What is an IRA?

What Is an IRA?

An individual retirement account, or IRA, is a retirement savings account that has certain tax advantages. An IRA allows individuals to save for retirement over the long-term.

There are different types of IRAs, but two of the most common are traditional and Roth IRAs. Both types generally let you contribute the same amount annually (more on that below). One key difference is the way the two accounts are taxed: With traditional IRAs, you deduct your contributions upfront and pay taxes on distributions when you retire. With Roth IRAs, contributions are not tax deductible, but you can withdraw money tax-free in retirement.

For those planning for their future, IRAs are worth learning more about—and potentially investing in. Read on to learn more about the different types of IRAs, which one might be right for you, and how to open an individual retirement account.

Key Points

•   An IRA is a retirement savings account that offers tax advantages and allows individuals to save for retirement over the long-term.

•   There are different types of IRAs, including traditional and Roth IRAs, each with its own tax treatment and contribution limits.

•   Traditional IRAs allow for pre-tax contributions and tax-deferred growth, while Roth IRAs involve after-tax contributions and tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

•   Other types of IRAs include SEP IRAs for small business owners and self-employed individuals, and SIMPLE IRAs for employees and employers of small businesses.

•   Opening an IRA provides individuals with the opportunity to save for retirement, supplement existing retirement plans, and potentially benefit from tax advantages.

What Are the Different Types of IRA Accounts?

There are several types of IRAs, including traditional and Roth IRAs. Since it is possible to have multiple IRAs, an individual who works for themselves or owns a small business might also establish a SEP IRA (Simplified Employee Pension) or SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees). Just be aware that you cannot exceed the total contribution limits across all the IRAs you hold.

Here is an overview of some different types of IRAs:

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

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


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

Traditional IRA

A traditional IRA is a retirement account that allows individuals to make pre-tax contributions. Money inside a traditional IRA grows tax-deferred, and it’s subject to income tax when it’s withdrawn.

Contributions to a traditional IRA are typically tax-deductible because they can lower an individual’s taxable income in the year they contribute.

Traditional IRAs have contribution limits. In 2024, individuals can contribute up to $7,000 per year, with an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 for those aged 50 and up. In 2023, the contribution limit was $6,500 annually or $7,500 for those 50 and older.

When individuals reach a certain age, they must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a traditional IRA. RMDs are generally calculated by taking the IRA account balance and dividing it by a life expectancy factor determined by the IRS.

Saving for retirement with an IRA means that an individual is, essentially, saving money until they reach at least age 59 ½. Withdrawals from a traditional IRA taken before that time are typically subject to income tax and a 10% early withdrawal penalty. There are some exemptions to this rule, however — such as using a set amount of IRA funds to buy a first house or pay a medical insurance premium after an individual loses their job.


💡 Quick Tip: Before opening an investment account, know your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. These fundamentals will help keep your strategy on track and with the aim of meeting your goals.

Roth IRA

Unlike a traditional IRA, contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars, and contributions are not tax-deductible. The money can grow tax-free in the Roth IRA account. Withdrawals made after age 59 ½ are tax-free, as long as the account has been open for at least five years.

Roth IRAs are subject to the same contribution limits as traditional IRAs, but the amount an individual can contribute may be limited based on their tax filing status and income levels.

For 2024, married couples filing jointly can contribute only a partial amount to a Roth if their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $230,000 or more. If their MAGI is over $240,000, they cannot contribute to a Roth at all. For single filers, those whose MAGI is $146,000 or more can make a reduced contribution to a Roth, and those whose MAGI is more than $161,000 cannot contribute.

Individuals with Roth IRAs are not required to take RMDs. Additionally, Roth withdrawal rules are a bit more flexible than those for a traditional IRA. Individuals can withdraw contributions to their Roth IRAs at any time without having to pay income tax or a penalty fee. However, they may be subject to taxes and a 10% penalty on earnings they withdraw before age 59 ½.

SEP IRA

A simplified employee pension (SEP IRA) provides small business owners and self-employed people with a way to contribute to their employees’ or their own retirement plans. Contribution limits are significantly larger than those for traditional and Roth IRAs.

Only an employer (or self-employed person) can contribute to a SEP IRA. In 2024, employers can contribute up to 25% of their employees’ compensations or $69,000 a year, whichever is less. The amount of employee compensation that can be used to calculate the 25% is limited to $345,000 in 2024.

If an individual is the owner of the business and contributes a certain percentage of their compensation to their own SEP IRA —for example, 15%— the amount they contribute to their employees’ plans must be the same proportion of the employees’ salary (in other words, also 15% or whatever percentage they contributed).

When it comes to RMDs and early withdrawal penalties, SEP IRAs follow the same rules as traditional IRAs. However, in certain situations, the early withdrawal penalty may be waived.

SIMPLE IRA

A Savings Incentive Match Plan for employees, or SIMPLE IRA, is a traditional IRA that both employees and employers can contribute to. These plans are, typically, available to any small business with 100 employees or fewer.

