The Black Scholes Model, Explained

The Black-Scholes Model, Explained

The Black-Scholes option pricing model is a mathematical formula used to calculate the theoretical price of an option. It’s a commonly-used formula for determining the price of contracts, and as such, can be useful for investors in the options market to know and have in their pocket for use.

But there are some important things to know about it, such as the fact that the model only applies to European options, and more.

Key Points

•   The Black-Scholes model is a mathematical formula used to calculate the theoretical price of an option.

•   It is commonly used for pricing options contracts and helps investors determine the value of options they’re considering trading.

•   The model takes into account factors like the option’s strike price, time until expiration, underlying stock price, interest rates, and volatility.

•   The Black-Scholes model was created by Myron Scholes and Fischer Black in 1973 and is also known as the Black-Scholes-Merton model.

•   While the model has some assumptions and limitations, it is considered an important tool for European options traders.

What Is the Black-Scholes Model?

As mentioned, the Black-Scholes model is one of the most commonly used formulas for pricing options contracts. The model, also known as the Black-Scholes formula, allows investors to determine the value of options they’re considering trading.

The formula takes into account several important factors affecting options in an attempt to arrive at a fair market price for the derivative. The Black-Scholes options pricing model only applies to European options.


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The History of the Black-Scholes Model

The Black-Scholes model gets its name from Myron Scholes and Fischer Black, who created the model in 1973. The model is sometimes called the Black-Scholes-Merton model, as Robert Merton also contributed to the model’s development. These three men were professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of Chicago.

The model functions as a differential equation that requires five inputs:

•   The option’s strike price

•   The amount of time until the option expires

•   The price of its underlying stock

•   Interest rates

•   Volatility

Modern computing power has made it easier to use this formula and made it more popular among those interested in stock options trading.

The model only works for European options, since American options allow contract holders to exercise at any time between the time of purchase and the expiration date. By contrast, European options come at cheaper prices and only allow the owner to exercise the option on the expiration date. So, while European options only offer a single opportunity to earn profits, American options offer multiple opportunities.

Recommended: American vs European Options: What’s the Difference?

What Does the Black-Scholes Model Tell?

The main goal of the Black-Scholes Formula is to determine the chances that an option will expire in the money. To this end, the model goes deeper than simply looking at the fact that a call option will increase when its underlying stock price rises and incorporates the impact of stock volatility.

The model looks at several variables, each of which impact the value of that option. Greater volatility, for example, could increase the odds the options will wind up being in the money before its expiration. The more time the investor has to exercise the option also increases the likelihood of it winding up in the money and lowers the present value of the exercise price. Interest rates also influence the price of the option, as higher rates make the option more expensive by decreasing the present value of the exercise price.

The Black-Scholes Formula

The Black-Scholes formula expresses the value of a call option by taking the current stock prices multiplied by a probability factor (D1) and subtracting the discounted exercise payment times a second probability factor (D2).

Explaining in exact detail what D1 and D2 represent can be difficult because the original research papers by Black and Scholes didn’t explain or interpret D1 and D2, and neither did the papers published by Merton. Entire research papers have been written on the subject of D1 and D2 alone.


💡 Quick Tip: If you’re an experienced investor and bullish about a stock, buying call options (rather than the stock itself) can allow you to take the same position, with less cash outlay. It is possible to lose money trading options, if the price moves against you.

Why Is the Black-Scholes Model Important?

The Black-Scholes option pricing model is so important that it once won the Nobel Prize in economics. Some even claim that this model is among the most important ideas in financial history.

Some traders consider the Black-Scholes Model one of the best methods for figuring out fair prices of European call options. Since its creation, many scholars have elaborated on and improved this formula. In this sense, Black and Scholes made a significant contribution to the academic world when it comes to math and finance.

Some claim that the Black-Scholes model has made a significant contribution to the efficiency of the options and stock markets. While designed for European options, the Black-Scholes Model can still help investors understand how an option’s price might react to its underlying stock price movements and improve their overall options trading strategies.

This allows investors to optimize their portfolios by hedging accordingly, making the overall markets more efficient. However, others assert that the model has increased volatility in the markets, as more investors constantly try to fine tune their trades according to the formula.

How Accurate Is the Black-Scholes Model?

Some studies have shown the Black-Scholes model to be highly predictive of options prices. This doesn’t mean the formula has no flaws, though.

The model tends to undervalue calls that are deeply in the money and overvalue calls that are deeply out of the money.

That means the model might assign an artificially low value to options that are much higher than the price of their underlying stock, while it may overvalue options that are far beneath the stock’s current value. Options that deal with stocks yielding a high dividend also tend to get mispriced by the model.

Assumptions of the Black-Scholes Model

There are also a few assumptions made by the model that can lead to less-than-perfect predictions. Some of these include:

•   The assumption that volatility and the risk- free rate within a stock remain constant

•   The assumption that stock prices are stable and large price swings don’t happen

•   The assumption that a stock doesn’t pay dividends until after an option expires

Recommended: How Do Dividends Work?

Such assumptions are necessary, even if they may negatively impact results. Relying on assumptions like these make the task possible, as only so many variables can reasonably be calculated.

Over the years, math scholars have elaborated on the work of Black and Scholes and made efforts to compensate for some of the gaps created by the original assumptions.

This leads to another flaw of the Black-Scholes model, unlike other inputs in the model, volatility must be an estimate rather than an objective fact. Interest rates and the amount of time left until the option expires are concrete numbers, while volatility has no direct numerical value.

The best a financial analyst can do is calculate an estimation of volatility by using something like the formula for variance. Variance is a measurement of the variability of an asset, or how much prices change from time to time. One common measurement of volatility is the standard deviation, which is equivalent to the square root of variance.

The Takeaway

The Black-Scholes option-pricing model is among the most influential mathematical formulas in modern financial history, and it may be the most accurate way to determine the value of a European call option. It’s a complicated formula that has some drawbacks that traders must understand, but it’s a useful tool for European options traders.

Given the Black-Scholes model’s complexity, it’s likely that many investors will never use it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important to know or understand, of course, but many investors may not get much practical use out of it unless they delve deeper into the world of options trading.

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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.
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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.

Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
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Asset Allocation by Age, Explained

Asset allocation is an investment strategy that helps you decide the ratio of different asset classes in your portfolio to ensure that your investments align with your risk tolerance, time horizon, and goals.

