What Is a Guaranteed Minimum Income Benefit (GMIB)?

What Is a Guaranteed Minimum Income Benefit (GMIB)?

A guaranteed minimum income benefit (GMIB) is an optional rider that can be included in an annuity contract to provide a minimum income amount to the annuity holder. An annuity is an insurance product in which you pay a premium to the insurance company, then receive payments back at a later date. There are a number of different types of annuities, with different annuity rates.

A GMIB annuity can ensure that you receive a consistent stream of guaranteed income. If you’re considering buying an annuity for your retirement, it’s helpful to understand what guaranteed minimum income means, and how it works.

Key Points

•   A Guaranteed Minimum Income Benefit (GMIB) is an optional rider in an annuity contract ensuring a minimum income.

•   GMIBs protect annuity payments from market volatility, offering stable income in retirement.

•   These benefits are available in variable or indexed annuities, which tie earnings to market performance.

•   The cost of GMIBs can be high, as adding riders increases the overall expense of the annuity.

•   Evaluating the financial stability of the annuity provider is crucial, as the company’s health impacts the security of the guaranteed income.

GMIBs, Defined

A guaranteed minimum income benefit (GMIB) is a rider that the annuity holder can purchase, at an additional cost, and add it onto their annuity. The goal of a GMIB is to ensure that the annuitant will continue to receive payments from the contract — that’s the “guaranteed minimum income” part — without those payments being affected by market volatility.

Annuities are one option you might consider when starting a retirement fund. But what are annuities and how do they work? It’s important to answer this question first when discussing guaranteed minimum income benefits.

As noted, an annuity is a type of insurance contract. You purchase the contract, typically with a lump sum, on the condition that the annuity company pays money back to you now or starting at a later date, e.g. in retirement.

Depending on how the annuity is structured, your money may be invested in underlying securities or not. Depending on the terms and the annuity rates involved, you may receive a lump sum or regular monthly payments. The amount of the payment is determined by the amount of your initial deposit or premium, and the terms of the annuity contract.

A GMIB annuity is most often a variable annuity or indexed annuity product (though annuities for retirement can come in many different types).

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How GMIBs Work

Let’s look at two different types of annuities for retirement: variable and indexed.

•   Variable annuities can offer a range of investment types, often in the form of mutual funds that hold a combination of stocks, bonds, and money market instruments.

•   Indexed annuities offer returns that are indexed to an underlying benchmark, such as the S&P 500 index, Nasdaq, or Russell 2000. This is similar to other types of indexed investments.

With either one, the value of the annuity contract is determined by the performance of the underlying investments you choose.

When the market is strong, variable annuities or indexed annuities can deliver higher returns. When market volatility increases, however, that can reduce the value of your annuity. A GMIB annuity builds in some protection against market risk by specifying a guaranteed minimum income payment you’ll receive from the annuity, independent of the annuity’s underlying market-based performance.

Of course, what you can draw from an annuity to begin with will depend on how much you invest in the contract, stated annuity rates, and to some degree your investment performance. But having a GMIB rider on this type of retirement plan can help you to lock in a predetermined amount of future income.

Recommended: Types of Retirement Accounts

Pros & Cons of GMIBs

Guaranteed minimum income benefit annuities can be appealing for investors who want to have a guaranteed income stream in retirement. Whether it makes sense to purchase one can depend on how much you have to invest, how much income you’re hoping to generate, your overall goals and risk tolerance.

Weighing the pros and cons can help you to decide if a GMIB annuity is a good fit for your retirement planning strategy.

Pros of GMIBs

The main benefit of a GMIB annuity is the ability to receive a guaranteed amount of income in retirement. This can make planning for retirement easier as you can estimate how much money you’re guaranteed to receive from the annuity, regardless of what happens in the market between now and the time you choose to retire.

If you’re concerned about your spouse or partner being on track for their own retirement, that income can also carry over to your spouse and help fund their retirement needs, if you should pass away first. You can structure the annuity to make payments to you beginning at a certain date, then continue those payments to your spouse for the remainder of their life. This can provide reassurance that your spouse won’t be left struggling financially after you’re gone.

Cons of GMIBs

A main disadvantage of guaranteed minimum income benefit annuities is the cost. The more riders you add on to an annuity contract, the more this can increase the cost. So that’s something to factor in if you have a limited amount of money to invest in a variable or indexed annuity with a GMIB rider. Annuities may also come with other types of investment fees, so you may want to consult with a professional who can help you decipher the fine print.

