Paying Off Student Loans as a Single Parent

Almost one quarter of American children are being raised in a single-parent household, according to the US Census Bureau, Almost 80% are headed by single mothers.

As you might guess, single-parent households may have less financial resources than those with two parents. And if you’re trying to make ends meet for yourself and your child (or kids), it can be hard to stick to your student loan payment plan.

So how can you pay off your student loans as a single parent? This guide can help. You’ll learn about many of the options available. The information you’re about to read can help you make the best choice for handling student loans.

What Are Student Loans?

A student loan is money you borrow for educational expenses, which you must pay back with interest. Loans are unlike scholarships, which are “free money” that you don’t have to pay back.

There are two main types of student loans: federal and private loans.

•   Federal loans: Federal student loans are loans that you borrow from the federal government, or the Department of Education, to pay for college.

◦   Subsidized student loans are awarded on the basis of student need. The government absorbs some of the interest payments on the loan, making it a better deal for students. Typically, the borrower begins to pay these loans back after a six-month grace period post-graduation.

◦   Unsubsidized loans, on the other hand, don’t involve the government shouldering some of the interest payments, and interest can begin to accrue while the student is in school.

•   Private loans: Private loans come from private organizations, such as banks or credit unions. Interest rates are often determined by creditworthiness, which can make them more or less affordable than federal loans depending on your situation.


💡 Quick Tip: Often, the main goal of student loan refinancing is to lower the interest rate on your student loans — federal and/or private — by taking out one loan with a new rate to replace your existing loans. Refinancing makes sense if you qualify for a lower rate and you don’t plan to use federal repayment programs or protections.

Student Loan Solutions for Single Parents

The most important thing to remember is that you have several options as a single parent when deciding how to handle student loans. Below, you’ll get details on parent loan forgiveness, deferral and forbearance, increasing your income, public assistance, scholarships, and refinancing your student loans.

This advice can also be helpful if you’re thinking about paying student loans and starting a family at the same time.

1. Single Parent Loan Forgiveness

While there’s no program that exists explicitly called “single parent student loan forgiveness,” there are some income-driven repayment (IDR) plan options. You won’t have to pay your remaining balance under all four plans if your loans aren’t fully repaid at the end of the indicated repayment period.

There are four different IDR plans (only for federal loans) you can apply for give you a monthly payment based on your income and family size:

•   Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan: The new SAVE Plan considers your income and family size to determine your monthly payment. Your payments may be based on a smaller portion of your adjusted gross income (AGI) and are typically designed so that no one with an undergraduate loan has to pay more than 5% of their discretionary income towards their student debt. The government may cover the interest accrued monthly and can keep your balance from growing. The plan typically lasts 20 years for loans received for undergraduate study and 25 years for loans received for graduate or professional study.

•   Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Repayment Plan: The PAYE Plan is a repayment plan with monthly payments about equal to 10% of your discretionary income, divided by 12. Typically, those who can use this plan will never pay more than the 10-year Standard Repayment amount. The term is usually 20 years with PAYE.

•   Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan: The IBR Plan is a repayment plan with monthly payments equal to about 15% or 10% (after July 1, 2014) of your discretionary income, divided by 12. With this plan, a student pays loans 20 years if they’re a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014, or 25 years if they’re not a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014.

•   Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan: You’ll pay for 25 years with the ICR Plan. The ICR Plan assigns monthly payments based on the lesser of:

◦   Your repayment plan payment with a fixed monthly payment over 12 years, adjusted based on your income, or

◦   Twenty percent of 20% of your discretionary income, divided by 12.

•   You may also take advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, which means that if you work for an eligible nonprofit or government organization, you may qualify the remaining balance on Direct Loans after 10 years — 120 monthly payments — under a repayment plan like the ones above for single mom student loan forgiveness.

On the topic of forgiveness, note that President Biden’s targeted student loan forgiveness plan was struck down by the US Supreme Court in June of 2023 and therefore does not offer an avenue to reduce student loan debt.

2. Student Loan Deferral and Forbearance

Single parents may consider applying for student loan forbearance or deferral, meaning that you temporarily qualify for a suspension of your loans. But what’s the difference between the two?

•   In deferment, interest doesn’t accrue on certain loans.

•   Interest does accrue on all loans during a forbearance.

It’s worth mentioning that forbearance changes went into effect in fall of 2023, after there had been a pause since March 2020, as the pandemic unfolded. Student loan interest accrual restarted on September 1, 2023, and payments were once again due starting on October 1, 2023.

In addition to economic hardship, single parents may be able to get a deferment for reasons related to:

•   Cancer treatment

•   Graduate fellowship programs or half-time school enrollment

•   Military service or post-active duty service

•   Parent PLUS borrower with a student enrolled in school

•   Rehabilitation training program

•   Unemployment.

Note that you can only apply deferral and forbearance toward federal student loans, not private student loans. Log in to the Federal Student Aid website to learn more about and apply for various plans under the Department of Education.

3. Increase Your Income

Single parents may consider adding to their income to help make student loan payments or to have extra income on hand. Beyond picking up extra hours at your current job or asking for a raise, you may want to consider picking up a side hustle, renting out an extra room in your house, going back to school to get a better job, or looking for a new job. There are myriad ways to increase your income, especially since you only have one income stream.

Also consider various ways to budget as a single parent.

4. Public Assistance

Public assistance may be one way to help you reserve a pool of money specifically to pay for necessities, including student loan payments.

Public assistance can come in many forms, including food benefits (SNAP, D-SNAP, and WIC for women, infants, and children), home benefits (rental, home buying, and home repair assistance programs), help with utility bills, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), health insurance, and disability benefits.

Every state has specific rules about who can qualify for various benefits. Learn more about benefits from your
state social service agencies.

5. Scholarships

If you’re thinking about returning to school as a single parent to increase your income, consider applying for scholarships. This free source of money for college keeps you from having to borrow money for college.

Where do scholarships come from? They can come from the college or institution where you plan to attend, clubs and organizations, your employer, and other sources. Also consider asking your current employer whether they can help you pay for college through educational benefits, such as an employee tuition reimbursement program.

6. Refinance Your Student Loans

When you refinance your student loans, you “repackage” your private and/or federal student loans with a private lender with the goal of lowering the interest rate or accessing a lower monthly payment via an extended repayment term. (Note that if you do extend the term of the loan, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan.)