In other words, the way you allocate, or divide up the assets in your portfolio helps to balance risk, while aiming for the highest return within the time period you have to achieve your investment goals.

How do you set your portfolio to get the best asset allocation by age? Here’s what you need to know about asset-based asset allocation.

Key Points

•   Asset allocation is the process of dividing investments among different asset classes based on factors like age, risk tolerance, and financial goals.

•   Younger investors can typically afford to take more risks and allocate a higher percentage of their portfolio to stocks.

•   As investors approach retirement, they may shift towards a more conservative asset allocation, with a higher percentage allocated to bonds and cash.

•   Regularly reviewing and rebalancing your asset allocation is important to ensure it aligns with your changing financial circumstances and goals.

•   Asset allocation is a personal decision and should be based on individual factors such as risk tolerance, time horizon, and investment objectives.

What Is Age-Based Asset Allocation?

The mix of assets you hold will likely shift with age. When you’re younger and have a longer time horizon, you might want to hold more stocks, which offer the most growth potential. Also, that longer time horizon gives you plenty of years to help ride out volatility in the market.

You will likely want to shift your asset allocation as you get older, though. As retirement age approaches, and the point at which you’ll need to tap your savings draws near, you may want to shift your retirement asset allocation into less risky assets like bonds and cash equivalents to help protect your money from downturns.

In the past, investment advisors recommended a rule of thumb whereby an investor would subtract their age from 100 to know how much of their portfolio to hold in stocks. What is an asset allocation that follows that rule? A 30-year-old might allocate 70% of their portfolio to stocks, while a 60-year-old would allocate 40%.

However, as life expectancy continues to increase — especially for women — and people rely on their retirement savings to cover the cost of longer lifespans (and potential healthcare expenses), some industry experts and advisors now recommend that investors keep a more aggressive asset allocation for a longer period.

The new thinking has shifted the formula to subtracting your age from 110 or 120 to maintain a more aggressive allocation to stocks.

In that case, a 30-year-old might allocate 80% of their portfolio to stocks (110 – 30 = 80), and a 60-year-old might have a portfolio allocation that’s 50% stocks (110 – 60 = 50) — which is a bit more aggressive than the previous 40% allocation.

These are not hard-and-fast rules, but general guidelines for thinking about your own asset allocation strategy. Each person’s financial situation is different, so each portfolio allocation will vary.

💡 Quick Tip: All investments come with some degree of risk — and some are riskier than others. Before investing online, decide on your investment goals and how much risk you want to take.

Asset Allocation Models by Age

As stated, age is a very important consideration when it comes to strategic asset allocation. Here are some asset allocation examples for different age groups.

Asset Allocation in Your 20s and 30s

For younger investors, the conventional wisdom suggests they may want to hold most of their portfolio in stocks to help save for long-term financial goals like retirement.

That said, when you’re young, your financial footing may not be very secure. You probably haven’t built much of a nest egg, you may change jobs relatively frequently, and you may have debt, such as student loans, to worry about. Setting up a potentially volatile, stock-focused allocation might feel nerve-wracking.

If you have a 401(k) at work, this might be your primary investment vehicle — or you may have set up an IRA. In either account you can invest in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that hold a mix of stocks, providing some low-cost diversification without sacrificing the potential for long-term growth.

You could also invest in a target date fund, which is designed to help to manage your asset allocation over time (more on these funds below).

When choosing funds, it’s important to consider both potential performance and fees. Index funds, which simply mirror the performance of a certain market index, may carry lower expense ratios but they may generate lower returns compared to, say, a growth fund that’s more expensive.

Remember that the younger you are, the longer you have to recover from market downturns or losses. So allocating a bigger chunk of your investments to growth funds or funds that use an active management strategy could make sense if you feel their fees are justified by the potential for higher returns — and the higher risk that comes along with it.

And of course, you can counterbalance higher-risk/higher-reward investments with bonds or bond funds (as a cushion against volatility), index funds (to help manage costs) or target date funds (which can do a bit of both). Just be aware that the holdings within some funds can overlap, which could hamper your diversification strategy and require you to choose investment carefully.

Asset Allocation in Your 40s and 50s

As you enter middle age you are potentially entering your peak earning years. You may also have more financial obligations, such as mortgage payments, and bigger savings goals, such as sending your kids to college, than you did when you were younger. On the upside, you may also have 20 years or more before you’re thinking about retiring.

In the early part of these decades, one approach is to consider keeping a hefty portion of your portfolio still allocated to stocks. This may be useful if you haven’t yet been able to save much for your retirement because you’d be able to add potential growth to your portfolio, and still have some years to ride out any volatility.

Depending on when you plan to retire, adding stability to your portfolio with bonds as you approach the latter part of these decades might be a wise choice. For example, you may want to begin by shifting more of your IRA assets to bonds or bond funds at this stage. These investments may produce lower returns in the short term compared to mutual funds or ETFs. But they can be useful for generating income once you’re ready to begin making withdrawals from your accounts in retirement.

Asset Allocation in Your 60s

Once you hit your 60s and you’re nearing retirement age, your allocation will likely shift toward fixed-income assets like bonds, and maybe even cash. A shift like this can help prepare you for the possibility that markets may be down when you retire.

If that’s the case, you might be able to use these fixed-income investments to provide income during the downturn, so you can avoid selling stocks while the markets are down since doing so would lock in losses and might curtail future growth in your portfolio. Thus, leaning on the fixed-income portion of your portfolio allows time for the market to recover before you need to tap into stocks.

If you haven’t retired yet, you can continue making contributions to your 401(k) to grow your nest egg and take advantage of any employer match.

If you chose to invest in a target date fund within your retirement account when you were younger, it’s likely that fund’s allocation would now be tilting toward fixed-income assets as well.

Retirement Asset Allocation

Once you’ve retired it may seem like you can kick back and relax with all of your asset allocation worries behind you. Yet, your portfolio allocation is as important to consider now as it was in your 20s.

When you retire, you’ll likely be on a fixed income — and you won’t be adding to your savings with earned wages. Your retirement could last 20 to 30 years or more, so consider holding a mix of assets that includes stocks that might provide some growth. Keeping a modest stock allocation might help you avoid outliving your savings and preserve your spending power.

While that may sound contrary to the suggestion above for pre-retirees to keep more of their assets allocated to fixed-income, the difference is the level of protection you might want just prior to retirement. Now as an official retiree, and thinking about the potential decades ahead, you may want to inject a little growth potential into your portfolio.

