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Understanding Cash in Lieu of Fractional Shares

It’s not uncommon for publicly-traded companies to restructure based on changing market conditions or share prices. When companies merge, split their stock, or acquire competitors, it can raise the question of how to consolidate or restructure the company’s stock.

If such a corporate action generates fractional shares, the company’s leadership has a few options for how to proceed: They could distribute the fractional shares, round up to the nearest whole share, or pay cash in lieu of fractional shares.

What is Cash In Lieu?

With cash in lieu, one party elects an exchange of value to be settled in cash as opposed to the underlying asset or services rendered. In investing, cash in lieu refers to funds received by investors following structural company changes that unevenly disrupts existing stock prices and quantities.

Following a corporate action, the newly-adjusted stock supply can be uneven and often results in fractional shares. When the stock’s exchange ratio does not equal a whole number of new shares, rather than holding or converting fractional shares to whole shares, some companies opt to aggregate and sell all of the fractional shares in the open market.

After the sale, the funds are paid to investors in cash in the form of a check or account deposit. The company’s board ultimately determines how the company will maintain or return value to investors and how that value will be distributed. Opting to distribute cash in lieu is a company’s method of disposing of fractional shares and returning the cash balance to investors, proportionate to prior holdings.

Why Investors Receive Cash in Lieu

Investors can receive cash in lieu for a variety of reasons involving company restructuring that affects the number of outstanding shares, stock price, or both.

There are several company events that can lead to investors receiving cash in lieu of fractional shares.

Stock Split

A stock split occurs when a company’s board of directors determines that their company’s strongly performing stock price may be too high for new investors. To make the stock price look more attractive to more investors and gain more liquidity and marketability, a stock split is executed to artificially lower the stock’s price by issuing more shares at a fixed ratio while maintaining the company’s unchanged value.

Depending on the predetermined ratio, a stock split could cause fractional shares to be generated. For example, a three-for-two stock split of a stock worth $111 would create three shares for every two shares each investor holds. Thus, a stock split would cause any investor with an odd number of shares to receive a fractional share.

However, if the company’s board isn’t keen to hold or deal with fractional shares, they will distribute investors’ whole shares and liquidate the uneven remainders, thus paying investors cash in lieu of fractional shares. The ratio or cash rate as set by the company performing the stock split can be located on the company’s corresponding SEC 8-K document.

Conversely, a company may execute a reverse stock split because a stock’s prices are too low and they want to artificially raise them. If stock prices get too low, investors may become fearful to buy and the stock risks being delisted from exchanges.

When a stock undergoes a reverse stock split, each share is converted into a fraction of a share but higher-priced shares are issued to investors according to the reverse split ratio . For example, a stock valued at $3.50 may undergo a reverse one-for-10 stock split. Every 10 shares is converted into one new share valued at $35.00. Investors who own 33 shares or any number indivisible by 10 would receive fractional shares unless the company decides to issue cash in lieu of fractional shares.

Companies may notify their shareholders of an impending reverse stock split on Forms 8-K, 10-Q, or 10-K as well as any settlement details if necessary.

Merger or Acquisition

Company mergers and acquisitions (M&As) can also create fractional shares. When companies combine or are absorbed, they combine new common stock using a predetermined ratio, which often results in fractional shares for investors in all involved companies.

In these cases, it’s rare for the ratio of new shares received to be a whole number. Companies may opt to return whole shares to investors, sell fractional shares, and disburse cash in lieu to investors.

Spinoff

If an investor owns shares of a company that spins off part of the business as a new entity with a separately-traded stock, shareholders of the original company may receive a fixed amount of shares of the new company for every share of the existing company held.

How Is Cash in Lieu of Fractional Shares Taxed?

Just like many other forms of investment profits, cash in lieu of fractional shares is taxable , even though it was acquired without the investor’s endorsement or action. The stock’s company may send investors a check followed by an IRS Form 1099-B at year-end with a “cash in lieu” or “CIL” notation.