Also note that you cannot refinance your student loans under the federal student loan program. If you do refinance with a private loan, you will forfeit benefits and protections of federal loans, like IDR payments. To qualify for the best refinance rates, you’ll typically need to have a solid credit history and stable income.

If you currently have private student loans or are thinking of refinancing, shop around to see what offers best suit your situation and your needs.

Helping Pay Student Loans for Single Parents

Certain websites highlight ways single parents can pay for education, including grants and scholarships. For instance, the website SingleMothersGrants.org mentions such resources as:

•   Soroptimist International

•   The Amber Foundation

•   Kickass Single Mom Grant from Wealthy Single Mommy

•   Idea Cafe

•   Halstead Grant

•   Wal-Mart Foundation’s Community Grant Program

•   The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Be cautious that you don’t fall prey to fake scholarships; sadly, they do exist. You should never have to pay money to enter a scholarship competition, for example. Nobody intentionally wades into the financial mistakes parents make, so do be wary when looking into ways to finance educational expenses and avoid scammers.

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Do single moms qualify for student loan forgiveness?

Yes, single moms can qualify for student loan forgiveness through two main programs: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and income-driven repayment programs. To find out if you qualify for either one of these programs, apply or contact your loan servicer directly for more information.

How do single moms pay off student loans?

If single moms can’t make their student loan payments, they can access various programs through the Federal Student Aid program for federal loans. They can also ask their private lender for more options available to them. Refinancing of both federal and existing student loans is also possible; just know that if you refinance a federal loan with a private loan, you forfeit federal benefits and protections. Also, if you extend the period of loan repayment when refinancing, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan.

Is paying off a student loan considered a gift?

If someone else pays off your student loans, yes, it is considered a gift. This type of gift would churn out a gift tax for any gift above $17,000, the gift exclusion cutoff for 2023. In other words, both parents can contribute $34,000 per calendar year toward a child’s student loans without getting charged a gift tax.


Photo credit: iStock/Drazen Zigic

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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

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.

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

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Can You Contribute to Both a 401(k) and an IRA?

“Can I contribute to a 401(k) and IRA?” It’s a question many individuals ask themselves as they start planning for their future. The short answer is yes, it’s possible to have a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan at work and also make contributions to an individual retirement plan, either a traditional or a Roth IRA.

If you have the money to do so, contributing to both a 401(k) and an IRA could help you fast track your retirement goals while enjoying some tax savings. But your income and filing status may affect the amounts you are allowed to contribute, in addition to the tax benefits you might see from a dual contribution strategy.

Read on to learn more about the guidelines and restrictions for having these two types of accounts and to answer the question “Can I contribute to a 401(k) and IRA?”

Introduction to Retirement Savings Accounts

Although both IRAs and 401(k)s are retirement savings accounts, there are some important differences to know. The main one is that a 401(k) is an employer-sponsored retirement plan that allows both the employee and employer to contribute to the account.

IRAs are Individual Retirement Accounts that anyone can set up for themselves. There are two main types of IRAs: traditional and Roth.

Here’s a closer look at key differences between 401(k) plans and IRAs.

Understanding the Basics of 401(k)s and IRAs

A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Employees sign up for a 401(k) through work and their contributions are automatically deducted directly from their paychecks. The money contributed to a 401(k) is tax deferred, which means you are not taxed on it until you withdraw it in retirement. Some employers match employees’ contributions to a 401(k) up to a certain amount.

An IRA is a tax-advantaged savings account that you can use to put away money for retirement. Money in an IRA can potentially grow through investment. While there are different types of IRAs, two of the most common types are traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. The main difference between the two is the way they are taxed.

With a Roth IRA, you make after-tax contributions, and those contributions are not tax deductible. However, the money can potentially grow tax-free, and typically, you won’t owe taxes on it when you withdraw it in retirement (or at age 59 ½ and older). Individuals need to fall within certain income limits to open a Roth IRA (more about that later).

With a traditional IRA, your contributions are made with pre-tax dollars. Your contributions may lower your taxable income in the year you contribute. The money in a traditional IRA is tax-deferred, and you pay income taxes on it when you withdraw it. Traditional IRAs tend to have fewer eligibility requirements than Roth IRAs.

The Importance of Investing in Your Future

Retirement might seem like a long way off, but it’s vital to keep in mind that saving for it now can help you to meet your lifestyle needs and goals in your post-working years.

As you start planning your retirement savings, it’s a good idea to determine the estimated age you can retire, as the timing can influence other choices — like how much you choose to save, and what investments you might pick.

There are plenty of resources available online, including SoFi’s retirement calculator to help you determine potential retirement timelines and scenarios.


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

Can I Contribute to a 401(k) and an IRA?

This is a good question to ask if you’re just getting started on your retirement planning journey. For example, if you’re already contributing to a plan at work, you may be wondering if you can also save money in an IRA.

Or maybe you opened an IRA in college but now you’re starting your career and have access to a 401(k) for the first time. You may be unsure whether it makes sense to keep making contributions to an IRA if you’ll soon be enrolled in your employer’s retirement plan.

Having a basic understanding of how 401(k)s and IRAs work can help you make the most of these accounts when mapping out your retirement strategy.

Get a 2% IRA match. Tax season is now match season.

Get a 2% match on all your SoFi IRA contributions* through Tax Day (up to the annual contribution limits). Plus, you can still contribute to your 2023 IRAs until April 15th.


*Offer lasts through Tax Day, 4/15/24. Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

Rules and Regulations for Multiple Retirement Accounts

There is no limit to the number of retirement accounts you can have. However, there are IRS rules about how much you can contribute to these accounts. And if you have multiples of the same type of retirement account, like two IRAs, you need to stay within the overall limit for both accounts combined. In other words, there is one single annual contribution limit for multiple IRAs.

Key Takeaways for Dual Contributions

When contributing to a 401(k) and an IRA you’ll want to remember these important points:

•   You can contribute up to the limit on your workplace 401(k) and up to the limit on your IRA annually.

•   If you have multiples of the same type of retirement account, such as two IRAs, you cannot exceed the single annual contribution limit across the accounts.

