What Is Flight to Quality?

What Is Flight to Quality?

Flight to quality, also known as flight to safety, is when investors shift their assets away from riskier investments — like stocks — into conservative securities – like bonds. This reaction often occurs during turbulent times in the economy or financial markets, and investors want to put their money into relatively safe assets.

Because flight to quality is a term that’s often thrown around in the financial media, investors need to know what it is and how it can potentially impact an investment portfolio. A flight to quality is a short-term trading strategy that might not be ideal for long-term investors. But it’s still important for investors to know how the broader trend affects the financial markets.

What Causes Flight to Quality?

Economic uncertainty is why investors look to rejigger their portfolios away from volatile investments to conservative ones. Moments of economic uncertainty that spook investors can arise for various reasons, including geopolitical conflict, a sudden collapse of a financial institution, or signs of an imminent recession.

A flight to quality usually refers to a widespread phenomenon where investors shift their portfolio asset allocation. This large-scale change in risk sentiment can generally be seen in declines in stock market indices and government bond yields, as investors sell risky stocks to put money into more stable bonds.

Though a flight to quality usually refers to a herd-like behavior of most investors during economic uncertainty, individual investors can make a similar move at any time, depending on their risk tolerance and specific financial situation.

💡 Recommended: Bear Market Investing Strategies

What Are the Effects of Flight to Quality?

During periods of flight to quality, investors trade higher-risk investments for lower-risk ones. This shift commonly results in a decrease in the price of high-risk assets and boosts the price of lower-risk securities.

As mentioned above, investors can see one effect of a flight to quality in the price of major stock market indices and bond yields, as the market shifts money from the risky stocks to safer bonds.

But a flight to quality doesn’t mean that investors will necessarily shift out of one asset (stocks) into another (bonds). For example, investors worried about the economy might sell growth stocks in favor of more reliable value or blue-chip stocks, pushing the price of the growth stocks down and boosting the price of the blue chips.

💡 Recommended: Value vs. Growth Stocks

A flight to quality may also shift investment from emerging market stocks to domestic stocks or from corporate bonds to government bonds.

In addition to moving funds from stocks to bonds or other assets, investors may also move money into cash and cash-equivalent investments, like money market funds, certificates of deposit, and Treasury bills, during periods of economic uncertainty. These cash investments are very liquid and will not usually fluctuate in value, making them ideal for investors that desire stability.

Real-World Example of Flight to Quality

A flight to quality occurred during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and related economic shutdowns. Investors scrambled to figure out their portfolio positions in the face of an unprecedented global event, selling stocks and putting money into relatively safe assets.

The S&P 500 Index fell nearly 34% from a high on Feb. 19, 2020, to a low on Mar. 23, 2020, as investors sold off equities. But investors didn’t rush to put this money into high-grade corporate and government bonds, as many would have thought in a regular flight to quality. A record $109 billion flowed out of fixed-income mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) during a single week in March 2020. Instead, investors moved capital into cash and cash-like assets during this volatile period in a desire for liquidity.

The Takeaway

A widespread flight to quality that creates volatility in the financial markets can be scary for many investors. When you see decreases in a portfolio or 401(k), it can be tempting to follow the broader market trends and shift your asset allocation to safer investments. However, this is not always the best choice, especially for investors trying to build long-term wealth.

Are you ready to invest and build wealth for the long term? You could start investing today by opening an online brokerage account with SoFi Invest®. SoFi Invest offers an active investing solution that allows members to choose stocks and ETFs without paying commissions.

Get started investing with as little as $5 with SoFi Invest.


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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 . 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.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.

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What Is a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)?

A central bank digital currency (CBDC) is virtual money issued as legal tender by the central bank of a country. No major bank has issued a CBDC yet. However, it would be similar to blockchain-based cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that have increased in popularity, only backed in a sovereign nation’s fiat currency: paper and coin currencies like the U.S. dollar and British pound. In other words, a CBDC would be a government-issued virtual store of value.

Fertile Ground For CBDCs

The year 2021 posted strong growth in digital assets in general and stablecoins in particular. According to the Bank of International Settlements’ (BIS) May 2022 publication — Gaining momentum: Results of the 2021 BIS survey on central bank digital currencies — crypto’s market capitalization grew by 3.5 times, swelling to $2.6 trillion in market cap. The BIS survey also found that, in 2021, nine out of ten central banks were exploring the pros and cons of digital currencies. And that approximately two-thirds of the world’s population could see their country issue a CBDC in the next three years. Further, BIS reported that developing economies are more apt than major economies to issue digital money.

Could CBDCs and Stablecoins Hurt Fiat?

The push toward digital currencies comes amid the greater possibility that private virtual currencies like Bitcoin could see even wider adoption in the near term. Some central banks and regulators view this possibility as threatening. They’re concerned that, if and when crypto gains traction as a common form of payment, it might erode the stability of legacy financial services. How could this happen?

