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Law School Scholarships Guide

So, you’ve been accepted to law school — congrats! You’re well on your way to embarking on a career that could help you fight for others’ rights and further the public good.

These are all laudable motivations, but chances are there’s something stronger weighing on you: How to pay for law school? There are a variety of law school scholarships available to help students finance their way to the courtroom.

The Average Cost of Law School

U.S. News & World Report notes that the average annual cost of a public, out-of-state law school is $42,754, or $29,610 for in-state. For private law schools, the average is $53,034. Because students aren’t yet racking up those billable attorney hours, it can be helpful to research law school scholarship opportunities before applying.

Types of Law School Scholarships

Per the numbers mentioned above, there might be a fair amount of sticker shock for those who haven’t yet applied for graduate school and are only thinking of someday going the lawyer route. (Here’s SoFi’s guide on how to apply to law school.) Fortunately, there are a range of options for aspiring attorneys seeking to fund law school.

Full-Ride Tuition Law School Scholarships

In some cases, there are full-ride tuition scholarships and need-based grants out there. Full-rides, of course, are not available at all law schools. If a law school doesn’t explicitly advertise or highlight information regarding full-ride opportunities, interested students can contact the school to ask.

Students deciding whether to apply to law school may want to familiarize themselves with the language universities adopt to explain these scholarships. In some cases, specific scholarships are designated for particular students. Full-ride law school scholarships can be highly competitive — with some schools offering as few as two to four per enrollment year. One potential tip for the search for scholarships is to target law schools with more tuition help.

General Law School Scholarships

There are lots of options for law-school hopefuls to find potential scholarships. The nonprofit organization Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has compiled a list of the many law school scholarships available to applicants.

From the LSAC’s list, the Attorney Ken Nugent Legal Scholarship ($5,000) and the BARBRI Law Preview’s “One Lawyer Can Change the World” Scholarship ($10,000) are worth pinning, due to the sizable chunk of change they offer.

Many law schools themselves offer competitive scholarships to attract stronger candidates. It might be helpful to check if a school also offers in-state residents specific tuition reductions or grants — especially true, if the applicant is considering a public school in their home state.

Law School Scholarships from Law Firms

Similarly, some law firms offer scholarships. Usually applying is a straightforward process: Some may require a short essay, a transcript, and sometimes references to be considered. One such law firm scholarship is offered by The Dominguez Firm, which offers $2,500 annually to a student applicant.

On top of this, there’s the rising trend of law firms helping new hires to repay a portion of their student debt once onboarded.

Diversity Law School Scholarships

Some scholarships are awarded to students with diverse backgrounds. One example of this is the Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund offered by the American Bar Association. This scholarship is awarded to law students from a racial or ethnically diverse background.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund also offers a scholarship for diverse students.

Law School for Women

Some scholarships require candidates to be women. One example of this is the American Association of University Women Selected Professions Fellowship. The fellowship offers a maximum grant of $25,000.

Finding Scholarships for Law School

There are dedicated resources like Fastweb and SoFi’s scholarship search tool to help prospective students find scholarships for which they may qualify. Fastweb is an online resource to help students find scholarships, financial aid, and even part-time jobs in support of college degrees.

The American Bar Association’s law-student division also has a running list (along with deadlines) of law student awards and scholarships. Additionally, the Law School Admission Council offers a list of diversity scholarships available to students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Here’s another guide on unclaimed scholarship money.

Another resource that could be useful in factoring living expenses is this student loan calculator for aspiring law school students. Tools like this can, usually, auto-load the tuition and cost-of-living breakdowns for specific law schools. From here, it’s possible then to compare how much degrees from particular schools may end up costing.

Recommended: Applying to Graduate School: Smart Tips & Strategies 

Negotiating Wiggle Room

Doing all this research and the math around law school scholarships could put applicants in a more informed position when evaluating which program to attend — and, potentially, help them to identify schools more likely to be interested in their application.

A reality of today’s admissions process for law school is negotiating scholarships. Some schools have a strict policy against negotiating, but others fully expect their initial offer to be countered. That’s why it can help to save acceptance letters and anything in writing from schools that offer admission.

Suggestions for Negotiating Law School Scholarship Offers

Offer letters could be shared with competing schools, asking if they’re able to match another university’s aid. It might be uncomfortable asking for more tuition assistance upfront, but a little discomfort now could help applicants shoulder less law school debt later on. If arguing a position makes an applicant uncomfortable, it might be worth pondering whether to become a lawyer.

Doing research on law schools (and figuring out the likely cost-of-living expenses at each institution) could help applicants to determine which scores or grades to aim for in an effort to make law school more affordable for them. Tabulating expenses (and having them on hand) may also demonstrate to universities that the amounts being negotiated are based on well-documented expenses.

Federal vs Private Loans for Law School

Students wanting to apply to law school could consider the differences between federal and private student loans. Federal loans come with certain benefits not guaranteed by private ones (such as, forbearance or income-driven repayment).

Private loans — like SoFi’s — can also help applicants to cover the expense of graduate school. So, it might be a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of both federal and private student loan options for law school.

For example, Direct PLUS loans for grads charge 7.54% in disbursement fees for the 2022-2023 academic year. SoFi Graduate Student Loans, by comparison, have no fees whatsoever — not even late or overdraft fees. Another great resource in understanding federal loans can be found over at studentaid.gov.

It’s important to note that private student loans don’t offer the same benefits and protections afforded to federal student loan borrowers, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). If a law school applicant is interested eventually in becoming a public defender or pursuing non-profit legal work, forgiveness and forbearance perks may play a role in their decision.

In addition to the financial aid resources mentioned above, more information can be found in SoFi’s private student loan guide. Those interested in figuring out how to pay for law school may want to check out SoFi’s competitive-rate private law school and MBA loans.

The Takeaway

Students looking to offset law school costs with scholarships can look to their law school, scholarship databases, local law firms and other organizations for resources. Consider contacting the financial aid office at your law school if you are looking for scholarship resources. If students interested in law school find themselves coming up short on funds for the JD after scholarships or federal aid, additional options may be available.

Some might seek out a student loan from a private lender, to name one possibility. SoFi’s private loans for law school offer competitive rates, flexible repayment options, and access to member benefits.

You can check your rates in just three minutes to see if a SoFi Law School Loan might help you pursue that dream of becoming a lawyer.