•   If you have a 401(k) at work, the tax deduction on your contributions for a traditional IRA may be limited, or you may not be eligible for a deduction at all.

2023 and 2024 Contribution Limits for 401(k) and IRA Plans

The IRS sets annual contribution limits for 401(k) and IRA plans and those limits change each year. These are the contribution limits for 2023 and 2024.

401(k) Contribution Limits and Considerations

As noted, a 401(k) plan may be funded by employer and employee contributions. Here are the annual 401(k) contribution limits for 2023:

•   $22,500 for employee contributions

•   $7,500 in catch-up contributions for employees age 50 or older

•   $66,000 limit for total employer and employee contributions ($73,500 including catch-up contributions for those 50 and older)

These are the annual 401(k) contribution limits for 2024:

•   $23,000 for employee contributions

•   $7,500 in catch-up contributions for employees age 50 or older

•   $69,000 limit for total employer and employee contributions ($76,500 including catch-up contributions for those 50 and older)

IRA Contribution Limits and Income Thresholds

IRAs are funded solely by individual contributions. Here are the annual contribution limits for traditional and Roth IRAs for 2023:

•   $6,500 for regular contributions

•   $1,000 catch-up contributions for those age 50 and older

And here are the annual contribution limits for traditional and Roth IRAs for 2024:

•   $7,000 for regular contributions

•   $1,000 catch-up contributions for those age 50 and older

These limits apply to total IRA contributions, as mentioned earlier. So if you have more than one IRA, the most you could add to those accounts combined in 2023 is $6,500 — or $7,500 if you’re 50 or older. And the most you could contribute to these IRA accounts combined in 2024 is $7,000 or $8,000 if you’re 50 or over.

The Intricacies of IRA Contributions

There are some rules about IRA contributions that it’s vital to be aware of. For instance, you can’t save more than you earn in taxable income in your IRA. That means if you earn $4,000 for a year, you can only contribute $4,000 in your IRA.

Plus, as discussed above, the most you can contribute, whether you have one IRA or multiple IRAs, is the annual contribution limit.

And finally, the type of IRA you have affects the portion of your contributions (if any) you can deduct from your taxes.

Traditional vs Roth IRA: What You Need to Know

The main difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA is how and when you are taxed. There are also some eligibility requirements and deduction limits.

IRA Deduction Limits and Eligibility Requirements

Traditional IRAs offer the benefit of tax-deductible contributions. The money you deposit is pre-tax (meaning, you don’t pay taxes on those funds), and contributions grow tax-deferred. You pay tax when making qualified withdrawals in retirement.

However, if either you or your spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work and your income is higher than a certain level, the tax deduction of your annual contributions to a traditional IRA may be limited.

Specifically, if either you or your spouse has a workplace retirement plan, a full deduction of the amount you contribute to an IRA in 2023 is allowed if:

•   You file single or head of household and your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $73,000 or less

•   You’re married and file jointly, or a qualifying widow(er), with an MAGI of $116,000 or less

For 2024, you can take a full deduction of your yearly contributions to a traditional IRA if:

•   You file single or head of household and your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $77,000 or less

•   You’re married and file jointly, or a qualifying widow(er), with an MAGI of $123,000 or less

A partial deduction is allowed for incomes over these limits, though it does eventually phase out entirely.

Roth IRAs allow you to make contributions using after-tax dollars. This means you don’t get the benefit of deducting the amount you contribute from your current year’s taxes. The upside of Roth accounts, though, is that you can typically make qualified withdrawals in retirement tax-free.

But there’s a catch: Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is based on your income. So how much you earn could be a deciding factor in answering the question, can you have a Roth IRA and 401(k) at the same time.

You can make a full contribution to a Roth IRA if:

•   In 2023, you file single or head of household, or you’re legally separated, and have a modified adjusted gross income of less than $138,000. For 2024, your MAGI must be less than $146,000 to make the full contribution.

•   In 2023, you’re married and file jointly, or are a qualifying widow(er), and your MAGI is less than $218,000. For 2024, you need a MAGI less than $230,000 to be able to make a full contribution.

The amount you can contribute to a Roth IRA is reduced as your income increases until it phases out altogether.


💡 Quick Tip: The advantage of opening 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.

How Contributing to Both a 401(k) and an IRA Affects Your Taxes

Both 401(k) plans and IRAs can offer tax benefits. Here are the key tax benefits to know when contributing to these plans:

•   401(k) contributions are tax-deductible

•   Traditional IRA contributions can be tax-deductible for eligible savers

•   Roth IRA contributions are not tax deductible, but Roth plans allow you to make tax-free withdrawals in retirement

Understanding the Tax Implications

You might choose to contribute to a Roth IRA and a 401(k) if you anticipate being in a higher tax bracket when you retire. By paying taxes now, rather than when you’re in the higher tax bracket later, you could limit your tax liability.

However, if you expect to be in a lower tax bracket when you retire, you may want to opt for a traditional IRA so that you pay the taxes later.

Strategies for Minimizing Taxes on Withdrawals

Both 401(k) plans and IRAs are designed to be used for retirement, which is why the taxes you pay are deferred (and why these accounts are typically called tax-deferred accounts). As such, early withdrawals from 401(k) plans are discouraged and you may trigger taxes and a penalty when taking money from these plans prior to age 59 ½.

Here are the most important things to know about withdrawing money from 401(k) plans or traditional and Roth IRAs:

•   Withdrawals from 401(k) and traditional IRA accounts are subject to ordinary income tax at the time you withdraw them. If you withdraw funds before age 59 ½, you would owe taxes and a 10% penalty — although some exceptions apply (e.g. an emergency or hardship withdrawal).

•   Roth IRA contributions and earnings are treated somewhat differently. Withdrawals of original contributions (not earnings) to a Roth IRA can be made tax- and penalty-free at any time.

•   If you withdraw earnings from a Roth account prior to age 59 ½, and if you haven’t owned the account for at least five years, the money could be subject to taxes and a 10% penalty. This is called the five-year rule. Special exceptions may apply for a first-time home purchase, college expenses, and other situations.