Employers are required to contribute to the plan each year by making a 3% matching contribution, or a 2% nonelective contribution, which must be made even if the employee doesn’t contribute anything to the account. This 2% contribution is calculated on no more than $345,000 of an employee’s compensation in 2024.

Employees can contribute up to $16,000 to their SIMPLE IRA in 2024, and they can also make catch-up contributions of $3,500 at age 50 or older, if their plan allows it.

SIMPLE plans have RMDs, and early withdrawals are subject to income tax and a 10% penalty. The early withdrawal penalty increases to 25% for withdrawals made during the first two years of participation in a plan. (There are, however, certain exemptions recognized by the IRS.)

This article is part of SoFi’s Retirement Planning Guide, our coverage of all the steps you need to create a successful retirement plan.


money management guide for beginners

Benefits of Opening an IRA

The main advantage of opening an IRA is that you are saving money for your future. Investing in retirement is an important financial move at any age. Beyond that, here are some other benefits of opening an IRA:

•   Anyone who earns income can open an IRA. It’s a good option if you don’t have access to an employee-sponsored plan, such as a 401(k) or a 403(b).

•   An IRA can supplement an employee plan. You could open an IRA to supplement your retirement plan at work, especially if you’ve already contributed the annual maximum.

•   An IRA might be a good rollover vehicle. If you’re leaving your job, you could roll over funds from a 401(k) or 403(b) into an IRA. That may give you access to more investment options—not to mention consolidating your accounts in one place.

•   A SEP IRA might be helpful if you’re self-employed. A SEP IRA may allow you to contribute more each year than you could to a Roth or Traditional IRA, depending on how much you earn.

Which Type of IRA Works for You?

There are many different types of IRAs and deciding which one is better for your particular financial situation will depend on your individual circumstances and future plans. Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding between different types of IRAs:

•   Thinking ahead, what do you expect your tax income bracket to look like at retirement? If you think you’ll be in a lower bracket when you retire, it might make more sense to invest in a traditional IRA, since you’ll pay more in taxes today than you would when you withdraw the money later.

•   Will you likely be in a higher tax bracket at retirement? That can easily happen as your career and income grow and if you experience lifestyle inflation. In that case, a Roth IRA might give you the opportunity to save on taxes in the long run.

•   Do you prefer not to take RMDs starting at age 73? If so, a Roth IRA might be a better option for you.

•   Is your income high enough to prevent you from contributing the full amount (or at all) to a Roth IRA? In that case, you may want to consider a traditional IRA.


💡 Quick Tip: How much does it cost to set up an IRA? Often there are no fees to open an IRA, but you typically pay investment costs for the securities in your portfolio.

How Much Should You Contribute to an IRA?

If you can afford it, you could contribute up to the maximum limit to your IRA every year (including catch-up contributions if you qualify). Otherwise, it generally makes sense to contribute as much as you can, on a regular basis, so that it becomes a habit.

Until you’re on track for retirement, many financial professionals recommend prioritizing IRA contributions over other big expenses, like saving for a down payment on a first or second home, or for your kids’ college education.

Any money you put into an IRA has the opportunity to grow over time. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different, so for specifics unique to your situation, it might help to talk to a financial advisor and/or a tax advisor.

How Can You Use IRA Funds?

Early withdrawals of your IRA funds, prior to the age of 59 ½, can trigger a 10% penalty tax. However, there are exceptions that may allow an individual to use their IRA funds before hitting the age of eligibility and without facing the 10% penalty, according to IRS rules. Just keep in mind that early withdrawals are generally considered a last resort after all other options have been exhausted since you don’t want to dip into your retirement funds unless absolutely necessary.

IRA withdrawal exceptions include:

•   Permanent disability

•   Higher education expenses

•   Certain out-of-pocket medical expenses totaling more than 10% of adjusted gross income

•   Qualified first-time homebuyers up to $10,000

•   Health insurance premiums while unemployed

•   IRS levy of the plan

•   Qualified military reservist called to active duty

•   Death of the IRA’s owner

The Takeaway

IRAs offer individuals an opportunity to save money for retirement in a tax-advantaged plan. There are several different IRAs to choose from to help you find an account that suits your needs and goals.

There are multiple options for opening an IRA, including online brokers and robo-advisors. With an online broker, you choose the investment assets for your IRA. A robo-advisor is an automated investment platform that picks investments for you based on your financial goals, risk tolerance, and investing time frame. Whichever option you choose, you decide on a financial institution, pick the type of IRA you want, and set up your account.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

How is an IRA different from a 401(k)?

While IRAs and 401(k)s are both tax-advantaged ways to save money for retirement, a 401(k) is an employer-sponsored plan that is offered through the workplace, and an IRA is an account you can open on your own.

What’s the difference between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA?

The biggest difference between a traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA is how and when your money is taxed. With a traditional IRA, you get a tax deduction when you make contributions. Your contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, and when you withdraw money in retirement, the funds are taxed.

With a Roth IRA, you make contributions with after-tax dollars. You don’t get a tax deduction upfront when you contribute, but your money grows tax-free. When you withdraw the money in retirement, you won’t pay taxes on the withdrawals.

