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Call vs Put Option: The Differences

You know what it means to invest in a stock: you buy shares, thinking that they will go up in value at a later date, at which point you might choose to sell them. If there are shares you already own that you think are going to lose value, you might sell them.

But there are other ways to put money behind the movements of a stock price. Investors can also buy and sell options, which are a kind of contract that allows the investor to buy (or sell) a stock, or some other asset, at a certain price. The two basic types of options are “puts” and “calls.”

Unlike shares of stocks, put and call options have expiration dates, at which point you no longer have the right to buy or sell the shares. Options trading is a popular strategy for day traders, because you make profits not by owning the underlying shares and patiently waiting for them to go up, but acting quickly with options that expire quickly.

Much like buying and shorting stocks, an investor can use options to express their view on whether the price is likely to go up or down.

What Is a Call Option?

A call option is a contract that allows an investor to buy 100 shares of an underlying stock or other security at a prearranged price (known as the “strike price”). A call option can be appealing because it gives an investor a way of profiting from a stock’s increase in price without having to pay for the full price of 100 shares. What one pays is known as the “premium” on each share, which is typically much less than the current price of the stock.

The profit from a call option is determined by both the premium an investor pays and whether they’re able to exercise the option—this means actually buying the underlying stock and the price agreed to in the option contract.

An investor can also sell their call option: as the price of the underlying stock rises above the strike price, the value of the option to buy will rise. By selling the option itself, an investor doesn’t have to take delivery of the underlying shares and can profit from the increasing value of the option itself.

The Basics of Buying a Call Option

Consider this example: If an investor buys an option with a strike price of $50 for a stock that’s currently worth $40, the option will be “out-of-the-money” until the stock rises to $50. If the premium is $1/share—meaning they only pay $1 up front—then the investor will only be risking $100, not $4000.

If the stock is trading at $55 on or before the expiration date, it would make sense to “exercise” the option and buy the stock for $50, thus giving the investor shares with built-in profit thanks to the difference between the strike price of $50 and the value of $55. In this case the profit would be $4/ per share (or $400): a strike price of $50 gives the investor the right to buy 100 shares of a stock worth $55, with a premium of $1 per share.

On the other hand, if the stock has not risen in price enough, the investor can just let the option expire, having only lost the price of the premium, rather than being saddled with shares they can’t profit from.

Many brokerages, including discount brokerages who offer their services to day traders and individuals, offer put and call options.

What Is a Put Option?

There’s a key difference in call vs put options: If call options are a way to profit from a stock going up in price without having to own the stock itself, than put options are a way to profit from the fall of a stock’s price without having to short the stock (i.e. borrow the shares and then buy them back at a lower price). Of course, in cases where an investor sells their option, the opposite is true: they would benefit from the opposite movement of the stocks.

A put option is a contract that allows someone to sell shares at a certain price at a specified time in the future. The seller of the put option has the obligation to buy the shares from the put buyer if they choose to exercise it.

The Basics of Buying a Put Option

As an example, let’s say a stock is worth $50 today. If an investor thought the stock’s value could go down, they might buy a put option with a strike price of $40. Let’s say the premium for the option is $1, and they buy a contract that gives them the right to sell 100 shares at $40. The premium, then, is $100.

At the time the investor buys the put option, it’s “out-of-the-money.” If the price remains above $40 until it expires, the investor will not be able to exercise the option and they will lose the premium. But if the stock has dropped from, say, $50 to $35, the option is “in-the-money” and they could sell it for an increased premium to someone else. If an investor were to exercise the option, they’d profit from being able to sell shares for $40 that are worth $35, pocketing $5 per share or $500, minus the $100 premium, leaving them with $400.

Risks of Options Trading

Option trading can be a useful way to manage risks or profit from movements in stocks one doesn’t own. They can also lead to large losses, especially if an investor doesn’t understand the potential downside to the trades they’re executing.

This is especially true if an investor starts selling call options or put options, putting them in the position of collecting premiums but obligating them to either buy or sell the shares in question at the options expiration date. Investing in options on margin — i.e. with borrowed money—can also be high risk. Some brokerages have tools to screen traders from making certain types of option trades in order to maintain the risk.

The Takeaway

Option trades—call and put options—can be popular with individual or amateur traders because they offer a way to make profits from large movements in a stock without having to own the underlying shares. But by this same token, buying and selling options can also lead to paying premiums over and over with little or no actual payoff.

There are many ways to start investing in the stock market. SoFi Invest® Active investing lets members trade or invest in stocks and exchange traded funds without transaction feeds—costs that appear small but can eat into any trading strategy.