In addition to taxes, a 10% early withdrawal penalty can apply to withdrawals made from 401(k) plans or IRAs before age 59 ½ unless an exception applies. But the IRS does allow for several exceptions. In terms of what constitutes an exception, the IRS waives the penalty in certain scenarios, including total and permanent disability of the plan participant or owner, payment for qualified higher education expenses, and withdrawals of up to $10,000 toward the purchase of a first home.

You might also avoid the penalty with 401(k) plans if you meet the rule of 55. This rule allows you to withdraw money from a 401(k) penalty-free if you leave your job in the year you turn 55, although you would still owe ordinary income taxes on that money. This scenario also has some restrictions, so you may want to discuss it with your plan administrator or a financial advisor.

Finally, once you reach a certain age, you are required to withdraw minimum amounts from 401(k) plans and traditional IRAs or else you could be charged a significant tax penalty. These are known as required minimum distributions or RMDs.

The IRS generally requires you to begin taking RMDs from these plans at age 73 (as long as you reached age 72 after December 31, 2022). The amount you’re required to withdraw is based on your account balance and life expectancy, and many retirement plan providers offer help calculating the exact amount of your required distributions.

This is critical, because if you don’t take RMDs on time you may trigger a 50% tax penalty on the amount you were required to withdraw.

RMDs are not required for Roth IRAs.

Choosing Between a 401(k) and an IRA

If you are deciding between a 401(k) and an IRA, there are a number of factors you’ll want to weigh carefully before making a decision.

Factors to Consider When Making Your Choice

Overall, IRAs tend to offer more investment options, and 401(k)s allow higher annual contributions. If your employer matches 401(k) contributions up to a certain amount, that’s another important consideration. Additionally, you’ll want to think about the tax advantages and implications of each type of account.

Comparing Benefits and Drawbacks of Each Plan

Both 401(k)s and IRAs have advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to consider all variables in determining which account is best for your situation.

401(k)

IRA

Pros

•   Larger contribution limits than IRAs.

•   Employers may match employee contributions up to a certain amount.

•   Wide array of investment options.

•   A traditional IRA may allow tax deductions for contributions for those who meet the modified adjusted income requirements.

Cons

•   Limited investment options.

•   Potentially high fees.

•   Contribution amount is much smaller than it is for a 401(k).

•   Roth IRAs have income requirements for eligibility.

Neither plan is necessarily better than the other. They each offer different features and possible benefits. If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, you may want to set up a traditional or Roth IRA depending on your personal financial situation. And if you’re already contributing to a 401(k), you may still want to think about opening an IRA.

The Combined Power of a 401(k) and IRA

Instead of investing in only an IRA or your company’s retirement plan, consider how you can blend the two into a powerful investment strategy. One reason this makes sense is that you can invest more for your retirement, with the additional savings and potential growth providing even more resources to fund your retirement dreams.

How to Strategically Invest in Both Accounts

Since employers often match 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage (for instance, your company might match the first 3% of your contributions), this boosts your overall savings. The employer match is essentially free money that you could get simply by making the minimum contribution to your plan.

Now imagine adding an IRA to the picture. Remember, with an IRA you have flexibility when investing. With a 401(k), you have limited options when it comes to investment funds. With an IRA, you’re able to decide what you’d like to invest in, whether it be stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchanged-traded funds (ETFs), or other options.

To strategically invest in both accounts, consider contributing to 401(k) and IRA plans up to the annual limits, if you can realistically afford to. Make sure this is feasible given your budget, spending, and other financial goals you may have such as paying down debt or saving for your child’s education. And do some research into how this approach may affect your retirement tax deductions.

Not everyone is able to max out both retirement fund options, but even if you can’t, you can still create a powerful one-two punch by making strategic choices. First, think about your company-matching benefit for your 401(k). This is a key benefit and it makes sense to take as much advantage as you can.

Let’s say that your company will match a certain percentage of the first 6% of your gross earnings. Calculate what 6% is and consider contributing that much to your 401(k) and opening an IRA with other money you can invest this year.

And, if you end up having even more money to invest? Consider going back to your 401(k). There still may be value in contributing to your 401(k) beyond the amount that can be matched — for the simple reason that company-sponsored plans allow you to save more than an IRA does.

Now, let’s say you have a 401(k) plan but your employer doesn’t offer a matching benefit. Then, consider contributing to an IRA first. You may benefit from having a wider array of investment choices. Once you’ve maxed out what you can contribute to your IRA, then contribute to your 401(k).

These are all just options and examples, of course. What you ultimately decide to do depends on your financial and personal situation.

Long-term Growth Potential

By investing in both a 401(k) and IRA, you are taking advantage of employer-matched contributions and diversifying your retirement portfolio which can help manage risk and may potentially improve the overall performance of your investments in aggregate.

In addition, while a 401(k) offered by your employer may have limited investment options to choose from, with an IRA, you have more access to different investment options. That could, potentially, help grow your money for retirement, depending on what you invest in and the rate of return of those investments.

Plus, by contributing to both kinds of retirement accounts, you are likely putting more money overall into saving for retirement.

Step-by-Step Guide to Contributing to Both 401(k) and IRA

If you’ve decided to open and contribute to both a 401(k) and an IRA, here’s how to get started.

Eligibility Verification and Contribution Processes

To determine if you’re eligible to contribute to a 401(k), find out if your employer offers such a plan. Your HR or benefits department should be able to help you with this.

If a 401(k) is available, fill out the paperwork to enroll in the plan. Decide how much you want to contribute. This will typically either be a set dollar amount or a percentage of your paycheck that will usually be automatically deducted. Next, select the type of investment options you’d like from those that are available. You could diversify your investments across a range of asset classes, such as index funds, stocks, and bonds, to help reduce your risk exposure.

Individuals with earned income can open an IRA — even if they also have a 401(k). First, decide what type of IRA you’d like to open. A traditional IRA generally has fewer eligibility requirements. A Roth IRA has income limits on contributions. So, in this case, you’ll need to find out if you are income-eligible for a Roth.

You can typically open an IRA through a bank, an online lender, or a brokerage. Once you’ve decided where to open the account and the type of IRA you’d like, you can begin the process of opening the account. You’ll need to supply personal information such as your name and address, date of birth, Social Security number, and employment information. You’ll also need to provide your banking information to transfer funds into the IRA.