It might also make sense to hold assets that grow faster than the rate of inflation or are inflation-protected, such as Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, which can help your nest egg hold its value.

These are highly personal decisions that, again, go back to the three intersecting factors that drive asset allocation: your goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. There’s no right answer; the task is arriving at the right answer for you.

Understanding Assets and Asset Classes

At its heart, a financial asset is anything of value that you own, whether that’s a piece of property or a single stock. When you invest, you’re typically looking to buy an asset that will increase in value.

The three broad groups, or asset classes, that are generally held in investment accounts are stocks, bonds, and cash. When you invest, you will likely hold different proportions of these asset classes.

Asset Allocation Examples

What are some asset allocation examples? Well, your portfolio might hold 60% stocks, 40% bonds, and no cash — or 70% stocks, 20% bonds, and 10% in cash or cash equivalents. But how you decide that ratio gets into the nuts and bolts of your actual asset allocation strategy, because each of these asset types behaves differently over time and has a different level of risk and return associated with it.

•   Stocks. Stocks typically offer the highest rates of return. However, with the potential for greater reward comes higher risk. Typically, stocks are the most volatile of these three categories, especially in the short term. But over the long term, the return on equities (aka stocks) has generally been positive. In fact, the S&P 500 index, a proxy for the U.S. stock market, has historically returned an average of 10% annually.

•   Bonds. Bonds are traditionally less risky than stocks and offer steadier returns. A general rule of thumb is that bond prices move in the opposite direction of stocks.

When you buy a bond, you are essentially loaning money to a company or a government. You receive regular interest on the money you loan, and the principal you paid for the bond is returned to you when the bond’s term is up. When buying bonds, investors generally accept smaller returns in exchange for the security they offer.

•   Cash. Cash, or cash equivalents, such as certificates of deposit (CDs) or money market accounts, are the least volatile investments. But they typically offer very low returns.

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How Do Diversification and Rebalancing Fit In?

The old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” is apt for a number of concepts in investing.

Putting all of your money in one investment may expose you to too much risk. When it comes to asset allocation, you can help manage risk by spreading money out over different asset classes that are then weighted differently within a portfolio.

Here is a possible asset allocation example: If your stock allocation was 100%, and the stock market hit a speed bump, your entire portfolio could lose value. But if your allocation were divided among stocks, bonds, and cash, a drop in the value of your stock allocation wouldn’t have the same impact. It would be mitigated to a degree, because the bonds and cash allocation of your portfolio likely wouldn’t suffer similar losses (remember: bond prices generally move in the opposite direction of stocks, and cash/cash equivalents rarely react to market turmoil).

Diversification

Portfolio diversification is a separate, yet related, concept. Simple diversification can be achieved with the broader asset classes of stocks, bonds, and cash. But within each asset class you could also consider holding many different assets for additional diversification and risk protection.

For example, allocating the stock portion of your portfolio to a single stock may not be a great idea, as noted above. Instead, you might invest in a basket of stocks. If you hold a single stock and it drops, your whole stock portfolio falls with it. But if you hold 25 different stocks — when one stock falls, the effect on your overall portfolio is relatively small.

On an even deeper level, you may want to diversify across many types of stock — for example, varying by company size, geography, or sector. One way some investors choose to diversify is by holding mutual funds, index funds, or ETFs that themselves hold a diverse basket of stocks.

Rebalancing

What is rebalancing? As assets gain and lose value, the proportion of your portfolio they represent also changes. For example, say you have a portfolio allocation that includes 60% stocks and the stock market ticks upward. The stocks you hold might have appreciated and now represent 70% or even 80% of your overall portfolio.

In order to realign your portfolio to your desired 60% allocation, you might rebalance it by selling some stocks and buying bonds. Why sell securities that are gaining value? Again, it’s with an eye toward managing the potential risk of future losses.

If your equity allocation was 60%, but has grown to 70% or 80% in a bull market, you’re exposed to more volatility. Rebalancing back to 60% helps to mitigate that risk.

The idea of rebalancing works on the level of asset allocation and on the level of asset classes. For example, if your domestic stocks do really well, you may sell a portion to rebalance your dometic allocation and buy international stocks.

You can rebalance your portfolio at any time, but you may want to set regular check-ins, whether quarterly or annually. There may be no need to rebalance if your asset allocation hasn’t really shifted. One general rule to consider is the suggestion that you rebalance your portfolio whenever an asset allocation changes by 5% or more.

What’s the Deal with Target Date Funds?

One tool that some investors find useful to help them set appropriate allocations is a target date fund. These funds, which were described briefly above, are primarily for retirement, and they are typically geared toward a specific retirement year (such as 2030, 2045, 2050, and so on).

Target funds hold a diverse mix of stocks and fixed-income investments. As the fund’s target date approaches, the mix of stocks and bonds the fund automatically adjusts to a more conservative allocation — aka the fund’s “glide path.”

For example, if you’re 35 and plan to retire at 65, you could purchase shares in a target-date fund with a target date 30 years in the future. While the fund’s stock allocation may be fairly substantial at the outset, as you approach retirement the fund will gradually increase the proportion of fixed-income assets that it holds.

Target-date funds theoretically offer investors a way to set it and forget it. However, they also present some limitations. For one, you don’t have control over the assets in the fund, nor do you control how the fund’s allocation adjusts over time.

Target funds are typically one-size-fits-all, and that doesn’t always work with an individual’s unique retirement goals. For example, someone aggressively trying to save may want to hold more stocks for longer than a particular target date fund offers. Also, as actively managed funds, they often come with fees that can take a bite out of how much you are ultimately able to save.

The Takeaway

While many investors spend time researching complex issues like bond yields and options trading, understanding and executing a successful asset allocation strategy — one that works for you now, and that you can adjust over the long term — can be more challenging than it seems.

Although asset allocation is a fairly simple idea — it’s basically how you divide up different asset classes in your portfolio to help manage risk — it has enormous strategic implications for your investments as a whole. The three main factors that influence your asset allocation (goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon) seem straightforward enough as separate ideas, yet there is an art and a science to combining them into an asset allocation that makes sense for you. Like so many other things, arriving at the right asset allocation is a learning process.

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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.

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.

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How to Analyze Stocks: 4 Ways

When it comes to investing in stocks, there’s no single way to analyze stocks to find a sure winner. That being said, there are many methods that ordinary investors can use to find stocks that are trading at a discount to their underlying value.