If, for example, a director of a crypto project does not understand cryptocurrencies well enough to manage them — along with the high risk profile that most cryptocurrencies carry — then a financial disaster could ensue. Moreover, for an individual to be a leader in the crypto sector, it might behoove them to be a master strategist on the trading floor, too. The ability to execute complex trading strategies quickly and wisely can be critical for navigating the crypto market.

In 2020 and 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic further expedited a shift away from physical cash and coins. But that had been happening well before the pandemic with the advent of payment platforms like PayPal and Venmo. If the pace of adopting digital currencies continues, then that alone could pose a potential threat to fiat.

How Could CBDCs Work?

The details of exactly how CBDCs would function remain unclear. However, some outcomes of using CBDCs are already apparent.

As mode of Payment/ Store of Value/ Easier Digital Pay

As with physical cash, CBDCs could be stored or used for payment. They will also likely carry a unique serial number, similar to how paper notes and coins in a fiat-currency system do. Many CBDCs won’t be designed to replace cash anytime soon; instead, they’ll be used to complement physical money.

Could Expedite New Central Bank Monetary Policy

Currently, central banks already issue a form of digital money but only to other banks, which then lend that money to consumers and businesses. When people currently make payments or move money between multiple bank accounts, it usually goes through a patchwork of systems, often incurring fees for the parties involved and taking a couple of days for transfers to be completed.

Possible Democratizing Effect on Central Bank Money

Central bank digital currencies could potentially cut out the middlemen, lowering or eliminating fees and making transfers faster. For instance, a Bitcoin transaction typically takes less than 10 minutes. Instead of purchasing their CBDCs from an exchange, for example, consumers could hold accounts directly with the central bank, which would make these transactions faster. Having the option to purchase CBDCs also could democratize central-bank money by making it more accessible to all.

Potential to Minimize Role of US Commercial Banks

That means CBDCs could become a tool for monetary policy, giving central banks more control over currency supply and allowing them to better track the movement of money within the economy. Central banks also could possibly bypass financial markets and change interest rates directly on consumer accounts.

Exploring the Risks of CBDCs

Of course, CBDCs would be a disappointment to those who buy cryptocurrencies with the hope that a private decentralized form of digital cash, like Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin, will one day displace traditional fiat. Some argue that CBDCs would mean an expansion of governmental oversight; that the anonymity that the most private cryptocurrencies (in particular) offer will continue to fuel their appeal.

Potential to Destabilize Existing Financial System

The emergence of CBDCs could also be a destabilizing force for the existing financial system. If consumers can hold direct accounts with a central bank, commercial banks could become drained of retail deposits. One potential solution to this problem has been to put a cap on how much you can hold in CBDCs, or not have central banks pay interest on retail deposits.

Possible War Against the Dollar

Another potential repercussion could be the start of a new kind of currency war. The U.S. dollar has been the world’s reserve currency since the 1920s. The rise of multiple sovereign digital currencies could challenge the current dollar-dominant system, making it less important for international trade and foreign-exchange transactions to be pegged to the dollar.

Central Bank Digital Currencies Worldwide

A CBDC-based financial system likely would pose unique advantages and challenges for each country that issues a digital currency.

But despite the challenges, most of the world has rushed to adopt central bank digital currencies. In its most recent survey, the BIS reported that the majority of the 81 record countries that responded to its 2021 survey either had developed a CBDC, are in some stage of piloting a central bank digital coin; and more than two-thirds of these countries likely would issue a CBDC in the near term. These countries cited the Covid-19 pandemic and escalating use of cryptocurrencies as among their reasons for embracing a CBDC.

Not every country has issued central bank digital currencies, including the United States. However, the U.S. does have numerous stablecoins that are pegged one-to-one to the U.S. dollar.

Why Has the US Not Issued a CBDC?

It will, if it needs one. The United States has embraced the cryptocurrency sector and is trying to integrate it into its existing financial system. The U.S. continues to be at the forefront of creating regulations for crypto so that it may be more resilient and sustainable as an investment option. This, in turn, will make it easier and safer for cryptocurrency platforms to operate.

How About a US e-Dollar? Or, a Fedcoin?

At this time, the U.S. is actively researching the viability of incorporating a CBCD into its financial structure. But its approach is thorough and methodical. Along with being supportive of digital currencies in general, the U.S. is trying to ascertain its own need for a digital dollar. The U.S. Federal Reserve System (the Fed) — which is the central bank of the U.S. — has said it’s looking into different options involving digital currencies.

Key issues that the Fed needs to understand include protection from cyberattacks, counterfeiting and fraud; how a CBDC would affect monetary policy and financial stability; and how it could prevent illicit activity.