Learn more about private student loans for law school with SoFi.

FAQ

What LSAT score will get me a scholarship?

One general rule of thumb is that students who have a LSAT score (and sometimes GPA) above the median for a certain school. Chances of qualifying for a scholarship are even greater if your score falls in the 75th percentile for the school.

What is a good scholarship for law school?

Any scholarship for law school is a good scholarship. Scholarships typically don’t need to be repaid and can help reduce a student’s debt burden. Students looking for law school scholarships can apply for institutional aid and aid through other sources like nonprofit organizations.

Do top law schools give scholarships?

While some top law schools do not offer scholarships, many law schools do offer law school scholarships to students. For example, in the 2021-2022 class at Yale, 76% of students qualified for some form of financial aid and 64% qualified for an institutional law school scholarship. Check in directly with the schools you are interested in to see if they offer scholarships to students.


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Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
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.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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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Financial Planning Tips for Freelancers

Managing Your Money as a Freelancer

In this era of the Gig Economy, side hustles, and entrepreneurship, many people are freelancers. Working this way can offer flexibility and unlimited earning potential, for sure, but it can also bring a learning curve when it comes to managing your money. Financial planning for freelancers means knowing how to handle things like tracking income and expenses, planning for taxes, and investing for retirement.

Mastering freelance money management can take some time and focus, but it’s a worthwhile pursuit if it helps you to achieve your financial goals. The better you understand how to manage finances as a freelancer, the easier it can be to get ahead.

To help get on the right path, read on to learn, among other topics:

•   Why financial planning is important for freelancers

•   How to create a budget as a freelancer

•   How to track cash flow

•   How to separate business and personal expenses

What Is a Freelancer?

A freelancer is someone who gets paid to complete work on a per-job basis. Freelancers are independent contractors, not employees. A freelancer can work with multiple clients on a contract basis, performing a variety of tasks.

Why does understanding this definition matter for freelance money management? It’s important because freelancers are not entitled to the same financial perks as hourly or salaried employees.

As a freelancer, you’re responsible for handling things like retirement planning, health insurance, and taxes yourself. You also won’t have paid vacations and holidays the way employees do, which may factor into your cash flow and money management planning.

Why Financial Planning Is Important

What is financial planning? Financial planning is the process of creating a plan for managing your money. A financial plan can include both short-term and long-term goals and the steps you’ll need to take to achieve them. For example, your financial plan might include a strategy for paying off student loans or saving money toward a down payment on a home.

Financial planning for freelancers is important because you’re in charge of deciding what happens with your money. Learning how to manage finances as a freelancer can help you to:

•   Create a workable budget, even if you have irregular income

•   Formulate a plan for saving for retirement

•   Stay on top of your tax obligations

•   Streamline expenses so you can avoid debt

•   Plan for emergencies or unexpected costs

Planning can be a pathway to good financial health. And it’s an opportunity to develop positive habits and improve your money mindset, both of which can benefit you throughout your freelance career.

11 Tips for Financially Planning as a Freelancer

If you’re new to freelance money management, you may not know where to start or what you even need to be doing. Having a blueprint to follow can make it easier to develop a workable plan for managing money. Here are some essential steps to include in your financial plan if you have a freelance mindset.

1. Having and Maintaining a Budget

A budget is a plan for spending the money you make each month. If you want to be better with money as a freelancer, then creating and sticking to a budget is non-negotiable. It will help you both understand and optimize your finances.

When making a freelancer budget, start with income first. If your income is irregular, it can help to create an average as your baseline. So you’d add up all the money you made from freelancing over the past 12 months, for instance, then divide by 12 to arrive at a monthly average income.

You can then plan out your expenses (more on that in a minute), using that average as your baseline. You’ll tally how much money flows out for necessities every month, and see how much profit you are making.

When you have higher-income months, you can stash extra money in savings to help cover expenses in months when income is lower. You’ll also want to put money towards savings for an emergency fund and retirement (more details below).

2. Giving Yourself a Consistent Paycheck

When you freelance, there’s no such thing as a weekly or biweekly paycheck. Instead, you might get paid on different dates each month, depending on how your clients handle payments.

That can lead to uncertainty about when to pay bills. You can avoid that issue by giving yourself a consistent paycheck on a regular schedule. So you might pay yourself a set amount on the 1st and 15th of each month, for example.

To do that, you might need to set aside enough money to cover one month’s worth of bills in your checking account first. That way, you can pay yourself according to the schedule you set without having to worry about overdrawing your bank account.

3. Keeping Track of Your Expenses

Tracking expenses is central to managing money better as a freelancer, especially if you’re worried about going over budget. It’s important to keep tabs on both your personal expenses and your business expenses so you know how much you’re spending each month. When adding up your business expenses, be thorough: Do you rent an office? If so, don’t forget about the electrical bill and any cleaning services as expenses.

Also track the costs of legal fees, insurance, website hosting and any online advertising you may do. Some of these charges can be billed annually, and you may lose sight of them since they don’t recur.

Keeping up with business spending also matters from a tax perspective. There are a number of tax deductible expenses for freelancers that can help to reduce your tax bill.

For example, you might be able to write off marketing expenses if you maintain a website for your business or claim an office at home tax deduction. Having a paper trail to back up those deductions is a good thing if the IRS targets you for an audit.

4. Timing Your Freelance Projects

Staying booked and busy is every freelancer’s dream since no work means no income. Timing your freelance projects can help to keep your income and cash flow consistent, so that you’re not struggling to stay on top of the bills. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you might set deadlines to allow yourself enough time to invoice for your work (and get paid) before certain bills come due.

There’s another dimension to timing to consider as well. It’s important to think about how much time it will take to complete a project when setting rates. Underestimating the amount of time involved could cause you to shortchange yourself when quoting rates to clients. A good rule of thumb is to assume that any project will take 20% to 50% longer than you think it will. Then base your rates on that higher number.

Recommended: Ways to Make Money on Social Media

5. Paying Down Your Debt

Debt can be a stumbling block to getting ahead financially as a freelancer. If you have student loans, a credit card balance, or other debt, it’s to your advantage to create a plan for paying them off as quickly as possible.

If your income is irregular, your budget should be designed to ensure that your most important living expenses are paid first. You can then decide how much room you have left in your budget to commit to debt repayment.