Next decide how much to invest in the IRA, based on the annual maximum contribution amount allowed, as discussed above, and choose your investment options. Remember, diversifying your investments across different asset classes and investment sectors can help manage risk.

Examples of Diversified Retirement Portfolios

To build a diversified portfolio, one guideline is the 60-40 rule of investing. That means investing 60% of your portfolio in stocks and 40% in fixed income and cash.

However, that formula varies depending on your age. The closer you get to retirement, the more conservative with your investments you may want to be to help minimize your risk.

No matter what your age, make sure your investments are in line with your financial goals and tolerance for risk.

The Takeaway

Not only is it possible to have a 401(k) and also a traditional or Roth IRA, it might offer you significant benefits to have both, depending on your circumstances. The chief upside, of course, is that having two accounts gives you the option to save even more for retirement.

The main downside of deciding whether to fund a 401(k) and a traditional or Roth IRA is that it can be a complicated question: You have to consider your ability to save, your risk tolerance, and the tax implications of each type of account, as well as your long-term goals. Then, if you decide to move ahead with both types of accounts, you can work on opening them up and contributing to them.

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

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

FAQ

Can you max out both a 401(k) and an IRA?

Yes, you can max out both a 401(k) and an IRA up to the annual amounts allowed by the IRS. For 2023 that’s $6,500 for an IRA ($7,500 if you’re 50 or older), and $22,500 ($30,000 if you’re 50 or older) for a 401(k). For 2024, it’s $7,000 for an IRA ($8,000 if you’re 50 or older), and $23,000 for a 401(k) or ($30,500 if you’re 50 or older).

How do employer contributions affect your IRA contributions?

Employer contributions to a 401(k) don’t affect your IRA contributions. You can still contribute the maximum allowable amount annually to your IRA even if your employer contributes to your 401(k). However, having a retirement plan like a 401(k) at work does affect the portion of your IRA contributions that may be deductible from your taxable income. In this case, the deductions are limited, and potentially not allowed, depending on the size of your salary.


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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.

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

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

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


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How Much Does a Graphic Designer Make a Year?

If you have an interest in both art and technology, and a knack for creating distinctive visual designs, you might consider a career as a graphic designer. On average, graphic designers make anywhere from $26,500 and $89,500 a year in the U.S., according to ZipRecruiter.

How much money a graphic designer makes, however, can vary widely depending on education, experience, job location, and industry. But with a little career savvy, you can fulfill your creative passions while avoiding the role of a starving artist.

What Are Graphic Designers?

A graphic designer creates visuals to bring ideas to life. They can render their projects by hand or by using design software. Graphic designers can get paid by the hour or earn a yearly salary working for a company.

Here’s a look at some of the duties you might have as a graphic designer.

•   Designing visual marketing materials: This may include creating brand logos, websites, brochures, advertisements, packaging, and other promotional materials.

•   Targeting an audience: Graphic designers must research and understand their target audience so their product can successfully communicate a client’s message.

•   Creating and editing images: This can include both illustrations and photographs.

•   Choosing colors, layout design, and typography: A graphic designer’s mission is to deliver a product that is effective and eye-catching.

•   Staying current: Designers need to stay up to date with the latest design software and trends.

•   Maintaining deadlines: Graphic designers often need to juggle multiple projects while meeting strict deadlines.

Working as a graphic designer is generally not a job for introverts and antisocial people. While you may do a fair amount of solo design work, you’ll likely be asked to collaborate with copy editors and marketing teams, meet with clients, and present designs to co-workers and clients for feedback.

Recommended: Best Low-Stress Jobs for Introverts With Anxiety

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How Much Do Starting Graphic Designers Make a Year?

While most entry-level graphic designers won’t initially get paid $100,000 a year, it is a position that requires a specific skill set, so you’re likely to earn more than the minimum wage. The average entry level graphic designer salary in the U.S. is $59,801 as of January 26, 2024, but the range typically falls between $53,301 and $68,401.


💡 Quick Tip: When you have questions about what you can and can’t afford, a spending tracker app can show you the answer. With no guilt trip or hourly fee.

What is the Average Salary for a Graphic Designer?

On average, graphic designers make anywhere from $26,500 and $89,500, with the average falling at 55,951.

How much you can earn as a graphic designer ultimately depends on how much experience you have and what particular design niche you choose. For example, a lead graphic designer can make $129,541 per year, while a user interface (UI) designer can bring in as much as $159,500.

While working as a graphic designer is not one of the highest paying jobs in the U.S., those with an interest in both technology and art can find this career deeply fulfilling. The job also provides the opportunity to continually tackle new projects, keeping the work fresh and challenging.

Recommended: What Is a Good Entry Level Salary?

What is the Average Graphic Designer Salary by State?

Geographic location can influence how much money a graphic designer can make in the U.S. Here’s a look at the average graphic designer salary by state.

State

Average Graphic Designer Salary

Alabama $48,622
Alaska $54,797
Arizona $49,991
Arkansas $41,747
California $55,972
Colorado $53,038
Connecticut $48,933
Delaware $61,246
Florida $40,087
Georgia $45,296
Hawaii $53,016
Idaho $53,650
Illinois $48,923
Indiana $51,046
Iowa $48,668
Kansas $45,670
Kentucky $43,911
Louisiana $44,537
Maine $54,522
Maryland $59,274
Massachusetts $55,287
Michigan $43,952
Minnesota $51,011
Mississippi $48,507
Missouri $47,245
Montana $49,237
Nebraska $57,887
Nevada $51,813
New Hampshire $52,808
New Jersey $53,618
New Mexico $50,884
New York $59,198
North Carolina $45,792
North Dakota $54,025
Ohio $49,627
Oklahoma $56,060
Oregon $54,047
Pennsylvania $54,224
Rhode Island $50,061
South Carolina $46,758
South Dakota $51,059
Tennessee $47,380
Texas $53,386
Utah $47,345
Vermont $57,977
Virginia $60,192
Washington $65,386
West Virginia $41,878
Wisconsin $52,969
Wyoming $51,832

Recommended: Is a $100,000 Salary Good?

Graphic Designer Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

Within the field of graphic design, there are a number of specialty areas you might consider. Here’s a look at some of the most common types of graphic designers.

