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6 Things to Know Before Investing in Crypto

Not long ago, the idea of investing in cryptocurrency was hard to grasp. Instead of a traditional, government-backed currency, cryptocurrency is a digital one. But in a relatively short amount of time, an entire ecosystem has formed, focused on making transactions, trading, and investing in cryptocurrency.

Potential cryptocurrency investors might want to familiarize themselves with the basics before diving in—including how crypto works, how it’s used, the different types of cryptocurrency, and how investing in cryptocurrency differs from other types of investments.

Crypto Fundamentals

Cryptocurrency (or “crypto”) is digital money. It can be traded, exchanged, and transacted like other types of currency, but the key difference is that it’s a completely digital asset—cryptos have no physical body, whether that be a metal coin or paper bill. Crypto is enabled by blockchain technology, which is more or less a distributed ledger that records transactions and ownership details.

Cryptos can be obtained in a number of ways: They can be purchased with a credit card—thereby exchanging traditional currency for a cryptocurrency—or through a process called “mining,” which generally requires high-end computers. Once cryptos have been obtained, they’re securely stored in a digital wallet, which are offered by many different companies. Some brokerages give investors the option to invest in cryptocurrencies, too.

Because cryptocurrencies are not backed by any government—unlike the U.S. dollar, which is insured by the U.S. government—they’re inherently speculative and riskier than traditional currencies or investments.

This investment type is still new—Bitcoin first emerged in 2009, followed by other cryptocurrencies. With roughly a decade of crypto trading to look back on, and with little or no guardrails, investing in cryptocurrency is far from what experts would call a “safe” investment.

Despite the risks, crypto can be particularly appealing to intrepid investors. Here are some tips for investors who are considering adding cryptocurrency to their portfolios.

1. There Are Different Types of Cryptocurrency

Before investing in cryptocurrency, it’s important to know what types are out there. These include Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrencies, as well as other “altcoins” like Ethereum, Litecoin, and Ripple.

While most of these cryptocurrencies were built on the same framework as Bitcoin, some have their own separate systems and protocols. Altcoins may claim to have improved on Bitcoin, with attributes such as low or no fees and shorter transaction times.

2. Investing in Cryptocurrency is Risky

Cryptocurrency is still a largely unregulated and relatively unproven sector. For this reason, some say that to call investing in crypto “speculative” is an understatement.

So why invest in cryptocurrency? Certain digital assets and cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, have a fixed supply limit — the number of bitcoins that exist in the world will not grow larger. In that way, some crypto proponents consider it immune to inflation compared with investments denominated in fiat currency, like stocks or bonds. For these reasons, it is considered a hedge against inflation, though this theory has yet to be proven.

And then there’s plain old performance. In the decade or so since it was founded, Bitcoin has performed better than any other asset. That said, prices and exchange rates for Bitcoin and other currencies have varied wildly. For example, Bitcoin was valued at more than $14,000 per coin in 2017 before dropping to less than $3,500 per coin by the beginning of 2019. And as always, past performance is not an indication of future success.

Other risks include potential government interference or regulation, and some cryptocurrencies have collapsed already , leaving investors unable to access their investments. There’s always the possibility that could happen again, or that investors might be taken in by a crypto scam .

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3. Crypto Value Hinges on Supply and Demand

Crypto prices fluctuate a bit differently than more mainstream investments. A blockbuster earnings report isn’t going to send crypto prices soaring, as it might in the case of a stock.

The value of a cryptocurrency is largely, if not completely, contingent upon supply, demand, and the public’s faith that it carries value. For example, when demand for Bitcoin increases, the price or value of Bitcoin goes up. Conversely, when demand drops and many people are selling Bitcoins, the price or value falls.

💡 Recommended: A look at Bitcoin’s price history throughout the years.

4. Diversification Logic Applies

Many investors know the value in diversifying their investments. That means that an investor’s asset allocation is spread across a number of different investments—stocks, foreign stocks, bonds, precious metals, etc.—rather than, say, solely in a single company’s stock. The basic idea is to reduce risk; a portfolio with an outsized allocation to a single company or commodity is riskier than a diversified one.

The same logic could also apply to crypto investing. There are numerous types of cryptocurrencies available for investment, and sticking with only one, like Bitcoin, may be riskier than investing in several different cryptos.