It’s also important to consider the quality of the annuity company. An annuity is only as good as the company that issues the contract. If the company were to go out of business, your guaranteed income stream could dry up. For that reason, it’s important to review annuity ratings to get a sense of how financially stable a particular company is.

Examples of GMIB Annuities

Variable or indexed annuities that include a guaranteed minimum income benefit can be structured in different ways. For example, you may be offered the opportunity to purchase a variable annuity for $250,000. The annuity contract includes a GMIB order that guarantees you the greater of:

•   The annuity’s actual value

•   6% interest compounded annually

•   The highest value reached in the account historically

The annuity has a 10-year accumulation period in which your investments can earn interest and grow in value. This is followed by the draw period, in which you can begin taking money from the annuity.

Now, assume that at the beginning of the draw period the annuity’s actual value is $300,000. But if you were to calculate the annuitized value based on the 6% interest compounded annually, the annuity would be worth closer to $450,000. Since you have this built into the contract, you can opt to receive the higher amount thanks to the guaranteed minimum income benefit.

This example also illustrates why it’s important to be selective when choosing annuity contracts with a guaranteed minimum income benefit. The higher the guaranteed compounding benefit the better, as this can return more interest to you even if the annuity loses value because of shifting market conditions.

It’s also important to consider how long the interest will compound. Again, the more years interest can compound the better, in terms of how that might translate to the size of your guaranteed income payout later.

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The Takeaway

As discussed, guaranteed minimum income benefits (GMIB) are optional riders that can be included in an annuity contract to provide a minimum income amount to the annuity holder. Annuities can help round out your financial strategy if you’re looking for ways to create guaranteed income in retirement.

Annuities may be a part of a larger investment and retirement planning strategy, along with other types of retirement accounts. To get a better sense of how they may fit in, if at all, it may be a good idea to speak with a financial professional.

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 are guaranteed benefits?

When discussing annuities for retirement, guaranteed benefits are amounts that you are guaranteed to receive. Depending on how the annuity contract is structured, you may receive guaranteed benefits as a lump sum payment or annuitized payments.

What is the guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit?

The guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit is the amount you’re guaranteed to be able to withdraw from an annuity once the accumulation period ends. This can be the annuity’s actual value, an amount that reflects interest compounded annually or the annuity contract’s highest historical value.

What are the two types of guaranteed living benefits?

There are actually more than two types of guaranteed living benefits. For example, your annuity contract might include a guaranteed minimum income benefit, guaranteed minimum accumulation benefit or guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit.


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SoFi Invest®

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

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

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

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Mega Backdoor Roths, Explained

For those who earn an income that makes them ineligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, a mega backdoor Roth IRA may be an effective tool to help them save for retirement, and also get a potential tax break in their golden years.

Only a certain type of individual will likely choose to employ a mega backdoor Roth IRA as a part of their financial plans. And there are a number of conditions that have to be met for mega backdoor Roth to be possible.

Read on to learn what mega backdoor Roth IRAs are, how they work, and the important details that investors need to know about them.

Key Points

•   A mega backdoor Roth IRA allows high earners to save for retirement with potential tax benefits, despite income limits on traditional Roth IRAs.

•   This strategy involves making after-tax contributions to a 401(k) and then transferring these to a Roth IRA.

•   Eligibility for a mega backdoor Roth depends on specific 401(k) plan features, including the allowance of after-tax contributions and in-service distributions.

•   Contribution limits for 401(k) plans in 2023 allow for significant after-tax contributions, enhancing the potential retirement savings.

•   The process, while beneficial, can be complex and may require consultation with a financial professional to navigate potential hurdles.

What Is a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA?

The mega backdoor Roth IRA is a retirement savings strategy in which people who have 401(k) plans through their employer — along with the ability to make after-tax contributions to that plan — can roll over the after-tax contributions into a Roth IRA.

But first, it’s important to understand the basics of regular Roth IRAs. A Roth IRA is a retirement account for individuals. For tax year 2023, Roth account holders can contribute up to $6,500 per year (or $7,500 for those 50 and older) of their post-tax earnings. That is, income tax is being paid upfront on those earnings — the opposite of a traditional IRA. For 2024, they can contribute up to $7,000 (or $8,000 for those 50 and older).

Individuals can withdraw their contributions at any time, without paying taxes or penalties. For that reason, Roth IRAs are attractive and useful savings vehicles for many people.

But Roth IRAs have their limits — and one of them is that people can only contribute to one if their income is below a certain threshold.