•   Web designers specialize in creating functional and visually appealing layouts, while ensuring the design elements are user-friendly.

•   User experience (UX) designers craft the user experience of mobile apps, websites, and other products.

•   User interface (UI) designers focus on the visual, interactive elements of apps, websites, and electronic devices to create aesthetically-pleasing interfaces.

•   Illustrators create visual designs for ad campaigns, magazines, books, and other mediums. Some may specialize in medical illustrations or children’s books.

•   Print designers come up with visual images and logos for brochures, business cards, and packaging materials.

•   Identity and branding designers create visual identities for companies and products.

•   Environmental graphic designers create visual designs for physical spaces, including museums, stores, and public spaces.

•   Motion graphic designers can work on animation and moving graphics for TV and movie title sequences, how-to videos, and more.

Degree requirements: To earn competitive pay, most aspiring graphic designers will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited graphic design program. You may also need some additional technical training to meet hiring qualifications for the positions listed above.

Job benefits for a salaried graphic designer can include:

•   Health insurance

•   Dental insurance

•   Vision insurance

•   Vacation/sick leave

•   Retirement plan



💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Pros and Cons of Being a Graphic Designer

Every job has its pluses and minuses. Here a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a graphic designer.

Pros of Being a Graphic Designer

•   Creative fulfillment: Graphic designers get to stretch their artistic muscles by developing captivating visuals for their clients.

•   Good work-life balance: Salaried graphic designers typically work nine-to-five hours. Many have the opportunity to work from home.

•   Freelancing options: If you get tired of working in the same place with the same people, you can choose to freelance. Graphic design is a job you can do anywhere at any time.

•   Being part of a team: You’ll likely collaborate with design team, clients, and marketing professionals.

•   Career longevity: As long as you stay current and on top of your game, you can work as a graphic designer at any age. You could even potentially pick up freelance work as a retiree.

Cons of Being a Graphic Designer

•   Sedentary lifestyle: Being a graphic designer doesn’t require the physical demands of a trade job. You’ll spend a lot of time behind a computer monitor.

•   Solitary work stints: While it’s true you’ll have chances to work with a creative team, much of your hour-to-hour creating happens alone.

•   Stressful deadlines: Even though office hours are typically nine to five, advertising campaigns and projects have hard deadlines you’ll be expected to meet.

•   Difficult clients: Clients may be critical of what you come with, or constantly change their minds.

•   Limited advancement opportunities: Graphic designers tend to stay in their lane. However, you could be moved into a managerial position, and there is still the potential for pay raises every year.

The Takeaway

If you crave expressing yourself as a visual artist, working as a graphic designer can pay you an average of $55,951 a year for doing what you love. Being a graphic designer also allows you to work in an energetic, collaborative atmosphere, while reaping creative and financial rewards.

Whatever career path you ultimately choose, you’ll want to make sure your potential earnings can cover your everyday living expenses. Try creating a budget and check out financial tools that can help track your spending.

With SoFi, you can keep tabs on how your money comes and goes.

FAQ

Can you make $100k a year as a graphic designer?

The average salary on the high end for a general graphic designer is $89,500 in the U.S.. While it’s not impossible to make $100,000, you would have to be at the top of your skill set and acquire some specialized experience.

Do people like being a graphic designer?

For many people, graphic design is a stimulating and rewarding career. Individuals who enjoy working on innovative, visual projects and collaborating with creative teams will probably like being a graphic designer.

Is it hard to get hired as a graphic designer?

Landing a job as a general graphic designer can be competitive. You may find it easier to get hired if you have a particular design specialty, such as UX (user experience), UI (user interface), or product design.


Photo credit: iStock/Moyo Studio

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

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.

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.

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How Much Does a Truck Driver Make a Year?

The median salary for a truck driver is $49,920 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you love life on the road and to work independently, a career as a professional truck driver might suit you. What’s more, you may be able to earn significantly more than the average: Truck drivers in the United States can make between $40,000 and $95,000 a year, and possibly even more.

How much a truck driver makes depends on several factors, including what kind of truck you drive, where you work, and your driving experience. Read on to learn more about this. Also, before you decide to hit the gas, it’s wise to investigate the benefits and drawbacks of the trucker lifestyle, which are also reviewed below.

What Are Truck Drivers?

Truck drivers are certified professionals trained to operate large commercial vehicles. They typically deliver large quantities of goods from one location to another.

A truck driver can spend long hours alone on the road, meaning it can be a good fit for introverts and a good job for antisocial people. Most truckers are employed by a trucking company, but some truck drivers make enough money to buy their own rigs and work as independent contractors.

Truck drivers typically must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) through their state, as well as specialized training and skills in order to drive this kind of vehicle (you’ll read more about this below).

Some of the responsibilities of a truck driver include:

•   Driving and operating commercial vehicles

•   Pre-inspecting the truck

•   Navigating road maps and destination routes

•   Verifying pick-up loads for accuracy and delivering cargo as instructed

•   Loading and unloading the goods

•   Maintaining basic vehicle maintenance

•   Complying with company safe work practices and policies

•   Accurately filling out company paperwork for deliveries

•   Staying current on truck driving permits and qualifications

•   Being able to lift up to 80 pounds repeatedly throughout the day.

Being a truck driver can be a good way to make money as a retiree. In fact, many cargo companies hire retired couples, as they can share the load and get more done together. You and your partner could travel in retirement while making extra income.


💡 Quick Tip: We love a good spreadsheet, but not everyone feels the same. An online budget planner can give you the same insight into your budgeting and spending at a glance, without the extra effort.

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How Much Do Starting Truck Drivers Make a Year?

Entry-level truck drivers can make a salary ranging between $32,348 to $52,837, an average of $41, 342 a year. Salaries can vary depending on several factors, including the driver’s experience, the kind of truck they drive, and the homebase location and the cost of living there.

Some commercial trucking companies may pay novice drivers by the hour vs. a yearly salary. Even starting out, a trucker can make more than the average minimum wage, bringing in around $17.73 an hour.

Recommended: Should the Minimum Wage Be Raised?

What is the Average Salary for a Truck Driver?

You’ve already learned that the median salary for a truck driver is just shy of $50,000 a year. That said, there can be the potential to make over $100,000 a year doing this job. Keep in mind, the range of what you can make depends heavily on what kind of truck you drive, your experience, and job title.