5. Crypto Investments Are Taxed as Property

When is cryptocurrency not currency? When the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is classifying cryptocurrency earnings for tax purposes. In that case, it’s considered a “capital asset” , much like a stock or bond, and because of that designation, cryptocurrency is considered property.

As a result, investors may have a tax liability against their holdings, and may owe capital gains taxes if they turn a profit on their investment. For more on this, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to taxes and cryptocurrency.

6. It Can Be Hard to Predict Crypto Returns

Given cryptocurrency’s speculative nature and the fact that it’s a relatively new option for investors, it’s hard to know just what to expect in terms of returns. Investors don’t have decades of stock performance data to look back on, or quarterly earnings reports to sift through, for example. For that reason, it’s best to keep expectations in check when investing in crypto—profits can be had, but catastrophic losses are also a very real possibility.

The Takeaway

Cryptocurrency is an alternative form of currency that isn’t backed by a government or a tangible form like gold or paper money. With the general public and financial world becoming more accustomed to the idea of digital currencies, cryptocurrency may be here to stay.

For crypto investors, getting in early may reap rewards, but in the near-term, those investors are taking on outsized risks. But before investing in cryptocurrency, it’s important to remember that the basic rules and guidelines of investing still apply. To help minimize risk, crypto shouldn’t play an outsized role in a portfolio.



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.

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.

Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.

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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Are We in a Double-Dip Recession?

The COVID-19 pandemic and social-distancing strategies used to curb the virus’ spread plunged the US economy into recession in February 2020, marking the end of the longest bull market in American history. The stock market took a tumble, hitting a low in late March. But since then, amid government stimulus designed to minimize the economic impact of the pandemic, stocks have taken back much of the ground they lost.

Will rising stocks, the easing of social distancing restrictions, and the return of millions of people to work spell a quick end to the recession? Possibly. But it’s also possible that we could be in for a double-dip recession. A double-dip recession is one in which the economy enters recession, with a brief recovery before the economy enters recession for a second time. Here’s a look at what that could mean.

Economic Recessions 101

Generally speaking, a recession is a period of economic decline. It can be accompanied by a rise in unemployment, a loss of consumer confidence, drops in income and spending, increased business failures, and, of course, falling stock markets.

There have been 13 recessions since the end of World War II, including the current recession, which began at the end of February and early March as COVID-19 spread across the United States. The economy began to contract as states issued stay-at-home orders, stores and restaurants closed, and travel nearly ceased.

Recession is a natural part of the economic cycle and, historically speaking, the economy has always recovered.

What Shapes Can Recovery Take?

Recovery from recession can take a few different forms, including V-shaped, U-shaped or the double-dip (W-shaped) recovery.

A V-shaped recovery is the best case scenario in which there is a sharp downturn and then the economy rebounds quickly. If you were to graph this type of downturn and recovery it would look like the letter V.

A U-shaped decline and recovery represents a slow economic growth, in which the economy takes months, if not years to return to pre-recession heights. Imagine taking the graph of a V-shaped recession and spreading the bottom out. The Great Recession of 2007–2009, which lasted for 19 months, is a good example of a U-shaped recession.

A double-dip, or W-shaped recession and recovery occurs when the economy enters recession twice in quick succession. An initial recovery occurs relatively quickly, spurred on by government stimulus. However, a second dip occurs that disrupts the recovery process. This second dip could be spurred on by a number of factors, including the end of monetary and fiscal stimulus, ongoing unemployment, a drop in industrial output, falling GDP, or other economic shocks.

When Was the Last Double-Dip Recession?

The last time a double-dip recession occurred in the US was between 1980 and 1982. The scene was set for the first recession of 1980 by monetary policy of the 1970s. Policymakers believed that they could lower unemployment by controlling inflation. This belief led to what was known as “stop-go” monetary policy, which alternated between fighting high unemployment and high inflation.

When the Fed was in “go” time, it would lower interest rates to free up cash for businesses, which could theoretically start to employ more people. When it was in “stop” mode, the Fed would raise interest rates to try and fight inflation. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t work, and unemployment and inflation rose together during the period.

In 1979, Paul Volcker became the chairman of the Fed and helped squash the cycle of inflation and unemployment by raising the interest rate to 20%. Though this move had some benefits, it also aided in the recession of 1980.

The economy recovered relatively quickly heading into 1981. Though GDP rose, unemployment and inflation remained hig. In response, the Fed tightened the monetary supply and the country plunged back into recession in late 1981. Volcker was determined not to back down from his monetary policy despite increasing criticism from Congress and the Treasury Department, saying “We have set our course to restrain growth in money and credit. We mean to stick with it.”