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



SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Also, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals, and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or prequalification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.
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.
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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Active vs Passive Investing: Differences Explained

Active vs. passive investing generally refers to the two main approaches to structuring mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) portfolios. Active investing is a strategy where human portfolio managers pick investments they believe will outperform the market — whereas passive investing relies on a formula to mirror the performance of certain market sectors.

Which approach is better, active vs. passive? There seems to be no end to this debate, but there are factors that investors can consider — especially the difference in cost. Because active investing typically requires a team of analysts and investment managers, these funds are more expensive and come with higher expense ratios. Passive funds, which require little or no involvement from live professionals because they track an index, cost less.

Also, there is a body of research demonstrating that indexing typically performs better than active management. When you add in the impact of cost — i.e. active funds having higher fees — this also lowers the average return of many active funds. Following are a few more factors to consider when choosing active vs. passive strategies.

Main Differences Between Active and Passive Investing

The following table recaps the main differences between passive and active strategies.

Active Funds

Passive Funds

Many studies show the vast majority of active strategies underperform the market on average, over time. Most passive strategies outperform active ones over time.
Higher fees can further lower returns. Lower fees don’t impact returns as much.
Human intelligence and skill may capture market upsides. A passive algorithm captures market returns, which are typically higher on average.
Typically not tax efficient. Typically more tax efficient.
Potentially less tied to market volatility. Tied to market volatility and more vulnerable to market shocks.

Which Should You Pick: Active or Passive Investing?

Deciding between active and passive strategies is a highly personal choice. It comes down to whether you believe that the active manager you pick could be among the few hundred who won’t underperform their benchmarks; and that the skill of an active manager is worth paying the higher investment costs these strategies command.

You could also avoid treating the active vs. passive investing debate as a forced dichotomy and select the best funds in either category that suit your goals.

Active Investing: A Closer Look

Active investing is what live portfolio managers do; they analyze and then select investments based on their growth potential. Active strategies have a number of pros and cons to consider when comparing them with passive strategies.

Advantages

•   One potential advantage of having a real person crunching numbers and making investment decisions is that they may be able to spot market opportunities and take advantage of them. A computer algorithm is not designed to pivot the way a human can, which might benefit the performance of an actively managed ETF or mutual fund.

•   Whereas a passive strategy is designed to follow one market sector index (e.g. the performance of large cap U.S. companies via the S&P 500® index), an active manager can be more creative and is not limited to a single sector.

•   The number of actively managed mutual funds in the U.S. stood at about 6,800 as of January 11, 2022 vs. 492 index funds, according to Statista. Given that there are many more active funds than passive funds, investors may be able to select active managers who have the kind of track record they are seeking.

Disadvantages

•   The chief downside of active investing is the cost. Hedge funds and private equity managers are one example, charging enormous fees (sometimes 10%, 15%, 20% of returns) for their investing acumen. But even run-of-the-mill actively managed funds, which may charge 1% or 1.5% or even 2% annually, are far higher than the investment fees of most passive funds, where the annual expense ratio might be only a few basis points.

•   The majority of active strategies don’t generate higher returns over the long haul. According to the well-known SPIVA (S&P Indices vs. Active) scorecard report of 2022, 95% of U.S. active equity funds underperformed their respective S&P indexes over the last two decades, through 2021. So investors who are willing to pay more for the insight and skill of a live manager may not reap the rewards they seek.

•   A professional manager may create more churn in an actively managed fund, which could lead to higher capital gains tax.

Passive Investing: A Closer Look

The term “passive investing” may not have a strong positive connotation, yet the funds that follow an indexing strategy typically do well vs. their active counterparts.

Advantages

•   Passive strategies are more transparent. Because index funds simply track an index like the S&P 500 or Russell 2000, there’s really no mystery how the constituents in the fund are selected nor the performance of the fund (both match the index).

•   As noted above, index funds outperformed 79% of active funds, according to the 2022 SPIVA scorecard.

•   Passive strategies are generally much cheaper than active strategies.

•   Passive strategies can be more tax efficient as there is generally much less turnover in these funds.

Disadvantages

•   Because passive funds use an algorithm to track an existing index, there is no opportunity for a live manager to intervene and make a better or more nimble choice. This could lead to lost opportunities.

•   Passive strategies are more vulnerable to market shocks, which can lead to more investment risk.

The Takeaway

Active vs. passive investing is an ongoing debate for many investors who can see the advantages and disadvantages of both strategies. Despite the evidence suggesting that passive strategies, which track the performance of an index, tend to outperform human investment managers, the case isn’t closed.