The first step in how to analyze a stock before buying is reviewing financial statements. From there, investors can use various methods of analysis to assess investment opportunities and potentially identify worthwhile investments.

Key Points

•   There are four common methods of analyzing stocks: technical analysis, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, and fundamental analysis.

•   Technical analysis focuses on supply and demand patterns in stock charts to make investment decisions.

•   Qualitative analysis examines factors like a company’s leadership, product, and industry to evaluate investment opportunities.

•   Quantitative analysis uses data and numerical figures to predict price movements in stocks.

•   Fundamental analysis looks at a company’s financial health and value to determine if its stock is underor overvalued.

Why Analyzing Stocks Is Important

The process of stock analysis can reveal important information about a company and its history, allowing investors to make more informed decisions about buying or selling stocks. Analyzing stocks can help investors identify which investment opportunities they believe will deliver strong returns. Further, stock analysis can assist investors in spotting potentially bad investments.

Whether you’re strategy involves short vs. long term investing, or day trading, analyzing stocks is going to be important.

💡 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.

Understanding Financial Statements

The first step in understanding stock analysis is knowing the basics of business reporting. There are three main types of financial statements that an investor may need to look at when doing analysis:

•   Income statement: This statement shows a company’s profits, which are calculated by subtracting expenses from revenue.

•   Balance sheet: The balance sheet compares a company’s assets, liabilities, and stockholder equity.

•   Statement of cash flows: This statement outlines how a company is spending and earning its money.

In addition to these statements, a company’s earnings report contains information that can be useful for doing qualitative analysis. The annual report includes the company’s plans for the future and stock value predictions.

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4 Ways to Analyze a Stock

The next step in stock evaluation is deciding which type of analysis to do. Here’s a look at some of the different methods for how to analyze a stock.

1. Technical Analysis

Technical analysis is a method for analyzing stocks that looks directly at a stock’s supply and demand in order to make investing decisions. This form of analysis takes the stance that all information needed is present within stock charts and the analysis of history and trends.

Some key focal points of technical analysis are:

•   Stock prices move in trends.

•   History repeats itself.

•   Stock price history can be used to make price predictions.

•   Stock price contains all relevant information for making investing decisions.

•   Technical analysis does not consider intrinsic value.

Trend indicators are one of the most important parts of technical analysis. These indicators attempt to show traders whether a stock will go up or down in value. Uptrends mean higher highs and higher lowers, whereas downtrends mean lower lows and lower highs. Some common trend tools include linear regression, parabolic SAR, MACD, and moving averages.

Technical analysis also uses leading indicators and lagging indicators. Leading indicators signal before new trends occur, while lagging indicators signal after a trend has ended. These indicators look at information such as volume, price, price movement, open, and close.

There can be some pros and cons to using technical analysis, however, which can be important to consider when factoring in your risk tolerance.

Day traders tend to focus on technical analysis to try to capitalize on short-term price fluctuations. But because technical analysis generally focuses on short-term fluctuations in price, it’s not as often used for finding long-term investment opportunities.

Further, while technical analysis relies on objective and consistent data, it can produce false signals, particularly during trading conditions that aren’t ideal. This method of analysis also fails to take into consideration key fundamentals about individual shares or the stock market.

2. Qualitative Stock Analysis

When considering how to analyze a stock, it’s also a good idea to look at whether the company behind the stock is really a good business. Qualitative analysis looks into factors like a company’s leadership team, product, and the overall industry it’s a part of.

A few key qualitative metrics to look at are:

•   Competitive advantage: Does the company have a unique edge that will help it be successful in the long term? If a company has patents, a unique manufacturing method, or broad distribution, these can be positive competitive advantages.

•   Business model: Analyzing a business model includes looking at products, services, brand identity, and customers to get a sense of what the company is offering.

•   Strong leadership: Even a great idea and product can fail with poor management. Looking into the credentials of the CEO and top executives of a company can help in evaluating whether it’s a good investment.

•   Industry trends: If an industry is struggling, or looks like it may in the future, an investor may decide not to invest in companies in that industry. On the other hand, new and growing industries may be better investments. This is not always the case, as there are strong companies in weak industries, and vice versa.

3. Quantitative Analysis

Similar to technical analysis, quantitative analysis looks at data and numbers in an attempt to predict future price movements. Specifically, quantitative analysis evaluates data, such as a company’s revenues, price-to-earnings ratio, and earnings-per-share ratio, and uses statistical modeling and mathematical techniques to predict a stock’s value.

The upside is that this financial data is publicly available, and it creates an objective, consistent starting point. It can help with identifying patterns, and it can be useful in assessing risk. However, it requires sifting through a lot of data. Further, there’s no certainty when it comes to patterns, which can change.

4. Fundamental Analysis

Fundamental analysis looks at a company from a basic financial standpoint. This gives investors a sense of the company’s financial health and whether its stock may be under- or overvalued. Fundamental analysis takes the stance that a company’s stock price doesn’t necessarily equate to its value.

There are a number of key tools for fundamental analysis that investors might want to familiarize themselves with and use to get a fuller picture of a stock.

Earnings Per Share (EPS)

One of the main goals for many investors is to buy into profitable companies. Earnings per share, or EPS, tells investors how much profit a company earns per each share of stock, and how much investors are benefiting from those earnings. Companies report EPS quarterly, and the figure is calculated by dividing a company’s net income, minus dividend payouts, by the number of outstanding shares.

Understanding earnings per share can give investors guidance on a stock’s potential movement. On a basic level, a high EPS is a good sign, but it’s especially important that a company shows a high or growing EPS over time. The reason for this is that a company might have a temporarily high EPS if they cut some expenses or sell off assets, but that wouldn’t be a good indicator of the actual profitability of their business.

Likewise, a negative EPS over time is an indicator that an investor may not want to buy a stock.

Revenue

While EPS relates directly to a company’s stock, revenue can show investors how well a company is doing outside the markets. Positive and increasing revenues are an indicator that a company is growing and expanding.

Some large companies, especially tech companies, have increasing revenues over time with a negative EPS because they continue to feed profits back into the growing business. These companies can see significant stock value increases despite their lack of profit.

One can also look at revenue growth, which tracks changes in revenue over time.

Price-to-earnings (P/E) Ratio

One of the most common methods of analyzing stocks is to look at the P/E ratio, which compares a company’s current stock price to its earnings per share. P/E is found by dividing the price of one share of a stock by its EPS. Generally, a lower P/E ratio is a good sign.