Eventually, the economy recovered after inflation was brought under control and unemployment fell, ushering in a new era of relative economic stability.

Are We Headed for Another Double Dip?

The movements of the market and the economy can be difficult to predict. No one knows for certain how the recovery will shape up. But some experts say that a double-dip recession is possible again. For example, if states reopen too quickly, relaxing social distancing rules, there could be a resurgence of COVID-19 that leads to another government shutdown.

Congress provided trillions of dollars in aid to help prop up the economy through the CARES Act, which offered direct payments to citizens and loans to small businesses to help keep them afloat.

Yet, experts worry that the government could withdraw its economic aid programs too soon, which would leave the recovery too weak to stand on its own.

Other experts believe that while monetary and fiscal stimulus from the federal government may encourage a short-term, V-shaped recovery, such a recovery would not factor in damage to business balance sheets, sales and profitability, which may take longer to show up and for investors to notice the damage.

It’s unclear what would happen should another dip occur. Would Congress be prepared for a second round of bailouts, for example? Do businesses have enough cash to support them through a second dip, or would more businesses fail? Will consumer confidence fall, making it even more difficult for the economy to bounce back?

Preparing for a Double-Dip Recession

While a double-dip recession can be hard to predict, there are things investors can do to make sure they are prepared.

First, it may be prudent that investors have enough saved in an emergency fund. It is recommended to put away at least three to six months worth of expense. This may help ride out difficult financial periods and make it less likely they’ll need to withdraw money from the market while stocks are down.

Second, investors may want to evaluate how diversified their investment portfolios are. Not all investments will perform the same way during a recession. Some may be up, even as others are down. A diversification strategy allows individuals to spread their money out across asset classes—such as stocks and bonds—and sectors to help reduce the risk that poor performance from any given stock will drag their portfolio down.

Finally, talking to a financial advisor can go a long way in helping create a financial plan to help weather the current and future big recessions. SoFi financial planners are available to members—at no additional cost—to advise them according to their individual financial needs.

Visit SoFi Invest® to learn more.


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.

SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, LLC and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.

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 the QQQ ETF?

The Invesco QQQ ETF, formerly known as the PowerShares ETF, is an exchange-traded fund that tracks the Nasdaq 100 index.

The QQQ is widely considered to be one of the safer ETFs on the market and has received positive performance rankings from analysts. The fund enjoys high liquidity, being the second-most-traded ETF in the United States as of mid-2020.

The QQQ only holds companies that are included in the Nasdaq 100 and have been listed on the Nasdaq exchange for a minimum of two years. As of August 2020, the ETF contained 104 holdings.

The QQQ exists as a unit investment trust. A UIT is an investment company offering a fixed portfolio through a single security that can be bought and sold by investors as individual shares.

An investment company of this type doesn’t actively trade stocks, meaning shares of its investments aren’t bought or sold unless there’s an extraordinary event like a bankruptcy or corporate merger.

So investors can know that when they own shares in a holding offered by this type of investment company, the underlying assets will mostly stay the same. Not all funds are like this; in fact, some ETFs are actively traded and sometimes have portfolio managers altering the underlying assets daily.

In many ways, the QQQ might be an attractive option for inclusion in a long-term investment portfolio for some investors. The ETF provides cost-efficient exposure to many large companies with high levels of innovation. Investors don’t have to be burdened with picking specific stocks or being limited to a technology-only fund (although the QQQ is heavily weighted toward tech, but it also invests in other sectors).

What is the QQQ? To answer that question, first we must look at the Nasdaq 100.

What Is the Nasdaq 100?

The Nasdaq exchange is the second-largest stock exchange in the world, based on market cap.

In addition to hosting the stocks of some of the world’s largest companies, the exchange has had several notable accomplishments over the years. It was the first to offer electronic trading, the first to keep records in cloud storage, and the first to launch a website.

The Nasdaq 100 consists of the 100 largest companies (by market capitalization) listed on the Nasdaq exchange, except for financial companies.

Part of what makes the Nasdaq 100 index unique is that it uses something called a modified capitalization methodology. The goal of this method is to stop the index from becoming too heavily influenced by any of its super large companies.