Some investors may simply report the payment on the IRS Form 1040’s Schedule D as sales proceeds with zero cost and pay capital gains tax on the entire cash settlement. However, the more accurate and tax-advantageous method would apply the adjusted cost basis to the fractional shares and pay capital gains tax only on the net gain.

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How to Report Cash in Lieu of Fractional Shares

Calculating the cost basis for cash in lieu of fractional shares is a little tricky due to the change of share price and quantity. The new stock issued is not taxable nor does the cost basis change, but the per-share basis does.
Consider the following example:

•  An investor owns 15 shares of Company X worth $10.00 per share ($150 value).
•  Investor’s 15 shares have a $7.00 per share cost basis ($105 total cost basis).
•  Company X declares a 1.5 stock split.

The investor is entitled to 22.5 shares valued at $6.67 each but the company states they will only issue whole shares. Therefore, the investor receives 22 shares plus a $2.73 cash in lieu payment for the half share.

The investor’s total cost basis remains the same, less the cash in lieu of the fractional shares. However, the adjusted cost basis now factors in 22 shares instead of 15, equaling a $4.66 per share cost basis and a $2.33 fractional share cost basis. Finally, the taxable “net gain” for the cash payment received in lieu of fractional shares equates to $2.725 – $2.33 = $0.39.

The Takeaway

It’s not always possible to anticipate a company being restructured and how it will affect shareholders’ stock. In the event the company doesn’t wish to deal with fractional shares, it’s important for shareholders to understand the alternatives such as cash in lieu of fractional shares, and how it affects them. While cash in lieu can be burdensome, investors can be made whole and can then proceed on their own accord.

There are many reasons investors consider fractional shares worth buying to add to their investment portfolio. For individuals looking to invest in fractional shares with the help of a simple account setup and no fees, SoFi Invest® can help.

Find out how SoFi Invest can help you reach your financial goals.


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

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

A stock split allows companies to increase the number of shares offered to investors, without changing shareholder equity. Rather than issuing new shares, companies may split stock to reduce prices.

A reverse stock split can be used to condense and combine stock shares. This type of stock split is often done to increase share prices.

While a reverse stock split can improve a stock’s price in the near term, it could be a sign that a company is struggling financially. Large fluctuations in stock pricing associated with a reverse stock split could also cause investors to lose money.

For investors who are concerned about managing risk inside their investment portfolio, it’s important to understand how a reverse stock split works, along with the pros and cons.

What Is a Reverse Stock Split?

A stock split increases the number of shares available to trade without affecting an investor’s equity stake in those shares. For example, if you own 100 shares of XYZ stock and the company initiates a two-for-one split, you’d own 200 shares of stock once it’s completed. At the same time, the stock’s price would be cut in half. So if your shares were worth $100 before, they’d be worth $50 each afterward.

A reverse stock split moves in the opposite direction. Companies can use different ratios for executing reverse stock splits. For example, a company could decide to initiate a reverse split that converts every 10 shares of stock into a single share. So if you owned 100 shares before the reverse split, you’d own 10 shares afterward.

The stock’s price would also change proportionately. So if each share of stock was valued at $10 before the split, those shares would be worth $100 afterward. Your overall investment would still be valued at $1,000; the only thing that changes is the number of shares you own.

Why Do Companies Execute Reverse Stock Splits?

There are different reasons why a company may choose to execute a reverse stock split. Most often, it’s used as a tool for increasing the share prices of stock.

Raising stock prices is a tactic that can be used to attract new investors if the company believes the current trading price is too low. A higher share price could send a signal to the market that the company is worth investing in. Companies may also choose to reverse split stocks to meet minimum bid price requirements in order to stay listed on a major stock exchange.

Reverse stock splits don’t affect a company’s market capitalization, which represents the total number of a company’s outstanding shares multiplied by its current market price per share. But by consolidating existing shares into fewer shares, those shares can become more valuable.

Do You Lose Money on a Stock Split?

Avoiding losses is part of investing strategically, and it makes sense if investors wonder how a forward stock split or a reverse stock split could impact them financially.

A stock split itself doesn’t cause an investor to lose money, because the total value of their investment doesn’t change. What changes is the number of shares they own and what each one of those shares is priced at.