Using this ratio is a good way to compare different stocks. One can also compare an individual company’s P/E ratio with an index like the S&P 500 Index to get a sense of how the company is doing relative to the overall market.

The downside of P/E is that it doesn’t include growth.

Price-Earnings-Growth (PEG) Ratio

Since P/E doesn’t include growth, the PEG ratio is another popular tool for analyzing stocks and evaluating stock performance. To look at EPS and revenue together, investors can use the price-earnings-growth ratio, or PEG.

PEG is calculated by dividing a stock’s P/E by its projected 12-month forward revenue growth rate. In general, a PEG lower than 1 is a good sign, and a PEG higher than 2 indicates that a stock may be overpriced.

PEG can also be used to make predictions about the future. By looking at PEG for different time periods in the past, investors can make a more informed guess about what the stock may do next.

Price-to-Sales Ratio (P/S)

The P/S ratio compares a company’s stock price to its revenues. It’s found by dividing stock price by revenues. This can be useful when comparing competitors — if the P/S is low, it might be more advantageous to buy.

Debt-Equity Ratio

Although profits and revenue are important to look at, so is a company’s debt and its ability to pay it back. If a company goes into more and more debt in order to continue growing, and they’re unable to pay it back, it’s not a good sign.

Debt-equity ratio is found by dividing a company’s total liabilities (debt) by its shareholder equity. In general, a debt-equity ratio under 0.1 is a good sign, while a debt-equity ratio higher than 0.5 can be a red flag for the future.

Debt-to-EBITDA

Similar to debt-to-equity, debt-to-EBITDA measures the ability a company has to pay off its debts. EBITDA stands for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization.

A high debt-to-EBITDA ratio indicates that a company has a high amount of debt that it may not be able to pay off.

Dividend Yield

While a stock’s price can vary significantly from day to day, dividend payments are a way that investors can earn a consistent amount of money each quarter or year. Not every company pays out dividends, but large, established companies sometimes pay out some of their earnings to shareholders rather than reinvesting the money into their business.

Dividend yield is calculated by dividing a company’s annual dividend payment by its share price. The average dividend yield for S&P 500 companies is around 2%.

One thing to note is that dividends are not guaranteed — companies can change their dividend amounts at any time. So if a company has a particularly high dividend yield, it may not stay that way.

Price-to-Book Ratio (P/B)

Price-to-book ratio, or P/B, compares a company’s stock market value to its book value. This is a useful tool for finding companies that are currently undervalued, meaning those that have a significant amount of growth but still relatively low stock prices.

P/B ratio is found by dividing the market price of a stock by the company’s book value of equity. The book value of equity is found by subtracting the company’s total liabilities from its assets.

Company Reports and Projections

When companies release quarterly and annual earnings reports, many of them include projections for upcoming revenue and EPS. These reports are a useful tool for investors to get a sense of a stock’s future. They can also affect stock price as other shareholders and investors will react to the news in the report.

Professional Analysis

Wall Street analysts regularly release reports about the overall stock market as well as individual companies and stocks. These reports include information such as 12-month targets, stock ratings, company comparisons, and financial projections. By reading multiple reports, investors may start to see common trends.

While analysts aren’t always correct and can’t predict global events that affect the markets, these reports can be a useful tool for investors. They can keep them up-to-date on any key happenings that may be on the horizon for particular companies. The information in the reports also can result in stock prices going up or down, since investors will react to the predictions.

Quantitative vs Qualitative Analysis

Here’s a quick rundown looking at the key differences between quantitative and qualitative analysis. Again, this can be important when weighing your risk need to knows as an investor.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Analysis

Quantitative Analysis

Qualitative Analysis

Looks at data and numerical figures to predict price movements Looks at business factors such as leadership, product, and industry
May require sifting through a lot of data, and may be difficult for some investors Metrics include business models, competitive advantage, and industry trends
Concerned more with the “quantity” and hard data a business produces Concerned more with the “quality” of a business

Pros and Cons of Doing Your Own Stock Analysis

If you feel like you can do a little stock analysis on your own, there are some pros and cons to it.

Pros

Perhaps the most obvious pro to doing your own stock analysis is that you don’t need to pay someone else to do it, you can do it on your own schedule, and learn as you go. You can develop knowledge that’ll likely help you as you continue to invest in the future. There are also numerous tools out there that you can use to analyze stocks which may not have been around in years or decades past.

Cons

Stock analysis can be an involved process, which can require a lot of investment in and of itself — both monetarily (if you’re using paid tools) and in terms of time. Depending on how deep you want to go, too, it can be a complex process. You may get frustrated or burnt out, or even make a mistake that leads to a bad investment decision.

💡 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).

Buying Stocks With SoFi

There are a number of ways to analyze stocks, including technical, fundamental, quantitative, and qualitative analysis. The more an investor gets comfortable with terms like P/E ratio and earnings reports, the more informed they can be before making any decisions. Stock analysis is an involved process, however, and may be above the typical investors’ head and ability.

It is important to do your research and homework in relation to your investments, however. If you feel like you could use some guidance or a helping hand, speaking with a financial professional is never really a bad idea.

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 the best way to analyze a stock?

There’s no “best” way to analyze stocks. The right option for an investor will depend on their personal preferences and investing objectives. And remember, there’s no need to just use one method to analyze a stock — often, analysts will combine different methods of analysis to generate a more robust stock analysis.

What are key indicators to look for when analyzing a stock?

There are a ton of potential indicators that investors can look at, but some broad indicators that investors can start with include stock price history, moving averages, a company’s competitive advantages, business models, and industry trends.

What is an example of stock analysis?

A very, very basic example of stock analysis would include looking at a stock’s share price, comparing it to its historical averages and moving averages, overall market conditions, and looking at the company’s financial statements to try and gauge where it might move next.


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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Tips to Track a Money Order

Tips for Tracking a Money Order

A money order can be a safe and reliable way to send money, but what happens when the recipient doesn’t receive or cash it? It’s possible to track a money order to make sure it is delivered to the intended person, but doing so may come at a cost. While the process for tracking varies by issuer, it’s usually helpful to have the receipt and money order details before filing a request.

If you are handling money orders and want to verify that they arrive at their destination and are cashed, read on.

Key Points

•   Money orders can be tracked using the receipt and details provided at the time of purchase.

