401k egg in a nest

How To Make Changes to Your 401(k) Contributions

Whether you just set up your 401(k) plan or you established one long ago, you may want to change the amount of your contributions — or even how they’re invested. Fortunately, it’s usually a fairly straightforward process to change 401(k) contributions.

How often can you change your 401(k) contributions? You may be able to make changes at any time, depending on your plan. After all, the point of a 401(k) plan is to help you save for your retirement. So it’s important to keep an eye on your account and your investments within the account, to make sure that you’re saving and investing according to your goals.

Learn how to maximize your 401(k), change your 401(k) contributions, and save for retirement.

Key Points

•   Adjusting 401(k) contributions can usually be done at any time, depending on the specific plan rules.

•   Employers may match contributions up to a certain percentage, enhancing the value of saving.

•   Changes in financial circumstances or salary increases can justify modifying contribution amounts.

•   Rebalancing investment allocations periodically is crucial to maintain desired risk levels.

•   Automatic contribution increases can be set up to progressively enhance retirement savings.

Purpose of a 401(k)

A 401(k) is a retirement account that a company may offer to its employees. In some cases, enrollment in the employer’s 401(k) is automatic; in other cases it’s not. Be sure to check, so that you can take advantage of this savings opportunity.

Employees may contribute a portion of their paycheck to their 401(k) account, and employers might also contribute to each employee’s account (again, depending on the plan).

The employer’s portion is called the company’s “match” or matching funds. Typically, an employer might match up to a certain percentage of what the employee saves. One common matching plan is when a company matches 50 cents for every dollar saved, up to 6% of the employee’s total contributions. Terms vary, so it’s best to ask your Human Resources representative what the match is.

The money a participant contributes to their 401(k) plan is technically called an “elective salary deferral” because it’s optional, not required, and those deductions are not included in an employee’s taxable income. That’s why 401(k) and similar accounts (like a 403(b) and most IRAs) are often called tax-deferred accounts: You don’t pay taxes on the money you’ve saved until you withdraw the money in retirement.

This tax benefit can be significant. Every dollar you save reduces your taxable income, which may result in a lower tax bill in some cases.

💡 Quick Tip: The advantage of opening an IRA, like a Roth IRA, and a tax-deferred account like a 401(k) or traditional IRA is that by the time you retire, you’ll have tax-free income from your Roth, and taxable income from the tax-deferred account. This can help with tax planning.

Can You Change Your 401(k) Contribution at Any Time?

While the opportunity to make changes to some employee benefits, like health insurance, are generally only offered once a year during so-called open enrollment periods, many 401(k) plans allow participants to change the amount of their 401(k) contributions at any point. According to Department of Labor guidelines, an employer must allow plan participants to change investments at least quarterly (sometimes more often, if company stock or other high-risk investments are offered by the plan).

These are some of the reasons you may want to change 401(k) contribution amounts.

The Ability to Save More

You may have gotten a raise, or experienced a change in your financial circumstances, and wish to increase the percentage of your savings. Contributions to these plans are typically expressed as a percentage of your annual salary. For example, if you earn $75,000 per year, and your contribution rate is 10%, you would save a total of $7,500 per year. If you got a raise to $80,000 and now wish to contribute 12%, you would save a total of $9,600 per year.

To Get the Match

As discussed above, some 401(k) plans offer a savings match from the employer. In most cases, the match is a set percentage of the employee’s contribution. If you started your 401(k) at a point when you couldn’t get the full match, you may want to increase your contributions to get the full employer match.

Rebalancing Your Asset Allocation

If you’ve held the account for a while, say a year or more, the original allocation of your investments — i.e. the balance between equities, cash, and fixed income investments — may have shifted. Restoring the original balance of your investments may be a priority, if your strategy and risk tolerance haven’t changed.

Changing Your Asset Allocation

You also might want to shift the asset allocation because your financial strategy has become more aggressive (i.e. tilting toward stocks) or more conservative (tilting toward cash and fixed income).

Setting Up Automatic Increases

Some plans offer participants the option of automatically increasing their contribution rate every year, typically up to a certain percentage (e.g. 15%), and not to exceed the maximum contribution levels. The IRS contribution limit for 401(k) plans for 2024 is $23,000 for participants under age 50. Those 50 and older can save an extra $7,500 in “catch-up contributions”, for a total of $30,500. For 2023, the contribution limit is $22,500 for participants under age 50. Those 50 and older can save an extra $7,500 in “catch-up contributions”, for a total of $30,000.

Setting up automatic increases allows you to save more in your 401(k) each year without having to think about it; this can be beneficial for overcoming the inertia common among some savers.

How to Change 401(k) Contributions: 3 Steps

Again, the 401(k) plan provider will be able to advise participants on how often they can make changes to their contributions, and what the process will look like. For employees unsure of who the plan provider is, the company’s human resource department can point them in the right direction.

In some cases, participants can change their contributions directly through their plan provider’s website. Generally, the process of making changes to a 401(k) looks like this:

Step 1:

The employee contacts their 401(k) provider to discuss how to change contributions for their particular 401(k) plan.

Step 2:

The employee considers how much of their paycheck they want to contribute to their 401(k) moving forward, taking their company’s 401(k) match into consideration, and ideally contributing at least that much. The employee might also change their asset allocation, depending on plan rules.

Step 3:

The participant fills out any forms (online or via paperwork) to confirm their new contribution.

Often, these steps can take just a few minutes, using your plan sponsor’s website.

Why Contribute to a 401(k)? 3 Good Reasons

Contributing to a 401(k) plan is an important way to save for retirement. The funds in a 401(k) are invested, generally in mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or target date funds — which can offer the potential for growth over time. Typically there are about eight to 12 investment options in most 401(k) plans.