For example, if you have $1,000 invested before a forward stock split or a reverse stock split, you would still have $1,000 afterward. But depending on which way the stock split moves, you may own more or fewer shares and the price of those shares would change correspondingly.

If you own a stock that pays stock dividends, those dividend payments would also adjust accordingly. For instance, in a forward two-for-one split of a stock that’s currently paying $2 per share in dividends, the new payout would be $1 per share. If you own a stock that pays $1 per share in dividends, then undergoes a reverse stock split that combines five shares into one, your new dividend payout would be $5 per share.

Is a Reverse Stock Split Good or Bad?

Whether a reverse stock split is good or bad can depend on why the company chose to initiate it and the impacts it has on the company’s overall financial situation.

At first glance, a reverse stock split can seem like a red flag. If a company is trying to boost its share price to try and attract new investors, that could be a sign that it’s desperate for cash. But there are other indicators that a company is struggling financially. Poor earnings reports or a diminishing dividend could also be clues that a company is underperforming.

In terms of outcomes, there are two broad paths that can open up following a reverse stock split.

A Reverse Stock Split Could Create Opportunities

Path A creates new opportunities for the company to grow and strengthen financially, but this is usually dependent on taking other measures. For example, if a company is also taking steps to reduce its debt load or improve earnings, then a reverse stock split could yield long-term benefits with regard to pricing.

A Reverse Stock Split Could Result in Losses

On the other hand, Path B could result in losses to investors if the new price doesn’t stick. If stock prices fall after a reverse stock split, that means an investor’s new combined shares become less valuable. A Path B scenario may be likely if the company isn’t making other efforts to improve its financial situation, or if the efforts they are making fail.

Should I Sell Before a Stock Split?

There are many factors that go into deciding when to sell a stock. Whether it makes sense to sell before a stock split or after can depend on what other signs the company is giving off with regard to its financial health and how an investor expects it to perform after the split.

Investors who have shares in a company that has a strong track record overall may choose to remain invested. Even though a split may result in a lower share price in the near term, their investments could grow in value if the price continues to climb after the split.

With a reverse stock split, a decision to sell (or not sell) may hinge on why the company is executing the split. If a reverse stock split is being done to raise prices and attract new investors, it’s important to consider what the company’s goals are for doing so.

Taking a look at the company’s finances and comparing things like price to earnings (P/E) ratio, earnings per share (EPS) and other key ratios that may be gleaned by reading the company’s earnings report, can give you a better idea of which direction things may be headed.

The Takeaway

A reverse stock split itself shouldn’t impact an investor—their overall investment value remains the same, even as stocks are consolidated at a higher price. But the reasons behind the reverse stock split are worth investigating, and the split itself has the potential to drive stock prices down.

Stock splits are something investors may encounter from time to time. Understanding what the implications of a forward or reverse stock split are and what they can tell you about a company can help an investor develop a strategy for managing them.

Investing in stocks alongside other securities can help an investor create a diversified portfolio over time, and make it easier to balance risk. With SoFi Invest®, members can build a portfolio that includes individual stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and cryptocurrency.

Find out how easy it is to start investing with SoFi.


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

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
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What Happens to a Stock During a Merger?

For investors, the announcement of a corporate merger can cause excitement or trepidation. Public company tie-ups involve negotiations, regulatory hurdles, integration–all of which hopefully leads to value creation for stockholders.

When a merger is taking place, the classic stock market reaction is for the acquiring company’s shares to decline, while the target company’s stock experiences a lift. Here’s a deeper dive into what investors can expect if one of their companies enters into an M&A deal.

What is M&A?

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are corporate transactions that involve two companies combining, or one buying a majority stake in another.

A CEO typically embarks on an M&A transaction with the objective of finding “synergies”–Wall Street lingo for creating value through consolidation. Synergies are typically found by reducing costs or finding new avenues for growth.

Stock-for stock mergers–when the target’s shares are converted into the buyer’s shares–are the most common type of M&A transaction. That’s why there’s often a burst of M&A activity after a prolonged bull market: Companies with high stock prices can use their shares to make pricey purchases.