Fed Urges Prudence Amid Tenuous Financial Stability

In May 2022, the Fed released its annual Financial Stability Report . The Fed’s last such report was in November 2021, and since that time the United States’ economic uncertainty has risen. A number of factors are responsible for this unease, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, human and economic hardship, the pandemic’s improving though unclear trajectory, and persistent higher levels of inflation.

The Fed specifically cited concerns about stablecoins in the 2022 report. U.S. traders are using stablecoins a tool in leveraged transactions of other cryptocurrencies, which according to the Fed “may amplify volatility in demand for stablecoins and heighten redemption risks.” Therefore, the Fed is not ready to turn to central bank digital currencies, and had has continued to focus on regulating stablecoins. Also at issue is whether a country really needs both types of digital assets — stablecoins and CBDCs.

Snapshots of Other Countries’ CBDCs

In the rest of the world, adoption of central bank digital currencies seems to be thriving. The Atlantic Council is a nonprofit, which in 2021 launched its database, CBDC Tracker , which first only the Fed, now everyone can use to get the latest news about digital currencies globally.

As of May 2022, nine countries have issued CBDCs, and approximately 100 countries are at some stage of exploring them, be it researching, developing, testing, or launching. (Note: We chose the countries below randomly and cited them in alphabetical order.)

The Bahamas

In October 2020, the Central Bank of the Bahamas issued the world’s first CBDC, called the Sand Dollar. The Bahamas was the first country to issue a central bank digital currency that covered an entire country.

China

China first began exploring a digital yuan in 2014. In 2022, China launched a pilot of its current CBDC, called e-CNY, during the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. China’s approach is to run tests of e-CNY in smaller sections of the country before initiating it for the entire country. China’s program is designed to replace cash in circulation, not money held in long-term bank accounts.

But e-CNY won’t use blockchain technology for the central database. Instead, both commercial bank distributors and the central bank will keep their own databases that track the flows of digital yuan from user to user.

India

India’s government, Nirmala Sitharaman announced that India will introduce a digital rupee during its fiscal year 2022–2023, beginning April 1, 2022. The Reserve Bank of India will back this CBDC, which is now in development.

According to the Sitharaman, the CBDC would strengthen India’s economy, increase efficiency and lower expenses for the country’s currency-management system, and provide a stable, regulated digital currency that would compete with private cryptocurrencies.

Sweden

Sweden is another country at the forefront of moving toward digital currency. Unlike in China however, distributed ledger technology or blockchain was always the inspiration for the country’s electronic krona (e-krona), so it will be the e-krona’s foundation. Sweden’s central bank, Riksbank, is focused on securing new solutions that are scalable, and which would offer the same level of convenience and security that banks offer today.

The BIS estimated in 2018 that Sweden is the world’s most cashless society — and that was before the global pandemic. While many countries have witnessed a downturn in cash use, Sweden’s cash usage in the last decade has been more striking than most.

Even more remarkable is the year-over-year percentage change in Sweden’s cash usage during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, according to Riksbank, cash comprised 40% of the country’s point-of-sale payments; in 2021, that amount dropped to less than 10% — affirming BIS’ estimation.

The Takeaway

As of May 2022, nine countries have issued central bank digital currencies, and approximately 100 more countries are researching and exploring CBDCs.

Proponents of the CBDC argue that blockchain-based fiat currency could solve inefficiencies in the existing central bank infrastructure. Those more cautious warn that CBDCs could be vulnerable to hacks or outages. Meanwhile, enthusiasts of decentralized finance (DeFi) argue for a financial system that moves away from centralized authority, rather than one that expands its influence.

It’s yet to be seen whether CBDCs will usher in a new era of stable digital currency usage. So far, cryptocurrencies have been popular for trading in markets, rather than as a mode of payment.


On SoFi Invest®, investors can trade cryptocurrencies with as little as $10. Their first purchase of $50 or greater will get them a bonus of up to $100 in bitcoin. See full terms at sofi.com/crypto. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Litecoin, and Cardano can be traded 24/7. Plus, SoFi takes security seriously and uses a number of tools to keep investors’ crypto holdings secure.

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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 . 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.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
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What Is Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)?

Socially responsible investing (SRI) uses the power of investment capital to make the world a better place. By aligning their investments with their values, SRI investors can promote social good while also earning a financial return.

There are several motivations for building an SRI portfolio, including the personal values of individual investors, an institutional mission, or the demands of clients and other stakeholders. If you are interested in this investing style, it is helpful to know more about how socially responsible investing can fit into your portfolio.

How Socially Responsible Investing Works

Socially responsible investing (SRI), also known as sustainable, socially conscious, “green,” or ethical investing, is any investment strategy that seeks to consider both financial return and social and environmental good to bring about a positive change.

There are a few different ways to approach building an SRI portfolio; one of the most common is investing in companies working to solve social or environmental problems. For example, SRI investments might focus on companies involved in renewable energy, clean water, or affordable housing.

