What Is Index Investing?

As you begin to build your portfolio of investments, you will find that there are many ways to approach investing. Some require a significant amount of time and involvement, while others are more passive.

Before putting a significant amount of money into a portfolio, it’s important to figure out what your investment goals are and to learn about the many possible investment options.

One popular type of investment is called index investing, and as with any investing, there can be benefits, but there also may be risks. In this article we will go over what index investing is and how best to use this investing strategy.

An index fund is a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund which aims to mimic the overall performance of a particular market. The fund includes multiple stocks or bonds from the market and can be bought and sold like it’s a single investment.

There are index funds for the U.S. bond market, the U.S. stock market, international markets, and others. Index investing is the process of investing in these index funds.

Active investing typically involves in-depth research into each stock purchase, as well as regularly watching the market in order to time buys and sells. Passive investing strategies either aim to bring in passive income or to grow a portfolio over time without as much day-to-day involvement. Index investing is a passive strategy which looks to match the returns of the market it seeks to track.

Index investing started in the 1970s, when economist Paul Samuelson claimed that stockpilers should go out of business. Samuelson claimed that even the best money managers could not usually outperform the market average.

Instead of working with money managers, Samuelson suggested that someone should create a fund that simply tracked the stocks in the S&P 500.

Two years later, struggling firm Vanguard did just that. The fund was not widely accepted, and neither was the concept of index funds. Index investing has only become widely popular in the past two decades as data continues to reaffirm its merits.

Index investing has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Out of investments in mutual fund assets, the percentage allocated to index funds grew from 11 percent to 25 percent between 2006 and 2016. In 2017 investors withdrew $191 billion from U.S. stock funds and invested $198 billion into U.S. stock fund indexes.

Popular Indexes Include:

•  S&P 500 Index

•  Dow Jones Industrial Average

•  Russell 2000 Index

•  Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index

•  Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index

Popular Index Funds Include:

•  Vanguard S&P 500

•  T. Rowe Price Equity Index 500

•  Fidelity ZERO Large Cap Index

•  SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust

•  iShares Core S&P 500 ETF

•  Schwab S&P 500 Index Fund

The Pros of Index Investing

Can Be Easier to Manage

Although it may seem as though active investors have a better chance at seeing significant portfolio growth than index investors, this isn’t necessarily the case. Day trading and timing the market can be extremely difficult, and may result in huge losses or underperformance.

The average investor typically underperforms the stock market by 4-5%. Active investors may have one very successful year, but the same strategy may not work for them over time. A 2013 study showed that index investing outperformed other strategies up to 80-90% of the time. SoFi users can take advantage of index investing by setting up an auto investing strategy that will automatically rebalance and diversify portfolios.

Lower Cost of Entry for Multiple Stocks

If you only have a small amount of money to start investing and you choose to invest in individual stocks, you may only be able to invest in a few companies. With index investing, you gain access to a wide portfolio of stocks with the same amount of money.

Also, index investing doesn’t necessarily require a wealth manager or advisor—you can do it on your own. The taxes and fees tend to be lower for index investing since you make fewer trades, but this is not always the case. Always be sure to look into additional fees and costs before you make an investment.

Portfolio Diversification

One of the key facets of smart investing is diversifying your portfolio. This means that rather than putting all of your money into a single investment, you divide it up into different investments.

By diversifying, you may lower your risk because if one of your investments loses value, you still have others. At the same time, if an investment significantly goes up in value, you still typically benefit.

Index funds give you access to a large number of stocks all within a single investment. For example, one share of an index fund based on the S&P 500 can give you exposure to up to 500 different companies for a relatively small amount of money.

Index Investing is Fairly Passive

Once you decide which index fund you plan to invest in and how much you will invest, there isn’t much more you need to do. Most index funds are also fairly liquid, meaning you can more easily buy and sell them when you choose to.

The Cons of Index Investing

Although there can be upsides to investing in index funds, there can also be downsides and risks to be aware of.

Index Funds Follow the Market

Studies have shown that investors don’t always understand what they’re investing in when it comes to index funds. 66 percent of investors think that index funds are less risky than other investments, and 61 percent believe that index funds help to minimize portfolio losses. However, index funds track with the market they follow, whether that’s the U.S. stock market or another market. If the market drops, so does the index fund.