But perhaps the three best reasons to contribute to a 401(k) plan are the opportunity to save automatically via regular payroll deductions; the potentially lower tax bill; and the ability to get “free money” from your employer match, if it’s offered.

Low-stress Saving

For many people, this type of investment is easy because you can choose how much of your salary to contribute each pay period, and deductions happen automatically. You don’t have to think about your savings, your contributions are taken directly from each paycheck, so it helps to build your nest egg over time.

Lower Taxable Income

Another benefit is the potential for savings during tax season. Since the contributions an employee makes to their 401(k) plan over the course of the year aren’t included in their taxable income, that can lower their overall taxable income. This, in turn, may result in an individual falling into a lower tax bracket and paying less income tax for that year.

And in the future, when they might likely be in a lower tax bracket due to retirement, they’ll pay lower taxes when they withdraw the money from their 401(k) account.

Note: Withdrawing money from a 401(k) account before retirement age may lead to early withdrawal penalties.

Another perk of enrolling in a 401(k) plan is the notion of “free money” from one’s employer. Some companies match a portion of their employees’ contributions — often around 50 cents to $1 for each dollar that an employee contributes.

Typically, an employer might set a maximum matching limit, such as 3% to 6% of the employee’s salary.

This matching contribution is often referred to as free money because the contribution effectively increases an employee’s income without increasing their current tax bill. It’s worth noting that an employer’s match generally vests over the course of three or four years — meaning that the employer-contributed money will accrue in the account, but an employee won’t be able to keep it if they switch jobs, unless they remain with the company for that set period of time.

Setting up Recurring Contributions

When it comes to setting up a 401(k), the process varies by workplace. Some companies offer automatic enrollment to employees, automatically reducing the employee’s wages by a certain amount and diverting that money to the employee’s 401(k) plan, unless the employee chooses not to have their wages contributed.

Or, an employee can choose to enroll, but to contribute a custom amount. This type of contribution is referred to as an elective deferral.

In companies that don’t offer automatic enrollment as an option, employees will need to work with their HR department and retirement plan provider to get their 401(k) set up.

Participants need to decide how much they want to contribute and they may need to choose their investments. They can also opt to take advantage of autopilot settings, and can roll over a 401(k) from a past job into their new one.

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How Much to Save for Retirement

The Department of Labor (DOL) outlined a few best practices for investing in order to save for retirement.

It estimated that most Americans will need 70% to 90% of their preretirement income saved by retirement, in order to maintain their current standard of living. Doing that math can give plan participants an idea of how much they should be contributing to their 401(k).

Participants might also consider a few basic investment principles, such as diversifying retirement investments to reduce risk and improve return. These investment choices may evolve overtime depending on someone’s age, goals, and financial situation.

The DOL recommends that employees contribute all they can to their employer-sponsored 401(k) plan to take advantage of benefits like lower taxes, company contributions, and tax deferrals.

Adding Alternative Investments to a 401(k)

Some savers may find themselves interested in pursuing alternative investments when saving for retirement. An alternative investment takes place outside of the traditional markets of stocks, fixed-income, and cash. This method may appeal to those looking for portfolio diversification. Popular examples of alternative investments are private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, real estate, and commodities.

Self-directed 401(k)s allow participants to add alternate investments to their 401(k) portfolio. With a self-directed 401(k), the investor chooses a custodian such as a brokerage or investment firm to hold the amount of assets and execute the purchase or sale of investments on the participant’s behalf. If an employer offers a self-directed 401(k), the custodian will likely be the plan administrator.

The Takeaway

For employees looking to change 401(k) contributions, the process is often as simple as reaching out to your plan provider and confirming that you’re allowed to make a change at this time.

Some companies have rules around when and how often employees can make changes to their contributions. Once you have the go-ahead to make the change, and have considered what works best for your current financial situation and your future goals, it’s generally straightforward.

A company-sponsored 401(k) plan offers many benefits, but once you leave your job, many of those benefits — including the employer-matching program — no longer apply. At that point, you may want to consider doing a rollover of your previous 401(k) to an IRA, so you can remain in control of your money.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi 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.

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.

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


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.

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


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What Is 401k Auto Escalation?

What Is 401(k) Auto Escalation?

One way to ensure you’re steadily working toward your retirement goals is to automate as much of the process as possible. Some employers streamline the retirement savings process for their employees with automatic enrollment, signing you up for a retirement plan unless you choose to opt out.

There are many ways to automate a 401(k) experience at every step of the way. You can have contributions taken directly from your paycheck before they ever hit your bank account and invest them right away. With automatic deductions, you’re more likely to save for your future rather than spending on immediate needs.

In some cases, you may also be able to automatically increase the amount you save. Some employers also offer a 401(k) auto escalation option that could increase your retirement savings amount as you get older. Here’s a closer look at how 401(k) auto escalation works and how it may help you on your way to your retirement goals.

Key Points

•   401(k) auto escalation automatically increases contributions at regular intervals until a preset maximum is reached.

•   The SECURE Act allows auto escalation up to 15% of an employee’s salary.

•   Auto escalation helps employees save more for retirement without needing to adjust contributions manually.

•   Employers benefit from auto escalation by attracting and retaining talent and possibly reducing payroll taxes.

•   Employees should assess if auto escalation aligns with their financial capabilities and retirement goals.

401(k) Recap

A 401(k) is a defined contribution plan offered through your employer. It allows employees to contribute some of their wages directly from their paycheck. Contributions are made with pre-tax money, which may reduce taxable income in the year they are made, providing an immediate tax benefit.