For instance, in early 2020, M&A had a slowdown as the repercussions of COVID-19 took hold of the global economy. Dealmaking during the pandemic eventually came back as share prices soared and executives sought opportunities or looked to adjust to the new business environment.

Meanwhile, in an all-cash merger, the buyer either has to spend the cash they have on hand or raise new capital to fund the purchase of the target.

What is a Merger of Equals?

A true merger of equals (MOEs) is rare. Most mergers are really acquisitions. But MOEs could signal to investors that two similar, roughly equal-sized companies are uniting because there are significant tax or cost savings to be had. Investors may find that with MOEs, the premiums paid aren’t as significant.

What Is Private Equity?

Private equity (PE) firms, alternative investment funds that buy and restructure companies, also participate in M&A. They seek deals when there’s “dry powder”–funds that have been committed by investors but aren’t yet spent.

How Do Stocks Move During Mergers?

After an M&A announcement, the most common reaction on Wall Street is for the shares of the acquiring company to fall and those of the target company to rally. That’s because the buyer typically offers a premium for the takeover in order to win over shareholders.

The rally in the target’s stock can be an eye-popping move, often leaving investors with the dilemma of selling then or after the deal is complete. The target’s shares usually trade for less than the acquisition price until the transaction closes. This is because the market is pricing in the risk of the deal falling apart.

Deals can get scrapped because of a key regulatory disapproval, stock volatility, or CEOs changing their minds. That would mean money spent on investment bankers, lawyers and consultants to put together the M&A terms would have all been for nought. Not to mention the specter of a costly break-up fee.

Hence the investor skepticism towards M&A. However, research has shown that some 98% of the deals in the last five years have gone through.

Different Stock Reactions to M&A

The stock market is a key way to gauge how shareholders feel about a deal. Here are some different scenarios of how the market could react:

Buyer rises alongside target: This is obviously the best case scenario for companies and investors. It occurs when the stock market believes the deal is a smart acquisition for the buyer and that the deal’s been made at a good price.
Buyer falls dramatically: The buyer’s shares may plummet if investors believe executives are overpaying for a target or if they think the target isn’t a good purchase.
Target moves little: The target’s shares may see little change if rumors of a potential deal already sent share prices higher, causing the premium to be baked in. Alternatively, the premium being paid may be low, causing a muted market reaction.
Buyer rises, target falls: In rarer cases, a deal gets called off and the buyer’s shares rise while the target falls. This could be because investors have soured on the merger and believe that the acquiring company is getting out of a bad deal.
Target falls: If a target company needs money, a private equity firm could buy a stake at a discount. In such cases, the target company’s shares could slump.

Do Mergers Create Value?

There’s long been a debate among investors and academics whether M&A actually creates value for stakeholders and shareholders. Recent research has shown that frequent acquirers do tend to add value, while bigger deals are riskier.

The stock market is famously fickle and it can take time before the market gives credit to the combined company for any cost or revenue synergies. In general, cost-saving synergies are much easier to pledge, while revenue synergies could be tougher to deliver.

Investors should also pay attention to executive changes that result from the merger. Leadership turnover can make a difference when it comes to making sure a merger adds value and two companies integrating well.

What Is Merger Arbitrage?

Merger arbitrage–also known as merger arb or risk arbitrage–is a hedge-fund strategy that involves buying shares of the target company and shorting shares of the acquiring company. Returns are usually amplified through the use of leverage.

The so-called “spreads” between the takeover company and the offer value are a way to calculate the odds the market is placing on the deal successfully closing.

When it comes to retail vs. institutional investors, some of the former may want to try merger arbitrage. However, there are key points to keep in mind:

Typically most of the arbitrage opportunity has already been taken immediately after the deal gets announced.

As mentioned, mergers fall apart for all sorts of reasons. The biggest hurdle usually is getting regulatory approval. Regulators often reject a deal for being anticompetitive. A crash in the stock market could also make buyers back out.

Shorting a stock is a risky strategy that isn’t appropriate for all investors. The potential gains for a stock are unlimited, so betting against one can lead to unlimited losses.