When should I make IRA contributions?

One simple way to fund your IRA is to set up automatic contributions at regular intervals that puts money from your bank account directly into your IRA. You could contribute monthly or several times a year—the frequency is up to you. Some people contribute once annually, after they receive a year-end bonus, for example.


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

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.

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.

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

SOIN0124128

Read more
NPV Formula: How to Calculate Net Present Value

Net Present Value: How to Calculate NPV

Net present value or NPV represents the difference between the present value of cash inflows and outflows over a set period of time. Knowing how to calculate NPV can be useful when trying to determine whether an investment — either business or personal — will eventually pay off.

In capital budgeting, calculating the net present value can help with estimating the profitability of an investment or expansion project. Meanwhile, investors use the net present value calculation to gauge an investment’s potential rate of return based on the present value of its future cash flows and a discount rate, based on the cost of borrowing or financing.

What Is Net Present Value (NPV)?

Net present value is a measure of the value of all future cash flows over the life of an investment, discounted to the present after factoring in inflows, outflows, and inflation, which can erode the value of money over time.

When applying the net present value formula, you’re looking at whether revenues are greater than costs or vice versa to determine whether an investment or project is likely to yield a gain or a loss.

As mentioned, net present value is often used in capital budgeting. Businesses and governments can use capital budgeting methods to determine how much of a return they’re likely to see on a project before funding it. The NPV formula takes into account the time value of money, a concept which suggests that a sum of money received now is worth more than that same sum received at a future date.

How to Calculate NPV

Calculating net present value is a fairly simple operation.

If you want to calculate net present value using the NPV formula, you’d first need to know the expected positive and negative cash flows for an investment or project. You’d also need to know the discount rate. From there, you could complete your calculations in this order:

•   List future cash flows for each year you expect to receive them.

•   Calculate the present value for each cash flow.

•   Add all present values for future cash flows together.

•   Subtract cash outflows from the present value sum of future cash flows.

You’ll need to know the present value calculation to complete the second step.

NPV Formula

Here’s what the NPV formula looks like:

PV = FV/(1 + k)N

In this formula, k is the discount rate and n is the number of time periods.

Again, net present value calculations follow a distinct formula. A positive NPV means earnings from the investment should outpace the cost. Negative NPV, on the other hand, means you’re more likely to lose money on the investment.

The application of the formula depends on the number of expected cash flows for an investment or project.

Example of NPV with a Single Cash Flow Investment

If you’re evaluating potential investments with a single cash flow, then you could use this formula to calculate NPV:

NPV = Cash flow / (1 + i)t – initial investment

In this formula, i represents the required return or discount rate for the investment while t equals the number of time periods involved. The discount rate is an interest rate used to discount future cash flows for a financial instrument.

Weighted average cost of capital (WACC) usually serves as the discount rate for calculating NPV. The WACC measures a company’s cost of borrowing or financing.

Example of NPV with Multiple Cash Flows

If you’re evaluating projects or potential investments with multiple cash flows, you’ll use a different net present value formula. Here’s what the NPV formula looks like in that scenario:

NPV = Today’s value of expected cash flows – Today’s value of invested cash


💡 Quick Tip: The best stock trading app? That’s a personal preference, of course. Generally speaking, though, a great app is one with an intuitive interface and powerful features to help make trades quickly and easily.

Tools to Help Calculate NPV

If you want to simplify your calculations you could look for an online net present value calculator. Or you could use the NPV function in spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Excel or something similar. The NPV function helps calculate net present value for an investment based on the discount rate and a series of future cash flows, both positive and negative.

To use this function, you’d simply create a new Excel spreadsheet, then navigate to the “Formulas” tab. Here, you’d choose “Financial”, then from the dropdown menu select “NPV”. This will bring up the function where you can enter the rate and each value you want to calculate.

What Does NPV Show You?

The NPV formula should tell you at a glance whether you’re likely to make money from an investment, lose money or break-even. This can help when comparing multiple investments to decide where to put your money when you have a limited amount of capital to work with.

It works the same way in capital budgeting. Say a fast-food chain is trying to decide whether to expand into a new market which entails opening up 10 more locations. They could calculate the net present value for each location, based on expected cash flows, to determine whether moving ahead with the project is a financially sound business decision.

What Is a Good NPV?

Generally speaking, a net present value greater than zero is good. This means that the investment or expansion project is likely to yield a gain. When the net present value is below zero, you have negative NPV which means the project or investment is likely to result in a loss.

The higher the number produced by a net present value calculation, the better. But it’s important to remember that the results produced by applying the NPV formula are only as reliable as the data points used in the calculation.

Inaccurate cash flow projections could result in skewed numbers which may produce a net present value estimate that’s above or below the actual returns you’re likely to realize.

Comparing NPV

Here are some ways that NPV stacks up to other types of calculations.

NPV vs Present Value

NPV and present value may sound similar but they measure different things. Present value or PV is the present value of all future cash inflows over a set period of time. Companies use this calculation to estimate values for future revenues or liabilities. When you calculate present value, you’re trying to measure the value of future cash flows today.