In 2024, employees can contribute up to $23,000 a year to their 401(k), up from $22,500 in 2023. Those aged 50 and older can contribute an extra $7,500, bringing their potential contribution total to $30,500 in 2024 and $30,000 in 2023.

For many individuals, the goal is to eventually max out a 401(k) up to the contribution limit. Employers may offer matching funds to help encourage employees to save. Individuals should aim to contribute at least enough to meet their employer’s match, in order to get that “free money” from their employer to invest in their future.

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

How 401(k) Auto Escalation Works

An auto escalation is a 401(k) feature that automatically increases your contribution at regular intervals by a set amount until a preset maximum is achieved. The SECURE Act, signed into law in 2019, allows auto escalation programs to raise contributions up to 15%. Before then, the cap on default contributions was 10% for auto escalation programs.

For example, you may choose to set your auto escalation rate to raise your contributions by 1% each year. Once you hit that 15% ceiling, auto escalation will cease. However, you can still choose to increase the amount you are saving on your own beyond that point.

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Retirement Plans

Advantages of 401(k) Auto Escalation

When it comes to auto escalation programs, there are important factors to consider — for employees as well as for employers who sponsor the 401(k) plan.

Advantages for Employees

•   Auto escalation is one more way to automate savings for retirement, so that it is always prioritized.

•   Auto escalation may increase the amount employees save for retirement more than they would on their own.

•   Employees don’t have to remember to make or increase contributions themselves until they reach the auto escalation cap.

•   Increasing tax-deferred contributions may help reduce an employee’s tax burden.

Advantages for Sponsors

Employers who offer auto escalation may find it helps with both employee quality and retention as well as with reducing taxes.

•   Auto escalation provides a benefit that may help attract top talent.

•   It helps put employees on track to automatically save, which may increase retention and contribute to their sense of financial well-being.

•   It reduces employer payroll taxes, because escalated funds are contributed pre-tax by employees.

•   It may generate tax credits or deductions for employers. For example, matching contributions may be tax deductible.

•   As assets under management increase, 401(k) companies may offer lower administration fees or even the ability to offer additional services to participants.

Disadvantages of 401(k) Auto Escalation

While there are undoubtedly benefits to 401(k) auto escalation, there are also some potential downsides to consider.

Disadvantages for Employees

Even on autopilot, it can be important to review contributions so as to avoid these disadvantages.

•   Auto escalation may lull employees into a false sense of security. Even if they’re increasing their savings each year, if their default rate was too low to begin with, they may not be saving enough to meet their retirement goals.

•   If an employee experiences a pay freeze or hasn’t received a raise in a number of years, auto escalation will mean 401(k) contributions represent an increasingly larger proportion of take-home pay.

Disadvantages for Sponsors

Employers may want to consider these potential downsides before offering 401(k) auto escalation.

•   Auto escalation requires proper administrative oversight to ensure that each employee’s escalation amounts are correct — and it may be time-consuming and costly to fix mistakes.

•   This option may increase the need to communicate with 401(k) record keepers.

•   Auto escalation may cause employer contribution amounts to rise.

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Is 401(k) Auto Escalation Right for You?

If your employer offers auto escalation, first determine your goals for retirement. Consider whether or not your current savings rate will help you achieve those goals and whether escalation could increase the likelihood that you will.

Also decide whether you can afford to increase your contributions. Perhaps your default rate is already set high enough that you are maxing out your retirement savings budget. In this case, auto escalation might land you in a financial bind.

However, if you have room in your budget, or you expect your income to grow each year, auto escalation may help ensure that your retirement savings continue to grow as well.

If your employer does not offer auto escalation, or you choose to opt out, consider using pay raises as an opportunity to change your 401(k) contributions yourself.

The Takeaway

A 401(k) is one of many tools available to help you save for retirement — and auto escalation can help you increase your contributions regularly without any additional thought or effort on your part.

If you’ve maxed out your 401(k) or you’re looking for a retirement account with more flexible options, you might want to consider a traditional or Roth IRA. Both types of IRA offer tax-advantaged retirement savings, and in 2024, individuals can contribute $7,000 per year across IRA accounts, with an extra $1,000 catch-up contribution available to those aged 50 and older. In 2023, individuals can contribute $6,500 per year across IRA accounts, with an extra $1,000 catch-up contribution available to those aged 50 and older.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Is 401(k) auto enrollment legal?

Yes, automatic enrollment allows employers to automatically deduct 401(k) contributions from an employee’s paycheck unless they have expressly communicated that they wish to opt out of the retirement plan.

What is automatic deferral increase?

Automatic deferral increase is essentially the same as auto escalation. It automatically increases the amount that you are saving by a set amount at regular intervals.

Can a company move your 401(k) without your permission?

Your 401(k) can be moved without your permission by a former employer if the 401(k) has a balance of $5,000 or less.


Photo credit: iStock/Halfpoint

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.

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.

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What Are the 11 S&P 500 Sectors?

Guide to the Sectors of the S&P 500 and Their Weights

The S&P sectors represent the different categories that the index uses to sort the companies it follows. There are 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500, and they include health care, technology, energy, real estate, and more.

Understanding how the S&P sectors work and break down further can help both institutional and retail investors manage risk through different economic cycles by allocating their portfolio across multiple sectors. For example, cyclical stocks and cyclical sectors tend to fare well when the economy booms. During a recession, however, defensive stocks may outperform them. However, it’s also possible for all 11 sectors to trend in the same direction.

Key Points

•   The S&P 500 is divided into 11 sectors, including technology, healthcare, and financials, which help categorize the largest U.S. companies.

•   Technology is the largest sector, reflecting significant growth and market influence from major companies like Apple and Microsoft.