•   Tracking methods vary by issuer, but typically involve using a tracking or serial number.

•   If the receipt is lost, a request can be filed with the money order issuer, but fees may apply.

•   Contacting the recipient directly can sometimes save time and cost in tracking a money order.

•   Money order tracking can help recover lost payments and protect against fraud, but it may take time and incur fees.

What Is Money Order Tracking?

Money orders are a way of transferring money. They are prepaid with cash or a debit card.

They differ from personal checks and cashier’s checks in one important way: There is no sign in your bank transaction history if and when the money order has cleared. This can raise the question “How do I track a money order?”

Figuring out how to trace a money order is fairly straightforward if you’ve kept your receipt. When you purchase a money order, the issuer should provide a receipt with a tracking or serial number that can verify if it has been cashed or deposited. Senders can submit details from the receipt through the issuer’s website or automated phone line to track the money order.

Without a receipt, however, money order tracking becomes more difficult. You’ll likely need to file a request with the money order issuer. Doing so will probably incur fees and may take several weeks to complete but can hopefully help reduce your financial stress.

Quick Money Tip: If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.

What Do You Need in Order to Track a Money Order?

Depending on the issuer you used, extra information could be needed beyond the tracking or serial number on the receipt. Additional information will probably be necessary if you’ve misplaced the receipt. Here are more specifics:

•   Tracing a postal money order can be done online or by phone The following details, which are listed on the USPS money order receipt, are required.

◦   The dollar amount

◦   The post office number

◦   The money order’s serial number, which is typically a 10 or 11-digit code.

However, if you don’t have a copy of the receipt, you’ll have to fill out and submit PS Form 6401 to initiate a money order inquiry.

•   Tracking money orders from other issuers, such as MoneyGram and Western Union, can usually be done online or by automated call center. This is provided that you have the serial number and exact payment total.

   If you’ve lost the receipt, you’ll need to supply more details about you and the recipient, such as:

•   Your name, phone number, and address

•   The exact money order amount

•   The purchase location address

•   The date and time of purchase

•   The payee’s (or recipient’s) name, if included on the money order.

Recommended: How to Cash a Postal Money Order

Tips to Track a Money Order

Before picking up the phone or filling out any paperwork, consider these tips for tracking money orders.

Contact the Recipient

Before you get to work tracking a money order, consider that you might be able to save time and potential cost by reaching out to the intended recipient. This individual or business is referred to as the payee on the money order.

You can ask if the money order was received. It’s possible that the money order arrived and has yet to be cashed or deposited. Contacting the recipient directly could be simpler than submitting a request with the money order issuer.

Make Sure You Keep the Issuer Receipt

Another route involves using the details from the receipt. Money orders can be purchased at banks, post offices, check-cashing businesses, and retail stores like supermarkets and pharmacies. When you buy a money order, you may receive receipts from both the issuer and location you purchased it. For example, a money order bought at a pharmacy could be issued by MoneyGram or Western Union. Note that the issuer receipt is the one with the information (i.e., serial number and dollar amount) you’ll need to track your money order.

You might have to pay an extra fee and complete additional forms to track a money order without a receipt and the serial or tracking number.

Check the Status Before Submitting a Request

There are multiple ways to check the status of a money order. If you have your serial or tracking number and the money order amount, you should be able to verify online or by automated phone line whether it has been cashed or deposited. This could be free, or there may be fees (up to $15 or more), depending on the vendor.

There are also likely fees and significant waiting times when submitting a request for a copy of the paid money order. The situation is similar if you choose to investigate a money order you believe to be missing or stolen. Checking the money order status beforehand can quickly determine if it’s been cashed and guide your next steps.

Reasons Why Someone Tracks a Money Order

Money orders are considered a safe form of payment, but there are reasons why you might want to track one. Accounting for your money, after all, can be an important aspect of managing your money.

Recover Lost Payment

A lost money order can be a major inconvenience, especially if you were waiting for the funds to make timely payments. Tracking the money order can help determine if it’s gone missing and recover funds more quickly.

If you are expecting a money order that doesn’t arrive, it’s wise to contact the issuer and complete any required documents quickly.

Protect Against Fraud

Tracking a money order can help protect senders in cases of theft or fraud. In such an event, requesting a photocopy of a cashed money order can support a fraud claim and potentially get your money back. The photocopy will indicate who endorsed the money order. If the signer does not match the payee, you could get a refund since their identity wasn’t properly verified.

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How Long Does It Take for a Money Order to Send?

A money order can be purchased and prepared quickly — simply add the recipient’s information, put your address, fill out the memo (if desired), and sign. From there, how long it takes to send depends on the delivery method. If handing it over in person isn’t feasible, sending it via USPS First-Class Mail can deliver the money order in one to five business days.

Once received, a money order can show as available almost immediately, but in terms of how long it takes to clear fully, that might be from a couple days to up to a couple of weeks.

Tips for Protecting Yourself When Tracking a Money Order

Although money orders are generally a secure form of payment, they can potentially be used for money scams and fraud. Consider using these tips to protect yourself.

Fill out the Recipient Information Immediately

As soon as you purchase the money order, enter the recipient name in the payee field to help safeguard yourself from fraud.

Save the Receipt

After filling out the money order, be sure to detach the money order stub and any receipt. Storing the receipt in a safe and accessible place will make it easy to track the money order in real time. It also provides the necessary information to file a request for cancellation and alert law enforcement in case the money order is damaged, lost, or stolen. It’s recommended to hold onto the receipt until the money order has been cashed.

Wait Before Spending Any Funds

If you receive payment by money order, it’s advised to hold off on using any funds until they’ve been verified by the issuer or cleared by your bank. In the event a money order is fraudulent, you could be liable for any amount spent.

Recommended: The Best Options for Sending and Receiving Money From Someone Without a Bank Account

The Takeaway

A money order is usually a secure way to transfer funds to a payee instead of using cash or a check. It can be tracked to ensure that it has been received and cashed by the designated payee. Keeping the receipt and other details will streamline the tracking process if you do need to verify the money order’s status. It can take a bit of time and money to trace a money order if it goes missing.

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Does it cost money to track a money order?

Some issuers let you use the serial or tracking number to track the money order for free online. Otherwise, you may have to pay a small fee. Investigating a lost or stolen money order typically carries fees, often around $15.

Where can I track a money order?

You can track a money order online, by phone, or going to the issuer in person.

How do you cash a money order?