After all, passive investing may be more cost efficient, but it means being tied to a certain market sector — up, down, and sideways. That timing may or may not work in your favor. Active investing costs more, but a professional may be able to seize market opportunities that an indexing algorithm isn’t designed to perceive.

To decide where you stand in regard to active vs. passive investing, it might help to get more experience by opening a brokerage account with SoFi Invest®. As a SoFi investor, you can actively trade stocks online, or invest in actively or passively managed ETFs. You can also buy and sell IPOs, fractional shares, and cryptocurrencies. The more experience you get, the more insight you’ll gain into which approach makes the most sense for you. Also, SoFi members have access to complimentary financial advice from professionals, who can answer investing questions. Get started today.


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SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Also, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals, and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or prequalification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.
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What Is Dividend Yield?

A stock’s dividend yield is how much the company annually pays out in dividends to shareholders, relative to its stock price. The dividend yield is a ratio (dividend/price) expressed as a percentage, and is distinct from the dividend itself.

Dividend payments are expressed as a dollar amount, and supplement the return a stock produces over the course of a year. For an investor interested in total return, learning how to calculate dividend yield for different companies can help to decide which company may be a better investment.

But bear in mind that a stock’s dividend yield will tend to fluctuate because it’s based on the stock’s price, which rises and falls. That’s why a higher dividend yield may not be a sign of better value.

Keep reading to understand how to calculate dividend yield, and how to use it as a metric in your investment choices.

How to Calculate Dividend Yield

What is dividend yield, exactly, and how does it differ from dividends?

•   Dividends are a portion of a company’s earnings paid to investors and expressed as a dollar amount. Dividends are typically paid out each quarter (although semi-annual and monthly payouts are common). Not all companies pay dividends.

•   Dividend yield refers to a stock’s annual dividend payments divided by the stock’s current price, and expressed as a percentage. Dividend yield is one way of assessing a company’s earning potential.

What Is the Dividend Yield Formula?

Now to answer the question: How to calculate dividend yield? The dividend yield formula is more of a basic calculation than a formula: Dividend yield is calculated by taking the annual dividend paid per share, and dividing it by the stock’s current price.

Annual dividend / stock price = Dividend yield (%)

How to Calculate Annual Dividends

Investors can calculate the annual dividend of a given company by looking at its annual report, or its quarterly report, finding the dividend payout per quarter, and multiplying that number by four. For a stock with fluctuating dividend payments, it may make sense to take the four most recent quarterly dividends to arrive at the trailing annual dividend.

It’s important to consider how often dividends are paid out. If dividends are paid monthly vs. quarterly, you want to add up the last 12 months of dividends.

This is especially important because some companies pay uneven dividends, with the higher payouts toward the end of the year, for example. So you wouldn’t want to simply add up the last few dividend payments without checking to make sure the total represents an accurate annual dividend amount.

Example of Dividend Yield

If Company A’s stock trades at $70 today, and the company’s annual dividend is $2 per share, the dividend yield is 2.85% ($2 / $70 = 0.0285).

Compare that to Company B, which is trading at $40, also with an annual dividend of $2 per share. The dividend yield of Company B would be 5% ($2 / $40 = 0.05).

In theory, the higher yield of Company B may look more appealing. But investors can’t determine a stock’s worth by yield alone.

Dividend Yield: Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Can help with company valuation. Dividend yield can indicate a more established, but slower-growing company.
May indicate how much income investors can expect. Higher yield may mask deeper problems.
Yield doesn’t tell investors the type of dividend (ordinary vs. qualified), which can impact taxes.

For investors, there are some advantages and disadvantages to using dividend yield as a metric that helps inform investment choices.

Pros

•   From a valuation perspective, dividend yield can be a useful point of comparison. If a company’s dividend yield is substantially different from its industry peers, or from the company’s own typical levels, that can be an indicator of whether the company is trading at the right valuation.

•   For many investors, the primary reason to invest in dividend stocks is for income. In that respect, dividend yield can be an important metric. But dividend yield can change as the underlying stock price changes. So when using dividend yield as a way to evaluate income, it’s important to be aware of company fundamentals that provide assurance as to company stability and consistency of the dividend payout.

Cons

•   Sometimes a higher dividend yield can indicate slower growth. Companies with higher dividends are often larger, more established businesses. But that could also mean that dividend-generous companies are not growing very quickly because they’re not reinvesting their earnings.

   Smaller companies with aggressive growth targets are less likely to offer dividends, but rather spend their excess capital on expansion. Thus, investors focused solely on dividend income could miss out on some faster-growing opportunities.