Here’s an example of the pay ranges in the truck driving industry:

•   Private fleet driver: $29,992

•   Mining industry driver: $40,655

•   Hazmat driver: $61,068

•   Tanker driver: $$62,166

•   Ice road driver (seasonal): $66,422

•   Regional truck driver: $75,877

•   Oversized truck driver: $82,262

•   Team truck driver: $119,464

•   Owner operator: $320,912

Recommended: Which Trade Jobs Make the Most Money

What is the Average Truck Driver Salary by State?

A big factor in how much money a truck driver makes a month or in a year depends where they live. As with most jobs, trucker salaries can fluctuate from state to state, and some areas may have higher-paying jobs than others.

Here are the averages for local truck drivers by state, in alphabetical order:

State

Local Truck Driver Annual Salary

Alabama $61,983
Alaska $65,071
Arizona $63,728
Arkansas $49,018
California $56,755
Colorado $62,188
Connecticut $59,005
Delaware $58,851
Florida $51,100
Georgia $57,742
Hawaii $63,210
Idaho $54,193
Illinois $57,444
Indiana $65,073
Iowa $59,276
Kansas $54,726
Kentucky $51,665
Louisiana $54,627
Maine $55,568
Maryland $57,034
Massachusetts $65,173
Michigan $51,518
Minnesota $62,568
Mississippi $58,142
Missouri $55,284
Montana $62,767
Nebraska $55,931
Nevada $61,525
New Hampshire $55,251
New Jersey $66,994
New Mexico $63,095
New York $62,095
North Carolina $53,615
North Dakota $64,470
Ohio $61,058
Oklahoma $54,165
Oregon $64,604
Pennsylvania $56,890
Rhode Island $59,839
South Carolina $54,745
South Dakota $60,931
Tennessee $58,297
Texas $53,737
Utah $57,956
Vermont $60,476
Virginia $58,158
Washington $65,467
West Virginia $43,937
Wisconsin $65,631
Wyoming $66,508

Source: ZipRecruiter



💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Truck Driver Job Considerations for Pay and Benefits

In order to become a professional truck driver you have to be 18 to 21 years of age (the requirement differs from state to state) and have a clean driving record, including no DUIs. Most truck companies require their employees to have a high school diploma or a GED, and undergo routine drug tests.

The biggest requirement to becoming a truck driver is obtaining proper certification: your commercial driver’s license (CDL), as mentioned above. Truck driving certification can be done by:

•   Enrolling in a truck driver training program. While not required, these programs can prepare you for the CDL with classroom and hands-on training.

•   Passing a physical exam to determine you are fit enough to handle a commercial vehicle.

•   Obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) via a written exam. This will allow you to drive a commercial vehicle under the supervision of a licensed CDL holder.

•   Getting your commercial driver’s license (CDL). This requires a written and driving exam.

•   Completing additional state requirements for driving vehicles such as tankers and those carrying hazardous materials.

Once you obtain your CDL and are hired by a company, many salaried truck driver jobs can come with the following benefits:

•   Health insurance

•   Paid time off

•   Retirement plans

•   Bonuses and incentives for reaching performance goals]

Pros and Cons of Being a Truck Driver

Being a professional truck driver can provide a solid income and a sense of freedom, but the job isn’t for everyone. Here are the biggest positives and negatives of being a truck driver:

Pros:

•   Potential for a steady yearly income.

•   No college degree required.

•   A quick start; most people can earn their CDL in 3 to 4 weeks.

•   High job demand/job security.

•   Opportunities to buy your own rig and be your own boss.

•   Traveling, sometimes across scenic America.

•   Pet perks: Many companies allow truckers to bring their dogs along for the ride.

•   Good benefits/driving bonuses.

•   An independent work day vs. punching the clock.

Cons:

•   Monotonous hours on the road.

•   Driving fatigue.

•   Unhealthy lifestyle due to long, sedentary stretches behind the wheel.

•   Poor diet. Many truckers exist on fast-food options while on the road.

•   Loneliness. You’ll spend days and possibly nights away from family, friends, and co-workers.

Of course, before embarking on any career, you’ll want to make sure your potential earnings will be enough to cover your expenses. Picking and sticking with one of the different budgeting methods can be helpful.

The Takeaway

How much a truck driver makes a year is on average $49,920, though salaries can vary considerably and soar higher if you own your own business. Being a truck driver can be a good fit for those who enjoy being out on the road and who are introverts, but the long hours and being away from home can be challenging.

FAQ

Can you make 100k a year as a truck driver?

The average truck driver earns $49,920 per year, but you can make $100,000 a year as a truck driver, especially if you own your own truck.

Do people like being a truck driver?

People who don’t mind the long hours and solitude might enjoy being a truck driver. Many truck drivers love the flexibility, salary, and traveling across America.

Is it hard to get hired as a truck driver?

No, it is not that hard. There is currently a shortage of truck drivers in the United States. The demand for CDL drivers is high.


Photo credit: iStock/RichLegg

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

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.

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

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How Much Does a Dental Assistant Make a Year

The median pay for a dental assistant was recently calculated to be $44,820 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If someone is looking for a career in the medical field, but doesn’t want to commit many years and a lot of money to medical school, they may want to look into becoming a dental assistant. This career involves significantly less schooling than one would have to pursue to become a dentist but can offer a stable and rewarding career path.

Keep reading for more insight into what it’s like to work as a dental assistant and what this career’s earning potential can be.

What Are Dental Assistants?

A dental assistant is a healthcare professional who assists dentists in caring for their patients and with general administrative tasks.

Typically, they have completed training as a dental assistant after high school, meaning this can be a potential good job without a college degree.

These are some common responsibilities of dental assistants:

•   Scheduling patient appointments for efficient management

•   Collaborating with patients on medical billing and payment matters

•   Providing instructions to patients on proper oral hygiene practices

•   Preparing both patients and the work area for various treatments and procedures

•   Sterilizing dental instruments to maintain hygiene standards

•   Ensuring the comfort of patients in the dental chair

•   Assisting dentists by handing them instruments during procedures

•   Using suction hoses and other equipment to dry patients’ mouths

•   Processing X-rays and performing lab tasks under the dentist’s guidances

•   Maintaining records of dental treatments for accurate documentation.