Also, consider ways to make your debt less expensive. Refinancing student loans, for example, can help you to get a lower rate and monthly payment, which can ease budget strain. You can also consolidate credit card debt with a better APR (annual percentage rate) or even a rate of 0% with a balance-transfer offer. This can help you save on interest and pay off your debt.

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6. Separating Business and Personal Expenses

Keeping business and personal spending separate is a good idea for a few reasons. It makes it easier to create budgets for personal expenses and business expenses, so you know what you’re spending on each one. And you may encounter fewer headaches at tax time when trying to claim freelance tax deductions if business expenses are separate.

Opening a business bank account is a simple way to separate your spending each month. You can link it to your personal checking account in order to pay yourself your regular paycheck. You may also consider opening a separate business credit card to cover freelancing expenses if you can afford to pay the bill in full each month and avoid interest charges.

7. Investing in Insurance

As a freelancer, you don’t have access to employer-sponsored health insurance. So if you want to get covered, you’ll need to purchase a policy yourself. Self-employed individuals, including freelancers, can buy health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

When comparing health insurance plans, pay attention to:

•   Premiums

•   Deductibles

•   Copays and coinsurance

•   Coverage limits

You may also consider applying for health insurance through Medicaid if you have little to no income or financial resources. Eligibility for Medicaid is based on your income, household size, and assets. You can apply through your local department of social services.

In addition to health insurance, you may also want to look into insurance for your business. Liability insurance, for example, can protect you against claims arising from copyright infringement, libel, or defamation. That type of insurance can come in handy if you’re sued.

8. Having an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is money that you set aside for unexpected expenses; say, a major car repair or medical bill. As a freelancer, an emergency fund can be invaluable if your work assignments dry up or you get sick and are unable to work temporarily.

In terms of how much to save for emergencies, three to six months’ worth of expenses is a commonly-used rule of thumb. But you might want to double or even triple that amount if your freelance income is irregular or you’re worried about a sustained client drought.

Keeping your emergency fund in an online savings account can be a great option if you want to earn a solid rate on your money. The interest (or annual percent yield, or APY) tends to be higher than what bricks-and-mortar banks offer. Online savings accounts can also charge fewer fees than traditional savings accounts.

9. Accounting for Taxes

Freelancing means you don’t have an employer taking out taxes from your paychecks. So you’ll have to handle taxes yourself.

Generally speaking, the IRS requires you to file an annual tax return and pay estimated quarterly taxes if you expect to owe $1,000 or more for the year. Quarterly taxes are essentially an advance payment against the amount of tax you’ll likely owe for the year.

Estimated taxes are due four times a year, typically:

•   April 15 (1st payment)

•   June 15 (2nd payment)

•   September 15 (3rd payment)

•   January 15 of the following year (4th payment)

Failing to make those payments on time can trigger penalties. If your state collects income tax, you’ll also need to make estimated payments to your state revenue agency.

You can use an online tax calculator to gauge how much you’ll need to pay for estimated taxes each quarter. It may be helpful to set up a separate business checking account or savings account to hold the money for those payments. As your clients pay invoices, you can allocate part of each payment to your tax account.

If filing taxes as a freelancer seems overwhelming, consider talking to an accountant or another tax pro. A tax expert can help you figure out how much to set aside for taxes and how to maximize deductions in order to lower your tax bill. You may be surprised to learn about some business tax credits you didn’t know about.

10. Investing Your Money

Investing is key to building wealth since it allows you to take advantage of the power of compounding interest. If you already have an emergency fund in place, the next step in freelance money managing is creating an investment portfolio.

You can start with a retirement account if you don’t already have one. Freelancers can use traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and solo 401(k) plans to save for retirement. Each of these plans can offer a tax-advantaged way to save for the future. You can supplement your retirement savings with investments in a taxable brokerage account.

When investing as a freelancer, consider your risk tolerance and how much you have to invest, based on your budget. You may need to start with a small monthly amount, but you can build on that over time. And the most important thing is to start saving and then be consistent with your investment strategy.

11. Taking Advantage of Resources

Financial planning as a freelancer can be easier when you have the right tools and resources. For instance, some of the things you might consider incorporating into your plan include:

•   Budgeting apps

•   Tax management apps

•   Online bank accounts for freelancers

•   Investment apps

You can also search online for resources to help with things like insurance and tax planning.

Managing Finances With SoFi

Between managing deadlines, tracking invoices, and keeping up with client needs, freelancing can be demanding. Finding ways to simplify money management as a freelancer can save you valuable time and money.

Opening a SoFi bank account can make keeping up with personal spending and saving less stressful. Our Checking and Savings keeps your money in one convenient place, without the high fees that other banks charge. And you can earn a great rate on deposits to help you grow your money faster.

With no account fees and up to 2.50% APY, you’ll earn more interest in one week than you would in one year in a big bank’s checking or savings account — so you can get the most out of your money.

FAQ

How is freelancing paid?

Freelancers can get paid in a number of ways, depending on their clients’ preferences. For example, clients can send payments through PayPal, Stripe, direct deposit, or paper checks. When negotiating a freelance contract with a new client, it’s important to understand how and when you’ll be paid for the work you perform. In some professions, it can be typical for clients to take 30 days or longer to pay invoices.

Do you need insurance if you are a part-time freelancer?

If you freelance part-time while working a full-time job, you may be covered by a policy from your main employer. But if you have no insurance coverage at all, it could make sense to buy a policy for yourself through the healthcare marketplace. You may also want to look into buying separate liability insurance for your business.

What are some good freelancer jobs?

There are lots of ways to make money as a freelancer. Some of the highest-paying freelance gigs can include copywriting, graphic design, and editing. There are also a variety of freelance jobs that may be desirable because you can set your own hours, such as driving an Uber.


Photo credit: iStock/StefaNikolic

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
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.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.50% annual percentage yield (APY) on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for 2.50% APY. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.50% APY is current as of 09/30/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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.
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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Is a $20,000 Salary Good?

Is a $20,000 Salary Good?

While there’s no official guideline on what makes a salary “good,” a $20,000 salary is not typically enough for a household to live comfortably in most parts of the United States. Certainly, each person’s situation is unique in terms of their assets and expenses, but an individual making $20K a year may have a hard time making ends meet. They might need to rely on assistance from family, friends, and/or the government to afford basic necessities.