In 2023 the limit is $138,000 for single people (people earning more than $138,000 but less than $153,000 can contribute a reduced amount); for married people who file taxes jointly, the limit is $218,000 (or between $218,000 to $228,000 to contribute a reduced amount).

In 2024 the limit is $146,000 for single people (people earning more than $146,000 but less than $161,000 can contribute a reduced amount); for married people who file taxes jointly, the limit is $230,000 (or between $230,000 to $240,000 to contribute a reduced amount).

💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that you must choose the investments in your IRA? Once you open a new IRA and start saving, you get to decide which mutual funds, ETFs, or other investments you want — it’s totally up to you.

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How Does a Mega Backdoor Roth Work?

When discussing a mega backdoor Roth, it’s helpful to understand how a regular backdoor Roth IRA works. Generally, individuals with income levels above the thresholds mentioned who wish to contribute to a Roth IRA are out of luck. However, there is a workaround: the backdoor Roth IRA, a strategy that allows high-earners to fund a Roth IRA account by converting funds in a traditional IRA (which has no limits on a contributors’ earnings) into a Roth IRA. This could be useful if an individual expects to be in a higher income bracket at retirement than they are currently.

Mega backdoor Roth IRAs involve 401(k) plans. People who have 401(k) plans through their employer — along with the ability to make after-tax contributions to that plan — can potentially roll over up to $46,000 in 2024, and $43,500 in 2023, in after-tax contributions into a Roth IRA. That mega Roth transfer limit has the potential to boost an individual’s retirement savings.

Example Scenario: How to Pull Off a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA

The mega backdoor Roth IRA process is pretty much the same as that of a backdoor Roth IRA. The key difference is that while the regular backdoor involves converting funds from a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, the mega backdoor involves converting after-tax funds from a 401(k) into a Roth IRA.

Whether a mega backdoor Roth IRA is even an option will depend on an individual’s specific circumstances. These are the necessary conditions that need to be in place for someone to try a mega backdoor strategy:

•   You have a 401(k) plan. People hoping to enact the mega backdoor strategy will need to be enrolled in their employer-sponsored 401(k) plan.

•   You can make after-tax contributions to your 401(k). Determine whether an employer will allow for additional, after-tax contributions.

•   The 401(k) plan allows for in-service distributions. A final piece of the puzzle is to determine whether a 401(k) plan allows non-hardship distributions to either a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k). If not, that money will remain in the 401(k) account until the owner leaves the company, with no chance of a mega backdoor Roth IRA move.

If these conditions exist, a mega backdoor strategy should be possible. Here’s how the process would work:

Open a Roth IRA — so there’s an account to transfer those additional funds to.

From there, pulling off the mega backdoor Roth IRA strategy may sound deceptively straightforward — max out 401(k) contributions and after-tax 401(k) contributions, and then transfer those after-tax contributions to the Roth IRA.

But be warned: There may be many unforeseen hurdles or expenses that arise during the process, and for that reason, consulting with a financial professional to help navigate may be advisable.

Who Is Eligible for a Mega Backdoor Roth

Whether you might be eligible for a mega backdoor Roth depends on your workplace 401(k) retirement plan. First, the plan would need to allow for after-tax contributions. Then the 401(k) plan must also allow for in-service distributions to a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k). If your 401(k) plan meets both these criteria, you should generally be eligible for a mega backdoor Roth IRA.

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

Contribution Limits

If your employer allows for additional, after-tax contributions to your 401(k), you’ll need to figure out what your maximum after-tax contribution is. The standard 401(k) contribution limit for all types of contributions to a 401(k) (meaning employee, employer, and after-tax contributions) in 2023 is $22,500 (or $30,000 for those 50 and older). For 2024, the limit is $23,000 (or $30,500 for those 50 and older).

The IRS allows up to $66,000, or $73,500 including catch-up contributions for those 50 and up, in total contributions to a 401(k) in 2023. For 2024, the total limits are $69,000, or 76,500 including catch-up contributions for those 50 and up.

So how much can you contribute in after-tax funds? Here’s an example. Say you are under age 50 and you contributed the max of $22,500 to your 401(k) in 2023, and your employer contributed $8,000, for a total of $30,500. That means you can contribute up to $35,500 in after-tax contributions to reach the total contribution level of $66,000.

Is a Mega Backdoor Roth Right For Me?

Given that this Roth IRA workaround has so many moving parts, it’s worth thinking carefully about whether a mega backdoor Roth IRA makes sense for you. These are the advantages and disadvantages.

Benefits

The main upside of a mega backdoor Roth is that it allows those who are earning too much to contribute to a Roth IRA a way to potentially take advantage of tax-free growth.