The Takeaway

When a merger is announced, the typical reaction is for the acquiring company’s stock price to fall, while the target company’s stock price gains. But different scenarios in the market can give clues on how investors are feeling towards an M&A deal.

There’s also the risk that a deal gets derailed altogether. However, stock investors can take heart in knowing that some 98% of the deals in the last five years have gone through.

It’s important for those who own shares of companies with a pending merger to monitor the news flow on the deal carefully and pay attention to price fluctuations in the market. Separately, it’s also key to know that stock-for-stock mergers can often dilute some shareholders’ voting power.

If investors want to delve into stock picking, SoFi Active Investing may be a good option for them. For those looking for a more hands-off approach, SoFi Automated Investing builds and rebalances portfolios for its members.

Get Started 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 . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
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) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned 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, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

Disclaimer: The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.
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Popular Options Trading Terminology to Know

Trading stocks can help investors build wealth over time. But for investors interested in more advanced investment strategies, options trading might be worth looking into.

When an investor trades options, they aren’t trading individual shares of stock. Instead, they’re trading contracts to buy or sell stocks and other securities under specific conditions. Beyond this, there are a number of important options trading strategies investors commonly use when trading options.

In order to effectively deal in options, an investor might also want to familiarize themselves with certain lingo.

First – Understand What You Are Trading

Before learning the trading terms, it helps to have a firm grasp of what options trading is and what it involves.
Here’s a simple option definition from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) :

“Options are contracts giving the purchaser the right to buy or sell a security, such as stocks, at a fixed price within a specific period of time.”

In other words, you’re investing in an option to buy or sell a stock, rather than the stock itself.

Options Trading Terms to Know

When it comes to options trading, these are some of the most important trading terms to understand.

Call Option

A call option is an options contract that gives the purchaser of the option the right to buy shares of a stock or another security at a fixed price. This price is called the “strike price.”

When an investor buys a call option, the option to buy is open for a set time period. The expiration date is the date when the call option is voided—though some options positions are automatically closed or exercised if they are in the money. Standard options contracts are no more than 90 days.

Put Option

A put option gives a purchaser the right to sell shares of a stock at the strike price bya specified day.
When getting to know puts and calls definitions, it’s important to remember that each one has:

•  A strike price
•  An expiration date

Strike Price

With a call option or put option, the strike price is one of the most important trading terms to know.

In a call option, the strike price is the price at which an investor may buy the underlying stock associated with the contract. In a put option, the strike price is the price at which they may sell the underlying stock.

The gap between the strike price and the actual price of a stock determines whether an investor is “in the money” or “out of the money.”

In the Money

When discussing stock movements, it’s typical to think in terms of whether a stock’s price is up, down, or flat. With options, on the other hand, there’s different language used to describe whether an investment is paying off or not.

An option is in the money when the correlation between the strike price and the stock price is leaning in an investor’s favor. Which way this movement needs to go depends on whether they have a call option or put option.

With a call option, an investor is in the money if the strike price is below the stock’s actual price. Say, for example, you place a call option to purchase a stock at $50 per share but its actual price is $60 per share. You’d be up, or in the money, by $10 per share.

Put options are the opposite. An investor is in the money with a put option if the strike price is higher than the actual stock price.

Out of the Money

Being out of the money with call or put options means an investor doesn’t stand to reap any financial gain from exercising the option. Whether a call or put option is out of the money depends on the relationship between the strike price and the actual stock price.

A call option is out of the money when the strike price is above the actual stock price. A put option is out of the money when the strike price is below the actual stock price.

At the Money

Being “at the money” is another scenario an investor could run into with options trading.

In an at-the-money situation, the strike price and the stock’s actual price are the same. If the buyer of the option sells the option, they can make or lose money. If they exercise the option, they will lose money because of the premium paid.

Volatility Crush

When trading options, it’s important to understand stock volatility and how it can impact trading outcomes.

Volatility is a way to track up or down swings in a stock’s price across trading sessions. Implied volatility is a way of measuring or estimating which way a stock’s price might go in the future.