Index Funds Don’t Directly Follow Indexes

Although index funds generally follow the trends of the market they track, the way they’re structured means that they don’t always directly track with the index. Since index funds don’t always contain every company that’s in a particular index, this means that when an index goes up or down in value, the index fund doesn’t necessarily act in exactly the same way. This is why it’s important to understand how specific index funds seek to track their underlying index.

Index Investing Is Best as a Long-Term Strategy

Since index funds generally track the market, they do tend to grow in value over time, but they are certainly not get-rich-quick schemes. Returns can be inconsistent and typically go through upward and downward cycles.

Some investors make the mistake of trying to time the market, meaning they try to buy high and sell low. Investing in index funds tends to work the best when you hold your money in the funds for a longer period of time or dollar-cost-average (e.g. invest consistently over time to take advantage of both high and low points).

Choosing an Index to Invest in

The name of a particular index fund may catch your eye, but it’s important to look at what’s inside an index fund before investing in it. Determine what your short and long term goals are and what markets you are interested in being a part of before you begin investing.

There are both traditional funds and niche funds to choose from. Traditional funds follow a larger market such as the S&P 500 or Russell 3000. Niche markets are more focused and may contain fewer stocks.

They may focus on a particular industry. Typically, a good way to start investing in index funds is to add one or more of the traditional funds first, then add niche funds if you feel strongly about their growth potential.

Index Funds Are Weighted

Depending on which index fund you invest in, it may be weighted. For example, the S&P 500 index is weighted based on market capitalization, meaning larger companies like Amazon and Facebook hold more weight than smaller ones.

If Facebook’s stock suddenly goes down, it may be enough to affect the entire index. Other indexes are price weighted, which means companies with a higher price per share will be weighted more heavily in the index. Another form of index weighing could be equal-weight or weights determined by other factors, such as a company’s earnings growth.

Less Flexibility

If you actively invest in individual stocks, you can usually choose exactly how many shares you want to buy in each company. But when you invest in index funds, you have less flexibility. If you’re interested in investing in a particular industry, there may not be an index fund focused solely on that.

How to Get Started With Index Investing

In order to invest in an index, investors typically purchase exchange-traded funds (ETFs) which seek to track the index. Some funds include all the assets in an index, while others only include particular assets.

Prior to investing in any particular index fund, be sure to look into the details of how the fund works. You can find information about what is contained in the fund, how it is weighted, its fees and quarterly earnings, and other details on the fund’s website, through your financial advisor, or EDGAR , the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system that is overseen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Alternatives to Index Investing

Despite the fact that index investing has grown in popularity over the past two decades, some analysts are now bringing up additional downsides and alternatives which investors may want to consider.

The stock market includes companies from many different industries, some of which investors are moving away from investing in. Oil and gas companies, pesticide companies, and others which some people may consider harmful to the environment or human populations may be included in an index fund.

As the economy moves away from these industries, these types of companies may not perform as well, and as an investor you may not want to financially support them.

Some new index funds are being formed around the principles of sustainability and positive impact. You may also be interested in impact investing and other types of ETFs and mutual funds which focus on specific, positive industries.

Active stock portfolio management has been showing stronger performance over the past two years. This shift is partly due to the fact that certain industries are performing much stronger than others, and stock pickers can account for that as they build portfolios.

Investors in index funds may also see a downturn in coming years if the U.S. experiences a bear market.

Building Your Portfolio

Whether you’re interested in investing in index funds or in hand-selecting each stock, it’s important to keep track of your portfolio and current market trends.

Once you know what your investment goals are, SoFi Invest® can be a great tool to build your portfolio and track your finances. With SoFi Automated investing, you can easily add index fund ETFs to your portfolio, all on your phone.

The automated investments are pre-selected for you, so you simply need to decide which funds to invest in, and how much you want to invest. Or, if you prefer to hand-select each stock in your portfolio, you can use the SoFi Active Investing platform.

SoFi has a team of credentialed financial advisors available to answer your questions and help you reach your goals. The SoFi platform has no transaction fees, and you only need a $1 to get started.

Find out more about how you can use SoFi Invest to meet your financial goals.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third Party Trademarks: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design), and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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

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, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.


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Strategies for Building an Investment Plan for Your Child

They make you laugh, and they make you cry. You worry about them when they’re out of sight, and even when they’re in plain view. You desperately hope they grow up strong, healthy, and ready to tackle life’s challenges.