A $20,000 salary puts a single person above the poverty threshold for 2022. An individual supporting themselves plus two or more people on $20K a year, however, will live below the poverty threshold. With the record-high inflation we’ve seen in 2022, affording basic needs on a $20,000 salary is becoming even more challenging.

So is $20K a year good? While a $20,000 salary averages out to more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour for full-time work, it is likely not an adequate income for anyone living independently and especially those with a family. In this piece, we’ll cover:

•   The current American median income.

•   Is $20K a year good?

•   A breakdown of a $20,000 salary.

•   The best and worst places to live on $20,000.

•   Tips for living on $20K a year.

Factors to Determine if a $20,000 Salary Is Good

A $20,000 salary will be challenging for anyone to live on, but a few factors may determine if it can be done — or if it’s impossible:

•   Taxes: If you are filing singly, a $20,000 salary will put you at the 12% federal income tax bracket. You may owe additional taxes for your state, city, and/or school district. For the sake of example, assume a flat 15%. That means, although you make $20,000, you only bring home $17,000 after taxes.

•   Family size: Single individuals without children can make $20,000 stretch more easily. Two or more people living off a $20,000 salary will face more challenges.

•   Location: Money goes further in some places more than others. If you live in an area with a low cost of living, a $20,000 salary may be more manageable. But if you live in a popular city, $20,000 a year may not even cover rent.

•   Debt: If you have debt, it can be more challenging to allocate your limited money to basic necessities and important financial goals, like an emergency savings fund. If you are dealing with high-interest debt (say, trying to lower your credit card debt), you probably know how quickly this debt can grow when you are only paying the minimum amount due.

How Does a $20,000 Salary Compare to the American Median Income?

After the 2020 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the median household income was just over $67,500. More recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the number has gone down; the median weekly income for a full-time worker is $1,037, which comes out to about $54K a year.

Either way, $20,000 is far below either estimate for a median income. If you earn $20,000 and have a domestic partner or spouse who earns additional income, your salaries together might get you closer to the median income level.

$20,000 Salary Breakdown

Again, no judgment here: It’s not a matter of if a $20,000 salary is good or bad. It’s a number, albeit at the lower end of the earning spectrum. To someone just out of high school, $20K a year might look like a good entry-level salary. But anyone who has handled monthly bills like rent and utilities will likely recognize that a $20,000 salary may be insufficient. This year’s rising inflation makes living on $20,000 even more of a challenge.

Here’s how a $20,000 annual salary breaks down:

•   Monthly income: $1,666.66

•   Biweekly paycheck: $769.23

•   Weekly income: $384.62

•   Daily income: $76.92 based on working 260 days a year

•   Hourly income: $9.62 based on working 2,080 hours a year

These estimates do not account for taxes. In the example above, a $20,000 salary may shrink to $17,000 after Uncle Sam has taken his cut.

Recommended: Is Making $100K a Year Good?

Can You Live Individually on a $20,000 Income?

It is possible to live individually on a $20,000 income, but you will likely only be able to afford the items on your basic living expenses list if you aren’t able to supplement your income. Living comfortably — with easy access to good health care (including mental health), balanced nutrition, safe housing, and efficient transportation — may be far more challenging on $20,000 a year.

If you make $20,000 a year, you might be able to minimize monthly expenses by looking for government assistance, getting a roommate or moving in with family, cooking at home, and using an online bank account with a high interest rate and automatic savings features.

Recommended: Typical Monthly Expenses for a Single Person

How Much Rent Can You Afford Living on a $20,000 Income?

Wondering how much you can afford to spend on rent? Researchers have long argued that you should spend no more than 30% of your income on housing. With rising inflation and increasing rent prices, however, that’s not always possible.

If you were to stick to the 30% rule (and forget about income taxes for the sake of the example), that means you can spend $6,000 a year on rent, or $500 a month. But earlier this year, the median cost of rent in the U.S. surpassed $2,000 a month for the first time, marking a 15% year-over-year increase. That’s four times what you could afford on $20K a year.

To afford rent on a $20,000 salary, it’s a good idea to live in a place with a very low cost of living and to have one or more roommates who can help share living expenses of rent and utilities with you. Moving in with family is also a solution if you cannot afford rent on your salary.

Best Places to Live on a $20,000 Salary

If you are making $20,000 a year (or $9.62 an hour), it might be a good idea to explore cities and states cost of living and look for those that are cheapest.

These are the five least expensive cities to live in 2022, per U.S. News:

•   Hickory, North Carolina

•   Green Bay, Wisconsin

•   Huntsville, Alabama

•   Quad Cities (Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline-Rock Island, Illinois)

•   Fort Wayne, Indiana

Living outside a city altogether is usually more affordable. Consider a rural location in one of these five cheapest states to live in:

•   Mississippi

•   Kansas

•   Oklahoma

•   Alabama

•   Arkansas

Worst Places to Live on a $20,000 Salary

On the flip side, there are some major cities that are exorbitantly expensive to live in. If possible, it’s a good idea to avoid living in the following locations when you are living on $20,000 a year:

•   Los Angeles, California

•   Miami, Florida

•   San Diego, California

•   Salinas, California

•   Santa Barbara, California

California cities clearly carry a high cost of living, but other states are also expensive. If you have a $20,000 annual salary, it’s a good idea to steer clear of any of the five most expensive states to live in:

•   Hawaii

•   New York

•   California

•   Massachusetts

•   Oregon

Is a $20,000 Salary Considered Poverty?

A $20,000 salary is above the poverty line for an individual or a couple, but if you are a family of three or more people living on a $20,000 salary, the government considers you to be below the poverty line.

These numbers do not consider factors like variable cost of living. A localized poverty line could be more telling, especially if you live in a place with a high cost of living. If you are, say, living in a pricey city and earning $20,000 a year, you might be feeling the financial pinch more.

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Tips for Living on a $20,000 Budget

While advocating for a higher salary can infuse your line item budget with more funds, it’s not a good idea to wait for your employer to dole out raises. Taking other steps now may make it easier to live on your $20,000 salary.

Finding Out What Assistance You Qualify For

If you are making $20,000 or less, you may qualify for government assistance. Here are a few actions to consider taking:

•   Work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for assistance with rent, including the Section 8 program.

•   Determine if you are eligible for assistance with grocery bills through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

•   Research the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help with utilities.