You may be able to cash a money order at a bank or retailer that issues money orders. In addition, retailers where you have cashed checks in the past (such as your local supermarket) may cash money orders. Cashing it typically requires signing the order, verifying your identity, and paying a service fee to receive the funds.


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The History of US Recessions: 1797-2020

“Recession” can be a scary word, but economic contractions are fairly common throughout the history of the United States. In fact, they’re perfectly normal parts of the overall business cycle, during which the economy expands, contracts, and then expands again.

It’s during certain contractions, which we usually refer to as recessions, that life can get difficult, as a brief walk through U.S. recession history shows.

While the U.S. most recently experienced a short recession in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and no one knows when the next recession might occur, it’s important to understand that recessions are common — and so are the recoveries.

Key Points

•   Recessions are common in the history of the United States and are part of the overall business cycle.

•   A recession is a period when the economy contracts, with indicators such as stock market declines, business failures, and rising unemployment.

•   The National Bureau of Economic Research officially declares recessions based on various economic indicators.

•   U.S. recession history includes significant downturns like the Great Depression and the Great Recession.

•   There have been multiple recessions throughout U.S. history, caused by factors such as credit expansion, financial crises, and economic contractions.

What Exactly Is a Recession?

A recession is a period of time during which the economy contracts, or shrinks. There are some typical hallmarks of a recession: Stock markets fall, businesses fail or close, and unemployment goes up. Indicators, such as U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), also dips into the negative.

💡 Dive deeper: Understanding Recessions and What Causes Them

While recessions are often “called” following two-straight quarters of negative GDP growth, that’s more of a layman’s definition. Recessions are, in fact, officially declared by the Business Cycle Dating Committee at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

The NBER, and the economists comprising it, look at a number of economic indicators when deciding whether to label a period of economic contraction a recession or not. Those might include employment numbers, production, personal income, and more. As such, it’s not an exact science.

Also, as noted, a recession in the U.S. economy isn’t exactly uncommon. The NBER’s measures show that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. recession history comprises as many as 33 recessions.

The last time the U.S. experienced a recession was in 2020. But that was a relatively short recession. The biggest recession in U.S. history sparked the Great Depression, between 1929 and 1933, though the Great Recession (2007-2009) was the worst in modern times.

But U.S. recession history stretches way back nearly to the founding of the country itself.

Earliest Known Recessions

1797-1798

Strikingly familiar to the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009, the recession of 1797 is believed to have been caused by a credit expansion and an investment bubble that included real estate, manufacturing, and infrastructure projects.

Problems ensued, bringing about a recession that affected nearly everyone from investors to shopkeepers to laborers.

1857

The Panic of 1857 wasn’t the first financial crisis in the United States, but thanks to the invention of the telegraph, news about the crisis spread quickly across the country.

Most historians attribute the panic to a confidence crisis that involved the failure of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company, but other events have also been cited, including the end of the Crimean War overseas (which affected grain prices), excessive speculative investing in various markets, and questions about the overall stability of the U.S. economy.

1873-1879

Often referred to as the “Long Depression,” the Depression of 1873–1879 started with a stock market crash in Europe. Investors there began selling their investments in American projects, including bonds that funded railroads.

Without that funding, the banking firm Jay Cooke and Company, which was heavily invested in railroad construction, realized it was overextended and closed its doors. Other banks and businesses followed; and from 1873 to 1879, 18,000 U.S. businesses went bankrupt, including 89 railroads and at least 100 banks.

At the same time, the Coinage Act of 1873 demonetized silver as the legal tender of the United States, in favor of fully adopting the gold standard. The withdrawal of silver coins further contributed to the recession, as miners, farmers, and others in the working class had few ways to pay their debts.

1893-1897

Like many other financial downturns, this depression was preceded by a series of events that undermined public confidence and weakened the economy, including disputes over monetary policy (particularly gold vs. silver), underconsumption that led to a cutback in production, and government overspending.

Two of the country’s largest employers, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the National Cordage Company, collapsed, and the stock market panic that followed turned into a larger financial crisis.

Banks and other financial firms began calling in loans, causing hundreds of businesses to go bankrupt and fail, and as a result, unemployment rates and homelessness soared.

Recessions Between 1900-2000

1907-1908

The recession that occurred between May 1907 and June 1908 was preceded by the San Francisco Earthquake, which took a toll on the insurance industry, and was also influenced by the Bankers Panic of 1907 which caused a huge stock market drop.

Those events spread fear across the country and a lack of confidence in the financial industry, causing more banking failures. As a result, the banking industry experienced major changes, including the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, which was designed to provide a more stable monetary and financial system.

1929-1938

Most recessions last months. The Great Depression lasted years, and is generally regarded as the most devastating economic crisis in U.S. history. It had many causes, including reckless speculation, volatile economic conditions in Europe, and overvaluation that ended in a stock market crash in 1929.

Consumer confidence crashed as well, and a downturn in spending and investment led businesses to slow down production and lay off workers.

By early 1933, after a series of panics caused investors to demand the return of their funds, thousands of banks closed their doors. Immediately upon taking office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt began implementing a recovery plan, including reforms known as the New Deal.

He also moved to protect depositors’ accounts with the new Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). And he created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to regulate the stock market.

America’s entry into World War II further solidified the recovery, as production expanded and unemployment continued to drop from a high of 24.9% in 1933 to 4.7% by 1942.

1945

The result of demobilization and a shift to a peacetime economy after World War II ended, this eight-month recession (February to October 1945) is mostly known for a precipitous 12.7% drop in the gross domestic product, or GDP.

1948-1949

Economists generally blame this 11-month downturn (November 1948 to October 1949) on the “Fair Deal” social reforms of President Harry Truman, as well as a period of monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve in response to rampant inflation. Although it is generally considered a minor downturn, the unemployment rate did reach a 7.9% peak in October 1949.

1953-1954

A combination of events led to this 10-month recession (July 1953 to May 1954), including a post-Korean War economic contraction, as well as the tightening of monetary policy due to inflation and the separation of the Federal Reserve from the U.S. Treasury in 1951.

Unemployment peaked at 6.1% in September 1954, four months after the recession was officially over.

1957-1958

The Federal Reserve’s contractionary monetary policy — restricting the supply of money in an overheated economy — is often cited as the cause of this economic downturn. GDP fell 4.1% in the last quarter of 1957, then dropped another 10% at the start of 1958. Unemployment peaked at 7.5% in July 1958.