•   Utilities is the smallest sector, comprising just over 2% of the index, highlighting its smaller market impact compared to other areas.

•   Sector weighting in the S&P 500 is dynamic, changing with the economic influence and size of constituent companies.

•   Understanding these sectors aids investors in diversifying portfolios and strategizing investments based on economic conditions and market trends.

What Is the S&P 500

“S&P” refers to Standard & Poor, and the S&P 500 index tracks the movements of 500 large-cap U.S. companies. A number of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) use this index as a benchmark.

Many investors use the S&P 500 as a stand-in for the entire market when it comes to investing, particularly index investing. But again, the S&P 500 can be broken down into specific sectors in which companies of particular types are concentrated — allowing investors to get more granular, if they wish, with their investment strategies.

💡 Quick Tip: For investors who want a diversified portfolio without having to manage it themselves, automated investing could be a solution (although robo advisors typically have more limited options and higher costs). The algorithmic design helps minimize human errors, to keep your investments allocated correctly.

Examining the 11 Sectors of the S&P

The Global Industry Classification System (GICS) has 11 stock market sectors in its taxonomy. It further breaks down these 11 sectors into 24 industry groups, 74 industries, and 163 sub-industries. Here’s a look at the S&P Sector list, by size:

1. Technology

Technology is the largest sector of the S&P 500. This sector includes companies involved in the development, manufacturing, or distribution of tech-related products and services. For example, companies in the technology sector may produce computer software programs or electronics hardware, or research and develop new technologies.

Tech stock investments are typically cyclical, in that they usually perform better during economic expansions. The technology sector includes a number of growth stocks, which are companies that reinvest most or all of their profits in expansion versus paying dividends. Examples of some popular tech stocks include:

•   Facebook (META)

•   Apple (AAPL)

•   Microsoft (MSFT)

•   Alphabet (GOOG)

•   IBM (IBM)

2. Financials

The financials sector covers a variety of industries, including banking and investing. Banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, wealth management firms, credit card companies and insurance companies are all part of the financial sector.

Financial services companies are usually categorized as cyclical. For example, a credit card issuer’s profit margins may shrink during a recession if unemployment rises and people spend less or can not keep up with credit card payments. But this can be subjective, as mortgage companies may benefit during recessionary periods if lower interest rates spur home-buying activity.

Some of the biggest names in the financial sector include:

•   Visa (V)

•   JPMorgan Chase (JPM)

•   Bank of America (BAC)

•   PayPal Holdings (PYPL)

•   Mastercard (MA)

3. Health Care

The next largest of the S&P sectors is health care. This sector includes pharmaceutical companies, companies that produce or distribute medical equipment, and supplies and companies that conduct health care-related research.

The health care sector also includes alternative health companies, including companies that use cannabis as a part of their medical research and product development.

Recommended: Cannabis Investing 101

More traditional examples of healthcare sector companies include:

•   CVS (CVS)

•   Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

•   UnitedHealth Group (UNH)

•   Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO)

•   Regeneron (REGN)

Health care stocks are typically non-cyclical, as demand for these products and services usually doesn’t hinge on economic movements.

4. Consumer Discretionary

The consumer discretionary sector is a largely cyclical sector that includes companies in the hospitality and entertainment sectors, as well as retailers.

Examples of stocks that fit into the consumer discretionary sector are:

•   Starbucks (SBUX)

•   AMC (AMC)

•   Best Buy (BBY)

•   Home Depot (HD)

•   Nike (NKE)

Generally, these companies represent things consumers may spend more money on in a thriving economy and cut back on during a downturn. That’s why they’re considered cyclical in nature.

5. Communications Services

This sector spans companies that provide communications services of some kind. That can include landline phone services, cellular phone services, or internet services. Communications also includes companies responsible for producing movies and television shows.

The communications sector can be hard to pin down in terms of whether it’s cyclical or defensive. In a down economy, for example, people may continue to spend money on phone and internet services but cut back on streaming services. So there’s an argument to be made that the communication sector is a little of both.

Companies that belong to this sector include:

•   Comcast (CMCSA)

•   AT&T (T)

•   Dish Network (DISH)

•   Discovery Communications (WBD)

•   Activision Blizzard (ATVI)

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6. Industrials

The industrial sector covers a broad range of industries, including those in the manufacturing and transportation sectors. For example:

•   Honeywell (HON)

•   3M (MMM)

•   Stanley Black & Decker (SWK)

•   Delta Airlines (DAL)

•   Boeing (BA)

Industrials are often considered to be cyclical stocks, again because of how they react to changes in supply and demand. The airline industry, for example, saw a steep decline in 2020 as air travel was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

7. Consumer Staples

Consumer staples stocks represent things consumers regularly spend money on. That includes groceries, household products and personal hygiene products. The consumer staples sector is also a defensive sector because even when the economy hits a rough spot, consumers will continue spending money on these things.

From an investment perspective, consumer staples stocks may not yield the same return profile as other sectors. But they may provide some stability in a portfolio when the market gets shaky.

Companies that are recognized as some of the top consumer staples stocks include:

•   General Mills (GIS)

•   Coca-Cola (KO)

•   Procter & Gamble (PG)

•   Conagra Brands (CAG)

•   Costco Wholesale (COST)

8. Energy

The energy sector includes companies that participate in the production and/or distribution of energy. That includes the oil and gas industry as well as companies connected to the development or distribution of renewable energy sources.

Energy stock investments can be more sensitive to economic movements and supply-demand trends compared to other sectors.