•   A high dividend yield could indicate a troubled company. Because of how dividend yield is calculated, the yield is higher as the stock price falls, so it’s important to evaluate whether there has been a downward price trend. Often, when a company is in trouble, one of the first things it is likely to reduce or eliminate is that dividend.

•   Investors need to look beyond yield to the type of dividend they might get. And investor might be getting high dividend payouts, but if they’re ordinary dividends vs. qualified dividends they’ll be taxed at a higher rate. Ordinary dividends are taxed as income; qualified dividends are taxed at the lower capital gains rate, which typically ranges from 0% to 20%. If you have tax questions about your investments, be sure to consult with a tax professional.

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The Difference Between Dividend Yield and Dividend Rate

As noted earlier, a dividend is a way for a company to distribute some of its earnings among shareholders. Dividends can be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or even annually (although quarterly payouts tend to be common in the U.S.). Dividends are expressed as dollar amounts. The dividend rate is the annual amount of the company’s dividend per share.

A company that pays $1 per share, quarterly, has an annual dividend rate of $4 per share.

The difference between this straight-up dollar amount and a company’s dividend yield is that the latter is a ratio. The dividend yield is the company’s annual dividend divided by the current stock price, and expressed as a percentage.

What Is a Good Dividend Yield?

Two companies with the same high yields are not created equally. While dividend yield is an important number for investors to know when determining the annual cash flow they can expect from their investments, there are deeper indicators that investors may want to investigate to see if a dividend-paying stock will continue to pay in the future.

A History of Dividend Growth

When researching dividend stocks, one place to start is by asking if the stock has a history of dividend growth. A regularly increasing dividend is an indication of earnings growth and typically a good indicator of a company’s overall financial health.

The Dividend Aristocracy

There is a group of S&P 500 stocks called Dividend Aristocrats, which have increased the dividends they pay for at least 25 consecutive years. Every year the list changes, as companies raise and lower their dividends.

Currently, there are 65 companies that meet the basic criteria of increasing their dividend for a quarter century straight. They include big names in energy, industrial production, real estate, defense contractors, and more. For investors looking for steady dividends, this list may be a good place to start.

Dividend Payout Ratio (DPR)

Investors can calculate the dividend payout ratio by dividing the total dividends paid in a year by the company’s net income. By looking at this ratio over a period of years, investors can learn to differentiate among the dividend stocks in their portfolios.

A company with a relatively low DPR is paying dividends, while still investing heavily in the growth of its business. If a company’s DPR is rising, that’s a sign the company’s leadership likely sees more value in rewarding shareholders than in expanding. If its DPR is shrinking, it’s a sign that management sees an abundance of new opportunities abounding. In extreme cases, where a company’s DPR is 100% or higher, it’s unlikely that the company will be around for much longer.

Other Indicators of Company Health

Other factors to consider include the company’s debt load, credit rating, and the cash it keeps on hand to manage unexpected shocks. And as with every equity investment, it’s important to look at the company’s competitive position in its sector, the growth prospects of that sector as a whole, and how it fits into an investor’s overall plan. Those factors will ultimately determine the company’s ability to continue paying its dividend.

The Takeaway

Dividend yield is a simple calculation: You divide the annual dividend paid per share by the stock’s current price. Dividend yield is expressed as a percentage, versus the dividend (or dividend rate) which is given as a dollar amount.

A company that pays a $1 per share dividend, has a dividend rate of $4 per year. If the share price is $100/share, the dividend yield is 4% ($4 / $100 = 0.04).

The dividend yield formula can be a valuable tool for investors, and not just ones who are seeking cash flow from their investments. Dividend yield can help assess a company’s valuation relative to its peers, but there are other factors to consider when researching stocks that pay out dividends. A history of dividend growth and a good dividend payout ratio (DPR), as well as the company’s debt load, cash on hand, and credit rating can help form an overall picture of a company’s health and probability of paying out higher dividends in the future.

If you’re ready to invest in dividend-paying stocks, consider opening a brokerage account with SoFi Invest. You can trade stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), IPO shares, and crypto, — right from your phone or laptop, using SoFi’s secure online platform. SoFi doesn’t charge management fees, and SoFi members have access to complimentary financial advice from professionals. Get started today!

Find out how SoFi Invest can help further your financial goals.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Also, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals, and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or prequalification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.

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The Growth of Socially Responsible Investing

The Growth of Socially Responsible Investing

The extraordinary growth of socially responsible investing strategies in the last decade, and especially the last couple of years, is bringing good news for performance-hungry investors, and potentially the planet as well.