•   Lower your phone bill through the Lifeline Modernization Order .

•   See if you are eligible for free or low-cost health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Coming Up With a Housing Plan

If you do not qualify for rental assistance from the government, you may need to come up with another plan to avoid high rent costs. Roommates can be a good way to keep rent low.

Alternatively, family and friends may be willing to offer free lodging while you save money. While it can be hard to lean on others in this way, it can be a form of financial self-care to do so until you are able to be out on your own. If you do move in with a loved one, just remember to be helpful around the house and chip in with utilities and groceries if you’re able.

Cutting Costs

After reducing your largest cost (rent), it may be possible to remove even more items from your budget. For example, a car payment, gas, and car insurance can be costly monthly expenses. If you live in an area with great public transportation or are comfortable walking and riding a bike, you may be able to get around without owning your own vehicle.

Other costs you might be able to cut include streaming services, gym memberships, and bills from dining out.

Getting on a Budget

After finding low-cost housing and cutting out unnecessary expenses, it’s a good idea to make a monthly budget that accounts for your post-tax income and your monthly expenses.

Not sure how to budget on a $20K salary? Taking care of all necessary bills (housing, utilities, groceries) is the perfect first step. Once you’ve accounted for those monthly expenses, see how much you can allocate to paying down debt or building your savings.

Recommended: How to Save Money From Your Salary

Avoiding the Wrong Kinds of Debt

Taking on debt is often necessary — when buying a house, purchasing a car, or even going to college. But when you make a low salary and struggle to pay the bills, it can be tempting to take out a payday loan or overuse a high-interest credit card.

When possible, it’s a good idea to avoid high-interest loans. In fact, instead of taking on more credit card debt, you may be able to take control of your bad debt by applying for a debt consolidation loan. These are typically personal loans that charge an interest rate that is significantly lower than your credit cards’ rates (which are hovering between 15% and 19% these days). You use the loan to pay off the cards and then you work to eliminate the personal loan.

You might also meet with a counselor from a nonprofit debt counseling organization like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC .

Recommended: Debt Repayment Strategies

Supplementing Your Basic Income

You might also consider ways to bring in more income to pump up your spending power. This could include seeing if additional hours are available at your primary workplace as well as taking on a seasonal part-time job or starting a side hustle. These are all ways to use some of your leisure time to bump up your income.

The Takeaway

A $20,000 is usually not enough for a family to live on, and it may be difficult for individuals to get by on this salary too. It may be wise to research government assistance, look for roommates to lower housing costs, and build (and stick to) a monthly budget that prioritizes paying down debt and building an emergency savings. These steps can help you live on a $20,000 annual income.

When you’re earning a lower income, it can be wise to keep your money where it can grow faster. When you open an online banking account with SoFi, we can be your partner in reaching that goal. Our Checking and Savings account has no monthly fees and, even better, earns a competitive 2.50% APY when you sign up with direct deposit. Members also get up to 15% cash back when shopping local and have a suite of budgeting and saving tools at their disposal. Plus, eligible accounts can benefit from no-fee overdraft coverage and paycheck access up to two days early.

Put your money to work for you with a SoFi bank account.

FAQ

Can you live comfortably on $20,000 a year?

It can be difficult for an individual to live comfortably on $20,000 a year. With the right assistance from friends, family, and the government, however, it may be possible to meet basic needs. Families will face more challenges living off $20,000 a year.

What can I afford making $20K a year?

A $20,000 salary leaves room in your budget for the most basic expenses: rent, utilities, transportation, and groceries. Even then, getting government assistance and a roommate might be necessary for managing monthly expenses on $20K a year.

Is $20,000 a year middle class?

Pew Research considers middle class to be $56,000 to $156,000 for families of three. Thus, a family of three on $20,000 is not middle-class; it’s actually below the poverty level. While an individual on $20,000 a year is not below the poverty line, they are still not considered middle-class.


Photo credit: iStock/svetikd

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.
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.50% annual percentage yield (APY) on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for 2.50% APY. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.50% APY is current as of 09/30/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Is $100,000 a Year Salary Good?

Is a $100,000 Salary Good?

In most parts of the country, a $100,000 salary is considered good; maybe even very, very good. It can be more than enough for an individual or even a small family to live comfortably. With $100,000 a year, a person could cover typical expenses, pay down debt, build their savings, contribute toward retirement, invest, and still have enough money for entertainment, hobbies, and vacations.

But there can certainly be exceptions to whether $100K a year is good, as well as ways to make that salary go even farther than it might otherwise. Here, we’ll take a closer look at this salary, including:

•   How a $100K salary compares to the median American income

•   What percentage of people make $100,000 annually

•   How a $100K salary breaks down

•   What are the best and worst places to live on $100K a year

•   Tips for living on $100,000 per year.

Factors to Determine if a $100,000 Salary Is Good

Is $100K a good salary? In almost every case, yes. It’s well above the poverty line as well as the American median income for both individuals and smaller families. Even in the face of rising inflation, a $100,000 annual income can typically afford a comfortable lifestyle and financial stability.

Here are some factors to determine if $100,000 is a good salary:

•   Location: While $100K can cover expenses in most places across the U.S., it won’t stretch as far in places with a higher cost of living. In some of the most expensive cities in the U.S., a $100K salary might mean spending a significantly higher percentage of your income on housing. For instance, in the summer of 2022, the average rent in Manhattan hit $5,000 a month.

•   Taxes: As an individual, $100K a year puts you in the 24% federal income tax bracket. That means that you’d only bring home $76,000 after federal taxes — even less depending on state, city, and school district taxes. Married individuals bringing in $100,000 total are taxed slightly lower (22%), meaning $78,000 after Uncle Sam’s cut at the federal level.

•   Family size: A $100K a year salary can yield comfortable living for most individuals, but the larger a family becomes, the harder it is to make that money stretch. Additional children or other dependents may result in higher grocery bills, utility usage, school costs, and doctor visits.

How Does a $100,000 Salary Compare to the American Median Income?

The American median household income is roughly $67,500, per the latest published U.S. Census results. More recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median weekly income for a full-time worker is $1,037, which translates to a $54,000 median annual salary.

Either way, a $100,000 salary is almost double the American median income. If you live in what’s known as a DINK household (dual income, no kids) and your domestic partner also brings home a sizable paycheck, you are sitting even higher above that median household income.