Some of the biggest energy sector companies include:

•   Exxon Mobil (XOM)

•   Royal Dutch Shell (SHEL)

•   Chevron (CVX)

•   Conocophillips (COP)

•   Halliburton (HAL)

9. Real Estate

This sector includes real estate investment trusts (REITs) as well as realtors, developers and property management companies. REITs invest in income-producing properties and may pay out as much as 90% of profits out to investors as dividends.

Investing in real estate can be a defensive move as this sector is largely uncorrelated with stocks. So if stock prices fall, for example, investors may not see a correlating drop in real estate investments as property generally tends to appreciate over time.

Examples of real estate companies in the S&P 500 include:

•   Digital Realty (DLR)

•   American Tower (AMT)

•   Prologis (PLD)

•   Simon Property Group (SPG)

•   Boston Properties (BXP)

10. Materials

The materials sector includes companies connected to the sourcing, processing or distribution of raw materials. That includes things like lumber, concrete, glass, and other building materials.

Materials is one of the cyclical S&P sectors, as it can be driven largely by supply and demand. During a housing boom, for example, the materials sector may benefit from increased demand for lumber, plywood and other construction materials.

Material stocks in the S&P 500 include:

•   Dupont (DD)

•   Celanese (CE)

•   Sherwin Williams (SHW)

•   Air Products & Chemicals (APD)

•   Eastman Chemical (EMN)

11. Utilities

Utilities represent one of the core defensive S&P sectors. This sector includes companies that provide gas, electricity, water, and other utilities to households, businesses, farms, and other entities.

Since these are essentials that people typically can’t do without, they’re generally less sensitive to major shifts in the economic cycle. They also often pay dividends to their investors.

Examples of utilities stocks include:

•   AES (AES)

•   UGI (UGI)

•   CenterPoint Energy (CNP)

•   Duke Energy (DUK)

•   Dominion Energy (D)

Recommended: How to Invest in Utilities

How Are the Sectors of the S&P 500 Weighted?

Given that the S&P 500 is composed mostly of the largest companies, its weighting is relative to the size of those companies and their respective industries. As such, that’s why technology, health care, and financials are relatively large compared to other sectors.

It’s also important to understand that things change over time — in terms of company and industry size and influence on the overall economy. Accordingly, the index itself changes, and weighting of specific sectors and companies changes as well.

Which Is the Largest S&P 500 Sector?

As discussed, technology, or information and technology, is currently the largest sector in the S&P 500. That’s in large part due to the tech sector’s growth over the past couple of decades, and certain companies within the sector becoming larger with massive market caps — companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Meta, Netflix, and others.

Which Is the Smallest S&P 500 Sector?

As of March 2024, utilities is the smallest S&P 500 sector, comprising a little more than 2% of the overall index. But the materials and real estate sectors are not much bigger.

💡 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.

What Can You Do As an Investor With This Information?

Investors can tap their knowledge of the S&P 500 sectors to help inform their investing strategy and plan. As discussed, while some sectors tend to be a bit more volatile, investors may look at specific and strategic allocations in other sectors to help “smooth” things out during times of volatility in the market.

Further, sector investing can help investors diversify their portfolios, or find additional opportunities to invest.

The Takeaway

Knowing what the S&P sectors are and which types of industries or sub-industries they represent can help investors achieve diversification through different types of investments. While some financial experts liken the sectors to a pie, with several individual slices, it may be more helpful to think of them as a buffet from which investors can pick and choose.

You can either purchase stocks within or across sectors, or look for funds that can provide that diversification for you. It’ll all depend on your overall financial plan and investment strategy. If you need help honing that in, it may be beneficial 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 the S&P 500 sector weights?

As of March 2024, information technology is the largest sector in the S&P 500, comprising nearly 30% of the overall index. It’s followed by financials at 13%, health care at 12.5%, and consumer discretionary at 10.6%.

What is the sector breakdown of the S&P 500?

The eleven sectors of the S&P 500 are information technology, financials, health care, consumer discretionary, communication services, industrials, consumer staples, energy, real estate, materials, and utilities.

What is the smallest sector of the S&P 500?

As of March 2024, utilities is the smallest sector of the S&P 500, comprising 2.1% of the overall index.


Photo credit: iStock/izusek

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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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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What Is a Stock Split? How Does It Affect Investors?

A skyrocketing share price is usually a good thing for a company; investors expect the company to continue growing in the future. However, a stock trading with a hefty price tag may frighten away smaller investors, who may perceive the stock as too rich for their blood. That means many investors might pass over the company’s stock for other stocks with a lower per share price tag.

To combat this, a company may conduct a stock split. This action brings down the price of the company’s stock so that shares look more attractive to more investors, even though the company’s value remains the same. The idea is that investors can invest, and the company gets more marketability and liquidity on the stock market.

Learn more about a stock split and how it works.

Key Points

•   A stock split is when a company increases the number of its outstanding shares on the stock market, lowering the price per share.

•   Stock splits can make shares more affordable to retail investors and increase liquidity in the market.

•   There are different types of stock splits, including forward stock splits and reverse stock splits.

•   Companies conduct stock splits to make their stock more accessible and increase marketability.

•   Stock splits can have pros such as increased accessibility and liquidity, but also cons such as potential expenses and dilution of ownership.

What Is a Stock Split?

A stock split is when a company increases the number of its outstanding shares on the stock market, which lowers the price of its shares, but its market capitalization (sometimes referred to as market cap) stays the same. This is also known as a forward stock split.

For example, if an investor owns 10 shares of a company with a stock price of $100 and the company announces a 5-to-1 stock split, the investor will then own 50 shares of the stock trading at $20 per share after the stock split. Despite the split, the shareholder still owns $1,000 worth of stock.

A stock split may also be referred to as a one-time stock dividend, since the company is giving out additional shares to stockholders.