Net present value, on the other hand, is the sum of the present values for both cash inflows and cash outflows. With the NPV formula, you’re trying to determine how profitable an investment might be, based on the initial investment required and expected rate of return.

NPV vs IRR

Analysts use IRR or internal rate of return to evaluate proposed capital expenditures. The IRR calculation determines the percentage rate of return at which a project’s cash flows result in a net present value of zero. Like NPV, internal rate of return is also a part of capital budgeting.

Both NPV and IRR measure potential profitability but in different ways. When calculating the net present value of an investment, you’re estimating returns in dollars. With an internal rate of return, you’re estimating the percentage return an investment or project should generate.

Depending on whether you’re trying to target a specific dollar amount or percentage amount for returns, you may apply one or both formulas when evaluating an investment.

NPV vs ROI

Net present value measures expected cash flows for potential investments. You’re looking at future discounted cash flows to determine whether an investment makes sense financially.

Return on investment, or ROI, measures the efficiency of an investment, in terms of the rate of return that the investment is likely to produce. With ROI, you’re looking at the cash flows you’re likely to gain from an investment. To find ROI, you’d add up the total revenues less the total costs involved, then divide that figure by the total costs.

NPV vs Payback Period

The payback period is the period of time required for a return on investment to equal the initial investment. Payback period calculations don’t account for the time value of money. Instead, they look at how long it will take for you to realize a return from an investment that’s equal to the dollar amount that you invested.

Calculating the payback period helps determine how long to hold onto an investment. You might use this method if you’re trying to compare multiple investments to see which one is a better fit for your personal investing timeline. But if you want to get a sense of the total return you’re likely to realize, then you’d still want to apply the net present value formula.

Benefits and Drawbacks of NPV

Net present value can help analyze and evaluate business projects or personal investments. You can easily see at a glance what you could stand to gain — or lose — from making a particular investment. But the NPV formula does have some limitations that are important to be aware of.

Benefits of NPV

Net present value’s main advantage is that it takes the time value of money into consideration. By looking at discounted cash flows you can get a better understanding of the viability of an investment, based on what you’ll get out of it versus what you’ll put in.

This can help with decision-making when choosing investments for your portfolio or making strategic capital investments in a business. Net present value calculations can also help companies with projecting future value based on the investments they make today.

Drawbacks of NPV

The biggest disadvantage or flow associated with net present value is that results depend on the quality of the information that’s being used. If your projections for future cash flows are off, that can produce inaccurate results when using the net present value formula.

NPV can also overlook some hidden costs involved in an investment or project which may detract from total returns. It also doesn’t take into account the margin of safety, or the difference between an investment’s price and its value.

Finally, it’s difficult to use net present value to evaluate projects or investments that are different in size or nature, as the input values are likely to be very different.


💡 Quick Tip: Are self-directed brokerage accounts cost efficient? They can be, because they offer the convenience of being able to buy stocks online without using a traditional full-service broker (and the typical broker fees).

How Investors Can Use NPV

You can use NPV to evaluate stocks and other securities, including alternative investments, based on your time frame and projected profits. With stocks, for example, net present value can give you an idea of whether a company is a good buy or not by calculating NPV per share.

To do that, you’d divide the company’s net present value by the number of outstanding shares in the company to get this number. If the net value per share is higher than the stock’s current market price, then the stock could be considered a good buy. On the other hand, if the net value per share is below the stock’s current market price that suggests you might lose money if you decide to buy in.

The Takeaway

As discussed, Net present value, or NPV, represents the difference between the present value of cash inflows and outflows over a set period of time. Understanding the net present value formula can help with making smarter investment decisions.

As with any tool, most investors use NPV along with other financial ratios and forms of analysis before deciding whether to purchase any asset. If you have questions about how NPV can be used as a part of an investment strategy, it may be worthwhile to consult with a financial professional.

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

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.

FAQ

Is a higher NPV better?

A higher NPV isn’t necessarily a good thing or means that an investment is better than another investment. But in general, a good NPV is a number that’s higher than zero.

What is the basic NPV investment rule?

The basic NPV investment rule is that projects or investments should only be pursued if they’ll lead to gains or productive gains.

Is NPV the same as profit?

NPV is not the same thing as profit, although a positive NPV is indicative of profit, while negative NPV is related to a loss.

Is a NPV of 0 acceptable?

An NPV of zero means that a project or investment isn’t expected to produce significant gains or losses. Whether that’s acceptable or not is up to the individual making the investment decision.

When should NPV not be used?

NPV might not be helpful or useful for comparing investments of drastically different sizes, or projects of different sizes.

Is Excel NPV accurate?

Excel’s NPV calculations should be accurate, but they’re only as accurate as the data that’s entered to make the calculation. So, it could be inaccurate, and it’s a good idea to double-check the calculation.


Photo credit: iStock/Sanja Radin

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

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.

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.
Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $10 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

SOIN0124031

Read more

What Is Liquidity In Stocks?