Another approach to SRI is to screen and avoid investments in companies involved in harmful activities to society or the environment. An SRI portfolio might avoid investments in companies that produce tobacco products, manufacture weapons, or engage in controversial activities like fracking.

SRI can also involve a more active approach, such as engagement with company management to encourage them to make changes that benefit society or the environment.

💡 Recommended: Getting Started With Green Investing

An SRI strategy can be highly personal; investors, funds, or foundations make investment decisions aligned with their values. That means how investors define SRI and allocate assets accordingly can vary. However, investors and foundations increasingly use environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria to make SRI investment decisions.

Example of Socially Responsible Investing

Interest in socially responsible investing has been gaining steam in recent years. Between 2018 and 2020, sustainably invested assets under management grew 42%, from $12 trillion to $17.1 trillion.

However, socially conscious investing isn’t a new strategy in the United States. The Quakers, a group of individuals who were part of the Religious Society of Friends in the 1700s, adhered to socially conscious business practices by refusing to participate in the slave trade.

Additionally, John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, asked his followers not to invest in or partner with companies that could harm the community. This direction inspired many of them to avoid investing with anyone who earned income through alcohol, tobacco, gambling, or weapon sales, what we now sometimes call sin stocks.

In the 1980s, many investors pulled funds from companies that operated in South Africa because of racial inequalities associated with apartheid, while some mutual fund companies began making portfolio selections during this decade with an eye on social concerns.

More recently, investors are focusing on sustainable investments that promote a low-carbon future to combat climate change.

💡 Recommended: 27 Potential Ways to Invest in a Carbon-free Future

Types of Socially Responsible Investments

Investors can make socially responsible investments in the stocks and bonds of companies that promote positive social and environmental values. Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETF) with an SRI strategy are also potential investment vehicles.

Stocks

Investors can put money into various publicly-traded companies that adhere to a socially conscious mission. Socially responsible stocks take into account environmental and social factors when making business decisions. Many investors believe that companies that focus on SRI issues are more likely to be sustainable and profitable in the long term.

💡 Recommended: How to Analyze a Stock

Bonds

The bonds of corporations involved in socially responsible business practices can be a good option for investors interested in fixed-income securities. SRI bonds are bonds issued by companies that are seen as having a positive social and environmental impact.

Additionally, government bonds used to fund green energy projects can be an option for SRI investors.

💡 Recommended: How to Buy Bonds: A Guide for Beginners

Mutual Funds and ETFs

Investors who don’t want to pick individual stocks to invest in can always look to mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that provide exposure to socially responsible companies and investments. There are a growing number of index funds that invest in a basket of sustainable and socially-conscious stocks. These funds allow investors to diversify their holdings by investing in one security.

However, investors must consider each fund’s SRI strategy, holdings, and expense ratio before making investment decisions. Potential investors can find this information through the fund’s prospectus.

💡 Recommended: A Beginner’s Guide to Investing in Index Funds

Past Performance of SRI

The past performance of socially responsible investing has been mixed. Some studies have found that socially responsible investing can be profitable, where SRI funds outperform the market and benchmark indices. In contrast, other studies have found that SRI underperforms the market.

However, there is no definitive answer as to whether or not socially responsible investing outperforms the market. The answer may depend on the specific criteria used to define socially responsible investing and the period studied.

Risks of SRI

There are a few risks associated with socially responsible investing. One is that companies may not be as transparent as investors would like them to be about their social and environmental practices. This lack of transparency could lead to investors putting their money into companies that are not as socially responsible as they thought.

Another risk is that companies may change their social and environmental practices after the investment has been made. This could lead to investors not getting the return they were expecting, or even losing money.

Additionally, during periods of increased volatility – like changes in oil prices and a rising interest rate environment – there is potential for underperformance because company executives, policymakers, and investors are focused on other factors.

How to Start an SRI Investment Portfolio

If you are interested in creating an SRI portfolio, you can start by contacting a financial advisor or working with an investment firm specializing in SRI investing.

However, if you are ready to start investing and want to build a portfolio on your own, you can follow these steps:

•  Open a brokerage account: You will need to open a brokerage account and deposit money into it. Once your account is funded, you will be able to buy and sell stocks, mutual funds, and other securities. SoFi Invest® offers an active investing platform where you can start building your SRI portfolio.

•  Pick your assets: Decide what type of investment you want to make, whether in a stock of a company, an SRI-focused ETF or mutual fund, or bonds.

•  Do your research: It’s important to research the different companies and funds, and find a diversified selection that fits your desires and priorities.

•  Invest: Once you’re ready, make your investment and then monitor your portfolio to ensure that the assets in your portfolio have a positive social and financial impact.

It is important to remember that you should diversify your portfolio by investing in various asset classes. Diversification will help to reduce your risk and maximize your returns.

The Takeaway

There are a few reasons why socially responsible investing is important. For one, it allows investors to align their values with their investments. SRI investing can also help create positive social and environmental change. Finally, it can help investors avoid companies involved in unethical or harmful activities.