After all, they are your pride and joy. Children make parents do some pretty selfless things, and one of the more beneficial thing you could do is plan for their financial future. But how do you do that with everything else you have to worry about in your life?

Fortunately, there are some fairly simple financial tools to help you meet your goals, whether you’re saving for a college education, a once-in-a-lifetime summer camp, or a down payment for their first home.

Depending on your situation, some options might be obvious good choices, while others come with caveats you might want to know about before investing.

With a little background knowledge, you could find an investment plan for your child’s future. An investment for a child could also provide a great education in financial responsibility.

Let’s look at some of the choices.

Custodial Accounts

A simple custodial savings account in your child’s name could be a good start as an investment for a child. When a baby is born, everybody from Grandma to Uncle Joe may want to contribute to the account. Unlike college savings plans , which require the funds be used for education, custodial accounts offer a lot of flexibility.

Savings can be used for almost anything—a European vacation, car for college, pre-college expenses—as long as it is for the benefit of the child. Just remember, any money in an investment account for a child is irrevocably in their name and for their benefit . You can’t take it back.

A custodial account could be a great vehicle for children to learn how to invest. In fact, if you’re wondering how to buy stock for a child to help them learn about money, a custodial account might be a great investment account for a child. You could pick a company they would be excited to follow, like Disney or McDonald’s, and let them watch over time.

Custodial accounts, also known as Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfers to Minors
(UTMA) accounts, don’t have a limit to how much you can invest. While contributions aren’t tax-deductible, there may be a tax advantage because it’s in the child’s name.

But that advantage might quickly turn into a disadvantage if unearned income from dividends, gains, or interest reaches a certain amount. Then the account is subject to the Kiddie Tax , which Congress enacted to prevent abuse of the financial vehicle by parents. With a custodial account, you can gift up to $15,000 in 2019 for each child; double that if you’re married and filing jointly. Above that you’re liable for the federal gift tax .

While you can use the money in the account to pay for various things your child needs, one caveat is that the child gets full control when they reach the age of majority, usually 18 or 21 years of age.

Custodial accounts might be good for modest, defined goals, such as paying for education, orthodontia, or academic camps, for example. If there is a sizable sum of money in the account, consider whether you want to transfer that amount, unregulated, to someone of such a young age. In that situation, one idea might be to have a lawyer draw up a trust to set up specific parameters you can live with.

If the thought of giving up control is too much for you, you could set up a guardian account in your name so you can decide how the money is spent. Essentially, it’s a way to earmark funds to give to your child down the road.

College Savings Accounts

A Coverdell education savings account or a 529 savings plan could be a worthy option for a child. They offer two ways to pay for educational costs, whether college or K–12 schooling. The Coverdell allows you to contribute up to $2,000 a year for education expenses. While contributions are not tax deductible, withdrawals are tax-free.

Coverdells have two areas where they might have a slight advantage over 529 accounts: You can select from a wide range of investments and the money you withdraw can be used for any qualifying education expenses, such as books, tutors, and equipment.

The 529 college savings plan tends to be a popular way to save for college. You can make larger contributions than you can with a Coverdell account, and any withdrawals for qualified education purposes are tax-free.

As of 2018, Congress allows withdrawals of up to $10,000 for K–12 tuition. Not all plans or states that sponsor 529 plans are in line with the new rules , so you might want to ask a tax expert or the manager of the plan about your options.


Custodial (Traditional)

Custodial IRAs are another investment option for a child. They work just like a traditional IRA, so when your child has earned income from a first job, babysitting, or other work, they (or you) can contribute up to $5,500 annually . Starting early might be a way to teach them about the power of financial stewardship.

With a traditional custodial IRA, your child will pay ordinary income tax when they withdraw the money in retirement, and they must begin doing so at age 70½ . Contributions are also tax deductible, which probably won’t benefit them if their income is still low or they don’t meet the $12,000 standard deduction threshold requiring them to pay federal income tax.

Both traditional and Roth custodial IRAs convey to the child at the age of majority (18 to 20 years of age, depending on the state).


Just like traditional IRAs, contributions to a Roth IRA also grow tax-free over the years and have the same contribution limits—however, the Roth could be an investment possibility for your child if you value flexibility. Whether you’re saving for college or retirement, it might offer more advantages for your child over the decades than a traditional IRA.

While you still pay tax on each contribution, all withdrawals are tax-free , which could be a big benefit to your child, assuming they’ll be in a higher tax bracket at retirement. There is no required minimum distribution when they must start withdrawing.