A volatility crush happens when there’s a sharp decline in a stock’s implied volatility that affects an option’s value. Specifically, this means a downward trend that can detract from a call or put option’s value.

Volatility crushes can happen after a major event that affects or could affect a stock’s price. For example, investors might see a volatility crush after a company releases its latest earnings report or announces a merger with a competitor.

Bid/Ask Price

When trading options, it’s helpful to know how bid and ask prices work.

The bid price is the highest price a buyer is willing to pay for an option. The ask price is the price a seller is willing to accept for an option.

The difference between the bid price and ask price is known as the spread.

Holder and Writer

Other trading terms investors may hear associated with options are “holder” and “writer.”

The person or entity buying an options contract may be referred to as the holder. The seller of an options contract can also be referred to as the writer of that contract.

An option is exercised when the buyer chooses to invoke their right to buy or sell the underlying security.

Pros and Cons of Options Trading

Options trading can offer both advantages and disadvantages for investors.

Pros of Options Trading

•  Lower entry point. Unless an investor is able to purchase fractional shares (something SoFi Invest® offers), purchasing individual stock shares with higher price points can get expensive. Investing in options, on the other hand, may be more accessible for investors with a limited amount of money to put into the market.
•  Downside protection for buyers. If the stock’s price isn’t moving in the direction a buyer anticipated, they don’t have to exercise their option to buy. This can limit losses.
•  Greater flexibility. An investor has control over exercising the option to capitalize on the stocks rise or fall accordingly. An investor could exercise an option to buy and keep the shares, or buy and then resell them. Or they could choose not to exercise their option at all.

Cons of Options Trading

Options trading can be risky for sellers. Trading stocks is risky, but trading options have the potential to be more so for investors on the selling end of a contract. An investor might end up being out of the money on an options contract—but even that doesn’t determine the extent of the loss. The risk comes from the selling of uncovered puts and calls.

The Takeaway

Trading options can be appealing to investors who think an asset’s price will go up or down, or who want to attempt to offset risk from assets that they own. But before an investor engages in options trading, it’s a good idea to get familiar with put and call definitions and other options trading terms.

Individuals who are new to investing may prefer a simpler way to build an investment portfolio. With SoFi Invest®, members can invest automatically in a custom portfolio, based on personal risk tolerance and goals. Investors who are comfortable with a hands-on approach can start investing in certain individual stocks and exchange-traded funds with as little as $1.

Find out how SoFi Invest can help you reach your financial goals.


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

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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How Tax on Mutual Funds Works

For a long time, mutual funds have been a popular investment vehicle for millions of investors, largely because they offer an easy way to purchase no-fuss, diversified assets with relative ease. This out-of-the-box diversification and risk-mitigation is something that individual stocks can’t match.

Though technology has made it easier than ever to buy securities like mutual funds online, one area of confusion persists. When it comes to tax on mutual funds, and calculating capital gains on mutual funds, many investors don’t know where to start.

Discussing tax on mutual funds and other investments can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Read on to learn how tax on mutual funds works, what investors should expect or anticipate when it comes to dealing with mutual funds and the IRS, and some simple strategies for tax-efficient investing.

Quick Mutual Fund Overview

First, it makes sense to review the basics. Mutual funds are similar to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in that they’re not singular investments. Instead, they’re a collection (or a “basket”) of many different investments like stocks, bonds, and short-term debt. When an investor buys into a mutual fund, they’re essentially purchasing a spectrum of assets all at once.

Paying Tax on Mutual Funds

Like other types of investments, investors must pay tax on any income or profits they realize from their mutual fund holdings. Not every fund is the same, so it follows that the taxable income shareholders receive (or don’t receive) from a fund isn’t the same.

Since it’s up to investors to know when to pay taxes on stocks and report the amount of taxable income they’ve received from the sales of their investments and distributions (on IRS Form 1099-DIV) the most proactive thing an investor can do to get an idea of what type of tax liability a specific mutual fund may present is to research the fund before any shares are purchased. In other words, do your homework.