That way, if a tech giant like Apple, for example, were to see a big selloff one day, the Nasdaq 100 shouldn’t see as steep a decline, assuming the other 99 companies aren’t also going down.

Stocks in the Nasdaq can be more volatile and riskier than average. But the returns can also be above average.

As of July 2020, the Nasdaq 100 index had achieved a 426% return on investment over a 10-year period. (Note: This refers to the cumulative return of all 100 companies in the index over that amount of time. The index itself has no single way for investors to purchase it, which is why things like the QQQ exist.)

Each quarter, Nasdaq looks at the composition of the index and adjusts weightings as needed to try to achieve this goal of a more equitable performance.

According to the Nasdaq website, there are over 490 investment products tied to the Nasdaq 100. The Invesco QQQ ETF is included.

What Is in the QQQ ETF?

The Invesco QQQ ETF is one of the many ways for investors to gain exposure to the Nasdaq 100.

Most of the QQQ involves large international and United States-based companies in sectors like telecommunications, health care, industrial matters, and technology.

Tech giants like Tesla, Intel, Apple, and Google make up a large portion of the ETF, as the Nasdaq tends to include many tech and growth-oriented stocks.

In fact, as of October 2020, stocks in the technology sector made up almost half of the QQQ ETF, at 48.2%. Other notable sectors included communications services at 19.1%, consumer discretionary at 18.9%, health care at 6.7%, and consumer staples at 4.7%.

The QQQ is rebalanced each quarter (every three months), meaning its managers try to balance the investments in a way that will not give too much influence to any one stock. The ETF is also reconstituted annually, meaning its managers consider which securities to buy, sell, or hold throughout the coming year.

Now that we’ve looked at what is in the QQQ ETF, let’s look at some pros and cons of investing in it.

Pros and Cons of the QQQ ETF

The QQQ has its benefits and drawbacks like any other investment choice.

ETFs come with something called an expense ratio, which represents the amount of fees paid to the company that manages the fund. The fees cover the expenses of operating and maintaining the fund.

Expense ratios are expressed as percentages that will be taken from the fund’s assets before paying investors. If a fund has an expense ratio of 0.5% and the fund sees a return of 4.5% on the year, investors will see a return of 4% after expenses.

Expense ratios are important to consider for any ETF because they can have a big influence on returns, especially for long-term investors.

Pros

One of the pros of the QQQ is that it comes with a very low expense ratio, coming in at just 0.2%, or 20 cents for every $100 invested. This low cost of holding the fund only amplifies its returns over time.

Outsized returns are another pro for this ETF. Though past performance doesn’t always indicate future results, the QQQ has provided higher returns than the S&P 500 for much of recent history. Ten of the last 12 years have seen the QQQ outperform the S&P 500.

Cons

One of the negatives of the QQQ is a relative lack of diversification. While the fund may be more diversified than an ETF that invests exclusively in technology, it’s still less diversified than many similar securities.

The Nasdaq 100 has stocks from eight sectors, but as we saw earlier, the tech sector alone makes up more than 60% of the entire index.

Due in part to this lack of diversification and focus on tech and communications, the QQQ can see above-average volatility. This can make it riskier in the short term, although the fund is still seen as a relatively safe investment.

While the QQQ could see wild swings from time to time, those swings will likely be much less severe than holding the individual stocks in the fund.

How to Invest in the QQQ ETF

Let’s review all this briefly.

The Nasdaq is one of the largest stock exchanges in the world.

The Nasdaq 100 is an index that tracks the top 100 largest stocks in the Nasdaq.

The QQQ ETF is a popular fund that tracks the Nasdaq 100.

After understanding some of the basics about what is in the QQQ ETF, let’s assume an investor wants to gain exposure.

What’s the best way to invest in the QQQ?

Investors will have to answer this question for themselves, but here are a few potential ways to go about it.

•  Search for the ticker “QQQ” and buy shares of the ETF directly in a brokerage account. When wanting to invest large sums, consider dollar-cost averaging.
•  Look into leveraged ETFs that track indexes on a 2:1 or 3:1 basis. These are riskier. Leveraged funds might be more for short-term traders. Examples are QLD or TQQQ.

The Takeaway

The Invesco QQQ ETF is a popular exchange-traded fund that tracks the Nasdaq 100 index. Like any investment choice, the QQQ has pros and cons. One of the easiest ways to invest in an ETF like the QQQ might be to buy shares on an exchange like SoFi’s.