Liquidity in stocks generally refers to how quickly an investment can be bought or sold and converted into cash. The easier an investment is to sell, the more liquid it is. Plus, liquid investments generally do not charge large fees when you need to access your money.

For the average investor, liquidity is an important consideration when building a portfolio, as it’s an indicator of how easy it is to access their savings. That can be important to know and understand when sizing up your overall strategy.

Key Points

•   Liquidity in stocks refers to how quickly an investment can be bought or sold and converted into cash.

•   Market liquidity refers to how quickly a stock can be turned into cash, while accounting liquidity relates to meeting financial obligations.

•   Stocks are generally considered liquid assets, but some stocks may be less liquid, especially those traded on foreign exchanges.

•   Share turnover and bid-ask spread are metrics used to assess a stock’s liquidity.

•   Liquidity risk is the risk of not finding a buyer or seller for assets, which can affect prices.

Types of Liquidity

Liquidity comes in two forms: Market liquidity and accounting liquidity. Here’s how the two are different.

Market Liquidity

Market liquidity refers to how quickly a stock can be turned into cash. High market liquidity means there’s a high supply and demand for an asset. That, in turn, makes it easy for buyers to find sellers and vice versa. As a result, transactions can be completed quickly, even when stock values are dropping.

Accounting Liquidity

Accounting liquidity is related to an individual’s or company’s ability to meet their financial obligations, such as regular bills or debt payments.

For an individual, being liquid means they have enough cash or marketable assets (such as stocks) on hand to meet their obligations.

Companies measure liquidity slightly differently by comparing current assets and debt. In addition to cash and marketable assets, current assets also include inventories and accounts receivable, the money customers owe on credit for goods or services they’ve purchased.

Investors may pay attention to company liquidity if they are researching that company’s stock as a potential buy. Companies with higher liquidity may be in better shape than those in risk of defaulting on their debt.


💡 Quick Tip: Before opening any investment account, consider what level of risk you are comfortable with. If you’re not sure, start with more conservative investments, and then adjust your portfolio as you learn more.

How Liquid Are Different Assets?

An investor’s financial portfolio may be made up of a number of different assets of varying liquidities, including cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, and savings vehicles like certificates of deposit (CDs). Cash is the most liquid asset; there is nothing an investor needs to do to convert it into spendable currency.

On the other hand, an investment property is an example of a relatively illiquid asset, as it might take a long time for an investor to sell it should they need access to their money.

CDs are also relatively illiquid assets because they require investors to tie up their money for a preset period of time in exchange for higher interest rates than those available in regular savings accounts. Individuals who need their money early may have to pay hefty fines to access it.

Stocks generally fall on the relatively liquid side of the liquidity spectrum. Stocks that are easy to buy and sell and said to be highly liquid. Stocks with low liquidity may be tougher to sell, and investors may take a bigger financial hit as they seek buyers.

What Is Liquidity Risk?

Liquidity risk is the risk that an individual won’t be able to find a buyer or seller for assets they wish to trade during a given period of time, which can lead to adverse effects on the price. Liquidity risk is higher for complex investments or investment vehicles like CDs that may charge penalties to liquidate or access funds early.

Are Stocks a Liquid Asset?

For the most part, stocks that are traded on a public exchange are considered liquid assets. Some stocks, like those traded on foreign exchanges, may be less liquid as it takes more time to execute a trade.

Generally speaking, when an individual wishes to execute a trade, they use a brokerage account to issue a buy or sell order. The broker then helps match the individual with other buyers and sellers hoping to take the opposite action.

This process can take a little bit of time. Most stock trades settle within a two-day period. A stock trade executed on a Wednesday would typically settle on Friday. Settlement is the official transfer of stocks from a seller’s account to the buyer’s account, and cash from the buyer to the seller.

Because it can take some time for trades to be executed, there can be a difference in price between when an individual places an order and when that order is fulfilled.

How to Calculate a Stock’s Liquidity

One way to figure out a stock’s liquidity is by looking at a metric known as share turnover. This financial ratio compares the volume of shares traded and the number of outstanding shares. A stock’s volume is the number of shares that have been bought or sold over a given period. Outstanding shares refer to all of the shares held by a company’s shareholders.

Higher share turnover indicates high liquidity; investors have an easier time buying and selling. Investors might want to pay close attention to low share turnover, as this can indicate they may have a difficult time selling shares if they need to.

Another measure of a stock’s liquidity is the bid-ask spread. Bid price is the price an individual is willing to pay at a given point in time. The ask price is the price at which a buyer is willing to sell. The bid-ask spread is the difference between the two.

For highly liquid assets, the bid-ask spread tends to be pretty small — as little as a penny. This indicates that buyers and sellers are generally in agreement over what the price of a stock should be. However, as bid-ask spread grows, it is an indication that a stock is increasingly illiquid.

A wide spread can also indicate that a trade may be much more expensive to execute. For example, there may not be enough trade volume to execute an entire order at one price. If prices are rising, an order can become increasingly pricey.


💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.

Examples of Liquid Stocks

The most liquid stocks tend to be those that receive the most interest from investors. The large companies that are tracked by the S&P 500 Index.