One of the biggest advantages to a Roth is that your child could use the contributions for any reason besides retirement. But two special perks of the Roth include the ability to pay for certain higher education expenses and withdraw up to $10,000 to buy their first home. On the other hand, if withdrawn before retirement, earnings can be taxed and your child could be penalized in addition.

Growing Wealth for Your Children

When it’s time to get serious about saving—for college, retirement, or something else—you could set up an account with SoFi Invest®. It’s easy to open an investment account with SoFi, and you’ll have access to complimentary financial advisors and other benefits to help your family save for a bright future.

Finding the right investment plan for a child doesn’t have to be a chore. Start building for your children’s futures and open a SoFi Invest account today.

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, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.


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What You Should Know as a Novice Crypto Investor

We’re reading a lot about cryptocurrency being here to stay, but for many of us, it’s still not a regular part of our everyday financial lives. Why is that? Could be lack of education among investors, and the general lack of current, regular commercial use of cryptocurrency. However, if acquiring the right financial knowledge is a roadblock, let’s move that out of the way right now and do some schooling on cryptocurrency trading for beginners.

The Basics of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is digital currency (used exclusively online) that acts as a direct financial exchange between users without the involvement of a bank or other third parties. Think of it as an alternative currency to traditional forms of payment, like cash, checks, and credit cards.

The information used within the system is kept safe through the use of encryption techniques . These methods scramble the info to make the activity secret and difficult for outsiders to access.

When you and others use a cryptocurrency system, everyone and everything remain anonymous. Each exchange that takes place is woven into a group called “blocks” (hence the term blockchain), which again is coded (encrypted) in order to keep it private and secure.

The basic unit of value of cryptocurrency is expressed as a “token,” which is used exclusively by members of the group involved in the blockchain. Every time a transaction happens, a “miner” updates the blockchain (more about this later).

Cryptocurrency is not created by any bank system or government agency, which means it’s in a universe of its own. Also, it isn’t regulated to the same degree as other financial products, like banking and investments. At least not yet.

Many people find this freedom to be a very cool vehicle to ride. Its popularity is growing in an organic way too; this makes it hard to predict where it’s going and where it will end up.

Cryptocurrency can be bought and sold on special exchanges ; the most commonly known cryptocurrency is bitcoin. SoFi also allows users to buy and sell cryptocurrency.

Recommended: A Beginner’s Guide to Cryptocurrency

The Future of Cryptocurrency

Of course, not everybody is on board with cryptocurrency being a given for the future. Although there are have been more than 2,000 cryptocurrencies on the market, more than 800 of them are now no longer operational.

Another fact to note: the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has denied more than a dozen applications for permission to list bitcoin exchange-traded funds (EFFs). The reason, though, could be to your benefit as an investor: the need to minimize risks of fraud and manipulation, and to increase investor protection.

“We’ve seen some thefts around digital assets that make you scratch your head,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said at CoinDesk’s Consensus Invest conference. “We care that the assets underlying that ETF have good custody and that they’re not going to disappear.”

That said, are you a believer? Are you thinking about taking a leap, or at least getting in on the ground floor, before the anticipated mad mainstream rush?

Let’s break down the details of cryptocurrency trading for beginners:

SoFi Invest offers a new way
to trade crypto.

It’s in the Wallet?

Offline, cryptocurrencies are stored in “wallets.” A wallet is a software program that stores both private and public keys that allow you to send and receive digital currencies and keep an eye on your coin.

Hot wallets give you easier access, but they can also more easily be hacked. Cold wallets are harder to open. If you plan on holding on to your investment for a long time, you may want to opt for the cold wallet. If you need to dip into your coin more than occasionally, consider the hot wallet.

There are a number of wallet providers , and you’ll want to do some due diligence before choosing one.

Learn to Chill

Cryptocurrency is still a relatively new technology, which means it can act like a newborn: crying jags, not understanding how things work, crawling and stumbling, and behaving irrationally.

You’ll need to get used to huge price swings, instability when least expected, rollercoaster performance reports, and general anxiety on your part. Be sure you can take it.

Tune Out The Naysayers

Cryptocurrency trading for beginners means getting involved in a new idea. When that happens, get ready for the know-it-alls and Negative Nellies to tell you what’s what. You’re going to hear that cryptocurrency is overhyped, just a fad, or a wicked scam.