SoFi offers all the tools that both beginning and experienced investors need to accomplish their monetary goals. SoFi Invest® offers educational content as well as access to financial planners. The Active Investing platform lets investors choose from an array of stocks, ETFs or fractional shares. For a limited time, funding an account gives you the opportunity to win up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice. All you have to do is open and fund a SoFi Invest account.

Download the SoFi Invest mobile app today.


SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

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


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

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.

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

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Should I Have an Emergency Fund?

A hospital bill in the thousands. A vet invoice for hundreds. A car repair for more than you make in a month. When faced with an emergency, it can compound the problem to try to figure out how to pay for the unexpected expenses, on top of an already stressful situation.

If you find yourself questioning, “Should I have an emergency fund?” the answer should be a resounding yes, absolutely! But where to begin? Forty percent of Americans say they are unable to afford even a $400 emergency expense.

Conventional wisdom claims you should have enough money saved in an emergency fund to cover at least three to six months of expenses, depending on your personal financial situation.

But with looming student debt, credit card payments, or other big financial burdens, it can be hard to imagine saving while keeping up with all of your bills and expenses. Emergency funds are great for major unexpected expenses, but preparing for the unexpected still takes time and planning.

Beefing up Your Budget

One of the first ways you can start saving up for an emergency fund is to evaluate your current spending habits and create a budget, if you don’t already have one. Take a look at where there is fat to trim, meaning extra expenses you can minimize or eliminate.

Start with a simple spreadsheet, which should help you break down your spending to see your total income, plus what you spend on necessities like rent, loan payments and groceries, discretionary spending like shopping or entertainment, and long-term goals, including emergency fund savings or retirement.

For a two-income household, you could aim to have three months of expenses in your basic emergency fund, with six months for a one-income household.

In a recent survey, 67% of millennials report having a savings goal and sticking with it every month, or most months. Your overall savings goal might actually include more than just saving for an emergency fund.

One common tactic for an easy budget to stick to is to put 20% of your take-home income toward financial goals, such as savings, and then make part of that just for your emergency fund.

You might want to look at your current bills and deadlines and see what you can adjust to make the most sense with your paydays. If you get paid every two weeks, but all of your bills are due at the end of the month, maybe you find you are dipping into those savings to pay everything on time.

You could try spreading out your bills throughout the month or grouped closer to your paychecks, so you can better budget your money throughout the year. Everybody’s financial situation is different, so figure out what works for you—and stick with it.

Having an emergency fund means you’ll be better prepared to cover any urgent, unplanned financial crises, like a high medical bill or costly car repair, without ruining your normal budgeted living expenses. With money set aside, you’ll be able to stress less and avoid more costly solutions like credit cards or personal loans to fund any emergencies.

However, one possible disadvantage to trying to build up your emergency fund is that you might feel like that money should be going toward paying off debt, like student loans or credit cards, before storing away funds in savings. But it’s important to know good debt from bad in this case.

A mortgage or student loan is generally considered good debt, while a high-interest credit card can be worse for your overall credit score and financial health. If you are weighing paying off debt versus building up your emergency fund, you might consider this order to figure out your top priorities:

•   Make sure you have enough money in the bank to pay any recurring bills.
•   Build a safety net equal to one month of your basic expenses
•   Match any contributions your employer makes for retirement contributions.
•   Pay off bad debt, like high-interest credit cards.
•   Build up your emergency fund.

Once you have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved up for your emergency fund, you can refocus your budget on other long-term goals.

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Putting Savings on Auto Drive

If you already use direct deposit, you’ve already got a possible solution to help you fund an emergency reserve. You can set up a recurring transfer with your bank, or split your direct deposit into a checking and a savings account, in order to make savings automatic.

If you don’t notice the money sitting in your account in the first place, it might be less tempting to spend it or move it back out of savings.

So how much can you afford to automatically transfer? The Consumer Federation of America says that an emergency savings fund should consist of at least $500 . They recommend using a savings account that you do not have easy access to, perhaps at a different bank than your current home bank.

You can kick-start your emergency fund by using a cash windfall like a tax refund, work bonus, or birthday check.

You could aim first to get to $500, then $1,000, then one month of essential living expenses, and work your way up from there.

You probably aren’t going to generate three or six months worth of extra money all at once.

Automating your savings might help, whether you choose to have a certain amount from your paycheck transferred into a separate savings account, or set up recurring transfers from checking to savings with your bank.