As you may have noticed, this job requires a good degree of interaction with coworkers and patients. For this reason, it may be a good fit for those who consider themselves a “people person” and not a great career for an introvert.

Also, it’s important to note that the exact role of a dental assistant can vary based on the state they are working in. This is due to varying state regulations.


💡 Quick Tip: Online tools make tracking your spending a breeze: You can easily set up budgets, then get instant updates on your progress, spot upcoming bills, analyze your spending habits, and more.

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How Much Do Starting Dental Assistants Make a Year?

Understandably, entry-level salaries for dental assistants tend to be less than those for their more experienced counterparts. In terms of how much money a dental assistant makes when they first start their career, here are some numbers: As of 2022, the lowest 10% of workers in this role earned less than $31,450.

However, they can expect to earn more competitive pay over time, as the highest 10% in this role earned more than $59,200.

Recommended: 50 Highest Paying Jobs in the US

What Is the Average Salary for a Dental Assistant?

How much a dental assistant makes an hour can depend a lot on where they choose to work. While the median hourly pay rate for this work is $21.55 per hour as of 2022, the following chart (which goes from highest to lowest) illustrates how greatly this hourly wage can vary on a state level.

What is the Average Dental Assistant Salary by State for 2023

State

Annual Salary

Monthly Pay

Weekly Pay

Hourly Wage

Washington $49,250 $4,104 $947 $23.68
Delaware $46,132 $3,844 $887 $22.18
Virginia $45,338 $3,778 $871 $21.80
Maryland $44,646 $3,720 $858 $21.46
New York $44,589 $3,715 $857 $21.44
Vermont $43,670 $3,639 $839 $21.00
Nebraska $43,601 $3,633 $838 $20.96
Oklahoma $42,225 $3,518 $812 $20.30
California $42,159 $3,513 $810 $20.27
Massachusetts $41,644 $3,470 $800 $20.02
Alaska $41,274 $3,439 $793 $19.84
Maine $41,066 $3,422 $789 $19.74
Pennsylvania $40,842 $3,403 $785 $19.64
Oregon $40,709 $3,392 $782 $19.57
North Dakota $40,692 $3,391 $782 $19.56
Idaho $40,410 $3,367 $777 $19.43
New Jersey $40,385 $3,365 $776 $19.42
Texas $40,211 $3,350 $773 $19.33
Colorado $39,948 $3,329 $768 $19.21
Hawaii $39,932 $3,327 $767 $19.20
Wisconsin $39,897 $3,324 $767 $19.18
New Hampshire $39,776 $3,314 $764 $19.12
Wyoming $39,041 $3,253 $750 $18.77
Nevada $39,027 $3,252 $750 $18.76
South Dakota $38,458 $3,204 $739 $18.49
Indiana $38,449 $3,204 $739 $18.49
Minnesota $38,422 $3,201 $738 $18.47
New Mexico $38,327 $3,193 $737 $18.43
Rhode Island $37,706 $3,142 $725 $18.13
Arizona $37,654 $3,137 $724 $18.10
Ohio $37,380 $3,115 $718 $17.97
Montana $37,086 $3,090 $713 $17.83
Connecticut $36,857 $3,071 $708 $17.72
Illinois $36,849 $3,070 $708 $17.72
Iowa $36,657 $3,054 $704 $17.62
Alabama $36,623 $3,051 $704 $17.61
Mississippi $36,536 $3,044 $702 $17.57
Tennessee $35,688 $2,974 $686 $17.16
Utah $35,661 $2,971 $685 $17.14
Missouri $35,585 $2,965 $684 $17.11
South Carolina $35,218 $2,934 $677 $16.93
North Carolina $34,492 $2,874 $663 $16.58
Kansas $34,399 $2,866 $661 $16.54
Georgia $34,117 $2,843 $656 $16.40
Louisiana $33,546 $2,795 $645 $16.13
Michigan $33,105 $2,758 $636 $15.92
Kentucky $33,074 $2,756 $636 $15.90
West Virginia $31,543 $2,628 $606 $15.17
Arkansas $31,444 $2,620 $604 $15.12
Florida $30,193 $2,516 $580 $14.52
​​Source: Ziprecruiter

Dental Assistant Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

The majority of dental assistants work in a dentist’s office (90%), but some do work in the offices of physicians (2%) or for the government (2%). As of 2022, dental assistants held about 371,000 jobs and work under the supervision of dentists.

There are some safety concerns (primarily contracting infectious diseases) that come with this role, which is why dental assistants wear protective clothing and equipment. Being exposed to X-ray machines also comes with concerns, but again, there are safety procedures in place to help protect dental assistants.

Because many dental assistants work full-time, they can qualify for employer-sponsored benefits like healthcare, retirement plans, and paid time off. However, if they only work part-time, they might not qualify for benefits.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Pros and Cons of Dental Assistant Salary

Still on the fence about working as a dental assistant? Here are some of the pros and cons of the role:

Pros

Cons

•   High earning potential (top 10% earn more than $59,200)

•   Around 55,100 openings for dental assistants projected annually

•   Full-time employees are likely to receive benefits

•   Minimal schooling required

•   Bottom 10% earn less than $31,450

•   Tiring work with some potential health risks

•   Some dental offices only offer part-time work

Recommended: Is $100,000 a Good Salary?

The Takeaway

The median salary for a dental assistant is $44,820, but as they gain work experience, these medical workers can expect to earn more. Because minimal schooling is required to become a dental assistant, many in this field can avoid taking on too much student loan debt.

FAQ

Can you make 100K a year as a dental assistant?

Most dental assistants don’t earn $100,000 per year. The top 10% of earners in this field can earn around $59,200, but the median annual salary is just $44,820.

Do people like being a dental assistant?

Some people find working as a dental assistant to be an engaging and fulfilling career. Because most of their days are spent on patient care, they must enjoy spending time with people. This won’t be an enjoyable role for someone who is an introvert or who is antisocial.

Is it hard to get hired as a dental assistant?

There are more than 55,000 jobs for dental assistants available each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Depending on your location and other factors, it may not be hard to get hired as a dental assistant.


Photo credit: iStock/mladenbalinovac

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