What Is a Reverse Stock Split?

In a reverse stock split, a company swaps each outstanding share of the company’s stock for a fraction of a share. A company often conducts a reverse stock split when the share price is low and the company is looking to increase the share price.

For example, in late July 2021, General Electric (GE) completed a 1-for-8 reverse split of its shares to boost the stock’s share price. The reverse split increased its share price from less than $13 pre-split to more than $100 post-split; the company replaced every eight shares held by an investor with one share.

💡 Quick Tip: Look for an online brokerage with low trading commissions as well as no account minimum. Higher fees can cut into investment returns over time.

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Types of Stock Splits

A number of different ratios can be used to split a stock. When the bigger number comes first in the ratio (such as 2 for 1) it means that the number of outstanding shares will increase—this is a forward stock split. In other words, the stock split ratio can reveal the number of new shares that will be created.

Here are some common stock split types and what they mean.

5 for 1 (5:1)

With a 5 for 1 stock split, for every one share of stock that currently exists, four new shares will be created, for a total of five shares. The share price will adjust downward accordingly, but the company’s market capitalization will stay the same.

2 for 1 (2:1)

In a 2 for 1 stock split, one new share of stock is created for every share that already exists, for a total of two shares. Again, the price for each share will adjust accordingly. A 2 for 1 stock split is one of the most common stock splits.

3 for 1 (3:1)

With a 3 for 1 split, for every share of existing stock, two more shares of stock are created, for a total of 3 shares.

3 for 2 (3:2)

Another fairly common stock split is the 3 for 2 split. In this case, one new share of stock is created for two already-existing shares, for a total of three shares.

Why Do Companies Conduct Stock Splits?

Companies will often split their stock when the share price gets too high. By splitting the stock, a company lowers its share price and makes it more affordable to retail investors, even though the company’s value stays the same.

For example, retail investors may be more likely to buy a chunk of shares of a stock trading at $20 rather than shares trading at $100 or more. This move to reduce the individual share price helps increase the stock’s liquidity in the market.

Pros and Cons of Stock Splits

There are several potential benefits of stock splits, but there are some possible disadvantages of the practice as well.

Pros

Some advantages of a stock split include:

The stock may become more accessible to more investors.

If a stock’s price is very high, smaller investors may be less likely to buy it. Splitting the stock and making it more affordable can result in more investors purchasing the stock.

The stock may have greater liquidity.

Creating more outstanding shares of the stock can make it easier to buy and sell it. For many investors, greater liquidity means they can more readily access their money by selling the stock if they need the funds. Liquidity is typically an important consideration when building a portfolio.

The stock’s price may rise.

Companies that undergo a stock split often do so because their stock price is rising, signaling investor confidence in the company. So, the announcement of a stock split is an indication that the company is doing well. Investors may want to put money into the company, pushing the share price up even before the stock split.

Following the stock split, the stock’s share price may go up because the lower price makes it more affordable to smaller retail investors that may not be able to purchase shares at, say, a $1,000 price. There becomes an increased demand for the lower share price.

Cons

Stock splits can also have drawbacks, such as:

Expensive and complicated.

In order to conduct a stock split, a company must get legal oversight of the process and meet regulatory requirements, which can be costly. A stock split does not change the company’s market cap, so the company must determine whether a split is worth the expense involved.

May attract too many investors.

A company may prefer to keep ownership of its shares exclusive. However, with a stock split, many more investors may be able to afford to buy the stock, meaning the shares would lose their exclusive equity ownership.

Potential for the share price to drop in the future.

It’s possible that once a stock is split and its share price is reduced, the price might drop even lower in the future, which lowers the value of the stock. For instance, if a company’s performance suffers, the face value of the stock might drop more in response.

Examples of Stock Splits Throughout History

Here are some notable stock splits from the last couple of decades:

•   Apple (AAPL): The computer giant split its stock by a 4-to-1 ratio in August 2020. Prior to the split, the stock was trading at around $500. After the split, the stock traded at about $124.

•   Netflix (NFLX): The entertainment company announced a 7-to-1 stock split in July 2015. Before the split, the stock was trading at nearly $800 per share. After the split, the stock traded at about $114.

•   Nike (NKE): The sports apparel company split its stock by a 2-to-1 ratio in December 2015. Prior to the split, the stock was trading at around $128 per share. After the split the stock traded at about $64 per share.

•   Nvidia (NVDA): The technology company engaged in a 4-to-1 stock split in July 2021. Before the split, Apple’s stock was trading at around $750, and after the split, the shares were priced near $187.

•   Tesla (TSLA): The electric car manufacturer split its stock by a 5-to-1 ratio in August 2020. Before the split, the stock was trading at around $2,200. After the split, the stock traded at around $440. Tesla’s shares rallied during the next two years, so the company declared a 3-to-1 stock split in August 2022, bringing the stock price down to around $300 from nearly $900 per share.

💡 Quick Tip: Distributing your money across a range of assets — also known as diversification — can be beneficial for long-term investors. When you put your eggs in many baskets, it may be beneficial if a single asset class goes down.

What Happens When a Stock You Own Splits?

If an investor owns stock in a company that announces a split, it will not materially affect the investment. As mentioned above, if an investor owns $1,000 worth of stock and a company splits its stock, an investor will still own $1,000 worth of stock after the split.

The additional shares at the lower share price will be automatically added to an investor’s account by the broker.

A stock split does not dilute the ownership of existing shareholders like a new stock issue may do. After a stock split, an investor still owns the same percentage of the company.

Recommended: Understanding Stock Dilution

The Takeaway

When a company announces a stock split, it can be tempting for investors to buy the stock because it will be more affordable on a per share basis. However, investors should be wary of making rash decisions simply because a stock may look more affordable and attractive. After all, the value of the company is still the same.