Plus, with a mega backdoor Roth IRA an individual can effectively supercharge retirement savings because more money can be stashed away. It may also offer a way to further diversify retirement savings.

Downsides

The mega backdoor Roth IRA is a complicated process, and there are a lot of factors at play that an individual needs to understand and stay on top of.

In addition, when executing a mega backdoor Roth IRA and converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, it could result in significant taxes, as the IRS will apply income tax to contributions that were previously deducted.

The Future of Mega Backdoor Roths

Mega backdoor Roths are currently permitted as long as you have a 401(k) plan that meets all the criteria to make you eligible.

However, it’s possible that the mega backdoor Roth IRA could go away at some point. In prior years, there was some legislation introduced that would have eliminated the strategy, but that legislation was not enacted.

The Takeaway

Strategies like the mega backdoor Roth IRA may be used by some investors to help achieve their retirement goals — as long as specific conditions are met, including having a 401(k) plan that accepts after-tax contributions.

While retirement may feel like far off, especially if you’re early in your career or still relatively young, it’s generally wise to start thinking about it sooner rather than later.

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Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Are mega backdoor Roths still allowed in 2023?

Yes, mega backdoor Roths are still permissible in 2023.

Is a mega backdoor Roth worth it?

Whether a mega backdoor Roth is worth it depends on your specific situation. It may be worth it for you if you earn too much to otherwise be eligible for a Roth IRA and if you have a 401(k) plan that allows you to make after-tax contributions.

Is a mega backdoor Roth legal?

Yes, a mega backdoor Roth IRA is currently legal.

Are mega backdoor Roths popular among Fortune 500 companies?

A number of Fortune 500 companies allow the after-tax contributions to a 401(k) that are necessary for executing a mega backdoor Roth IRA.

What is a super backdoor Roth?

A super backdoor Roth IRA is the same thing as a mega backdoor Roth IRA. It is a strategy in which people who have 401(k) plans through their employer — along with the ability to make after-tax contributions to that plan — can roll over the after-tax contributions into a Roth IRA.


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

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

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

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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.

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

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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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What Is Theta in Options? All You Need to Know

What Is Theta in Options? All You Need to Know


Editor's Note: Options are not suitable for all investors. 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. Please see the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options.

Theta, in relation to options, describes the rate in change in an option’s value. Options have two sources of value: intrinsic value and time value. From the moment an options contract is created, the time value component decays. This rate of change in value with respect to time is known as theta.

Understanding theta is crucial if you are going to trade options. Several factors, including an option’s moneyness and the time to expiration, will impact theta. Here are the basic concepts that you should know about.

Key Points

•   Theta measures the rate at which an option’s value decreases over time, specifically due to the passage of time.

•   As options approach their expiration date, their time value decays, which is quantified by theta.

•   Theta is typically represented as a negative dollar amount, indicating the daily loss in value of the option.

•   The impact of theta is more pronounced as the expiration date nears, accelerating the decay of the option’s time value.

•   Understanding theta is essential for options traders, as it helps in timing the market and managing potential risks and returns.

How Does Theta Work?

Holding all other factors equal, options tend to decline in value over time as they approach their expiration date. The intuition behind this relationship is simple: once an option expires, it can no longer be exercised, and thus it no longer has any value.

This rate of change in value of an option is referred to as theta. Usually displayed as a negative dollar amount, an option’s theta value represents how much an option’s price decreases per day as it matures.

💡 Interested in Theta? Check out the other Greeks in options trading.

What Are Examples of Theta?

One way to think of theta in options trading is an analogy of an ice cube sitting on a countertop. As the ice cube sits on the warm countertop, it gradually melts away, and the melting becomes more rapid as time passes. Similarly, an option’s time value always decreases, with the decrease becoming more rapid the closer an option is to expiring.

Let’s say there is a stock ABC with a price of $80. The theta for an options contract expiring in three months with a strike price of $85 might be -$0.05. That means you can expect to lose five cents per day due to time decay, or theta. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the security’s price will go down each day, since it will also be affected by up and down movements of the underlying stock price itself.

In this scenario, not all options of stock ABC will have the same theta value of -$0.05. An option with the same strike price of $85 but a year until expiration will usually have a lower theta than one expiring next month.

💡 Quick Tip: Options can be a cost-efficient way to place certain trades, because you typically purchase options contracts, not the underlying security. That said, options trading can be risky, and best done by those who are not entirely new to investing.

Finally, user-friendly options trading is here.*

Trade options with SoFi Invest on an easy-to-use, intuitively designed online platform.