Of course, you’re going to do your due diligence and make up your own mind with educated decisions, so let don’t let them rattle you. Also, what may be true and unfortunate for one cryptocurrency may not be the same for another.

Get Professional Insights

Here’s the thing: Maybe cryptocurrency isn’t for you right now. The fact is, cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government—and they are volatile and involve a high degree of risk.

Not only that, but consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies in the same way that they regulate traditional investment products. If you instead want to learn more about traditional investment products, now’s the time to check out SoFi Invest®.

With SoFi Invest, you’ll get access to financial planning and personalized advice, all based on how you want to invest and what your future goals are. All you need to do is make an appointment to chat with one of our SoFi Invest Advisors.—there is no obligation and no cost.

We’ll work with you to make sense of an investment strategy and help you map out a plan (and stick with it).

With an automated investing account with SoFi, we’ll invest in thousands of assets, actively managing them, which can help you get a clearer vision of your future path. To avoid veering off the road, we’ll automatically rebalance your investments as needed, so that they stay on track.

Make an appointment with a SoFi financial planner and start your path to a more healthy financial future. And whatever the future brings, you don’t have to take that path alone.

Choose how you want to invest.

Ready to

Learn more →

Want to take a
hands-off role?

Learn more →

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.
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.
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. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member

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How Much Should I Have Saved in My 401k?

Retirement is supposed to be the golden age of relaxation. Whether it be reading the garden, lazy days spent fishing, or early mornings on the golf course, when you retire, there are no bosses or daily meetings to preoccupy you. But what is the best way to get there?

Saving for retirement can seem daunting, especially when you consider housing expenses, student loan debt, and other day-to-day living expenses.

The average American retirement savings leave much to be desired. Most Americans nearing retirement age in the U.S. have only 12% of the recommended $1 million saved.

Actively preparing for retirement is one of the best ways to ensure you can spend your later years relaxing and enjoying your well-earned time off. There are a wide variety of accounts that allow you to save for retirement, from Traditional and Roth IRAs to a 401k, 403b, or other investment accounts. One of the most popular retirement vehicles is the 401k.

If you’re getting ahead on saving for retirement you may be wondering “how much should I have in my 401k?” While the answer to that varies depending on your financial situation, age, and more, there are a few retirement guidelines that can help you better prepare for the future.

What Is a 401k?

A 401k is an employer-sponsored retirement plan that allows both you and your employer to make contributions to the account. If your employer offers a 401k plan, you are most likely able to select a percentage or specific monetary amount to contribute to your 401k from each paycheck.

One of the major benefits of a 401k is that your employer can also make contributions. If your employer offers matching contributions, it makes sense to participate in the 401k plan, at least up until the matching maximum. Matched contributions are determined at your employer’s discretion, so check your company policy to see what is offered at your workplace.

There are two kinds of 401ks. When you contribute money to a traditional 401k, the money is tax deductible, but will be taxed when you withdraw it in retirement, at the income bracket you are in at that time. When you contribute to a Roth 401k, the money is taxed at the time of contribution, at the tax rate you are currently in. But it’s not taxed when you withdraw the money.

For both Roth and Traditional 401ks, the contribution limit for 2018 is $18,500. If you are over the age of 50, you are allowed to contribute an additional $6,000, known as a catch-up contribution. When you contribute money to a 401k, it is intended to be used in retirement .

Because of this, there is a penalty if you withdraw money before the age of 59 ½. On the other side of the age spectrum, if you do not begin withdrawals by the age of 70 ½, you will be faced with fines and penalties.

Average 401k Balance by Age

Your readiness for retirement will depend on a few factors; including your age, income, and expected retirement age. While everyone’s situation is different, it’s never too early—or too late—to start preparing for retirement.

To see if you’re on track with your retirement goals, take advantage of free online resources, like a retirement calculator that will help you estimate your financial readiness for retirement.

The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. But if you’ve gotten a late start, there are ways to boost your retirement savings. As you age, your strategies for saving for retirement will shift. Here’s what to expect in your 20s and beyond.

In Your 20s

You’re just starting out in the work force and chances are you’re still paying off your student loan debt. While paying off your student loans and spending money on happy hour may seem more important than saving for retirement, the earlier you begin saving, the more time you will have to benefit from compound interest.