Why Stock Liquidity Is Important for Investors

The relative liquidity provided by stocks can be a boon to investors. Stocks help provide the growth needed for investors to meet their savings goals. They are also relatively easy to buy and sell on the market, allowing investors to access their savings quickly when they need it.

The Takeaway

Liquidity is a measure of the ability to turn assets into cash without losing value. So it’s an important metric for investors to pay attention to as they construct their portfolios. But liquidity is just one of many factors to consider when investing.

Investors may want to know how liquid their holdings are so that they can choose the appropriate mix of investments that align with their risk tolerance. It may be comforting to some to know that they can sell investments with relative ease, rather than have their money tied up for the long-term.

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

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.

FAQ

What is good liquidity for a stock?

Good liquidity for a stock refers to an investor’s ability to sell the stock in exchange for cash. If a stock is liquid, then it should be relatively easy to sell. If a stock is illiquid, or has bad liquidity, it may be more difficult.

What is a “Liquidity Ratio?”

A liquidity ratio is a financial ratio that can help an investor determine a company’s ability to pay off its debt obligations, particularly in the short-term. There are several liquidity ratios that can be utilized.

Is a higher liquidity better?

Generally, yes, a higher liquidity is better for investors, as it can signal that a company is performing well, and that its stock is in demand. It can also be easier for an investor to sell that stock in exchange for cash.


Photo credit: iStock/insta_photos

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

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.

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $10 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

SOIN0523024

Read more

What Is a Quiet Period?

When a company is in the process of going public — getting ready for an initial public offering, or IPO — it is required to enter a so-called “quiet period.” During the quiet period, company executives, board members, management, and employees cannot publicly promote the company or its stock. Investment bankers and underwriters also cannot put out buy or sell recommendations.

In effect, the company and its personnel are required to stay quiet for a period of time surrounding the IPO filing.

Key Points

•   A quiet period is a period of time when a company going public cannot publicly promote itself or its stock.

•   The purpose of a quiet period is to allow the SEC to review the company’s registration without bias or interruption.

•   During the quiet period, companies can discuss information already in the prospectus but should avoid generating public interest.

•   Quiet periods are not only limited to IPOs but also observed by companies around the end of a quarter.

•   Violating the quiet period can result in consequences such as delayed IPO, liability for violating the Securities Act, or disclosure of the violation in the prospectus.

What Is the Point of a Quiet Period?

While companies always have to comply with the federal securities laws — impending IPO or not — the time around an initial public offering is a special time for any company and comes with special rules and restrictions.

It starts when the company files the registration statement (called an S-1) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including a recommended offering price for the security, and lasts for 30 days. The S-1 contains:

•   a description of the company’s properties and business

•   a description of the security being offered

•   information about company management

•   financial statements certified by independent accountants

During this time, the SEC looks over all the documentation and approves the registration. The quiet period allows the SEC to complete the review process without bias or interruption, and ensures that the company doesn’t attempt to hype, manipulate, or pre-sell their stock.

Companies are allowed to discuss information already in the prospectus during the quiet period, and oftentimes they will go on a “road show” to present this information to big, institutional investors and get a sense for the potential market. Activities generally avoided during the quiet period are advertising campaigns, conferences, and press interviews — basically, anything that might generate public interest in a company or its securities.

Quiet Periods Not Connected to an IPO

While the IPO quiet period by far gets the most attention, it is not the only time that the SEC reins in the communications of companies and their executives. Typically around the end of a quarter, when a company knows the results it will likely release in its quarterly earnings report to investors, the company observes a quiet period to avoid tipping anyone off or trying to get ahead of them in any way.

Get in on the IPO action at IPO prices.

SoFi Active Investing members can participate in IPO(s) before they trade on an exchange.


How Do Companies Violate the Quiet Period?

While the general investing public is supposed to rely on the information contained in S-1s and other official company communications when deciding whether or not to buy the stock, the irony is that public attention to the company is typically very high right before an IPO. All this attention comes at a time when the company itself is supposed to be in its quiet period.

In the past, some companies have run into issues with their senior executives talking to the media during the quiet period. In some cases, the interviews were conducted earlier but published during that time — but either way, it can appear to be a violation of the terms.

What Happens When Quiet Periods Are Violated?

There are no set penalties for violating a quiet period, which is also called “gun-jumping.” If the SEC deems a statement made by a company is in violation of the quiet period, consequences can include:

•   A delayed IPO

•   Liability for violating the Securities Act

•   Requirement to disclose the violation in the company’s prospectus

Delaying the IPO process allows all potential investors to get back on the same page with equal access to information disclosed by the company.

The SEC is also empowered to exact more severe punishments, like civil or even criminal penalties, but typically only pursue these in extreme cases.

What Investors Can Do During a Quiet Period

Quiet periods can be a good time to assess whether you’re interested in investing in a company’s IPO. IPOs have the potential to be lucrative investments, but can also turn out to be extremely volatile and may lose value. There is no guarantee.

