk Neutrality

To illustrate risk neutrality, consider a hypothetical situation with two investment options: one which involves a guaranteed payoff of $100, while the other involves a gamble, with a 50% chance of a $200 payoff and a 50% chance you receive nothing.

In our hypothetical scenario, the risk neutral investor would be indifferent between the two options, as the expected value (EV) in both cases equals $100.

1.    EV = 100% probability X $100 = $100

2.    EV = (50% probability X $200) + (50% probability X $0) = $100 + 0 = $100

However, a risk averse investor would introduce the added variable of risk into their decision, thereby unbalancing the alternatives above. Given that the 2nd option involves uncertainty, and therefore risk, the risk averse investor would demand an added payoff to justify taking on any added risk.

Reframing the problem above, the risk averse investor would choose option 1, given a) both options return the same expected value, and b) option 1 involves the greatest certainty.

On the other hand, the risk neutral investor would remain indifferent, as risk does not factor into their decision-making process.

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Risk Neutral Pricing and Valuation

Conceptually, risk neutrality is used extensively in valuing derivative securities because it establishes a theoretical basis for finding the equilibrium price between buyers and sellers in any transaction. It’s therefore an important aspect of options trading strategies.

Given that risk-averse investors demand a premium for taking on additional risk, while each individual investor’s risk tolerance can differ. This risk premium can present a problem from an analytical perspective; it introduces “noise” and analytical complexity which can complicate the pricing of derivatives and other investments.

Conceptually, the value of an investment is calculated as the present value of all its current and future cash flows. Future cash flows are discounted using its expected rate of return, which factors in the risk-neutral rate of return along with any added risk premia.

While the risk-neutral rate of return can be assumed to be the same for a given set of investments, the risk premium can vary according to the risk tolerance of individual investors, which complicates the present value calculation, additionally it often skews the calculated value of a security below what the expected future benefit might imply.

To adjust for this complexity in derivatives trading, mathematicians and financial professionals often find it useful to apply risk-neutral measures when pricing derivatives.

Understanding Risk Neutral Probability

The concept of risk neutrality is used to find objective pricing for derivatives; risk neutral probability therefore removes the noisy risk factor from calculations when finding fair value.

This differs from real-world risk-based pricing, which introduces any number of security-specific or market-based factors back into the calculation. The downside of this “real-world probability” is that it makes calculating value an exceedingly complex exercise, as you would need to make fine-tuning adjustments for almost every unique factor that might affect your investment.

Ultimately, risk-neutral probabilities allow you to apply a consistent single rate towards the valuation of all assets for which the expected payoff is known. This allows for ease and simplicity when approaching the valuation process.

However, that’s not to say that risk-aversion and other costs are not factored into calculations, as risk-averse investors would never choose to accept trades that don’t offer risk premiums over the long run.

Instead, risk-neutral probabilities represent the basis on which to build your investment valuation thesis, allowing you to selectively layer on any number of other risk factors later in the process.

Investing Today

Identifying what type of investor you are is important before diving in. If you’re a risk-neutral investor, choosing between risky and non-risky investments will be based on expected values.

If you are risk averse, your investment opportunities will need to be assessed based on whether you are receiving a risk premium commensurate with the risk you perceive.

If you want to learn more about risk and investing, SoFi Invest is a great place to get started. When you set up an online stock trading account, you have access to a range of self-directed options for both brokerage and retirement investing.

Remember that options trading is complex and can entail significant risk for new investors. It’s important to establish a solid investing foundation before moving onto more advanced trading strategies like options trading.

With SoFi, user-friendly options trading is finally here.

FAQ

Is risk neutral the same as risk free?

Risk neutral does not imply risk free. Risk neutral is simply a conceptual approach for evaluating trade offs without the impact of risk-factors.

Risk continues to exist in the context of each investment when evaluating tradeoffs; risk neutral simply suspends risk as a factor in the evaluation process.

What makes some companies risk neutral?

From a theoretical perspective, companies behave in a risk-neutral manner because firms have the means to hedge their risks away. They can do this by purchasing insurance, buying financial derivatives, or transferring their risk to other parties. This allows them to focus on expected outcomes rather than the risk-related costs of those decisions.

Conceptually, shareholders also want firms to make decisions in a risk-neutral manner, as individual investors can hedge risk exposure themselves by buying the shares of any number of other firms to diversify and offset these risk factors.

What is an example of risk neutral?

An example of risk neutral would be an individual who’s indifferent between 1) a 100% chance of receiving $1,000, versus 2) a 50% chance of receiving $2,000, and a 50% chance of receiving nothing.

In both cases, the expected value would be $1,000, after calculating for both probability and return. This expected value would be what risk-neutral investors would focus on. By contrast, a risk-averse individual would choose option 1, as the outcome has more certainty (and less risk).