Investors interested in making socially responsible investments can use the SoFi investment app to help. With SoFi Invest, you can trade stocks and ETFs to build your SRI portfolio. And if you’re not ready to pick stocks and ETFs by yourself, SoFi’s automated investing tool will build a portfolio for you with no SoFi management fee.

Get started investing with SoFi Invest


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 . 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.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
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Target Date Funds: What Are They and How to Choose One

A target date fund is a type of mutual fund designed to be an all-inclusive portfolio for long-term goals like retirement. While target date funds could be used for shorter-term purposes, the specified date of each fund — e.g. 2040, 2050, 2065, etc. — is typically years in the future, and indicates the approximate point at which the investor would begin withdrawing funds for their retirement needs (or another goal, like saving for college).

Unlike a regular mutual fund, which might include a relatively static mix of stocks and bonds, the underlying portfolio of a target date fund shifts its allocation over time, following what is known as a glide path. The glide path is basically a formula or algorithm that adjusts the fund’s asset allocation to become more conservative as the target date approaches, thus protecting investors’ money from potential volatility as they age.

If you’re wondering whether a target date fund might be the right choice for you, here are some things to consider.

What Is a Target Date Fund?

A target date fund (TDF) is a type of mutual fund where the underlying portfolio of the fund adjusts over time to become gradually more conservative until the fund reaches the “target date.” By starting out with a more aggressive allocation and slowly dialing back as years pass, the fund’s underlying portfolio may be able to deliver growth while minimizing risk.

This ready-made type of fund can be appealing to those who have a big goal (like retirement or saving for college), and who don’t want the uncertainty or potential risk of managing their money on their own.

While many college savings plans offer a target date option, target date funds are primarily used for retirement planning. The date of most target funds is typically specified by year, e.g. 2035, 2040, and so on. This enables investors to choose a fund that more or less matches their own target retirement date. For example, a 30-year-old today might plan to retire in 38 years at age 68, or in 2060. In that case, they might select a 2060 target date fund.

Investors typically choose target date funds for retirement because these funds are structured as long-term investment portfolios that include a ready-made asset allocation, or mix of stocks, bonds, and/or other securities. In a traditional portfolio, the investor chooses the securities — not so with a target fund. The investments within the fund, as well as the asset allocation, and the glide path (which adjusts the allocation over time), are predetermined by the fund provider.

Sometimes target date funds are invested directly in securities, but more commonly TDFs are considered “funds of funds,” and are invested in other mutual funds.

Target date funds don’t provide guaranteed income, like pensions, and they can gain or lose money, like any other investment.

Whereas an investor might have to rebalance their own portfolio over time to maintain their desired asset allocation, adjusting the mix of equities vs. fixed income to their changing needs or risk tolerance, target date funds do the rebalancing for the investor. This is what’s known as the glide path.

How Do Target Date Funds Work?

Now that we know what a target date fund is, we can move on to a detailed consideration of how these funds work. To understand the value of target date funds and why they’ve become so popular, it helps to know a bit about the history of retirement planning.

Brief Overview of Retirement Funding

In the last century or so, with technological and medical advances prolonging life, it has become important to help people save additional money for their later years. To that end, the United States introduced Social Security in 1935 as a type of public pension that would provide additional income for people as they aged. Social Security was meant to supplement people’s personal savings, family resources, and/or the pension supplied by their employer (if they had one).

💡 Recommended: When Will Social Security Run Out?

By the late 1970s, though, the notion of steady income from an employer-provided pension was on the wane. So in 1978 a new retirement vehicle was introduced to help workers save and invest: the 401(k) plan.

While 401k accounts were provided by employers, they were and are chiefly funded by employee savings (and sometimes supplemental employer matching funds as well). But after these accounts were introduced, it quickly became clear that while some people were able to save a portion of their income, most didn’t know how to invest or manage these accounts.

The Need for Target Date Funds

To address this hurdle and help investors plan for the future, the notion of lifecycle or target date funds emerged. The idea was to provide people with a pre-set portfolio that included a mix of assets that would rebalance over time to protect investors from risk.

In theory, by the time the investor was approaching retirement, the fund’s asset allocation would be more conservative, thus potentially protecting them from losses. (Note: There has been some criticism of TDFs about their equity allocation after the target date has been reached. More on that below.)

Target date funds became increasingly popular after the Pension Protection Act of 2006 sanctioned the use of auto-enrollment features in 401k plans. Automatically enrolling employees into an organization’s retirement plan seemed smart — but raised the question of where to put employees’ money. This spurred the need for safe-harbor investments like target date funds, which are considered Qualified Default Investment Alternatives (QDIA) — and many 401k plans adopted the use of target date funds as their default investment.