What Is a Negative Theta in Options?

Because theta represents the amount of money an option contact loses every day, it is customarily represented as a negative number. A theta value of -$0.15 for a particular option means that particular option will lose 15 cents of time value each day.

But because the time value loss of an option (theta) isn’t linear, you shouldn’t expect it to lose exactly 15 cents of time value every day. Theta will increase as the option expiration date gets closer. This is very important to know if you’re attempting to time the market, since it will help you understand when the best time is to make your move.

Understanding Options Theta Decay

There are many different strategies for trading options, and theta affects them differently. Since theta is a negative number, it works against buyers of options. But if you are selling an option (like in a covered call or other option strategy), theta works in your favor.

When you are selling an option contract, you are hoping that the option will decrease in value or expire worthless. So a high theta value works for an option seller since it represents the amount of money the contract will lose each day.

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

Calculating Theta

Calculating theta, or any of the other Greeks, requires using advanced mathematical formulas, and depends on the particular pricing model you choose. Options investors typically calculate theta on a daily or weekly basis.

Generally theta will be smaller for options that are far away from their expiration date and larger as you get closer to expiration. You can use this knowledge to determine your best plan depending on your time horizon for investing.

The Takeaway

Whether you’re trading basic options or more complicated options spreads, it is important to understand theta. It represents how much value your option will lose as time moves closer to its maturity, holding other factors constant. One needs to be especially careful to take note of theta when trading out-of-the-money options.

Qualified investors who are ready to try their hand at options trading, despite the risks involved, might consider checking out SoFi’s options trading platform. The platform’s user-friendly design allows investors to trade through the mobile app or web platform, and get important metrics like breakeven percentage, maximum profit/loss, and more with the click of a button.

Plus, SoFi offers educational resources — including a step-by-step in-app guide — to help you learn more about options trading. Trading options involves high-risk strategies, and should be undertaken by experienced investors.

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


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SoFi Invest®

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

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

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

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.
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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How to Achieve Financial Freedom

Ever dream of leaving your job to pursue a project you’ve always been passionate about, like starting your own business? Or going back to school without taking out student loans? What about the option to retire at age 50 instead of 65 without having to worry about money?

Any of these opportunities could happen if you’re able to achieve financial freedom — having the money and resources to afford the lifestyle you want.

Intrigued by the idea of being financially free? Read on to find out what financial freedom means and how it works, plus 12 ways to help make it a reality.

Key Points

•   Financial freedom means having enough income, savings, or investments to afford the lifestyle you want without financial stress.

•   Strategies to achieve financial freedom include budgeting, reducing debt, setting up an emergency fund, seeking higher wages, and exploring new income streams.

•   Opening a high-yield savings account, contributing to a 401(k), and considering other investments are important steps towards financial freedom.

•   Staying informed about financial issues, reducing expenses, and living within your means are key to achieving and maintaining financial freedom.

•   Avoiding lifestyle creep and making smart financial decisions can help you reach your financial goals and live the life you desire.

What Is Financial Freedom?

Financial freedom is being in a financial position that allows you to afford the lifestyle you want. It’s typically achieved by having enough income, savings, or investments so you can live comfortably without the constant stress of having to earn a certain amount of money.

For instance, you might attain financial freedom by saving and investing in such a way that allows you to build wealth, or by growing your income so you’re able to save more for the future. Eventually, you may become financially independent and live off your savings and investments.

There are a number of different ways to work toward financial freedom so that you can stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, get out of debt, save and invest, and prepare for retirement.

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

Get up to $1,000 in stock when you fund a new Active Invest account.*

Access stock trading, options, auto investing, IRAs, and more. Get started in just a few minutes.


*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.

12 Ways to Help You Reach Financial Freedom

The following strategies can help start you on the path to financial freedom.

1. Determine Your Needs

A good first step toward financial freedom is figuring out what kind of lifestyle you want to have once you reach financial independence, and how much it will cost you to sustain it. Think about what will make you happy in your post-work life and then create a budget to help you get there.

As a bonus, living on — and sticking to — a budget now will allow you to meet your current expenses, pay your bills, and save for the future.

2. Reduce Debt

Debt can make it very hard, if not impossible, to become financially free. Debt not only reduces your overall net worth by the amount you’ve got in loans or lines of outstanding credit, but it increases your monthly expenses.

To pay off debt, you may want to focus on the avalanche method, which prioritizes the payment of high-interest debt like credit cards.

You might also try to see if you can get a lower interest rate on some of your debts. For instance, with credit card debt, it may be possible to lower your interest rate by calling your credit card company and negotiating better terms.