1960-1961

This recession lasted 10 months (from April 1960 to February 1961) and spanned two presidencies. When it began, Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office, but John F. Kennedy inherited the problem (after using the downturn to defeat then-vice president Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election.)

Although the recession caused serious problems for many sectors of the economy (a drop in manufacturer’s sales — and, therefore, manufacturing employment — was one of the first signs of trouble), its overall effects were mostly mild.

Personal income continued to rise through much of 1960, and declined less than 1% from October 1960 to February 1961. Unemployment was high, however, peaking at 7.1% in May 1961.

1969-1970

Though it lasted almost a year (from December 1969 to November 1970), this recession is considered to have been relatively mild, because it brought about only a 0.6% decline in the GDP. However, the unemployment rate was high, reaching a peak of 6.1% in December 1970.

The downturn’s causes include a rising inflation rate resulting from increased deficits, heavy spending on the Vietnam War, and the Federal Reserve’s policy of increasing interest rates.

1973-1975

This recession, which lasted from November 1973 to March 1975, is usually blamed on rocketing gas prices caused by OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), which raised oil prices and embargoed oil exports to the United States.

Other major factors in this 1970s recession included a stock market crash that caused a bear market from 1973 to 1974, and several monetary moves made by President Richard Nixon, including implementing wage-price controls and ending the gold standard in the U.S. The result was “stagflation,” a slowing economy with high unemployment and high inflation.

1980-1982

There were actually two recessions during the early 1980s, according to the NBER. A brief recession occurred during the first six months of 1980, and then, after a short period of growth, a second, more sustained recession, lasted from July 1981 to November 1982.

That second recession, known as a double-dip recession, is largely blamed on monetary policy, as high-interest rates — in place to fight inflation — put pressure on sectors of the economy that depended on borrowing, such as manufacturing and construction.

Unemployment grew from 7.4% at the start of the recession to a peak of 10.8% in December 1982, the highest level of any modern recession (with the exception of 2020).

1990-1991

The “Reagan Boom ” of the early and mid-1980s came to an ugly end at the beginning of the 1990s, as stock markets around the world crashed, and the U.S. savings and loan industry collapsed.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, driving up the price of oil, consumer confidence took another hit.

The recession lasted from July 1990 to March 1991, according to the NBER, but it took the economy a while longer to fully rebound. Unemployment peaked at 7.8% in June 1992, and then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s focus on the struggling economy helped him unseat President George H.W. Bush later that year.

Recessions Between 2000-2022

2001

The 2001 recession lasted just eight months, from March to November, according to the NBER. And yet, the story behind the dot-com bubble trouble that triggered it remains a cautionary tale.

Investors looking for the next big thing cast aside fundamental analysis, and a frenzy grew over tech companies in the late 1990s. Many became overvalued, and the Y2K scare at the start of 2000 made investors jittery and took things up another notch.

When the tech bubble burst in 2001, equities crashed, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks only made matters worse. The Nasdaq index — one of several different stock exchanges — tumbled from a peak of 5,048.62 on March 10, 2000, to 1,139.90 on Oct 4, 2002, totaling a 76.81% fall.

On June 7, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA), which used tax rebates and tax cuts to help stimulate the economy. And by 2003, the Federal Reserve had lowered its federal funds rate to a range of between 0.75% and 1.0% in an effort to further lift economic activity.

2008 to 2009

The Great Recession — also known as the financial crisis of 2008-2009 — is as notable for its severity as for its length. U.S. GDP fell 4.3% from its highest level at the end of 2007 to its lowest point in mid-2009. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate kept rising, from 5% at the end of 2007 to 10% in October 2009.

The average home price fell about 30% between mid-2006 and mid-2009. The S&P 500 fell 57% from October 2007 to March 2009. And the net worth of U.S. households and nonprofit organizations also took a hit, dropping from approximately $69 trillion in 2007 to $55 trillion in 2009.

Though the recession was especially devastating in the U.S., where it was triggered by the subprime mortgage crisis, it was an international crisis as well. A global economic downturn resulted in an unprecedented number of stimulus packages being introduced around the world.

In the U.S., the Federal Reserve reduced the federal funds rate from 5.25% in September 2007 to a range of zero to 0.25% by December 2008. And a $787-billion stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, included tax breaks and spending projects credited with helping revive the sagging economy.

As for the three main causes of the recession of 2008? It’s complicated, but regulatory changes to how banks were allowed to invest customers’ money (specifically, into derivatives) was a main cause.

From there, derivative products were created from subprime mortgages, and as demand for homes increased (and interest rates rose) many borrowers could no longer afford to pay their mortgages. Finally, a collision of security fraud and predatory lending practices nearly overwhelmed the financial sector, as banks stopped lending to each other, and a game of derivative hot-potato ended with notable bank failures.

Will the US Enter a Recession in 2023?

First and foremost: there’s no way to predict a recession, just as there’s no way to accurately, 100% predict what the stock market will do on any given day. But there are indicators that investors can keep an eye on.

As of early 2023, the U.S. was facing a unique series of issues: High inflation, rising interest rates, and cultural and demographic shifts that forced countless businesses to figure out a “new normal.” Millions of workers retired (and many died due to the pandemic), leaving a glut of unfilled jobs. Wages needed to rise, too, as goods and services became more expensive.

And yet employment remained high, businesses, in many cases, reported record profits, and though the stock market took a tumble in 2022, it largely remained at levels above the pre-pandemic period.

Taken all together, there are signs that the economy could contract in 2023, but others that don’t indicate a recession is close. Again, this is something of an unprecedented set of factors, and as such, many economists don’t quite know what to make of it yet.

It’s wholly possible that the economy could go into recession in 2023, but it’s far from guaranteed.

The Takeaway

U.S. recession history is a long, complicated topic. But if there’s one thing you should take away from it, it’s that recessions happen, they happen fairly frequently, and they’re not the end of the world. There are many reasons that a recession could or might happen, too, and there’s often no way to accurately predict a recession.

With that in mind, you can and should keep an eye on the news, the markets, and on economic indicators to try and get a sense of what might happen in the economy. As discussed above, recessions may spell bad news, but typically only for a period of time, after which markets tend to recover.

That’s why some investors may find opportunities regardless of market conditions. You can start investing online today using SoFi Invest. You can select from a number of stocks and exchange-traded funds. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, you can read the full fee schedule here, and you have access to complimentary financial advice.

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