Today nearly all employer-sponsored plans offer at least one target date fund option; some use target funds as their default investment choice (for those who don’t choose their own investments). Approximately $1.8 trillion dollars are invested in target funds, according to Morningstar.

What a Target Date Fund Is and Is Not

Target date funds have been subject to some misconceptions over time. Here are some key points to know about TDFs:

•   As noted above, target date funds don’t provide guaranteed income; i.e. they are not pensions. The amount you withdraw for income depends on how much is in the fund, and an array of other factors, e.g. your Social Security benefit and other investments.

•   Target date funds don’t “stop” at the retirement date. This misconception can be especially problematic for investors who believe, incorrectly, that they must withdraw their money at the target date, or who believe the fund’s allocation becomes static at this point. To clarify:

◦   The withdrawal of funds from a target date fund is determined by the type of account it’s in. Withdrawals from a TDF held in a 401k plan or IRA, for example, would be subject to taxes and required minimum distribution (RMD) rules.

◦   The TDF’s asset allocation may continue to shift, even after the target date — a factor that has also come under criticism.

•   Generally speaking, most investors don’t need more than one target date fund. Nothing is stopping you from owning one or two or several TDFs, but there is typically no need for multiple TDFs, as the holdings in one could overlap with the holdings in another — especially if they all have the same target date.

Example of a Target Date Fund

Most investment companies offer target date funds, from Black Rock to Vanguard to Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Wells Fargo, and so on. And though each company may have a different name for these funds (a lifecycle fund vs. a retirement fund, etc.), most include the target date. So a Retirement Fund 2050 would be similar to a Lifecycle Fund 2050.

How do you tell target date funds apart? Is one fund better than another? One way to decide which fund might suit you is to look at the glide path of the target date funds you’re considering. Basically, the glide path shows you what the asset allocation of the fund will be at different points in time. Since, again, you can’t change the allocation of the target fund — that’s governed by the managers or the algorithm that runs the fund — it’s important to feel comfortable with the fund’s asset allocation strategy.

How a Glide Path Might Work

Consider a target date fund for the year 2060. Someone who is about 30 today might purchase a 2060 target fund, as they will be 68 at the target date.

Hypothetically speaking, the portfolio allocation of a 2060 fund today — 38 years from the target date — might be 80% equities and 20% fixed income or cash/cash equivalents. This provides investors with potential for growth. And while there is also some risk exposure with an 80% investment in stocks, there is still time for the portfolio to recover from any losses, before money is withdrawn for retirement.

When five or 10 years have passed, the fund’s allocation might adjust to 70% equities and 30% fixed income securities. After another 10 years, say, the allocation might be closer to 50-50. The allocation at the target date, in the actual year 2060, might then be 30% equities, and 70% fixed income. (These percentages are hypothetical.)

As noted above, the glide path might continue to adjust the fund’s allocation for a few years after the target date, so it’s important to examine the final stages of the glide path. You may want to move your assets from the target fund at the point where the predetermined allocation no longer suits your goals or preferences.

Pros and Cons of Target Date Funds

Like any other type of investment, target date funds have their advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

•   Simplicity. Target funds are designed to be the “one-stop-shopping” option in the investment world. That’s not to say these funds are perfect, but like a good prix fixe menu, they are designed to include the basic staples you want in a retirement portfolio.

•   Diversification. Related to the above, most target funds offer a well-diversified mix of securities.

•   Low maintenance. Since the glide path adjusts the investment mix in these funds automatically, there’s no need to rebalance, buy, sell, or do anything except sit back and keep an eye on things. But they are not “set it and forget it” funds, as some might say. It’s important for investors to decide whether the investment mix and/or related fees remain a good fit over time.

•   Affordability. Generally speaking, target date funds may be less expensive than the combined expenses of a DIY portfolio (although that depends; see below).

Cons

•   Lack of control. Similar to an ordinary mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF), investors cannot choose different securities than the ones available in the fund, and they cannot adjust the mix of securities in a TDF or the asset allocation. This could be frustrating or limiting to investors who would like more control over their portfolio.

•   Costs can vary. Some target date funds are invested in index funds, which are passively managed and typically very low cost. Others may be invested in actively managed funds, which typically charge higher expense ratios. Be sure to check, as investment costs add up over time and can significantly impact returns.

What Are Target Date Funds Good For?

If you’re looking for an uncomplicated long-term investment option, a low-cost target date fund could be a great choice for you. But they may not be right for every investor.

Good For…

Target date funds tend to be a good fit for those who want a hands-off, low-maintenance retirement or long-term investment option.

A target date fund might also be good for someone who has a fairly simple long-term strategy, and just needs a stable portfolio option to fit into their plan.

In a similar vein, target funds can be right for investors who are less experienced in managing their own investment portfolios and prefer a ready-made product.

Not Good For…

Target date funds are likely not a good fit for experienced investors who enjoy being hands on, and who are confident in their ability to manage their investments for the long term.