Then, when you do reach a comfortable number in your emergency fund, you can redirect those automated savings toward other financial goals like paying off debt or funding retirement.

Saving Smarter, Not Harder

So, if you’re determined to start saving more for an emergency fund, you might want to explore exactly what kind of savings account you want to keep your money in.

Certain accounts can earn you significantly more money based on the amount of interest. This could help your emergency fund grow even faster while rewarding you for saving money rather than spending it.

In fact, a SoFi Checking and Savings® account has no account fees. Plus, as a SoFi member, you’ll also receive other benefits to help you figure out your finances, like career coaching, mobile transfers, financial advisors, and community events.

We work hard to charge zero account fees. With that in mind, our fee structure is subject to change at any time.

Before you start saving up for an emergency fund, consider what kind of account you want to keep that money in. It can be helpful to have easy access to cash, in case you are ever faced with a financial emergency.

Get started building your emergency fund with a SoFi Checking and Savings account today.



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5 Trend Indicators to Know

Financial markets are notoriously fickle. Trying to time the market is a difficult task that few non-professional investors do with repeatable success. Still, there are some ways to make more educated investment picks based on publicly available data.

Once an investor selects which securities to buy, how do they decide a good price to enter into a trade at? One of the simpler ways to make a more informed decision regarding when to buy or sell a stock involves using trend indicators.

Trend indicators give investors a sense about which direction the market has moved and for how long it has been heading that way. Trend analyses aim to anticipate futures based on previous patterns in buying, selling, and pricing over time.

Understanding Trend Indicators

Trend indicators are an aspect of technical analysis. Technical analysis uses either computer-generated mathematical information (indicators) or looking for visible patterns in the charts of stock prices.

This investment approach isn’t guaranteed and doesn’t always boost investors’ returns. But, trend analysis can provide investors with one way to try to appraise the market’s next move.

Although technical analysis involves the use of objective data rooted in mathematics and historical price movements, this kind of analysis also relies on human interpretation of that data.

So, it can be said that using indicators and patterns involves aspects of both art (aka interpretation and intuition) and science (aka data and math).

Commonly Used Trend Indicators

Here’s an overview of five commonly used trend indicators that investors may want to look into:

1. Moving Averages

A “moving average” (aka MA) is defined as the mean of time series data. In finance, this technical trading term means the average price of a security (aka a monetary instrument, like stocks, with monetary value)—as calculated over a certain timeframe.

When prices begin trading above a moving average, this can sometimes be seen as a bullish signal, but doesn’t always produce reliable returns over time. A much stronger signal comes when two moving averages of different time lengths cross paths.

When a shorter-time-frame moving average crosses above a longer-time-frame moving average, the move is referred to as a “golden cross.” The general consensus among traders is that the most significant golden cross involves the 50-day MA moving above the 200-day MA. Put another way, it’s when a security’s short-term average is heading above it’s long-term valuation average.

While a single moving average can convey some important information, MAs can be much more useful when used in conjunction with additional MAs of different lengths or with other trend-following indicators.

2. Relative Strength Index (RSI)

The Relative Strength Index (aka RSI) provides insight into whether a security might be overvalued or undervalued. This indicator oscillates between extremes, which is a fancy way of saying that it moves up and down.

The RSI is as straightforward as they come. It’s represented by a single line plotted on a graph with values that range from 0 to 100.

The higher the Relative Strength Index value, the more overbought a security is thought to be. In contrast, lower values are generally thought to indicate oversold conditions. So, for some investors, a low reading on the RSI could signal a potential buying opportunity.

Just how low should this indicator drop before it can be considered a buy signal? The answer to this question might depend on who you ask.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to estimate when the RSI becomes overextended in either direction. Between 30 and 70 is a shaded area sometimes called “the paint.” When the line breaches this zone, it’s thought that trading momentum in a given security has begun to reach its limits, and a trend reversal could be in the cards soon.

In other words:

•  an RSI reading of below 30 is generally thought to indicate oversold conditions, meaning prices could be getting ready to move higher sometime soon.
•  An RSI above 70 is generally thought to indicate overbought conditions, meaning a move downward could be coming soon.

As with most other trend following indicators, the RSI works best when used in conjunction with other metrics of a stock’s overall trading sentiment.

3. Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD)

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (aka MACD) illustrates the relationship between two moving averages. While the Relative Strength Index (aka RSI) noted above tracks changes in pricing in a single stock or asset (typically represented as a fluctuating line graph), the MACD shows two lines in addition to a histogram that indicates trend strength.

This indicator is used in a similar way as the RSI, although there is a little more information contained in the MACD. Both indicators are known as momentum indicators because they try to gauge the strength of a trend.

Whereas the RSI oscillates between 0 and 100 based on average price gains and losses over a set period, the MACD measures the relationship between two exponential moving averages.

Subtracting the 26-period Exponential Moving Average (EMA) from the 12-period EMA is how the MACD is calculated. This calculation results in the MACD line. A nine-day EMA of the MACD, which is often referred to as the “signal line,” is shown on top of the MACD line. The lines are plotted atop a histogram meant to give traders an idea of momentum strength.

As with most trend indicators, there are multiple ways to interpret the MACD. One of the most common interpretations involves the MACD crossing its signal line.

A cross above the signal line is considered to be a potential buy signal, while a cross below the signal line is considered to be a potential sell signal.

4. On Balance Volume (OBV)

On balance volume (OBV) is a measurement of the selling and buying pressure on a given security. Volume gets added on up days and subtracted on down days.

On a day when the security closes at a higher price than its previous closing price, all of that day’s volume is considered upward volume. When the security closes lower than its previous closing price, that day’s volume is considered downward volume.

The numerical value of the OBV isn’t really important – it’s the direction that counts. Declining volume tends to indicate declining momentum and price weakness, while increasing volume tends to indicate rising momentum and price strength.

While the RSI is an indicator that signals bullishness when weak, OBV works in the opposite way. One of the most striking signs of a potential pullback in price can be seen using OBV. This can happen when the price of a security continues making higher highs even as OBV stalls or begins declining.

When this happens, it’s referred to as a negative divergence, and may mean that fewer traders are pouring money into a trade—potentially indicating that prices could start falling.

Here are a few other quick notes about OBV:

•  When both OBV and price make higher highs and higher lows, there’s a higher likelihood that the upward trend may continue.
•  When both OBV and price make lower highs and lower lows, it’s likely the trend could continue.
•  When prices are confined to a tight range, and OBV is rising, this may signal a period of accumulation. An upward breakout could be on the horizon.
•  When prices are confined to a tight range, and OBV is falling, this may signal a period of distribution. A downward breakout could be on the horizon.

5. Average Directional Movement Index (ADX)

The ADX is another trend indicator that aims to measure trend strength. It works by averaging the differences in price range over time. So, if an asset’s price barely move from day-to-day, the ADX will show a lower reading—while a big change in price will show a higher reading.

The Average Directional Movement Index is represented by a simple line graph beneath a stock chart. This trend line is even easier to use than most. It’s thought that an ADX above 25 indicates a strong trend and an ADX below 20 indicates little to no trend.

Here are some notes about potential ways to interpret the ADX:

•  When the ADX nosedives from a high point, it could signal a coming trend reversal.
•  A downward trend in the ADX could suggest that trends are dissipating overall. And, so, using any trend-following indicators could prove less reliable.
•  If the ADX rises by 5 points or more after a long period of staying low, this could be interpreted as a trade signal (a time to potentially buy or sell, depending on the direction of price movement).
•  A rising ADK generally means the market is entering into a stronger trend. The slope of the ADX line will be steeper when prices change faster. Steady, gradual trends tend to lead to a flattening of the ADX.

Keeping Tabs on Market Trends

There’s an old saying among traders—“the trend is your friend.”

Simply put, trends tend to keep moving in a certain direction when they have enough momentum. That’s why traders try to take note of them by studying trend-following indicators.

Trend indicators are a key way that many traders try to discern things like:

•  Which way a trend is moving
•  How strong that momentum is
•  How long the trend is likely to continue.

Some traders even go as far as trying to pick the exact time when a trend will change, using advanced strategies like options and futures contracts to try and profit from market volatility.

For most novice investors, adopting this kind of exact-timed technical strategy could prove highly risky, and might not always be necessary to earn returns over time. Individual investors might find it easier to use trend indicators to try determine when to buy and sell orders.

Whether an investor is brand new to the markets or has been building a portfolio for years, SoFi Invest® lets users take care of their investment needs in one secure app – including, trading stocks, buying crypto, and automated investing.

Learn more about building a financial future with SoFi Invest.


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