In 2021 alone, socially responsible U.S. mutual funds saw inflows of some $70 billion — a 36% increase over 2020. And investors enjoyed returns comparable to, and in some cases better than conventional funds, according to a report by Morningstar, a fund rating and research firm, released in Feb. 2022.

Clearly the trend of doing well by doing some good in the world may have an upside. Here’s what you need to know about socially responsible investing (SRI) strategies now.

What Is Socially Responsible Investing?

Socially responsible investing is a broad term that can mean different things to different groups. SRI strategies may also be referred to as impact investing, sustainable investing, or ESG investing (for environmental, social, and government factors) — although these terms don’t always mean the same things, and “investing according to your values” can signify very different things to different people.

What Is the Difference Between SRI, ESG, and Other Strategies?

While the various terms for investing according to one’s values are often used interchangeably, it’s important for investors to understand some of the differences. Socially responsible or socially conscious investing are two of the broader labels, and they are typically used to reflect progressive values of protecting the planet and natural resources, treating people equitably, and emphasizing corporate responsibility.

Securities that embrace ESG principles, though, may be required to adhere to specific standards for protecting aspects of the environment (e.g. clean energy, water, and air); supporting social good (e.g. human rights, safe working conditions, equal opportunities); and corporate accountability (e.g. fighting corruption, balancing executive pay, and so on).

For example, third-party organizations have helped create ESG scores for companies and funds based on how well they adhere to various ESG factors.

Investors who believe in socially responsible investing, or sustainable investing may want to choose stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that meet ESG standards.

What Is Sustainable Investing?

Sustainable investing is often used as a shorthand for securities that have a specific focus on protecting the environment. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with “green investing”, “eco-friendly investing”, or even ESG.

💡 Recommended: Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Investing

What Is Impact Investing?

Impact investing is perhaps the broadest term of all, in that it can refer to a range of priorities, goals, or values that investors may want to pursue. To some degree, impact investing implies that the individual is investing with specific outcomes in mind: i.e. the growth of a certain sector, type of technology, or societal issue.

Either way, the underlying principle of these strategies is the same. By putting money into companies that embrace certain practices, investors can support organizations that embody certain principles, thereby potentially making a difference in the world, and perhaps earning a profit at the same time.

What Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

Last, corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to a general set of business practices that may positively impact society. Often, these decisions are put in place to support socially responsible movements, e.g. environmental sustainability, ethical labor practices, and social justice initiatives.

Ideally, CSR strategies work in tandem with traditional business objectives of hitting revenue and profit goals. But since CSR goals are specific to each company, they aren’t formally considered part of socially responsible, sustainable, or ESG investing.

What Are Some Socially Responsible Investments?

Investors today can choose from a wide range of socially responsible, sustainable, or ESG stocks, bonds, ETFs, and more. These days, thousands of companies aim — or claim — to embrace ethical, social, environmental, or other standards, such as those put forth in the United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Investing, or the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition to those, there can also be various criteria set out by financial institutions or other organizations which they use to evaluate the products, processes, and policies of different companies. Here are some options.

What Are Socially Responsible Stocks?

It may be useful when selecting stocks that match your values to know the standards or metrics that have been used to verify a company’s ESG status.

Depending on your priorities, you could consider companies in the following sectors, or that embrace certain practices:

•   Clean energy technology and production

•   Supply chain upgrades

•   Clean air and water technology, products, systems, manufacturing

•   Racial and gender equality

•   Fair labor standards

•   Community outreach and support

Investors can also trade stocks of companies that are certified B Corporations (B Corps), which meet a higher standard for environmental sustainability in their businesses, or hit other metrics around public transparency and social justice, for example. B Corps can be any company, from bakeries to funeral homes, and may or may not be publicly traded.

What Are Socially Responsible Bonds?

Green bonds are issued by companies to finance projects and business operations that specifically address environmental and climate concerns, such as energy-efficient power plants, upgrades to municipal water systems, and so on.

These bonds may come with tax incentives, making them a more attractive investment than traditional bonds.

What Are Socially Responsible Mutual Funds and ETFs?

Another option for investors who don’t want to pick individual SRI or ESG stocks is to consider mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that provide exposure to socially responsible companies and other investments.

There are a growing number of index funds that invest in a basket of sustainable stocks and bonds. These funds allow investors to diversify their holdings by investing in one security.

What Are Socially Responsible Indexes?

There are numerous indexes that investors use as benchmarks for the performance of socially responsible funds. Three of the most prominent socially responsible indexes by parent company include: the MSCI USA Extended ESG Focus Index; Nasdaq 100 ESG Index; S&P 500 ESG Index. You cannot invest directly in an index.