Recommended: Typical Bills for One Person Per Month

What Percentage of Americans Make Over $100,000 Annually?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 15.3% of American households pull in more than $100,000 annually. However, a “household” might consist of two or more salaries totaling $100,000.

$100,000 Salary Breakdown

So is making $100K a year good? It’s almost surely easier than living on $20K a year. Let’s look at how it breaks down into monthly, weekly, and even daily pay:

•   Monthly income: $8,333.33

•   Biweekly paycheck: $3,846.15

•   Weekly income: $1,923.08

•   Daily income: $384.62 based on 260 working days per year.

Keep in mind that this salary breakdown uses pre-tax income. Actual paychecks will likely be lower after taxes and any health insurance premiums and retirement contributions are deducted.

Can You Live Individually on a $100,000 Income?

It is indeed possible to live individually on a $100,000 income. At that salary, many individuals will be able to cover not only basic living expenses but also discretionary expenses, like dining out and traveling.

Individuals making $100K annually often have enough disposable income to pay down debt, contribute to retirement, work toward multiple savings goals (like home ownership and vacations), and even invest.

Ready for a Better Banking Experience?

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How Much Rent Can You Afford Living on a $100,000 Income?

The conventional advice on how much of your income to spend on housing is no more than 30%. While economists may need to reevaluate that number given current inflation and soaring housing prices, that would mean an individual could afford $30,000 in rent costs each year, or roughly $2,500 a month, on $100K a year.

However, at $100,000 a year, an individual could consider buying a home instead. A $100K salary might make it easier to save for a down payment and keep up with maintenance expenses, property taxes, and homeowners insurance.

Best Places to Live on a $100,000 Salary

At $100,000 a year, an individual or small family can likely live in most locations. In fact, $100,000 is higher than the annual median income ($65,290) of America’s most expensive city, Los Angeles.

That said, if you want to make your dollars stretch as far as possible, consider what U.S. News has deemed the five cheapest cities to live in 2022:

•   Hickory, North Carolina

•   Green Bay, Wisconsin

•   Huntsville, Alabama

•   Quad Cities (Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline-Rock Island, Illinois)

•   Fort Wayne, Indiana

Recommended: Cost of Living by State

Worst Places to Live on a $100,000 Salary

A $100,000 salary can typically afford at least basic living expenses even in America’s most expensive cities. However, living in such places can make it harder to build your savings and invest toward your future.

If you want to live comfortably on $100,000 a year, it may be wise to avoid what have been deemed America’s most expensive cities in 2022:

•   Los Angeles, California

•   Miami, Florida

•   San Diego, California

•   Salinas, California

•   Santa Barbara, California

Is a $100,000 Salary Considered Rich?

Many people may consider a $100,000 salary to be rich. However, “rich” is a relative term with a vague definition, meaning an abundance of wealth and assets. Much of it depends on where you live and how you use the income (spending vs. saving vs. investing).

Also, consider how personal circumstances can differ. If you earn $100K a year and your spouse doesn’t work outside the home and you are supporting three children as well as a relative with medical needs, that high salary may not stretch as far. Add some student loans, a jumbo mortgage, and car payments to the picture, and you realize a person earning $100,000 a year might not qualify as rich in most people’s estimation. They may be barely making ends meet.

Tips for Living off a $100,000 Budget

How can you make the most of a $100,000 salary? Here are a few tips for living off a $100,000 budget:

Getting on a Budget

No matter your salary, it’s a good idea to design a monthly budget. At a minimum, keep track of your monthly expenses vs. your monthly income. After you have accounted for all your mandatory expenses, like your mortgage and your groceries, you can calculate what you have left for discretionary expenses (the “wants” in life), savings, debt repayment, and investments.

Saving Your Money

It’s a good idea to have emergency savings at the very least; being able to cover three to six months’ of expenses without any income flowing in is ideal.

Beyond an emergency savings, you may want to allocate money in your budget each month to other savings goals, including a house or car down payment, wedding, vacation, or home renovations. Having a high-interest savings account with automatic savings features can help you get to your goal faster.

Recommended: How to Save Money From Your Salary

Getting Out of Debt

Paying down debt can be a good use of funds when you have room in your budget, especially if you have particularly high-interest credit card debt. You can weigh options like the debt avalanche vs. debt snowball method when you have multiple sources of debt or even consider a credit card debt consolidation loan.

Creating a Retirement Plan

If you’re wondering “When should I start saving for retirement?” many financial experts would likely say the answer is “yesterday.” The sooner you start saving, the sooner your money can grow via compound interest.

If your employer offers a 401(k) match and you can afford to funnel a percentage of your paycheck into a retirement account, it’s often a wise idea to opt in. But employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts aren’t your only retirement option. Depending on your situation, it may be a good idea to take advantage of a rollover or traditional IRA and other retirement strategies.

Investing Your Money

Investing isn’t only for retirement. If you are earning $100K a year and have extra money after having built up emergency savings and wiped out your debt, you might benefit from investing in the stock market or even real estate.

Learning how to invest can be intimidating; if you’re not sure where to start, it can be a good idea to work with a trusted investment broker.

The Takeaway

For most individuals and small families, the answer to “Is $100,000 a good salary?” is a resounding “yes.” Cost of living and family size can affect how far $100,000 will go, but generally speaking, you can live comfortably on $100,000 a year.

Are you hoping to make the most of your salary? Consider a high interest bank account like SoFi’s Checking and Savings account. When opened with direct deposit, you’ll earn a hyper competitive 2.50% APY and pay no monthly account fees, which can help your money grow faster. Plus, eligible SoFi accounts provide paycheck access up to two days early. You enjoy other rewards, like cash back on local purchases and no-fee overdraft coverage up to $50 too.

Bank smarter with SoFi.

FAQ

What jobs pay over $100,000?

Many jobs pay over $100,000 a year in various fields. These jobs include doctors, lawyers, software engineers, business leaders, pharmacists, psychologists, IT managers, finance managers, and many others. Those in creative fields, from writers to hair stylists, can earn that salary, too.

Is making $100,000 a year common?

Making $100,000 a year is not common in the U.S. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 15.3% of American households make more than $100,000.

Can you live comfortably on $100K a year?