Target date funds are also not right for investors who are skilled at making short-term trades, and who are interested in sophisticated investment options like day-trading, derivatives, cryptocurrencies, and more.

Investors who like having control over their portfolios and having the ability to make choices based on market opportunities might find target funds too limited.

The Takeaway

Target date funds can be an excellent option for investors who aren’t geared toward day-to-day portfolio management, but who need a solid long-term investment portfolio for retirement — or another long-term goal like saving for college. Target funds offer a predetermined mix of investments, and this portfolio doesn’t require rebalancing because that’s done automatically by the glide path function of the fund itself.

The glide path is basically an asset allocation and rebalancing feature that can be algorithmic, or can be monitored by an investment team — either way it frees up investors who don’t want to make those decisions. Instead, the fund chugs along over the years, maintaining a diversified portfolio of assets until the investor retires and is ready to withdraw the funds.

Target funds are offered by most investment companies, and although they often go by different names, you can generally tell a target date fund because it includes the target date, e.g. 2040, 2050, 2065, etc.

If you’re ready to start investing for your future, you might consider opening a brokerage account with SoFi Invest® in order to set up your own portfolio and learn the basics of buying and selling stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), crypto and more. Note that SoFi members have access to complimentary financial advice from professionals.


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 . 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.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
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Should You Pay Off Student Loans or Invest?

You’re a successful college graduate. You made it through all of your classes and secured a job in your chosen field. You’re on your way to building a successful career and establishing your life as an adult.

Now that you’re in full-on adult mode, you’ll have to start making some pretty big decisions. What are your short-term goals? What are your long-term goals? How are your finances stacking up to help you get there?

One of the questions many young adults face is whether it’s better to pay off student loans or invest. While you might be tempted to put all your extra income immediately into your retirement fund, it’s not necessarily the winning decision when it comes to whether to pay off student loans or invest. Let’s look deeper.

Is It Better to Pay Off Student Loans or Invest?

The answer is…it’s complicated. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to investing while juggling student loan debt. Undoubtedly, the biggest ticket item you’ll need to invest for is retirement — but whether you invest in retirement before or after paying down student debt depends on your personal preferences and situation.

The key to understanding whether it is better to invest or pay off student loans is opportunity cost. Federal student loans often have relatively low-interest rates, and if you’ve refinanced your loans, you may have secured an even lower rate.

For example, say your student loan interest rate is 4%, while the stock market has (hypothetically) yielded average returns of 15% over the last five years. Generally speaking, earning 15% interest makes more financial sense than paying down debt at 4% interest.

Investing comes with risk, but investing can be a great way to grow your money in the long run. On the other hand, paying down debt can free up additional cash flow and improve your credit score, giving you more financial flexibility in the short term.

One thing to remember: Financial tradeoff decisions don’t always have to be all-or-nothing. You might choose to split the difference by putting a little here and a little there. For example, you might contribute $300 per month to your 401(k) and $200 to a high-yield savings account for your down payment for a house, all while paying off student loans.

Things to Consider When Deciding to Pay Off Student Loans or Invest

No one, not even a financial planner, has a crystal ball and can see into the future. This is why we also need to take into account your personal preferences.

If you feel like you are truly missing out on investing in an IRA or saving for a home, then investing in those things might be the right path for you. If your student debt makes you feel burdened and miserable, you could focus on that instead.

Whatever path you decide to choose, here are some things to consider during your thought process:

•   Create a budget and understand your financial situation

•   Know your student loan interest rates

•   Other ways to lower your student loan payment

•   Pay off high-interest debt

•   Build your emergency fund

•   Save and invest for your retirement

1. Create a Budget and Understand Your Financial Situation

A good first step to any financial conundrum is to fully evaluate the situation. Start by gathering all of your financial documents including:

•   Tax statements

•   Bank statements

•   Credit card statements

•   Statements on student loans or other debts

Then, list out all of your monthly expenses—fixed expenses, like rent, and variable ones, like dining out.

Now, tally up all sources of income and list out your savings. After you’ve done this, you should have a pretty clear idea of how much money you’re spending, what you’re spending it on, and how that compares with the money you are bringing in every month.

Now that you have a big picture view of your spending habits, look for areas where you might be able to make changes. Take a look at any of your current subscription services with monthly payments, for example. If you’re not actively using them, maybe it’s time to cancel.

If you’re willing to call your internet or cable provider, you could try to negotiate a lower rate. After you’ve made any changes to your spending, make a new budget—one that details how much money you’re going to put toward your student loans, your savings, and your investments.

💡 Recommended: How to Make a Monthly Budget

2. Know Your Student Loan Interest Rates

Before you can decide whether to pay off student loans or save for other things, look at what you’re paying in interest for your student loans. If the rate you locked in when you took out your loan is higher than current rates, you might consider student loan refinancing. If you have multiple student loans, you could potentially consolidate and refinance them for a lower interest rate.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans means you’re no longer eligible for federal benefits and protections, like income-driven repayment or loan forgiveness programs, so it makes sense to weigh the potential benefits and risks of refinancing before taking the plunge.