Photo credit: iStock/Szepy

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.

Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
Disclaimer: The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.
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401(k) Blackout Periods: All You Need to Know

401(k) Blackout Periods: All You Need to Know

A 401(k) blackout period is a hiatus during which plan participants may not make certain changes to their 401(k) accounts. Employers who offer 401(k) plans typically impose blackouts when they need to update or alter aspects of their plans. A blackout period may last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

A blackout period doesn’t mean that the account is frozen. Employees in a payroll deduction plan can often continue making scheduled contributions to their 401(k) accounts during a blackout period, and assets held in 401(k) accounts remain invested in the market.

What Is a 401(k) Blackout Period?

As noted above, a 401(k) blackout period is a temporary suspension of employees’ ability to access their 401(k) accounts for actions such as withdrawals or portfolio adjustments. Companies use blackout periods to update or change their 401(k) retirement savings plans. Unfortunately, these blackout periods may sometimes be inconvenient for employees.

When Is a 401(k) Blackout Period Necessary?

There are several situations that might call for an employer to implement a 401(k) blackout period. Some common reasons include:

•   Changes to the plan. Employers may need to implement a blackout period to allow for changes to their 401(k) plans, such as adding or eliminating investment alternatives or modifying the terms of the plan.

•   New management. If an employer’s 401(k) plan is managed by a third party, the employer might decide to change sponsors or financial managers. A blackout period would give the employer time to transfer the assets and records.

•   Mergers and acquisitions. Acquisition of a new firm or a merger with another company could require a blackout period while the two companies integrate their 401(k) plans.

•   Issues with compliance. If an employer finds that the terms of their 401(k) plan violate federal laws, they may need to impose a blackout period while they conduct audits and bring the plan into compliance.

How Long Can a 401(k) Blackout Period Last?

A 401(k) blackout period can last for a few days or for a few weeks, but the typical duration is 10 days. The length often depends on the reason for the blackout and how much time it will take to implement the scheduled fixes. There is no legal maximum blackout period for 401(k) plans.

Will I Be Given a 401(k) Blackout Notice?

Employers are required to notify employees in advance of a blackout period. For blackout periods expected to last more than three days, employers must give at least 30 days’ (and not more than 60 days’) notice, according to the federal Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). If the period’s beginning or ending date changes, employers are expected to provide an updated blackout notice as soon as reasonably possible.

Employers must provide this notice in writing, either by mail or email. The notice should include the reason for the blackout.

What Should I Do Before the Blackout Starts?

If a 401(k) blackout period is approaching, there are some steps you can take to prepare. Here are a few things to consider doing before the blackout starts:

•   Review the account. Once you get your blackout notice, take some time to review your 401(k) plan, including your current contributions, investment options, and overall balance. This overview can help you zero in on anything that may need correction before the blackout begins.

•   Make any appropriate changes. If you need to fine-tune how you’re investing in your 401(k), such as by adjusting contribution amounts or reallocating investments, try to do so before the blackout period. This will help ensure that your changes take effect as soon as possible.

•   Communicate with your employer. For questions about the blackout period or requests for additional information, your employer is likely to be the best resource. They should be able to provide more details and address account-related concerns.

Starting Out With a New 401(k)

People starting a new job that offers a 401(k) plan have some decisions to make. Plan details to consider before committing to a new 401(k) account may include:

•   Contribution limits. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets limits on annual 401(k) contributions. In 2023, the contribution limit is $22,500 for those under age 50 and $30,000 for those 50 and older. If you want to max out your 401(k), knowing these limits can help you schedule your contributions appropriately.

•   Investment options. Most 401(k) plans offer a range of investment vehicles, including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and individual stocks. As you’re preparing for retirement, researching various asset types will help you see which ones align with your investment goals and risk tolerance.

•   Fees. Some 401(k) plans charge fees for services such as plan administration or investment management. Understanding how the plan’s fees may impact your overall returns is crucial.

•   Employer match. Many employers offer a matching contribution to employee 401(k) accounts. This means that the employer will kick in an additional percentage to augment an employee’s contributions. An employer match is a way of boosting your retirement savings, which may lead to bigger investment gains over time.

The Takeaway

Employees with 401(k) retirement accounts occasionally experience blackout periods. People may not access or alter their accounts during these breaks, which occur when employers and 401(k) plan sponsors need time to update or retool their retirement benefit plan. Blackout periods typically last for a few days or weeks. By law, participants must be notified at least 30 days ahead of a scheduled blackout period. This enables them to make any desired investment changes beforehand.