The Growing Appeal of Socially Responsible Investments

While many investors find the idea of doing good or making an impact appealing, the question of profit has long been a point of debate within the industry. Do you sacrifice performance, a.k.a. making a profit, if you invest according to your conscience?

For a while it was difficult to make a clear case either way because most SRI and ESG funds didn’t have a long enough track record. Now, two separate studies from Morningstar suggest that funds which embrace socially responsible strategies tend to outperform conventional mutual funds. Their “Sustainable Funds U.S. Landscape Report” from February 2022 found that “two thirds of sustainable offerings in the large-blend category topped the U.S. market index last year compared with 54% of all funds in the category.”

An analysis of 745 European-based funds found that the majority of sustainable funds outperformed non-ESG strategies over one-, five-, and 10-year periods.

According to Morningstar, socially responsible strategies continue to gain traction with investors. In 2021, the number of open-end mutual funds and ETFs that claim some type of sustainable investing mandate increased from 413 to 534. Those funds now have more than $350 billion in assets, a 25% increase over 2020.

According to the report: “There are 5 times as many sustainable funds in the U.S. today than a decade ago, and 3 times more than five years ago.”

The Evolution of Responsible Investing

Socially conscious investing is not a new concept: People have been tailoring their investment strategies for generations, for a number of reasons, not all of them related to sustainability. In fact, it’s possible to view the emergence of socially conscious investing in three phases.

Phase 1: Exclusionary Strategies

Exclusionary strategies tend to focus on what not to invest in. For example, those who embrace Muslim, Mormon, Quaker, and other religions, were (and sometimes still are) directed to avoid investing in companies that run counter to the values of that faith. This is sometimes called faith-based investing.

Similarly, throughout history there have been groups as well as individuals who have taken a stand against certain industries or establishments by refusing to invest in related companies. Non-violent groups have traditionally avoided investing in companies that produce weapons. Others have skirted so-called “sin stocks”: companies that are involved in alcohol, tobacco, sex, and other businesses.

On a more global scale, widespread divestment of investor funds from companies in South Africa helped to dismantle the system of racial apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s.

Phase 2: Proactive Investing

Just like exclusionary strategies, proactive strategies are values-led. But rather than taking an avoidant approach, here investors put their money into companies and causes that match their beliefs.

For example, one of the earliest sustainable mutual funds was launched in 1971 by Pax World; the founders wanted to take a stand against chemical weapons in the Vietnam war and encourage investors to support more environmentally friendly businesses.

This approach gained steady interest from investors, as financial companies launched a range of funds that focused on supporting certain sectors. So-called green investing helped to establish numerous companies that have built sustainable energy platforms, for example.

Phase 3: Investing With Impact

With the rise of digital technology in the last 30 years, two things became possible.

First, financial institutions were able to create screening tools and filters to help investors gauge which companies actually adhered to certain standards — whether ethical, environmental, or something else. Second, the ability to track real-time company behavior and outcomes helped establish greater transparency — and accountability — for financial institutions evaluating these companies for their SRI fund offerings.

By 2006, the United Nations launched the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), a set of global standards that helped create a worldwide understanding of Environmental, Social, and Governance strategies.

ESG became the shorthand for companies that focus on protecting various aspects of the environment (including clean energy, water, and air); supporting social good (including human rights, safe working conditions, equal opportunities); and fair corporate governance (e.g. fighting corruption, balancing executive pay, and so on).

Why Choose Socially Responsible Investing?

While the three phases of socially responsible investing did emerge more or less chronologically, all three types of strategies still exist in various forms today. But the growing emphasis on corporate accountability in terms of outcomes — requiring companies to do more than just green-washing their policies, products, and marketing materials — has shifted investors’ focus to the measurable impacts of these strategies.

Now the reasons to choose SRI strategies are growing.

Investors Can Have an Impact

The whole notion of values-led investing is that by putting your money into organizations that align with your beliefs, you can make a tangible difference in the world. The performance of many sustainable funds, as noted above, indicates that it’s possible to support the growth of specific companies or sectors (although growth always entails risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results).

Socially Responsible Strategies May Be Profitable, Too

As discussed earlier, the question of whether SRI and ESG funds are as profitable as they are ethical has long been a point of debate. But that skepticism is ebbing now, with new performance metrics suggesting that sustainable funds are on par with conventional funds.

Socially Responsible Investing May Help Mitigate Risk

ESG factors can help identify companies with poor governance practices or exposure to environmental and social risks, leading to financial losses. And during the Covid-19 pandemic, many ESG funds showed more resilience in the face of prolonged market volatility than conventional funds — indicating that ESG funds may offer some downside protection as part of an overall portfolio allocation.