Opportunity Cost of Interest Rates

Comparing interest rates is an exercise in opportunity cost. Any decision to pursue one goal means you’re missing out on something else, but ideally, we look to minimize opportunity costs when assessing financial trade-offs. In this instance, the opportunity cost is leaving potential investment earnings on the table.

Let’s say you recently refinanced your student loan from 5% to 3.5%. Given the competitive rate on your newly refinanced student loan, you could consider continuing to make the monthly payment on your loan and allocating the extra cash flow elsewhere — like investing for retirement or buying a home.

Remember, we want to think about interest rates in terms of opportunity cost. What would it look like if you paid off your loan early? Your student loan costs you 3.5% annually, and that’s what you’ll “save” if you accelerate your payoff by $500 per month.

Once you paid off the loan early, you could invest your money in an asset class — such as the stock market — with the potential to earn a rate of return that’s higher than 3.5%. Historically, the stock market has returned an average of 10%. This investing can be done within a retirement account, whether a 401(k) or an IRA.

That said, stock market returns are erratic, and the annualized return figures you often hear quoted are just that — an average. Investing is risky, and there is always a chance that returns over the next five, 10, or 20 years will not outpace the interest that you are currently making on your student loan payment.

3. Other Ways to Lower Your Student Loan Payment

If you are having difficulty making monthly payments on your federal student loan due to temporary financial issues, you could consider putting your federal student loans into deferment or forbearance. Just know that while many student loans are in forbearance interest will continue to accrue, making it more expensive to pay off later.

Depending on the type of loan you have, you may be responsible for accrued interest during deferment as well. If your issues with repayment will last more than a couple of months, consider adjusting your student loan repayment plan.

If you have federal student loans, you can change your repayment plan at any time, at no cost to you. The standard repayment plan for federal student loans is a fixed monthly payment over a 10-year term. If this is too much for your current financial situation, you might consider other repayment plans.

The Extended Repayment and Graduated Repayment plans offer repayment terms over 15 or 20 years, which could make your payments more manageable on a monthly basis.

There are also income-drive repayment plans which allow you to pay a portion of your discretionary income—usually 10%, 15%, or 20%—over 20 or 25 years. These options would lower your monthly payments, meaning you would have more money to save for a rainy day or to invest. But, it’s important to note that by extending your repayment term, you will be paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

4. Pay Off High-Interest Debt

When it comes to debt, the interest rates on student loans are relatively low. While you are making monthly payments on your student loans, it could be smart to tackle any high-interest debt you may have.

Credit card annual percentage rates (APRs) average more than 16% in July 2021, which means debt can rack up quickly. If you are carrying credit card debt, you might try either the debt snowball or debt avalanche method to pay it down.

5. Build Your Emergency Fund

Now that you have a handle on your debts, it’s time to turn to your savings. The first order of business you might consider is building an emergency fund. A good goal is to have six months’ worth of expenses in a liquid account, such as a high-yield savings account. You can use this fund to cover any unexpected expenses that might occur due to a medical emergency, sudden layoff, car repairs, etc. Even starting with a small amount can help when emergency expenses pop up.

6. Save and Invest for Your Retirement

When it comes to investing for your future, one of your biggest assets is time, but it’s important to start saving as soon as possible for retirement. Even a small amount of savings can add up over time, but you may want to aim to save at least 10% to 15% of your income for retirement. To see how your retirement goals stack up, take a look at SoFi’s retirement calculator.

The best place for most investors to start saving for retirement is in a tax-favored investment account, such as a 401(k) or IRA. If you are eligible for an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, that’s a great place to start. Some employers offer a matching contribution up to a certain percentage when you contribute to a 401(k). Take a look at your employer policy and see if you’re able to contribute enough to get the full employer match.

Another option for retirement savings is to open an IRA, or Individual Retirement Account. There are two types of IRAs: traditional or Roth IRA.

💡 Recommended: Traditional vs. Roth IRA: How to Choose the Right Plan

The Takeaway

Whether it makes sense to direct any extra cash toward debt repayment, savings or investing (or some combination of the three) will depend on your current financial situation, your short- and long-term goals, and your risk tolerance.

If investing is part of your plan, a great way to get started is with a SoFi Invest® automated investing robo-advisor. You’ll gain access to a team of financial advisors and cutting-edge automated investing technology, and we’ll work with you to determine your financial goals and risk tolerance.

Then, we’ll set up your account to meet those preferences and we’ll auto-balance your investments to keep them in line with your goals as the market changes. And anyone can invest—you can get started with as little as $5.

When you’re ready to take control of your financial future, SoFi Invest is here to help.


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 . 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.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL SEPTEMBER 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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