For most investors, it’s wise to make financial decisions that line up with their long-term investment and wealth-building goals, regardless of a stock’s price tag.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).


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FAQ

Are stock splits a good thing?

Generally, a stock split is considered to be a good thing. It typically happens when the price of a company’s stock is high. The high price and value of the stock tends to be a positive sign reflecting that the company is doing well. Splitting the stock may encourage more investment in it, which could then drive up the price of the stock and be beneficial.

Do stocks do better after a split?

It is possible that a stock might do better after a split, but this isn’t always the case. The stock may be bought by more investors, which could drive up its share price. But even after a stock split, the company’s market capitalization doesn’t change. And it’s possible that a stock could drop in price after a split.

Is a stock split bullish or bearish?

A forward stock split, in which more shares of stock are created, is generally considered bullish, since it typically indicates that the company is performing well. However, a reverse stock split, which reduces the total number of shares of a stock, is usually considered bearish, since it may indicate that a company has underperformed.


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.

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

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.

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How to Convert a Traditional 401k to a Roth IRA

When moving on to a new job, it may be difficult to keep track of the 401(k) left behind at your last job.

What’s more, administrative fees on the account that may have been previously covered by your employer might now shift to you—making it more expensive to maintain the 401(k) account once you’ve left the company. This may leave you wondering, can you roll over a 401(k) to a Roth IRA?

You can! In fact, one of the rollover options for a 401(k) is to convert it to a Roth IRA. For some people, especially those at a certain salary level, this may be an attractive option.

Read on to learn more about rolling over a 401(k) to a Roth IRA, and explore the benefits, restrictions, and ways to execute a rollover, so that you can decide if that’s the right financial move for you.

Key Points

•   Rolling over a 401(k) to a Roth IRA involves converting pre-tax retirement savings to an account funded with after-tax dollars.

•   Taxes must be paid at the time of conversion based on current income rates.

•   There are no limits on the amount that can be transferred, unlike annual contribution limits.

•   The rollover can be direct, transferring funds between providers, or indirect, requiring a 60-day deposit window to avoid penalties.

•   Converting to a Roth IRA can be advantageous for those expecting to be in a higher tax bracket during retirement.

What Happens When You Convert a 401(k) to a Roth IRA?

Converting, or rolling over, your 401(k) to a Roth IRA means taking your money out of one retirement fund and placing it into a new one.

When you convert your 401(k) to a Roth IRA this is known as a Roth IRA conversion. However, because of some important differences between a traditional 401(k) and a Roth IRA, you will owe taxes when you make this kind of rollover.

The reason: A traditional 401(k) is funded with pre-tax dollars. You don’t pay taxes on the money when you contribute it. Instead, you pay taxes on the funds when you withdraw them in retirement. A Roth IRA, on the other hand, is funded with after-tax dollars. You pay taxes on the contributions in the year you make them, and your withdrawals in retirement are generally tax free.

Because with a 401(k) you haven’t yet paid taxes on the money in your account, when you roll it over to a Roth IRA, you’ll owe taxes on the money at that time. The money will be taxed at your ordinary income rate, depending on what tax bracket you’re in. For the 2023 and 2024 tax years, the income tax brackets range from 10% to 37%.

💡 Quick Tip: How much does it cost to set up an IRA? Often there are no fees to open an IRA account, but you typically pay investment costs for the securities in your portfolio.

Steps to Converting a 401(k) to a Roth IRA

These are the actions you’ll need to take to convert your 401(k) retirement plan to a Roth IRA.

1. Open a new Roth IRA account.

There are multiple ways to open an IRA, including through online banks and brokers. Choose the method you prefer.

2. Decide whether you want the rollover to be a direct transfer or indirect transfer.

With a direct transfer, you will fill out paperwork to transfer funds from your old 401(k) account into a Roth IRA. The money will get transferred from one account to another, with no further involvement from you.

With an indirect transfer, you cash out the 401(k) account with the intention of immediately reinvesting it yourself into another retirement fund. To make sure you actually do transfer the money into another retirement account, the government requires your account custodian to withhold a mandatory 20% tax — which you’ll get back in the form of a tax exemption when you file taxes.

The caveat: You will have to make up the 20% out of pocket and deposit the full amount into your new retirement account within 60 days. If you retain any funds from the rollover, they may be subject to an additional 10% penalty for early withdrawal.

3. Contact the company that currently holds your current 401(k) and request a transfer.

Tell them the type of transfer you want to make, direct or indirect. They will then send you the necessary forms to fill out.

4. Keep an eye out to make sure the transfer happens.

You’ll likely get an alert when the money is transferred, but check your new Roth IRA account to see that your funds land there safely. At that point, you can decide how you want to invest the money in your new IRA to start saving for retirement.

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Considerations Before Rolling a 401(k) to a Roth IRA

There are a few rules to consider when rolling over 401(k) assets to a Roth IRA.

Roth IRA Contribution Limits

Contribution limits for Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs are much lower than they are for 401(k)s. For tax year 2023, you can contribute up to $6,500 in a Roth or traditional IRA. Those aged 50 and up can contribute up to $7,500, which includes $1,000 of catch-up contributions. For tax year 2024, individuals can contribute up to $7,000 in a Roth IRA, and those 50 and over can contribute up to $8,000.

By comparison, contribution limits for a 401(k) are $22,500 in 2023, and $23,000 in 2024 for those under age 50. Those aged 50 and over can make an additional $7,500 in catch-up contributions to a 401(k) in 2023 and 2024.