One convenient way of investing for retirement is through SoFi individual retirement accounts. You can open an online IRA account from your phone and start saving right away. If you have questions, SoFi has a team of professional advisors available to help.

Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

What is a retirement-fund blackout period?

A 401(k) blackout period is a multi-day pause during which the employer or the plan administrator typically update or maintain the plan. During this time, employees can’t alter their 401(k) retirement accounts. Making withdrawals or changing asset allocations may be prohibited. Though a blackout period is temporary, it can last several weeks or more.

Can you contribute to your 401(k) during the blackout period?

This depends on the specific terms of the employer’s 401(k) plan and the blackout period. Some plans may allow employees to keep setting aside money in their 401(k) accounts during a blackout; others may not. Your employer or plan administrator will have information on your plan’s rules for contributions.

How do I get my 401(k) out of the blackout period?

In most cases, there is nothing you can do to avoid or shorten your 401(k) blackout period. A blackout period generally comes to an end once the employer or plan administrator has completed the necessary plan updates. If you have additional questions about the duration of the blackout period or how to access your account again, your employer should be able to answer them.


Photo credit: iStock/damircudic

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.

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.


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What Is an FSA Debit Card?

Guide to FSA Debit Cards

If you have a flexible spending account, an FSA debit card allows you access these pre-tax dollars you’ve set aside. With an FSA debit card, you can pay for qualifying medical purchases without having to file a reimbursement claim through your employer.

In other words, an FSA debit card can make your healthcare spending that much easier. But it’s important to understand the full story on how these cards work to make sure you get the most out of one.

This guide will coach you through that, including:

•   What is an FSA debit card?

•   How can you get an FSA debit card?

•   How do you use an FSA debit card?

•   What are the pros and cons of an FSA debit card?

•   When should you use your regular debit card instead?

Read on and you’ll learn the best FSA debit card practice so you can benefit from the money in your flexible spending account.

What Is an FSA Debit Card?

An FSA debit card will typically come with your flexible spending account, which is a tax-advantaged account offered through an employer’s benefit package. The funds in your FSA can be used to help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses.

As of 2023, once you’re enrolled in an FSA account, you can contribute up to $3,050 dollars (an increase of $200 vs. 2022’s amount) per individual; in a couple, each spouse can contribute up to that amount.

An FSA debit card looks and performs like a bank debit card, but it is connected to your flexible savings account, not your checking. You can only use it to pay for qualified medical and dental expenses not covered by your health insurance.

Worth noting: You may wonder what an HSA vs. FSA is. Though they sound alike, a flexible spending account works differently than a health savings account (HSA). You can only get an FSA through an employer; freelancers and self-employed individuals are not eligible. Also, HSAs are only available to those who are enrolled in a high deductible health plan, or HDHP.

Recommended: Benefits of Health Savings Accounts

Ways That You Can Use an FSA Debit Card

There are quite a few FSA rules and regulations dictating what you can spend your untaxed funds on.

The list of FSA-eligible expenses is extensive, covering everything from co-pays to bandages. Here are just some of the things you may be able to use your FSA debit card for:

•   Medical copays and deductibles

•   Prescription medications

•   Approved over-the-counter drugs, such as allergy, cough, and pain medications

•   Testing kits, including those for COVID-19 and cholesterol

•   Crutches, canes, and walkers

•   Dental expenses, including crowns and dentures

•   Vision expenses, including glasses and contact lenses

•   Fertility treatments

•   Hospital and ambulance fees

•   Lab fees

•   Acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, and massage therapy.

Ways That You Cannot Use an FSA Debit Card

An FSA debit card can be a convenient way to pay for medical fees, prescriptions, and other health-related items your health insurance doesn’t cover. But not all wellness-related expenses are covered. Here are some things you cannot use an FSA card for, including:

•   Groceries. Although diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, your FSA card won’t pay for, say, organic beef and green beans.

•   Cosmetic procedures. Expenses for electrolysis, face lifts, hair transplants, and the like are typically not covered.

•   Dining out. You can’t use an FSA debit card at a restaurant, even if it’s a vegan or “health food” eatery

•   Vitamins and nutritional supplements, unless you can prove they were prescribed by a physician

•   Getting cash. Unlike with a debit card, you will not be able to use an FSA card to withdraw cash funds from your account.

Recommended: Guide to Practicing Financial Self-Care

Process of Getting an FSA Debit Card

The steps to getting an FSA debit card are pretty straightforward:

•   Sign up for an FSA account offered by your employer. There is typically an “open season,” a window of time during the year when you are eligible to enroll.

•   Make a contribution or set up a contribution commitment for the account. These accounts are typically pre-funded, by the way, which is a nice perk. What that means: If you enroll in an FSA on January 1st and pledge to contribute $2,400 over the year, paying $200 a month, the $2,400 becomes available for you to use right away.