Compound interest is interest calculated on the initial principal and on the interest accumulated over the previous deposit period. This means saving for retirement in your 20s has significant advantages when you are finally ready to retire. Some experts think by the time you turn 30 , you should have saved one year’s salary toward your retirement. The average 401k savings for someone in their 20s in 2017 was $9,900.

In Your 30s

Your 30s are when you want to kick your retirement savings into high gear. It’s a good rule of thumb to up your retirement savings contributions to 15% of your monthly income . You may have other expenses like kids or a mortgage, but you’re also likely making a bit more money than you were in your 20s—so take advantage and invest some of that money in your future.

No one else will be looking out for your financial health in retirement. The average 401k savings for someone in their 30s in 2017 was $38,400.

In Your 40s

By the time you have reached your 40s, you should have a considerable chunk of change socked away for retirement. Common financial advice is that you have at least three times your annual salary saved at 40 if you intend to retire at 67. Often times, your 40s are also when you’re faced with financing your children’s education.

And when push comes to shove, many parents will put their child’s education ahead of their retirement savings. You’re now considerably closer to retirement than you were at 22, so consider opening an independents retirement savings account like an IRA, in addition to contributing to your company’s 401k plan.

Diversifying your investments may help reduce some investment risk. The average 401k savings for someone in their 40s in 2017 was $91,000.

In Your 50s

When you turn 50, you can begin making catch-up contributions to your 401k and IRA. You can contribute an additional $6,000 a year to a 401k and an additional $1,000 a year to your IRA. Take advantage of these catch-up contributions and continue to save.

Consider adding any bonuses or extra income into your 401k to boost your savings. The average 401k savings for someone in their 50s in 2017 was $152,700.

In Your 60s

As you get into your 60s, you can see retirement at the next exit. Now would be a good time to adjust your investments into less risky options. As retirement becomes more real, take the time to prepare for the unexpected and safeguard some of your investments. The average 401k savings for someone in their 60s in 2017 was $167,700.

But the average couple in their mid-60s will have to cover approximately $280,000 in health care costs. Make sure your retirement plan accounts for health care costs.

About 70% of Americans surveyed in 2016 said they plan to work as long as possible. Extending your working years could lead to financial gains down the road. Depending on when you were born, you qualify for Social Security benefits at different ages. If you were born after 1960, you won’t be able to collect Social Security until you are 67.

Invest with SoFi Invest®

If you are looking for opportunities to expand your retirement savings and complement your employer-sponsored 401k plan, consider investing with SoFi. If you have an old 401K, we can help you find out how much you are paying in management fees. Then, we can help you determine the impact of rolling over your 401K into an IRA with SoFi. Schedule an appointment here.

Additionally, at SoFi, we offer a competitive wealth management account with no SoFi management fees and members get complimentary access to financial advisors.

We’ll work with you to establish your financial goals and determine the risk profile you are most comfortable with. SoFi will work to diversify your investments and automatically rebalance your profile as needed. You can start investing with as little as $100.

Ready to take control of your financial future? See how a SoFi Invest account can help you reach your retirement goals.

Choose how you want to invest.

Ready to

Learn more →

Want to take a
hands-off role?

Learn more →

SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance.
This information isn’t financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals and risk appetite.
Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit or fully protect loss in a down market.
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.
Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC, a registered investment advisor.

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6 Real Questions About Your Emergency Fund—Answered

You probably already know that you should have an emergency fund—a bit of extra cash on hand in case of an unforeseen event, like getting laid off or needing to move.

But many of us don’t know more than that. How much should you have? How, exactly, do you save that cash? And should you focus on building this fund or paying off debt first?

SoFi advisor and Certified Financial Planner Alison Norris recently talked about all of this and more at a recent #WealthWednesday discussion on the SoFi Member Facebook page. (Yep, SoFi members have daily access to complimentary advisors on social media and via phone—check out more about the SoFi Member Benefits.)

And today, we’re bringing that discussion, as well as other common questions about emergency funds and her expert answers, to you.

How much should I have in an emergency fund?

Your emergency fund should be three to 12 times the amount you spend monthly. The exact amount should reflect your risk aversion to unexpected unemployment. If you have reason to believe you could quickly land another job—say, you’re a software engineer in San Francisco—then you might be comfortable with three months’.