Most people can live comfortably on $100K a year. If you live in an area with a high cost of living and/or have a large family or very high expenses and/or debt, it may be more difficult to live comfortably on $100K a year. In either case, it is usually not challenging to afford basic living expenses.

What is considered wealthy in the U.S.?

Americans said in one survey that they believe it takes a net worth of $2.2 million to be considered “wealthy.” When calculating net worth, you’ll factor in more than just income; it also includes assets (like a house and retirement account), less any debts and liabilities.


Photo credit: iStock/Inside Creative House

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.
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.50% annual percentage yield (APY) on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for 2.50% APY. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.50% APY is current as of 09/30/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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How to Roll Over Your 401(k)

It’s pretty easy to rollover your old 401(k) retirement savings to an IRA, a new 401(k), or another option — yet millions of workers either forget to rollover their hard-won retirement savings, or they lose track of the accounts.

According to a 2021 study by Capitalize, some 24 million 401(k) accounts seem to be forgotten or “lost”, with an average balance of about $55,000 in these dormant accounts.

Given that a 401(k) rollover just takes a couple of hours and, these days, minimal paperwork, it makes sense to know the basics so you can rescue your 401(k), roll it over to a new account, and add to your future financial security.

How Does Rolling Over Your 401(k) Work?

Many people wonder how to rollover a 401(k) when they leave their jobs. First, you need to know the difference between a transfer and a rollover.

A transfer is when you move funds between two identical types of retirement accounts. For example, if a person moves money from an old 401(k) to a new 401(k), a traditional IRA to another traditional IRA, or from an old Roth IRA to a new Roth IRA — that’s a transfer. It’s the most direct way to move funds from one tax-advantaged account to another.

A rollover is when you move money between two different types of retirement accounts. For example: You might rollover a 401(k) to an IRA.

💡 Recommended: What Is an IRA and How Does It Work?

Bear in mind, rollover accounts can be different, but must have the same tax treatment. You can’t rollover a tax-deferred traditional 401(k) to a Roth IRA without doing some kind of Roth conversion.

Steps to Roll Over Your 401(k)

Here are the basic steps, with more detail to follow:

1.    Decide whether you want to roll it over to an IRA (a common option); transfer the funds to another employer’s 401(k); or set up an account like a self-directed IRA.

2.    Set up the rollover account. Remember that rollovers have to be apples to apples in terms of tax treatment: a tax-deferred 401(k) to a traditional IRA; a Roth 401(k) to a Roth IRA.

3.    Contact your former employer or 401(k) plan sponsor to initiate the rollover. (Depending on which rollover option you choose, the process or paperwork may be slightly different.)

4.    Generally, the funds are sent to you in a check although they can be wired to a rollover IRA at a new institution, for example. Either way, you have 60 days to deposit the funds in another tax-deferred account, or you will owe taxes on the money and possibly a penalty.

Benefits of Rolling Over Your 401(k)

Once you understand how to roll over a 401(k), it’s easy to understand what the advantages are. First and foremost, by doing a rollover, you ensure that you are in charge of your retirement funds (which is important, after years of investing in your 401(k)).

Other pros include:

•   Your investment account costs will likely be lower once you do a rollover, because leaving your savings in your old 401(k) when you’re no longer an employee means you may pay higher account management fees. Fees matter, and can substantially reduce your savings over time.

•   You may have more investment choices. Typically, when you do a rollover from a 401(k) to an IRA at a new institution, your investment options increase which might improve portfolio returns and could further reduce fees.

•   If you don’t want a self-directed portfolio, where you choose the investments in your rollover, you may be able to choose a robo-advisor or automated portfolio so there’s less for you to manage.

•   If you have more than one 401(k) from various jobs, you can consolidate them as part of the rollover process.

Disadvantages of Rolling Over a 401(k)

Since you want to avoid retirement mistakes, it’s also important to consider some of the reasons why a rollover may not be the best idea.

•   First, if you have a lot of appreciated company stock, you may be able to pay a lower tax rate on the gains if you transfer the stock to a brokerage account.

•   While a rollover account at a different institution may provide more investment options, if you keep your 401(k) where it is, you may be able to buy investments at the cheaper institutional rate.

•   If you do a rollover, you may lose some of the federal legal protections that come with 401(k) plans. For example, the money in your 401(k) is typically protected from creditors or collections, whereas the money in an IRA is shielded by state laws, which can vary.

•   In some cases, your employer may allow you to withdraw funds from your 401(k) without paying the usual 10% penalty, if you are 55 or older when you leave your job.

Pros and Cons of Doing a 401(k) Rollover

Pros

Cons

Potentially lower investment fees, which can impact savings over time.If you have company stock in your 401(k), it might save on taxes if you transfer the stock to a brokerage rather than doing a rollover.
More investment choices; more control over your portfolio.Investment options may cost less in a 401(k) vs. an IRA.
The option to switch to a robo advisor if you prefer an automated approach.Keeping your 401(k) may offer legal protection from creditors or collections.
Ability to consolidate accounts.Keeping your money in your 401(k) could give you penalty-free access before age 59 ½ vs. an IRA.

When Is a Good Time to Roll Over a 401(k)?

Once you know how to roll over a 401(k), and you’ve decided that’s your next step, doing it as soon as you leave your job is likely the best time. But you can generally do a rollover any time. It’s your money. If you decide to do the rollover five years after leaving your job, that’s a better time than never.

That said, if you have a low balance in your 401(k) account — for example, less than $5,000 — your employer might require you to do a rollover. And if you have a balance lower than $1,000, your employer may have the right to cash it out. Be sure to check the exact terms with your employer.

In most instances, you have 60 days from the date you receive an IRA or 401(k) distribution to then roll it over into a new qualified plan. If you wait longer than 60 days to deposit the money, it will trigger tax consequences, and possibly a penalty. One rollover per year is allowed under the rules.

5 Things You Can Do With Your Old 401(k)

If you’re still asking yourself, But how do I rollover my 401(k)?, here are five possible choices that might make sense when deciding how to handle your old account.

Option 1: Leave Your 401(k) Where It Is

Is it ever a good idea to let sleeping 401(k)s lie? Sometimes, yes.

For instance, maybe your old job was with a super-hip, savvy startup that chose a stellar plan with multiple investment options and low administration fees that stayed in place even after you left your job. This is rare! But the point is: If you’re happy with your portfolio mix and you have a substantial amount of cash stashed in there already, it might behoove you to leave your 401(k) where it is.