•   Wait for your FSA debit card. Once you enroll and contribute to your FSA account, the debit will be sent to your address. This can take 7 to 10 business days.

Recommended: HSA vs. HRA: What’s the Difference?

Pros and Cons of FSA Debit Cards

If you are someone who anticipates having frequent out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, a flexible spending account and an FSA debit card can be convenient. It can be a good way for you to save pre-tax dollars and put them toward those expenditures.

However, it’s worthwhile to consider both the upsides and downsides to having an FSA debit card:

Pros of having an FSA account and debit card

•   Easy access to tax-free funds to spend on qualifying medical expenses. You can use the FSA card like a debit card to make payments.

•   Online shopping. You can use your FSA debit card for online shopping, as long as it’s with a vendor that accepts the FSA card. Amazon, CVS, and other online shopping sites identify which items are FSA eligible, making shopping even simpler.

•   Avoiding pesky paperwork. Using the FSA debit card means you don’t have to keep track of receipts and file a reimbursement report with your employer.

•   No cash out-of-pocket. With an FSA debit card, you’ll avoid a trip to the ATM or having to use your personal debit card, and you won’t have to wait for a reimbursement. What’s more, you can avoid using a credit card for some health-related expenses, thereby possibly avoiding hefty interest charges, too.

Cons of having an FSA debit card

Here are some potential downsides to using an FSA debit card:

•   Contributions are use-it-or-lose-it. In many cases, if you don’t use your FSA funds by the end of the year, you will forfeit the remaining balance. Some employers may allow for a grace period to spend the money or for certain amounts to be rolled over. But this aspect is probably the biggest drawback of having an FSA account and debit card.

•   If you leave, the money stays. Usually, if you quit or change jobs, the money you contributed to your FSA stays with your employer.

•   No reward perks. You won’t get any bonus miles or other award points from swiping an FSA debit card.

Recommended: Beginner’s Guide to Health Insurance

FSA Debit Card vs Traditional Debit Card

An FSA debit card and personal debit card from your bank or credit union share a number of features. Both provide access to funds for in-person purchases, and you should have no issues using a debit card online nor an FSA debit card.

But there are some distinct differences between an FSA debit card and traditional debit card, including:

FSA Debit Card Traditional Debit Card
FSA debit cards can only be used to purchase qualifying medical expenses Debit cards from a bank can be used to purchase just about anything
With an FSA debit card, it’s a good idea to keep the receipts from your purchases, in case you need them for your employer or the IRS Debit card purchases are personal, and typically don’t require reporting to the IRS
Account funds attached to an FSA debit card can expire at the end of the year There’s no time limit for spending your own personal account money
FSA debit card purchases don’t usually come with any reward perks or bonus points With some debit cards, you can build up reward points and bonus miles with every purchase
You can only use FSA debit cards at stores and medical locations that accept them You can use your debit card at almost any store, venue, or medical facility that accepts card payments
You cannot get cash with your FSA card You can get cash with your traditional debit card, whether at an ATM or other location

Recommended: What Is a Debit Card?

The Takeaway

Using an FSA debit card can be a hassle-free way to pay for qualifying, out-of-pocket medical expenses. These cards function much like a traditional debit card, helping you pay for health-related items with the pre-tax dollars that are in your account. However, if you have one of these cards, it’s wise to know the pros and cons so you can use it most effectively.

3 Money Tips

1.    If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.

2.    If you’re creating a budget, try the 50/30/20 budget rule. Allocate 50% of your after-tax income to the “needs” of life, like living expenses and debt. Spend 30% on wants, and then save the remaining 20% towards saving for your long-term goals.

3.    When you overdraft your checking account, you’ll likely pay a non-sufficient fund fee of, say, $35. Look into linking a savings account to your checking account as a backup to avoid that, or shop around for a bank that doesn’t charge you for overdrafting.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Can you be denied an FSA debit card?

If you qualify for an FSA account through your employer and the account comes with an FSA debit card, there’s little chance you would be denied one, unless you have missed the deadline for the enrollment period.

Is it good to have an FSA debit card and a traditional debit card?

It’s wise to have an FSA debit card and a traditional debit card. You can only use an FSA debit card to pay for qualifying medical expenses at vendors who will accept it.. You will likely need a standard debit card to pay for groceries, clothes, and life’s other expenses.

Can I withdraw cash with an FSA debit card?

Unlike with a traditional debit card, you cannot withdraw cash with an FSA debit card.

Does a bank provide an FSA debit card?

An FSA debit card is not provided by a bank, but rather through a vetted healthcare FSA vendor chosen by your employer.


Photo credit: iStock/praetorianphoto

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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

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

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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