ESG and SRI Strategies Are Gaining Popularity

The various benefits that ESG investing may offer seems to be attracting investors. Globally speaking, assets under management that adhere to ESG principles may surpass $41 trillion by the end of 2022, according to a 2022 report by Bloomberg Intelligence based on data from the Global Sustainable Investment Association.

At this rate, global AUM could reach $50 trillion by 2025 — a leap from the nearly $36 trillion in AUM at the start of 2020.

Do Retirement Accounts Offer Socially Responsible Investments?

Generally speaking, some retirement accounts may include socially responsible or ESG investment options. For example, when investing in a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA, investors typically have access to all the securities offered by that financial institution, including stocks, bonds, and ETFs that may reflect ESG standards. The choice is up to individual investors.

That said, when dealing with an employer-sponsored 401k or 403b plan, the plan provider may or may not offer SRI or ESG options. Typically, ERISA standards for retirement plans dictate that the investment options offered by employer-sponsored plans “must be based on risk return factors that the fiduciary prudently determines are material to investment value.”

What that means, though, has been the subject of debate, especially over the last few years. In 2020, for example, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a rule that might have limited or eliminated ESG investments in employer-sponsored plans. That was revised, however, in October of 2021 when another proposed rule re-opened the door to socially responsible investments in these plans.

The new proposed rule will likely be finalized at some point in 2022.

Invest in Socially Responsible Funds With SoFi

Socially responsible investing is a broad term that can mean different things to different groups, but no matter which term you use — socially conscious investing, impact investing, ESG investing — it comes down to the compelling idea that by investing your money in organizations that match your values, you can make a difference in the world.

To gauge the appeal of these strategies, look to the remarkable growth of socially responsible funds worldwide. According to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance report released in 2021, ESG assets under management (AUM) reached $35.3 trillion globally in early 2020, and are well over that today. Data from Morningstar released this year suggests that more than half of these funds are outperforming conventional funds, especially in the last three to five years.

If investing according to your values is something you’d like to do, consider opening an online brokerage account with SoFi Invest. You can trade stocks, ETFs, crypto, even IPO shares — all from the secure SoFi platform. Even better, you can access complimentary advice from financial professionals when you have questions. Develop your personal investing strategy today!

See how SoFi Invest can help you pursue socially responsible investing.

FAQ

Is socially responsible investing profitable?

According to a 2022 report by Morningstar, the performance of sustainable funds was “on par with the overall fund universe in 2020” — and outperformed conventional funds over trailing three- and five-year periods.

What is the difference between ESG investing and socially responsible investing?

Socially responsible investing is considered a broad term that can encompass a range of practices and standards. ESG investing is a set of principles that is often used to assess how well companies meet specific, measurable criteria.

How many socially responsible investment opportunities are there?

It’s impossible to say how many SRI opportunities there are, as the stocks, bonds, and other securities that embrace ESG standards continue to grow. More than 120 new sustainable funds entered the SRI landscape in 2021, in addition to 26 existing funds that took on a sustainable mandate.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Also, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals, and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or prequalification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.
Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected] Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing. Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.
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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What Is an Expense Ratio?

The expense ratio is the yearly fee that mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) charge investors, to cover operating costs. The fee is deducted from your investment, reducing your returns each year.

Typically, investors may look for funds that offer lower expense ratios, as high expense ratios can take a substantial bite out of long-term returns, affecting investors’ financial plans.

Here’s a look at how expense ratios are calculated, what they encompass, and other factors worth considering when choosing a mutual fund or ETF to invest in.

How Expense Ratios Are Calculated

Though individual investors typically won’t find themselves in a situation where they need to calculate an expense ratio, it’s helpful to know how it’s done. To calculate expense ratios, funds use the following equation:

Expense Ratio = Total Fund Costs/Total Fund Assets Under Management

For example, if a fund holds $500 million in assets under management, and it costs $5 million to maintain the fund each year, the expense ratio would be:

$5 million/$500 million = 0.01

Expressed as a percentage, this translates into an expense ratio of 1%, meaning you would pay $10 for every $1,000 you have invested in this fund.

As you research funds you may come across two terms: gross expense ratio and net expense ratio. Both have to do with the waivers and reimbursements funds may use to attract new investors.

•  The gross expense ratio is the figure investors are charged without accounting for fee waivers or reimbursements.

•  The net expense ratio takes waivers and reimbursements into account, so it should be a lower amount.