And be sure to pay all your other bills on time, including loan payments, to avoid going into even more debt.

3. Set Up an Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund in place to cover at least three to six months’ worth of expenses when something unexpected happens can help prevent you from taking on more debt.

With an emergency fund, if you lose your job, or your car breaks down and needs expensive repairs, you’ll have the funds on hand to cover it, rather than having to put it on your credit card. That emergency cushion is a type of financial freedom in itself.

4. Seek Higher Wages

If you’re not earning enough to cover your bills, you aren’t going to be able to save enough to retire early and pursue your passions. For many people, figuring out how to make more money in order to increase savings is another crucial step in the journey toward financial freedom.

There are different ways to increase your income. First, think about ways to get paid more for the job that you’re already doing.

For instance, ask for a raise at work, or have a conversation with your manager about establishing a path toward a higher salary. Earning more now can help you save more for your future needs.

5. Consider a Side Gig

Another way to increase your earnings is to take on a side hustle outside of your full-time job. For instance, you could do pet-sitting or tutoring on evenings and weekends to generate supplemental income. You could then save or invest the extra money.

6. Explore New Income Streams

You can get creative and brainstorm opportunities to create new sources of income. One idea: Any property you own, including real estate, cars, and tools, might potentially serve as money-making assets. You may sell these items, or explore opportunities to rent them out.

7. Open a High-Yield Savings Account

A savings account gives you a designated place to put your money so that it can grow as you keep adding to it. And a high-yield savings account typically allows you to earn a lot more in interest than a traditional savings account. As of February 2024, some high-yield savings accounts offered annual percentage yields (APYs) of 4.5% compared to the 0.46% APY of traditional savings accounts.

You can even automate your savings by having your paychecks directly deposited into your account. That makes it even easier to save.

8. Make Contributions to Your 401(k)

At work, contribute to your 401(k) if such a plan is offered. Contribute the maximum amount to this tax-deferred retirement account if you can — in 2024, that’s $23,000, or $30,500 if you’re age 50 or older — to help build a nest egg.

If you can’t max out your 401(k), contribute at least enough to get matching funds (if applicable) from your employer. This is essentially “free” or extra money that will go toward your retirement.

9. Consider Other Investments

After contributing to your workplace retirement plan, you may want to consider opening another investment retirement account, such as an IRA, or an investment account like a brokerage account. You might choose to explore different investment asset classes, such as mutual funds, stocks, bonds, or rate of return, stocks are notoriously volatile. If you’re thinking about investing, be sure to learn about the stock market first, and do research to find what kind of investments might work best for you.

It’s also extremely important to determine your risk tolerance to help settle on an investment strategy and asset type you’re comfortable with. For instance, you may be more comfortable investing in mutual funds rather than individual stocks.

10. Stay Up to Date on Financial Issues

Practicing “financial literacy,” which means being knowledgeable about financial topics, can help you manage your money. Keep tabs on financial news and changes in the tax laws or requirements that might pertain to you. Reassess your investment portfolio at regular intervals to make sure it continues to be in line with your goals and priorities. And go over your budget and expenses frequently to check that they accurately reflect your current situation.

11. Reduce Your Expenses

Maximize your savings by minimizing your costs. Analyze what you spend monthly and look for things to trim or cut. Bring lunch from home instead of buying it out during the work week. Cancel the gym membership you’re not using. Eat out less frequently. These things won’t impact your quality of life, and they will help you save more.

12. Live Within Your Means

And finally, avoid lifestyle creep: Don’t buy expensive things you don’t need. A luxury car or fancy vacation may sound appealing, but these “wants” can set back your savings goals and lead to new debt if you have to finance them. Borrowing money makes sense when it advances your goals, but if it doesn’t, skip it and save your money instead.

The Takeaway

Financial freedom can allow you to live the kind of life you’ve always wanted without the stress of having to earn a certain amount of money. To help achieve financial freedom, follow strategies like making a budget, paying your bills on time, paying down debt, living within your means, and contributing to your 401(k).

Saving and investing your money are other ways to potentially help build wealth over time. Do your research to find the best types of accounts and investments for your current situation and future aspirations.

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).


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

FAQ

How can I get financial freedom before 30?

Achieving financial freedom before age 30 is an ambitious goal that will require discipline and careful planning. To pursue it, you may want to follow strategies of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement. This approach entails setting a budget, living below your means in order to save a significant portion of your money, and establishing multiple streams of income, such as having a second job in addition to your primary job.