Seasoned investors may try to profit at the end of the quiet period, called the quiet period expiration. At this time the stock price and trading volume may see drastic movement up or down, as a flood of information gets released from analysts.

Unbiased prospectus information about recent filings can be viewed on the SEC website. Reading the prospectus can help an investor judge for themself whether a company’s mission, team, and financials look like a sound investment to them.

The Takeaway

The quiet period before an IPO is a time for founders, executives, and employees of a company to stay off the radar, as their official registration forms and other existing info about the company speaks for itself. This allows potential investors to make decisions based on the same information, with no pre-IPO investing hype or manipulation.

Companies may violate quiet periods intentionally or unintentionally, but there are no set penalties for doing so. The SEC may ask that certain measures are taken, however.

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

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.


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

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.

Investing in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves substantial risk, including the risk of loss. Further, there are a variety of risk factors to consider when investing in an IPO, including but not limited to, unproven management, significant debt, and lack of operating history. For a comprehensive discussion of these risks please refer to SoFi Securities’ IPO Risk Disclosure Statement. IPOs offered through SoFi Securities are not a recommendation and investors should carefully read the offering prospectus to determine whether an offering is consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

New offerings generally have high demand and there are a limited number of shares available for distribution to participants. Many customers may not be allocated shares and share allocations may be significantly smaller than the shares requested in the customer’s initial offer (Indication of Interest). For SoFi’s allocation procedures please refer to IPO Allocation Procedures.


Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $10 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

SOIN0523091

Read more
What Happens to a 401k When You Leave Your Job?

What Happens to Your 401(k) When You Leave Your Job?

There are many important decisions to make when starting a new job, including what to do with your old 401(k) account. Depending on the balance of the old account and the benefits offered at your new job, you may have several options, including keeping it where it is, rolling it over into a brand new account, or cashing it out.

A 401(k) may be an excellent way for employees to save for retirement, as it allows them to save for retirement on a tax-advantaged basis, and also many employers offer matching contributions. Here are a few things to know about keeping track of your 401(k) accounts as you change jobs and move through your career

Key Points

•   When leaving a job, you have options for your 401(k) account, including leaving it with your former employer, rolling it over into a new account, or cashing it out.

•   If your 401(k) balance is less than $5,000, your former employer may cash out the funds or roll them into another retirement account.

•   If you have more than $5,000 in your 401(k), your former employer cannot force you to cash out or roll over the funds without your permission.

•   If you quit or are fired, you may lose employer contributions that are not fully vested.

•   It is important to consider the tax implications, penalties, and long-term financial security before making decisions about your 401(k) when leaving a job.

Quick 401(k) Overview?

A 401(k) is a type of retirement savings plan many employers offer that allows employees to save and invest with tax advantages. With a 401(k) plan, an employer will automatically deduct workers’ contributions to the account from their paychecks before taxes are taken out. In 2024, employees can contribute up to $23,000 a year in their 401(k)s, up from $22,500 in 2023. Employees age 50 and older can make catch-up contributions of $7,500 a year for a total of $30,500 in 2024 and $30,000 in 2023.

Employees will invest the funds in a 401(k) account in several investment options, depending on what the employer and their 401(k) administrator offer, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and target date funds.

The money in a 401(k) account grows tax-free until the employee withdraws it, typically after reaching age 59 ½. At that point, the employees must pay taxes on the money withdrawn. However, if the employee withdraws money before reaching 59 ½, they will typically have to pay 401(k) withdrawal taxes and penalties.

Some employers also offer matching contributions, which are additional contributions to an employee’s account based on a certain percentage of the employee’s own contributions. Employers may use 401(k) vesting schedules to determine when employees can access these contributions.

The more you can save in a 401(k), the better. If you can’t max out your 401(k) contributions, start by contributing at least enough money to qualify for your employer’s 401(k) match if they offer one.

What Happens to Your 401(k) When You Quit?

When you quit your job, you generally have several options for your 401(k) account. You can leave the money in the account with your former employer, roll it into a new employer’s 401(k) plan, move it over to an IRA rollover, or cash it out.

However, if your 401(k) account has less than $5,000, your former employer may not allow you to keep it open. If there is less than $1,000 in your account, your former employer will cash out the funds and send them to you via check. If there is between $1,000 and $5,000 in the account, your employer has 60 days to roll it into another retirement account, such as an IRA, that they help you set up. You may also suggest a specific IRA for the rollover.

If you have more than $5,000 in your account, your former employer can only force you to cash out or roll over into another account with your permission. Your funds can usually remain in the account indefinitely.

Also, if you quit your job and you are not fully vested, you forfeit your employer’s contributions to your 401(k). But you do get to keep your vested contributions.

Is There Any Difference if You’re Fired?

If you are fired from your job, your 401(k) account options are similar to those if you quit your job. As noted above, you can leave the money in the account with your former employer, roll it into a new employer’s 401(k) plan, roll it over into an IRA, or cash it out. The same account limits mentioned above apply as well.

Additionally, if you are fired from your job, you may be eligible for a severance package, which may include a lump sum payment or continuation of benefits, including a 401(k) plan. But these benefits depend on your company and the circumstances surrounding your termination. And, like with quitting your job, you do not get to keep any employer contributions that are not fully vested.