If, on the other hand, you’d expect a longer job search—for example, you’re in a specialized line of work, or a finding a new job would likely entail moving to a new city—your emergency fund should reflect that

Also, consider this: Would you be willing to amend your lifestyle if income slows or something costly crops up? If you’re OK living on a friend’s couch eating ramen, then you might survive with a smaller rainy day fund. If you wish to keep living the life you’re accustomed to, then you may want more of a backup.

Where should I keep my emergency fund—my checking account, a savings account, or elsewhere?

You want to keep your emergency fund money “liquid,” or available to access as soon as you need it. It’s also smart to separate cash on hand from your emergency fund. Cash on hand can be left in your checking account, earmarked for paying upcoming bills. Your emergency fund works well in a FDIC-insured savings account.

With that said, many savings accounts only pay you 0.01% interest on cash balances. This doesn’t keep pace with inflation, so you’re essentially losing money. Instead, you might consider a high-yield savings account that earns 1.0% interest or more. Bankrate is a good place to compare your options.

What do you suggest if you have roughly $5K built up so far for an emergency fund and also about $3K in credit card debt?

Should I wipe out the debt and then build the fund back up, or chip away at the debt and maintain the fund?

I might suggest knocking out that credit card debt in full. Here’s the order of operations that works best for most:

•   1. Keep enough cash on hand to pay recurring bills and avoid living paycheck to paycheck. (This isn’t your emergency fund, just cash that’s good to have on hand.)

•   2. If your employer matches contributions to a retirement plan, max out that match.

•   3. Pay off consumer debt, including high-interest credit cards.

•   4. Build your emergency fund.

Also keep in mind that the comfort of having a cash cushion and not living on the financial edge may outweigh other purely financial benefits of wiping out high-interest debt. Sleeping soundly at night is another benefit to building up an emergency fund.

Could a credit line be considered a pseudo emergency fund?

While I don’t have credit card debt, I do have a ton of student loans I want to pay off more aggressively. My credit cards would allow me to live for a good three months or so if I needed to.

I commend your desire to pay off your student loans aggressively, but I wouldn’t do so if it means you would instead have revolving credit card debt.

Say, for example, you have a 6% rate on your student loans and a 20% rate on your credit card loans, and $1,000 in outstanding debt with both. You’ll end up paying $140 less toward your student loan each year (maybe even less because there are tax deductions for student loan interest). I might suggest prioritizing the emergency fund while making minimum payments on your student loans.

What’s the best way to save up for my emergency fund, quickly?

The basic equation for wealth building is: Money In – Money Out = Money Saved.

But you don’t need us to tell you how math works. The key is to figure out which levers to pull to increase your odds of success.

Start by tracking your expenses, either in a spreadsheet or using a free service like Mint.com. You’ll quickly get a handle on your monthly cash flows, which will enable you to target an emergency savings goal tailored to your needs.

The next step is key: Pay yourself first. Schedule recurring auto-deposits into your savings account to coincide with your paychecks. You’ll find this cash flow will quickly become painless and invisible. More importantly, it ensures that when you overspend in a given month, it’s discretionary items—like eating out one more time—that get cut, rather than your savings.

I’m almost at my savings goal for my emergency fund. Where should I put my money next?

The earlier you save for retirement, the better, so you can let the power of compounding interest work for you. And even better than compounding is free money. For both reasons, the first place to invest for retirement should be in your employer-sponsored retirement plan, if you have access to one.

Many employers will match part of your contribution, which is essentially free money. Once that match is met, aim to keep contributing to tax-advantaged accounts. You can invest in the employer retirement beyond your match, contribute to an IRA, or (our preferred strategy) both. To understand which IRA account you can contribute to, use this IRA calculator.

From there, document your assets and liabilities. Know your good debt from bad. A mortgage or student loan? Good. A high-interest credit card? Not so good. Also write down your long- and short-term goals—for example, paying for wedding, saving for a house down payment, or even taking a summer vacation.

Once you’re saving for retirement, you can plan a savings or investment strategy for these goals, based on their time horizon.

Are you ready to start saving? Learn more about SoFi Invest® to see if it is the right fit for you!

SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. This information isn’t financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals and risk appetite. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC, a registered investment advisor.
SoFi doesn’t provide tax or legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique. Consult with a qualified tax advisor or attorney.
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 can’t guarantee future financial performance.
This information isn’t financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals and risk appetite.
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
SoFi Checking and SavingsTM is offered through SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC, a registered investment advisor.


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