How Expense Ratios Are Charged

A fund’s expense ratio is expressed as a percentage of an individual’s investment in a fund. For example, if a fund has an expense ratio of 0.60%, an investor will pay $6.00 for every $1,000 they have invested in the fund.

The cost of an expense ratio is automatically deducted from an investor’s returns. In fact, when an investor looks at the daily net asset value of an ETF or a mutual fund, the expense ratio is already baked into the number that they see.

The Components of an Expense Ratio

The fees that make up the operating costs of a mutual fund or ETF can vary. Generally speaking, the investment fees included in an expense ratio will include the following:

Management Fees

The management fee is the amount paid to the person/s managing the money in the investment fund—they make decisions about which investments to buy and sell and when to execute trades. Management fees can vary depending on how much activity is required of these managers to maintain the fund.

Custodial Fees

Custodial fees cover the cost of safekeeping services, the process by which a fund or other service holds securities on an investor’s behalf, guarding the securities from being lost or stolen.

Marketing Fees

Also known as 12b-1 fees, marketing fees are used to pay for the advertising of the fund, some shareholder services, and even employee bonuses on occasion. FINRA caps these fees at 1% of your assets in the fund.

Other Investment Fees

Investors may be forced to pay other investment fees when they buy and sell mutual funds and ETFs. The cost of buying and selling securities inside the fund is not included as part of the expense ratio. Additional costs that are not considered operating expenses include loads, a fee mutual funds charge when investors purchase shares. Contingent deferred sales charges and redemption fees, which investors pay when they sell some mutual fund shares, are also paid separately from the expense ratio.

How to Research Expense Ratios

Luckily, you do not have to spend your time calculating expense ratios on your own. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that funds publish their expense ratios in a public document known as a prospectus. The prospectus reports information important to mutual fund and ETF investors, including investment objectives and who the fund managers are.

Online brokers often allow you to look up expense ratios for individual investment funds, and they may even offer tools that allow you to compare ratios across funds.

Average Expense Ratios

Expense ratios vary by fund depending on what investment strategy it’s using. Passively managed funds that frequently track an index, such as the S&P 500, and require little intervention from managers, tend to have lower expense ratios. ETFs are usually passively managed, as are some mutual funds. Other mutual funds may be actively managed, requiring a heavier touch from managers, which can jack up the expense ratio.

Expense ratios have been falling for decades. The asset-weighted average expense ratio for mutual funds and ETFs dropped from 0.87% in 1999 to 0.45% in 2019 , according to the most recent Morningstar Annual U.S. Fund Fee study, released in June 2020. Expense ratios fell from 0.48% in 2018 to 0.45% in 2019. While that difference may seem slight, investors saved an estimated $5.8 billion in fund expenses in just one year.

That same Morningstar study found that the expense ratio for actively managed funds averaged 0.66% in 2019, while passively managed funds had a much lower average expense ratio of 0.13%.

What’s a Good Expense Ratio?

When considering expense ratios across mutual funds and ETFs, it’s helpful to use average expense ratios as a benchmark to get an idea of whether a specific expense ratio is “good”. Investors may want to target funds with expense ratios that are below average. The lower the expense ratio, the less expensive it is to invest in the fund, meaning more profits would go to the investor vs. the fund.

Looking Beyond Expense Ratios

When comparing mutual funds and ETFs, an investor might choose to consider other factors in addition to expense ratios.

It can be a good idea to consider how a particular fund will fit in their overall financial plan. For example, individuals looking to build a diversified portfolio may want to target a fund that tracks a broad index like the Nasdaq or S&P 500. Or, investors with portfolios heavily weighted in domestic stocks may be on the hunt for funds that include more international stocks.

And it’s also a good idea to know the key differences between mutual funds and ETFs. ETFs, for example, are generally designed to be more tax efficient than mutual funds, which can also have a big impact on an investor’s ultimate return.

The Takeaway

Expense ratios can have a big impact on investor returns. For example, if an individual invested $1,000 in an ETF with a 6% annual return and a 0.20% expense ratio, and continued making a $1,000 investment each year for the next 30 years, they would have earned $81,756.91, and spent $3,044.76 on the expense ratio. But expense ratios are ultimately one of many different factors to consider when choosing a mutual fund or ETF.

As you research your investment options, consider SoFi Invest®, which allows investors to trade ETFs, stocks, crypto and more. SoFi ETFs are competitively priced, which may help ensure that more of your money stays invested in the market, where it can help you work toward achieving your long-term goals.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Also, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals, and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or prequalification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.
Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected] Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing. Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Also, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals, and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or prequalification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.
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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