Income Limits for Roth IRA Eligibility

Unlike traditional IRAs, which anyone can contribute to, Roth IRAs have an income cap on eligibility. These income limits are adjusted each year to account for inflation. However, when you are rolling a 401(k) to a Roth IRA, the income limits do not apply. So if you are a high earner, a conversion from a 401(k) to a Roth IRA could be a good option for you.

What are those income caps? For tax year 2023, single filers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) below $138,000 can contribute the full amount to a Roth IRA. However, those with a MAGI of $138,000 to $153,000 can only make a partial contribution to a Roth, while those who make more than $153,000 cannot contribute at all.

For individuals married filing jointly for tax year 2023, those with a MAGI of less than $218,000 can contribute the full amount, while those whose MAGI is $218,000 to $228,000 may contribute a partial amount, and those making more than $228,000 can’t contribute to a Roth IRA.

For tax year 2024, single filers with a MAGI below $146,000 can contribute the full amount to a Roth IRA, those with a MAGI between $146,000 and $161,000 can make a partial contribution, and those making more than $161,000 can’t contribute.

For individuals married filing jointly for tax year 2024, those with a MAGI under $230,000 can contribute the full amount, those whose MAGI is $230,000 to $240,000 can contribute a partial amount, and those making more than $240,000 can’t contribute to a Roth IRA.

As you can see, for high earners, the fact that these income limits do not apply to a 401(k) to Roth conversion, could be a potential reason to consider this type of rollover.

Rollover Amount Will be Taxed

You will have to pay taxes on your IRA rollover. Since your 401(k) account was funded with pre-tax dollars and a Roth IRA is funded with post-tax dollars, you’ll need to pay income tax on the 401(k) amount being rolled over in the same tax year in which your rollover takes place.

A Roth IRA is Subject to the Five-Year Rule

Once you transfer money into your new Roth IRA, it pays to keep it there for a while. If you withdraw any earnings that have been in the account for less than five years, you will likely be required to pay income tax and an additional 10% penalty. This is known as the five-year rule. After five years, any earnings withdrawn through a non-qualified distribution is subject to income tax only, with no penalties.

Penalties for Early Withdrawals

In addition to the five-year rule, non-qualified distributions or withdrawals from a Roth IRA — meaning those made before you reach age 59 ½ — can result in penalties and taxes. While there are certain exceptions that may apply, including having a permanent disability or using the funds to buy or build a first home, it’s wise to think twice and research any potential consequences before withdrawing money early from a Roth IRA.

💡 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.

Should You Convert Your 401(k) to a Roth IRA ?

Converting a 401(k) to a Roth IRA may be beneficial if you anticipate being in a higher tax bracket when you retire since withdrawals from the account in retirement are tax-free. And if you are a high earner, a 401(k) rollover to a Roth IRA may give you the opportunity to participate in a Roth IRA that you otherwise wouldn’t have.

Another advantage of a Roth IRA is that you can withdraw the money you contributed (but not the earnings) at any time without paying taxes or penalties. And unlike 401(k)s, there are no required minimum distributions (RMDs) with a Roth IRA. Finally, IRAs generally offer more investment options than many 401(k) plans do.

Can You Reduce the Tax Impact?

There are some potential ways to reduce the tax impact of converting a 401(k) to a Roth IRA. For instance, rather than making one big conversion, you could consider making smaller conversion amounts each year, which may help reduce your tax bill.

Another way to possibly lower the tax impact is if you have post-tax money in your 401(k). This might be the case if you contributed more than the maximum deductible amount allowed to your 401(k), for instance. You may be able to avoid paying taxes currently by rolling over the after-tax funds in your 401(k) to a Roth IRA, and the rest of the pre-tax money in the 401(k) to a traditional IRA.

In general it’s wise to consult a tax professional to see what the best strategy is for you and your specific situation.

The Takeaway

One way to handle a 401(k) account from a previous employer is by rolling it over into a Roth IRA. For some individuals, it might be the only way to take advantage of a Roth IRA, which typically has an income limit. With a Roth IRA, account holders can contribute post-tax dollars now, and enjoy tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Can I roll over my 401(k) to an existing Roth IRA?

Yes, you can roll over a 401(k) to an existing Roth IRA — or to a new Roth IRA.

Can I roll my 401(k) into a Roth IRA without penalty?

You can roll over 401(k) to a Roth IRA without penalty as long as you follow the 60-day rule if you’re doing an indirect rollover. You must deposit the funds into a Roth IRA within 60 days to avoid a penalty.

How much does it cost to roll over 401k to Roth IRA?

Typically there is no charge to roll over a 401(k) to a Roth IRA, unless you are charged processing fees by the custodian of your old 401(k) plan or the new Roth IRA. However, you will owe taxes on the money you roll over from a 401(k) to a Roth IRA. The money will be taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.

Is there a time limit when rolling over a 401(k) to a Roth IRA?

If you do an indirect rollover, in which you cash out the money from your 401(k), you have 60 days to deposit the funds into a Roth IRA in order to avoid being charged a penalty.

Is there a limit on rollover amounts to a Roth IRA?

No, there is no limit to the amount you can roll over to a Roth IRA. The standard annual contribution limits to a Roth IRA do not apply to a rollover.

How do you report a 401(k) rollover to a Roth IRA?

You will need to report a 401(k) rollover on your taxes. Your 401(k) plan administrator will send you a form 1099-R with the distribution amount. You typically report the distribution amount on IRS form 1040 when filing your taxes. You can consult a tax professional with any questions you might have.

Can you roll over partial 401(k) funds to Roth IRA?

You can typically roll over partial 401(k) funds as long as your plan allows it. Check with your plan’s administrator.


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

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

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

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