Other than that, you probably want to make sure you’re in charge of your money — not your former employer.

Also, besides any additional fees you might end up paying, racking up multiple 401(k)s as you change jobs could lead to a more complicated withdrawal schedule at retirement.

Option 2: Roll Over Your 401(k) Into an IRA

If your new job doesn’t offer a 401(k) or other company-sponsored account like a 403(b), don’t worry: You still have options that’ll keep you from bearing a heavy tax burden. Namely, you can roll your 401(k) into an IRA, or Individual Retirement Account.

The entire procedure essentially boils down to three steps:

1.    Open a new IRA that will accept rollover funds.

2.    Contact the company that currently holds your 401(k) funds and fill out their transfer forms using the account information of your newly opened IRA. You should receive essential information about your benefits when you leave your current position. If you’ve lost track of that information, you can contact the plan sponsor or the company HR department.

3.    Once your money is transferred, you can reinvest the money as you see fit. Or you can hire an advisor to help you set up your new portfolio. It also may be possible to resume making deposits/contributions to your rollover IRA.

Option 3: Roll Over Your 401(k) to Your New Job

If your new job offers a 401(k) or similar plan, rolling your old 401(k) funds into your shiny, new 401(k) account may be both the simplest and best option — and the one least likely to lead to a tax headache.

That said, how you go about the rollover has a pretty major impact on how much effort and paperwork is involved, which is why it’s important to understand the difference between direct and indirect transfers.

How to Roll Over Your 401(k): Direct vs Indirect Transfers

Here are the two main options you’ll have if you’re moving your 401(k) funds from one company-sponsored retirement account to another.

A direct transfer, or direct rollover, is exactly what it sounds like: The money moves directly from your old account to the new one. In other words, you never have access to the money, which means you don’t have to worry about any tax withholdings or other liabilities.

Depending on your account custodian(s), this transfer may all be done digitally via ACH transfer, or you may receive a paper check made payable to the new account. Either way, this is considered the simplest option, and one that keeps your retirement fund intact and growing with the least possible interruption.

Another viable, but slightly more complex, option, is to do an indirect transfer or rollover, in which you cash out the account with the express intent of immediately reinvesting it into another retirement fund, whether that’s your new company’s 401(k) or an IRA (see above).

But here’s the tricky part: Since you’ll actually have the cash in hand, the government requires your account custodian to withhold a mandatory 20% tax. And although you’ll get that 20% back in the form of a tax exemption later, you do have to make up the 20% out of pocket and deposit the full amount into your new retirement account within 60 days.

For example, say you have $50,000 in your old 401(k). If you elected to do an indirect transfer, your custodian would cut you a check for only $40,000, thanks to the mandatory 20% tax withholding.

But in order to avoid fees and penalties, you’d still need to deposit the full $50,000 into your new retirement account, including $10,000 out of your own pocket. In addition, if you retain any funds from the rollover, they may be subject to an additional 10% penalty for early withdrawal.

Option 4: Cashing Out Your 401(k)

One recent review of 401(k) accounts found that 21% of Americans who left their jobs during the pandemic also cashed out their 401(k) accounts. Generally speaking, withdrawing these retirement funds is not a good idea, and here’s why.

Because a 401(k) is an investment account designed specifically for retirement, and comes with certain tax benefits — e.g. you don’t pay any tax on the money you contribute to your 401(k) — the account is also subject to strict rules regarding when you can actually access the money, and the tax you’d owe when you did.

Specifically, if you take out or borrow money from your 401(k) before age 59 ½, you’ll likely be subject to an additional 10% tax penalty on the full amount of your withdrawal — and that’s on top of the regular income taxes you’ll also be obligated to pay on the money.

Depending on your income tax bracket, that means an early withdrawal from your 401(k) could really cost you, not to mention possibly leaving you without a nest egg to help secure your future.

This is why most financial professionals generally recommend one of the next two options: rolling your account over into a new 401(k), or an IRA if your new job doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan.

Option 5: Rolling Your 401(k) Over to a Self-Directed IRA

A self-directed IRA, sometimes called a SDIRA, is an unusual type of retirement account — and it’s not widely available. That’s because these types of accounts aren’t just for traditional securities, but for alternative investments normally not permitted in traditional IRAs: i.e. real estate, collectibles (like art and jewelry), commodities, precious metals, and more.

These accounts are considered self-directed because, first, they are only available through certain financial firms that will custody SDIRA accounts, not manage them. Second, SDIRA custodians can’t give financial advice, so all the due diligence and asset management falls to the investor.

While you can consider doing a rollover to a SDIRA, be sure that setting up such an account makes sense for your current holdings, or whether a traditional IRA or Roth might do just as well.

The Takeaway

It’s not difficult to rollover your 401(k), and doing so can offer you a number of advantages. First of all, when you leave a job you may lose certain benefits and terms that applied to your 401(k) while you were an employee. Once you move on, you may pay more in account fees, and you will likely lose the ability to keep contributing to your account.

Rolling over your 401(k) — to a new employer’s plan, or to an IRA — gives you more control over your retirement funds, and could also give you more investment choices.

There are some instances where you may not want to do a rollover, for instance when you own a lot of your old company’s stock, so be sure to think through your options.

If you know that moving your 401(k) money over to an IRA is the right thing, SoFi makes it super easy. Once you open an investment account with SoFi Invest and set up a traditional or Roth IRA account, you can transfer the funds from your old 401(k) and either keep the same (or similar investments), or choose new ones.

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

FAQ

How can you roll over a 401(k)?

It’s fairly easy to roll over a 401(k). First decide where you want to open your rollover account (usually an IRA), then contact your old plan’s administrator, or your former HR department. They typically issue a check that can be sent directly to you or to the rollover account at a new institution.

What options are available for rolling over a 401(k)?

There are several options for rolling over a 401(k), including transferring your savings to a traditional IRA, or to the 401(k) at your new job. You can also leave the account where it is, although this may incur additional fees. It’s generally not advisable to cash out a 401(k), as replacing that retirement money could be challenging.

Does SoFi allow you to roll over your 401(k)?

Yes, you can rollover funds from a 401(k) to a rollover IRA with SoFi.

To initiate the rollover, set up an account with SoFi Invest, and contact your 401(k) plan administrator or the HR department of your previous employer.


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