What is the most important first step towards achieving financial freedom?

The most important first step to achieving financial freedom is to figure out what kind of lifestyle you want to have and how much money you will need to sustain it. Once you know what your goals are, you can create a budget to help reach them.

What’s the difference between financial freedom and financial independence?

Financial freedom is being able to live the kind of lifestyle you want without financial strain or stress. Financial independence is having enough income, savings, or investments, to cover your needs without having to rely on a job or paycheck.


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.

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.

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


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

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REITs vs. REIT ETFs: What’s the Difference?

Both real estate investment trusts (REITs) and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that invest in REITs offer some benefits of real estate investing, without having to own any properties directly. The main differences between a real estate ETF vs. REIT lie in how they’re structured, dividend payouts, taxes, and the fees investors might pay to own them.

Also, REITs are considered alternative investments, which means they tend not to move in sync with traditional investments like stocks and bonds.

Key Points

•   REITs and REIT ETFs offer benefits of real estate investing without direct property ownership.

•   Differences between REITs and REIT ETFs include structure, dividend payouts, taxes, and fees.

•   REITs are considered alternative investments and may not move in sync with traditional investments.

•   REITs generate income through rents, while REIT ETFs own a collection of REIT investments.

•   Investors can buy and sell shares of REIT ETFs on stock exchanges, while REITs can be publicly traded, non-traded, or private.

Overview of REITs

A real estate investment trust is a legal entity that owns and operates income-producing properties. REITs can hold a single property type or multiple property types, including:

•   Hotels and resorts

•   Self-storage facilities

•   Warehouses

•   Retail space, including shopping centers

•   Apartment buildings or multi-family homes

•   On-campus housing

•   Assisted living facilities

REITs that own and manage properties typically generate most, if not all, of their income through rents. Some REITs may also invest in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. REITs that invest in mortgages can collect interest on those loans.

There are two conditions to qualify for a REIT. A company must:

•   Derive the bulk of its income and assets from real estate-related activities

•   Pay out at least 90% of dividends to shareholders

Companies that meet these conditions can deduct all of the dividends paid to shareholders from corporate taxable income.

💡 Quick Tip: Alternative investments provide exposure to sectors outside traditional asset classes like stocks, bonds, and cash. Some of the most common types of alt investments include commodities, real estate, foreign currency, private credit, private equity, collectibles, and hedge funds.

Alternative investments,
now for the rest of us.

Start trading funds that include commodities, private credit, real estate, venture capital, and more.


What Is a REIT ETF?

An exchange-traded fund or ETF is a pooled investment vehicle that shares some of the features of a mutual fund but trades on an exchange like a stock. A REIT ETF is an exchange-traded fund that owns a basket or collection of REIT investments.

While REITs own properties, REIT ETFs do not. REIT ETFs have a fund manager who oversees the selection of securities held in the fund. The fund manager also decides when to sell off fund assets, if necessary.

A REIT ETF may be actively or passively managed. Actively managed ETFs often pursue investment strategies that are designed to beat the market. Passively managed ETFs, on the other hand, aim to mimic the performance of an underlying market benchmark or index.

Recommended: What Is a Dividend?

How REIT ETFs Work

REIT ETFs work by allowing investors to gain exposure to a variety of real estate assets in a single investment vehicle. For example, a REIT may hold:

•   Stocks issued by REITs

•   Other real estate stocks

•   Real estate derivatives, such as options, futures, or swaps

Investors can buy shares of a REIT ETF on a stock exchange and sell them the same way. Like other ETFs, REIT ETFs charge an expense ratio that reflects the cost of owning the fund annually. Expense ratios for a REIT ETF, as well as performance, can vary from one fund to the next.

REIT ETFs pay dividends to investors, which may be qualified or non-qualified. The fund may give investors the option to reinvest dividends vs. collecting them as passive income. Reinvesting dividends can allow you to purchase additional shares of a fund, without having to put up any money out of pocket.

A REIT ETF might track the performance of the MSCI US Investable Market Real Estate 25/50 Index, which offers investors access to multiple REIT property sectors, including:

•   Data centers

•   Health care

•   Hotels and resorts

•   Office space

•   Industrial

•   Real estate

•   Retail

•   Telecom

💡 Quick Tip: Before opening an investment account, know your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. These fundamentals will help keep your strategy on track and with the aim of meeting your goals.

What’s the Difference between REITs and REIT ETFs?

REITs and REIT ETFs both offer opportunities to invest in real estate, without requiring investors to be hands-on in managing property. There are, however, some key differences to know when considering whether to invest in a REIT vs. REIT ETF.

Structure

REITs are most often structured as corporations, though they can also be established as partnerships or limited liability companies (LLCs). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires REITs to have a board of directors or trustees who oversee the company’s management. As mentioned, REITs must pay out 90% of dividends to shareholders to deduct those payments from their corporate taxable income.

A REIT may be categorized in one of three ways, depending on what it invests in.

•   Equity REITs own properties that generate rental income.

•   Mortgage REITs focus on mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.

•   Hybrid REITs hold both properties and mortgage investments.

REIT ETFs are structured similarly to mutual funds, in that they hold multiple securities and allow investors to pool funds together to invest in them. The fund manager decides which investments to include and how many securities to invest in overall.

Both REITs and REIT ETFs are structured to pay out dividends to shareholders. And both can generate those dividends through rental income, mortgage interest, or a combination of the two. The difference is that structurally, a REIT ETF is a step removed since it doesn’t own property directly.

Investment Style

REITs and REIT ETFs can take different approaches concerning their investment style. When comparing a REIT vs. REIT ETF, it’s helpful to consider the underlying investments, fund objectives, and management style.

An actively managed REIT, for example, may generate a very different return profile than a passively managed REIT ETF. Active management can potentially result in better returns if the REIT or REIT ETF can beat the market. However, they can also present more risk to investors.

Passive management, on the other hand, typically entails less risk to investors as the goal is to match the performance of an index or market benchmark rather than exceed it. Fees may be lower as well if there are fewer costs incurred to buy and sell securities within the fund.

How They’re Traded

Individual REITs can be publicly traded, public but non-traded, or private. Publicly traded REITs are bought and sold on stock market exchanges and are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Public non-traded REITs are also subject to SEC regulation but they don’t trade on exchanges.

Private REITs, meanwhile, are not required to register with the SEC, nor are they traded on exchanges. These types of REITs are most often traded by institutional or accredited investors and may require higher buy-ins.

REIT ETFs trade on an exchange like a stock. You can buy shares of a REIT or REIT ETF through your brokerage account. If you decide you’re no longer interested in owning those shares you can sell them on an exchange. Unlike traditional mutual funds, share prices for REIT ETFs can fluctuate continuously throughout the day.

The Takeaway

Real estate can be an addition to a portfolio for investors who are interested in alternative investments. Whether it makes sense to choose a real estate ETF vs. REIT, or vice versa, can depend on your short and long-term financial goals, as well as your preferred investment style.

Ready to expand your portfolio's growth potential? Alternative investments, traditionally available to high-net-worth individuals, are accessible to everyday investors on SoFi's easy-to-use platform. Investments in commodities, real estate, venture capital, and more are now within reach. Alternative investments can be high risk, so it's important to consider your portfolio goals and risk tolerance to determine if they're right for you.


Invest in alts to take your portfolio beyond stocks and bonds.

FAQ

Do REIT ETFs pay dividends?

REIT ETFs pay dividends to investors. When considering a REIT ETF for dividends, it’s important to assess whether they’re qualified or non-qualified, as that can have implications for the tax treatment of that income.

What are the risks of investing in REITs?

REITs are not risk-free investments, and their performance can be affected by a variety of factors, including interest rates, shifts in property values, and limited liquidity. In some cases, the dividend payout from a REIT can provide steady returns, but this is not always the case, as real estate conditions can fluctuate.

Do REITs have fees?

REITs can charge a variety of fees, which may include upfront commissions, sales loads, and annual management fees. REIT ETFs, meanwhile, charge expense ratios and you may pay a commission to buy or sell them, depending on which brokerage you choose. Evaluating the fees for a REIT or REIT ETF can help you better understand how much of your returns you’ll get to keep in exchange for owning the investment.


Photo credit: iStock/Maks_Lab

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.


An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of the Fund carefully before investing. This and other important information are contained in the Fund’s prospectus. For a current prospectus, please click the Prospectus link on the Fund’s respective page. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing.
Alternative investments, including funds that invest in alternative investments, are risky and may not be suitable for all investors. Alternative investments often employ leveraging and other speculative practices that increase an investor's risk of loss to include complete loss of investment, often charge high fees, and can be highly illiquid and volatile. Alternative investments may lack diversification, involve complex tax structures and have delays in reporting important tax information. Registered and unregistered alternative investments are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as mutual funds.
Please note that Interval Funds are illiquid instruments, hence the ability to trade on your timeline may be restricted. Investors should review the fee schedule for Interval Funds via the prospectus.

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

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


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


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

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

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