There are a number of online resources—including but not limited to Morningstar and Kiplinger Mutual Fund Finder —that allow investors to conduct that research, with some also providing rating systems to help streamline the process.

Paying Tax on “Realized Gains” from a Mutual Fund

It may come as a surprise that shareholders may owe taxes on their mutual fund holdings even if they don’t sell them. That’s because shareholders are still generating income from those holdings, which is often called “realized” gain.

Mutual funds are actively managed, meaning that an individual or company is regularly making decisions about what the fund contains by buying and selling investments—a process that can net profits. Those profits, or gains, are then passed back to shareholders as distributions (or as dividends) or reinvested in the fund.

When shareholders are awarded distributions from funds, they’re seeing a “realized” gain from their investment. For that reason, shareholders may end up owing tax on investments that they have not sold, or even that may have lost value over the year.

Paying Capital Gains on Mutual Funds

Most investors likely know that when they sell shares of a mutual fund, they’ll need to pay taxes on the earnings. Specifically, they’ll pay capital gains tax, which is a tax on the profit made from selling an investment. Depending on how long an investor held the investment (short-term versus long-term), the capital gains taxation rate will vary.

Because funds contain investments that may be sold during the year, thereby netting capital gains, investors may be on the hook for capital gains taxes on their mutual fund distributions. As each fund is different, so are the taxes associated with their distributions. So reading through the fund’s prospectus and any other available documentation can help investors figure out what, if anything, they owe.

How to Minimize Taxes on Mutual Funds

When it comes to mutual funds, taxes are going to be a part of the equation for investors—there’s no way around it. But that doesn’t mean that investors can’t make some smart moves to minimize what they owe. Here are a handful of ways to potentially lower taxable income associated with mutual funds:

Know the Details Before You Invest

Do your homework! The holdings in each fund, and the way they’re managed, will ultimately play a big role in the tax liabilities associated with each fund. Before investing in a specific mutual fund, it’s worth digging through the prospectus and other documents to get a sense of what to expect.

For example, an investor can typically find out ahead of time if a mutual fund makes capital gains distributions, or how often a fund pays out dividends. Those are the types of income-generating events that will need to be declared to the IRS come tax time.

Some investors might choose to look for tax-efficient funds that are specifically designed to help mutual fund investors avoid taxes.

Use a Tax-deferred Account

Some brokerage or investment accounts—including retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s—are tax-deferred. That means that they grow tax-free until the money contained in them is withdrawn. In the short-term, using these types of accounts to invest in mutual funds can help investors avoid any immediate tax liabilities that those mutual funds impose.

Hang Onto Your Funds to Avoid Short-term Capital Gains

If the goal is to minimize an investor’s tax liability, avoiding short-term capital gains tax is important. That’s because short-term capital gains taxes are steeper than the long-term variety. An easy way to make sure that an investor is rarely or never on the hook for those short-term rates is to subscribe to a buy-and-hold investment strategy.

This can be applied as an overall investing strategy in addition to one tailor-made for avoiding additional tax liabilities on mutual fund holdings.

Talk to a Financial Professional

Of course, not every investor has the same resources, including time, available to them. That’s why some investors may choose to consult a financial advisor who specializes in these types of services. They usually charge a fee, but some may offer free consultations. For some investors, the cost savings associated with solid financial advice can outweigh the initial costs of securing that advice.

The Takeaway

Getting taxed on capital gain on a mutual fund is unavoidable, but with a little help from a tax professional, you can minimize the amount you get taxed.

Some of the above strategies can work in concert: Investors who are investing for long-term financial goals, like retirement, can use tax-deferred accounts as their primary investing vehicles. And by using those accounts to invest in mutual funds and other assets, they can help offset their short-term tax liabilities.

While it’s possible to buy some mutual funds with an online brokerage account, many have restrictions on the types of funds investors can buy, as they’re specially-tailored toward specific financial goals, like retirement. With a SoFi Invest® account, investors can get started building a portfolio, and even gain access to complimentary advice.

Find out how SoFi Invest can help you get your money in the market.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
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) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned 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, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

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