How Long Do You Have to Move Your 401(k)?

If you leave your job, you don’t necessarily have to move your 401(k). Depending on the amount you have in the 401(k), you can usually keep it with your previous employer’s 401(k) administrator.

But if you do choose to roll over your 401(k) and it is an indirect rollover, you typically have 60 days from the date of distribution to roll over your 401(k) account balance into an IRA or another employer’s 401(k) plan. If you fail to roll over the funds within 60 days, the distribution will be subject to taxes and penalties, and if you are under 59 ½ years old, an additional 10% early withdrawal penalty.

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

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


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

Next Steps for Your 401(k) After Leaving a Job

As you decide what to do with your funds, you have several options, from cashing out to rolling over your 401(k)s to expanding your investment opportunities.

Cash Out Your 401(k)

You can cash out some or all of your 401(k), but in most cases, there are better choices than this from a personal finance perspective. As noted above, if you are younger than 59 ½, you may be slammed with income taxes and a 10% early withdrawal penalty, which can set you back in your ability to save for your future.

If you are age 55 or older, you may be able to draw down your 401(k) penalty-free thanks to the Rule of 55. But remember, when you remove money from your retirement account, you no longer benefit from tax-advantaged growth and reduce your future nest egg.

Roll Over Your 401(k) Into a New Account

Your new employer may offer a 401(k). If this is the case and you are eligible to participate, you may consider rolling over the funds from your old account. This process is relatively simple. You can ask your old 401(k) administrator to move the funds from one account directly to the other in what is known as a direct transfer.

Doing this as a direct transfer rather than taking the money out yourself is important to avoid triggering early withdrawal fees. A rollover into a new 401(k) has the advantage of consolidating your retirement savings into one place; there is only one account to monitor.

Keep Your 401(k) With Your Previous Employer

If you like your previous employer’s 401(k) administrator, its fees, and investment options, you can always keep your 401(k) where it is rather than roll it over to an IRA or your new employer’s 401(k).

However, keeping your 401(k) with your previous employer may make it harder to keep track of your retirement investments because you’ll end up with several accounts. It’s common for people to lose track of old 401(k) accounts.

Moreover, you may end up paying higher fees if you keep your 401(k) with your previous employer. Usually, employers cover 401(k) fees, but if you leave the company, they may shift the cost onto you without you realizing it. High fees may end up eating into your returns, making it harder to save for retirement.

Does Employer Match Stop After You Leave?

Once you leave a job, whether you quit or are fired, you will no longer receive the matching employer contributions.

Recommended: How an Employer 401(k) Match Works

Look for New Investment Options

If you don’t love the investment options or fees in your new 401(k), you may roll the funds over into an IRA account instead. Rolling assets into a traditional IRA is relatively simple and can be done with a direct transfer from your 401(k) plan administrator. You also may be allowed to roll a 401(k) into a Roth IRA, but you’ll have to pay taxes on the amount you convert.

The advantage of rolling funds into an IRA is that it may offer a more comprehensive array of investment options. For example, a 401(k) might offer a handful of mutual or target-date funds. In an IRA, you may have access to individual securities like stocks and bonds and a wide variety of mutual funds, index funds, and exchange-traded funds.

Recommended: ​​What To Invest In Besides Your 401(k)

The Takeaway

Changing jobs is an exciting time, whether or not you’re moving, and it can be a great opportunity to reevaluate what to do with your retirement savings. Depending on your financial situation, you could leave the funds where they are or roll them over into your new 401(k) or an IRA. You can also cash out the account, but that may harm your long-term financial security because of taxes, penalties, and loss of a tax-advantaged investment account.

If you have an old 401(k) you’d like to roll over to an online IRA, SoFi Invest® can help. With a SoFi Roth or Traditional IRA, investors can investment options, member services, and our robust suite of planning and investment tools. And SoFi makes the 401(k) rollover process seamless and straightforward — with no need to watch the mail for your 401(k) check. There are no rollover fees, and you can complete your 401(k) rollover quickly and easily.

Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

How long can a company hold your 401(k) after you leave?

A company can hold onto an employee’s 401(k) account indefinitely after they leave, but they are required to distribute the funds if the employee requests it or if the account balance is less than $5,000.

Can I cash out my 401(k) if I quit my job?

You can cash out your 401(k) if you quit your job. However, experts generally do not advise cashing out a 401(k), as doing so will trigger taxes and penalties on the withdrawn amount. Instead, it is usually better to either leave the funds in the account or roll them over into a new employer’s plan or an IRA.

What happens if I don’t rollover my 401(k)?

If you don’t roll over your 401(k) when you leave a job, the funds will typically remain in the account and be subject to the rules and regulations of the plan. If the account balance is less than $5,000, the employer may roll over the account into an IRA or cash out the account. If the balance is more than $5,000, the employer may offer options such as leaving the funds in the account or rolling them into an IRA.


Photo credit: iStock/chengyuzheng

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

SOIN1222030

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender