A Guide to Corporate Bonds and How They Work

What Are Corporate Bonds?

Bonds can make up an important part of a diversified portfolio, but there can be diversity within bonds as well. For instance, corporate bonds are one type of debt security that may offer higher returns than government bonds, but they might also come with higher.

What Is a Corporate Bond?

A bond is a debt security that functions much like an IOU. Governments and companies issue bonds as a way to raise capital. For example, a state might issue bonds to build a new bridge, and the U.S. Treasury issues Treasury Bills (T-Bills) to cover its expenses.

Corporations also sell bonds to raise capital. They might use the money raised through these financial securities to reinvest in their business, pay down debts, or even buy other companies.

When investors buy corporate bonds, they are loaning a company money for a set period of time. In exchange, the company agrees to pay interest throughout the agreed upon period. When this time is up and the bond reaches “maturity,” the issuer will return the principal. If a company can’t make interest payments or return the principal at the end of the period, they default on the bond.

How Do Corporate Bonds Work?

Bonds are a huge part of the broader securities markets. U.S. fixed income markets comprise 41.3% of global securities. To understand the bond market and how bonds work, you need to know a few important terms:

•   Issuer: The entity using bonds to raise money.

•   Par Value: Also known as the nominal or face value of the bond, or the principal, the par value is the amount the bond issuers promise to repay when the bond reaches maturity. This amount does not fluctuate over the life of the bond.

•   Price: A bond’s price is the amount an investor pays for a bond in the market. This amount can change based on market factors.

•   Coupon rate: Also known as coupon yield, the coupon rate is the annual interest rate paid by the bond issuers based on the bond’s par value.

•   Maturity: The date at which a bond’s issuer must repay the original bond value to the bondholder.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Corporate Bonds

While corporate bonds can add a lot of benefits to a portfolio, before investing, it’s important to consider the drawbacks, as well.

Benefits

Drawbacks

Bonds, including corporate bonds, can be an important part of a diversified portfolio. Bonds may offer lower returns than other securities, such as stocks.
MMany investors consider corporate bonds to be a riskier investment than government bonds, such as U.S. Treasuries. As a result, they tend to offer higher interest rates. If the issuer cannot make interest payments or repay the par value when the bond reaches maturity, the bond will go into default. If an issuer goes bankrupt, bondholders may have some claim on the company’s assets and possibly be able to recoup some of their losses.
Bonds are relatively liquid, meaning it is easy to buy and sell them on the market. Some bonds are “callable”, which means issuers can choose to pay them back early. When that happens, bond holders won’t earn as much interest and will have to find a new place to reinvest.



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Types of Corporate Bonds

There are three main ways to categorize corporate bonds:

Duration

This category reflects the bond’s maturity, which may range from one to 30 years. There are three maturity lengths:

•   Short-term: Maturity of within three years.

•   Medium-term: Maturity of four to 10 years.

•   Long-term: Maturity of more than 10 years. Longer-term bonds typically offer the highest interest rates.

Risk

Every once in a while, a corporation defaults its bonds. The likeliness of default impacts a company’s creditworthiness and investors should consider it before purchasing a bond. Bond ratings, assigned by credit rating agencies, can help investors understand this risk.

Bonds can be rated as:

•   Investment grade: Companies and bonds rated investment grade are unlikely to default. High-rated corporate bonds typically pay a slightly higher rate than government securities.

•   Non-investment grade: Non-investment grade bonds are more likely to default. Because they are riskier, non-investment grade bonds tend to offer a higher interest rate and are often known as high-yield bonds.

Interest Payment

Investors may also categorize bonds based on the type of interest rate they offer.

•   Fixed rate: With a fixed rate bond, the coupon rate stays the same over the life of the bond.

•   Floating rate: Bonds that offer floating rates readjust interest rates periodically, such as every six months. The floating rate depends on market interest rates.

•   Zero-coupon bonds: These bonds have no interest rate. Instead, when a bond reaches maturity, the issuer makes a single payment that’s higher than purchase price.

•   Convertible bonds: Convertible bonds act like regular bonds with a coupon payment and a promise to repay the principal. However, they also give bondholders the option to convert their bonds into company stock according to a given ratio.

Difference Between Corporate Bonds and Stocks

Bonds differ from other types of investments in a number of important ways. When investors buy stocks, they are buying ownership shares in the company. Share prices may fluctuate depending on the markets and the health of the company. If the company does well, the stock price may rise, and the investor can sell their shares at a profit. Additionally, some companies share profits with their shareholders in the form of dividends.

When an investor purchases a corporate bond, on the other hand, they do not own a piece of the company. The bondholder is only entitled to interest and the principal. Those amounts don’t change based on company profits or the stock price. When a company goes bankrupt, bondholders have priority over stockholders when it comes to claims on the issuer’s assets.


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

How to Buy Corporate Bonds

Investors can buy individual bonds through brokerage firms or banks. Corporations typically issue them in increments of $1,000. Much like investing in an initial public offering, it can be tricky for retail investors to get in on newly issued bonds. Investors may need a relationship with the organization that’s managing the offering. However, investors can also purchase individual bonds on the secondary market.

Another way to gain access to the bond market is by purchasing bond funds, including mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that invest in bonds. These funds can be a good way to diversify a bond portfolio as they typically hold a diverse basket of bonds that tracks a bond index or a certain sector.

Investors can purchase bonds through a traditional brokerage account or an Individual Retirement Account. They may be able to purchase bond funds through their 401(k), and possibly individual bonds through a brokerage window within the 401(k).

Recommended: IRA vs 401(k) – What is the Difference?

The Takeaway

Before buying bonds, it’s important that individuals consider how they’ll fit in with their financial goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. For example, if you’re working toward retirement and have decades to save, you may want a portfolio that’s mostly stocks since stocks generally tend to outperform bonds in the long run. If you’re close to your goal — or have a low appetite for risk — you may want to stick with bonds.

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).


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


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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.

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What Is the Yield Curve? How It's Used As a Market Indicator

What Is the Yield Curve? How It’s Used as a Market Indicator

The yield curve itself is a basic graph of the interest rates paid by bonds at different maturities (e.g., two-year, five-year, 10-year bonds). But many investors interpret the slope of the yield curve as a harbinger of what might lie ahead for the U.S. economy.

The yield curve can be an indicator of economic expectations, but not a reliable predictor of events. That said, analysis of historical data patterns shows that understanding the yield curve can be useful for investors.

4 Types of Yield Curves and What They Mean

The yield curve is published by the Treasury every trading day. It reflects the yield or interest rates paid by Treasury securities for one-month through 30-year maturities. The Treasury’s figures also help to set the rates for other debt securities on the market, as well as mortgages and other loan rates offered by banks.

💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that opening a brokerage account typically doesn’t come with any setup costs? Often, the only requirement to open a brokerage account — aside from providing personal details — is making an initial deposit.


What is a yield curve, and what does it look like? Here are four common yield-curve patterns and what each might mean for investors.

1. Normal Yield Curve

Under ordinary conditions, longer-maturity bonds will offer a higher yield to maturity than shorter-term bonds. For that reason, the “normal” yield curve shape has an upward slope, with longer-maturity debt providing investors with higher interest rates.

For example, imagine that a two-year bond offers a yield of 0.5%, a five-year bond offers 1.0%, a 10-year offers 1.8%, and a 30-year offers a yield of 2.5%. When these points are connected on a graph, they exhibit a shape of a normal yield curve. It is the most common type of curve, and tends to indicate a positive economic outlook.

2. Steep Yield Curve

Just as a normal upward-sloping bond yield curve is associated with periods of economic expansion, a steep yield curve is seen by investors as an even stronger sign of economic growth on the horizon — as future yields rise higher to take possible inflation into account.

Another reason that a steep yield curve might indicate periods of stronger growth is that lenders are willing to make short-term loans for relatively low interest rates, which tends to stimulate economic activity and growth.

In late 2008, the yield curve became notably steeper, as the Federal Reserve eased the money supply in response to the financial crisis. A bull market followed that lasted over a decade, from 2009 to 2020.

3. Inverted Yield Curve

Bond yield curves aren’t always normal or upward-sloping. With an inverted yield curve, for instance, the yields for shorter-term debt are higher than the yields for longer-term debt. A quick look at an inverted yield curve will show it curving downward as bond maturities lengthen, which can be a sign of economic contraction.

Since 1955, an inverted yield curve has preceded most, if not all U.S. recessions that have occurred. Usually, the curve inverts about two years before a recession hits, so it can be an early warning sign.

The reason is that, historically, an inverted yield curve can reflect significant shifts in the economy or financial markets. The yield curve might invert because investors expect longer-maturity bonds to offer lower rates in the future, for example. One reason for those lower yields is that often during an economic downturn investors will seek out safe investments in the form of longer-duration bonds, which has the effect of bidding down the yields that those bonds offer.

Inverted yield curves are uncommon, and sometimes decades will pass between them. In October 2007, the yield curve flattened (which can precede an inverted yield curve) precipitating the global financial crisis.

4. Flat and Humped Yield Curves

There are also flat or humped bond yield curves, in which the yields of shorter- and longer-term bonds are very similar. While a flat yield curve is self-explanatory, a humped yield curve is one in which bonds with intermediate maturities may offer slightly higher yields. Those higher yields in the middle give the curve its hump.

Investors see flat or humped yield curves as a sign of a coming shift in the broader economy. They often occur at the end of a period of strong economic growth, as it begins to spur inflation and slow down. But these yield curves don’t always portend a downturn.

Sometimes a flat or humped bond yield curve may appear when the markets expect a central bank, such as the Federal Reserve, to increase interest rates. Flat and humped markets can also emerge during periods of extreme uncertainty, when investors and lenders want similar yields regardless of the duration of the debt.

What Is the Current Yield Curve?

2y10y treasury spread 1977-2022

When investors ask, What is the yield curve?, it’s important to remember that it’s not a fixed market factor, but one that changes daily.

Here’s an example: On October 5, 2021, the three-month Treasury bill paid an interest rate of 0.04%, while the two-year bond paid an interest rate of 0.28%, the five-year bond paid an interest rate of 0.98%, the 10-year bond paid an interest rate of 1.54%, and the 30-year bond paid an interest rate of 2.10%.

The yield curve on that day, with lower short-term yields that rise as the duration of the debt security grows longer, is a good example of a “normal” yield curve.

The difference between the 0.04% yield offered by the three-month T-bill and the 2.10% yield offered by the 30-year bond on Oct. 5, 2021, was 2.06%. At the beginning of August, the three-month Treasury bill paid an interest rate of 0.05%, while the 30-year Treasury bill paid an interest rate of 1.86%. The difference at that time was 1.81%. So it would be accurate to say that the yield curve is normal, and grew somewhat steeper over the course of about two months.

Recommended: What Are Treasury Bills (T-Bills) and How Can You Buy Them?

How Investors Can Interpret the Yield Curve

The yield curve has value for investors as an indicator of a host of economic factors, including inflation, growth, and investor sentiment. While it can’t be used to make exact predictions, the yield curve can help investors anticipate potential economic changes, and weigh their financial choices in light of this. The yield curve can’t necessarily help investors choose individual stocks, but it can be of use when formulating broad investment strategies.

For example, if a flat or inverted yield curve indicates the possibility of an economic slowdown, then it might be a good time to purchase the stocks of companies that have historically done well during economic downturns, such as providers of consumer staples.

But if the yield curve is steep – indicating economic growth and higher interest rates – it may be worth considering adding more luxury-goods makers and entertainment companies to your portfolio.

The yield curve also has ramifications for real estate investors. A flat or inverted curve could warn of a slowdown and a drop for current real estate prices. But a steepening of the yield curve can mean just the opposite for real estate.

Changes to the yield curve have the most profound implications for fixed-income investors, however, as steep yield curves indicate that inflation is on the way. And inflation has the effect of eroding the yields on existing bonds, as the purchasing power of those yields goes down.


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Fixed-income investors also face unique challenges in the rare event of a yield curve inversion. Many investors are accustomed to earning a higher yield in exchange for longer debt maturities, but in an inverted curve, they can no longer find that premium. As a result, many of these investors will opt for shorter-term debt instruments, which offer competitive rates, instead of getting locked into the low rates offered by longer-term bonds.

Recommended: Short-Term vs. Long-Term Investments

The Takeaway

The yield curve may be just a basic graph of the interest rates paid by bonds of different maturities, but historical data shows that the yield curve can also be a useful economic indicator for investors. You don’t want to take it too far and assume the yield curve can predict economic events, but since the yield curve is published every day by the U.S. Treasury, it can capture certain economic shifts in real time.

With a normal yield curve, short-term bond rates are lower than long-term bond rates, and the curve swoops upward — which is a positive economic indicator, suggesting steady economic growth and investor sentiment. When short- and longer-term bond rates are similar, and the yield curve flattens, that can indicate that some economic changes may be afoot. Historically, when the yield curve inverts and short-term bond rates are higher than long-term rates, that can signal a recession might be down the road.

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.

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SoFi Invest®

INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE

SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

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

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

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Are Mutual Funds Good for Retirement?

Are Mutual Funds Good for Retirement?

Mutual funds are one option investors may consider when building a retirement portfolio. A mutual fund represents a pooled investment that can hold a variety of different securities, including stocks and bonds. There are different types of mutual funds investors may choose from, including index funds, target date funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

But how do mutual funds work? Are mutual funds good for retirement or are there drawbacks to investing in them? What should be considered when choosing mutual funds for retirement planning?

Those are all important questions to ask when determining the best ways to build wealth for the long term.

Understanding Mutual Funds

A mutual fund pools money from multiple investors, then uses those funds to invest in a number of various securities. Mutual funds can hold stocks, bonds, short-term debt, and other types of securities.

How a mutual fund is classified or categorized can depend largely on what the fund invests in and what type of investment strategy it follows. For example, index funds follow a passive investment strategy, as these funds attempt to mimic the performance of a stock market benchmark. So a fund that tracks the S&P 500 index would attempt to replicate the returns of the companies included in that index.

Target-date funds utilize a different strategy. These funds automatically adjust their asset allocation based on a target retirement date. So a 2050 target-date fund, for example, may shift more of its asset allocation toward bonds or fixed-income and away from stocks as the year 2050 approaches.

Exchange-traded funds or ETFs trade on an exchange just like stocks. This is a departure from the way mutual funds are typically traded, with the price being set at the end of the trading day.

How Mutual Funds Work

Mutual funds work by allowing investors to purchase shares in the fund. Buying shares makes them part-owner of the fund and its underlying assets. As such, investors have the right to share in the profits of the fund. So if a mutual fund owns dividend-paying stocks, for example, any dividends received would be passed along to the fund’s investors.

Depending on how the fund is structured or what the brokerage selling the fund offers, investors may be able to receive any dividends or interest as cash payments or they may be able to reinvest them. With a dividend reinvestment plan or DRIP, investors can use dividends to purchase additional shares of stock, often bypassing brokerage commission fees in the process.

Investors pay an expense ratio to invest in mutual funds. This reflects the annual cost of owning the fund, expressed as a percentage. Passively managed mutual funds, including index funds and target date funds, tend to have lower expense ratios. Actively managed funds, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive, but the idea is that higher fees may seem justified if the fund produces above-average returns.

Investors can learn more about how a particular mutual fund works, what it invests in, and the fees involved by reading the fund’s prospectus.

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

Mutual Funds for Retirement Planning

Mutual funds are arguably one of the most popular investment options for retirement planning. According to the Investment Company Institute, 52.3% of U.S. households totaling approximately 115.3 million individual investors owned mutual funds in 2022. Older generations such as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers—those who may be planning for retirement—are more likely to have mutual funds, the research found.

So are mutual funds good for retirement? Here are some of the pros and cons to consider.

Pros of Using Mutual Funds for Retirement

Investing in mutual funds for retirement planning could be attractive for investors who want:

•   Convenience

•   Simplified diversification

•   Professional management

•   Reinvestment of dividends

Investing in a mutual fund can offer exposure to a wide range of securities, which can help with diversifying a portfolio. And it may be easier and less costly to purchase a single fund that holds 10 or 20 stocks than to purchase individual shares of each of those companies.

Mutual funds are professionally managed, so investors can rely on the fund manager’s expertise and knowledge. You don’t need to be as hands-on as you would need to be if you were day trading individual stocks. And if the fund includes dividend reinvestment, you can increase your holdings automatically which can make it easier to grow wealth.

Cons of Using Mutual Funds for Retirement

While there are some advantages to using mutual funds for retirement planning, there are also some possible disadvantages, including:

•   Potential for high fees

•   Overweighting risk

•   Under-performance

•   Tax inefficiency

As mentioned, mutual funds and ETFs carry expense ratios. While some index funds may charge as little as 0.15% in fees, there are some actively managed funds with expense ratios well above 1%. If those higher fees are not being offset by higher than expected returns (which is never a guarantee), the fund may not be worth it. Likewise, buying and selling mutual fund shares could get expensive if your brokerage charges steep trading fees.

While mutual funds make it easier to diversify, there’s the risk of overweighting one’s portfolio — owning the same holdings across different funds. For example, if you’re invested in five mutual funds that hold the same stock and the stock tanks, that could drag down your portfolio.

Something else to keep in mind is that a mutual fund is typically only as good as the fund manager behind it. Even the best fund managers don’t always get it right. So it’s possible that a fund’s returns may not live up to your expectations.

On the other hand, you may also have to contend with unexpected tax liability at the end of the year if the fund sells securities at a gain. Just like other investments, mutual funds and ETFs are subject to capital gains tax. Whether you pay short- or long-term capital gains tax rates depends on how long you held a fund before selling it.

Pros

Cons

•   Mutual funds offer convenience for investors

•   It may be easier and more cost-effective to diversify using mutual funds vs. individual securities

•   Investors benefit from the fund manager’s experience and knowledge

•   Dividend reinvestment can make it easier to grow wealth

•   Some mutual funds may carry higher expense ratios than others

•   Overweighting can occur if investors own multiple funds with the same underlying assets

•   Fund performance may not always live up to the investor or fund manager’s expectations

•   Income distributions can result in unexpected tax liability for investors

Investing in Mutual Funds for Retirement Planning

The steps to invest in mutual funds for retirement are simple and straightforward.

1.    Start with an online brokerage account, individual retirement account (IRA) or 401(k). You can also buy a mutual fund directly from the company that created it, but a brokerage account or retirement account is usually the easier way to go.

2.    Set your budget. Decide how much money you can afford to invest in mutual funds. Keep in mind that the minimum investment for a particular fund can vary. One fund may allow you to invest with as little as $100 while another might require $1,000 to $3,000 to get started.

3.    Choose funds. If you already have a brokerage account, this may simply mean logging in, navigating to the section designated for buying funds, selecting the fund or funds and entering in the amount you want to invest.

4.    Submit your order. You may be asked to consent to electronic delivery of the fund’s prospectus when you place your order. If your brokerage charges a fee to purchase mutual funds, that amount will likely be added to the order total. Once you submit your order to purchase mutual funds, it can take a few business days to process.

Determining If Mutual Funds Are Right for You

Whether it makes sense to invest in mutual funds for retirement can depend on your time horizon, risk tolerance, and overall investment goals. If you’re leaning toward mutual funds for retirement planning, here are a few things to consider.

Investment Strategy

When comparing mutual funds, it’s important to understand the overall strategy the fund follows. Whether a fund is actively or passively managed may influence the level of returns generated. The fund’s investment strategy may also determine what level of risk investors are exposed to.

For example, index funds are designed to meet the market. Growth funds, on the other hand, typically have a goal of beating the market. Between the two, growth funds may produce higher returns — but they may also entail more risk for the investor and carry higher expense ratios.

Choosing funds that align with your preferred strategy, risk tolerance, and goals matters. Otherwise, you may be disappointed by your returns or be exposed to more risk than you’re comfortable with.

Cost

Cost is an important consideration when choosing mutual funds for one reason: Higher expense ratios can drain away more of your returns.

When comparing mutual fund expense ratios, it’s important to look at the amount you’ll pay to own the fund each year. But it’s also important to consider what kind of returns the fund has produced historically. A low-fee fund may look like a bargain but if it generates low returns then the cost savings may not be worth much.

It’s possible, however, to find plenty of low-cost index funds that produce solid returns year over year. Likewise, you shouldn’t assume that a fund with a higher expense ratio is guaranteed to outperform a less expensive one.

Fund Holdings

It’s critical to look under the hood, so to speak, to understand what a particular mutual fund owns and how often those assets turn over. This can help you to avoid overweighting your portfolio toward any one stock or sector.

Reading through the prospectus or looking up a stock’s profile online can help you to understand:

•   What individual securities a mutual fund owns

•   Asset allocation for each security in the fund

•   How often securities are bought and sold

If you’re interested in tech stocks, for example, you may want to avoid buying two funds that each have 10% of assets tied up in the same company. Or you may want to choose a fund that has a lower turnover rate to minimize your capital gains tax liability for the year.

💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that you must choose the investments in your IRA? Once you open a new IRA and start saving, you get to decide which mutual funds, ETFs, or other investments you want — it’s totally up to you.

Other Types of Funds for Retirement

Mutual funds, and target date funds in particular, are one of the ways to save for retirement. But there are other options you might consider. Here’s a brief rundown of other types of funds that can be used for retirement planning.

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

A real estate investment trust isn’t a mutual fund, per se. But it is a pooled investment that allows multiple investors to own a share in real estate. REITs pay out 90% of their income to investors as dividends. You may consider a REIT if you’d like to reap the benefits of real estate investing (i.e. diversification, inflationary hedge, etc.) without actually owning property.

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

Exchange-traded funds are another retirement savings option. Investing in ETFs can offer more flexibility compared to mutual funds. They may carry lower expense ratios than traditional funds and be more tax-efficient if they follow a passive investment strategy.

Income Funds

An income fund is a specific type of mutual fund that focuses on generating income for investors. This income can take the form of interest or dividend payments. Income funds can be an attractive option for retirement planning if you’re interested in creating multiple income streams or reinvesting dividends until you’re ready to retire.

Bond Funds

Bond funds focus exclusively on bond holdings. The type of bonds the fund holds can depend on its objective or strategy. For example, you may find bond funds or bond ETFs that only hold corporate bonds or municipal bonds while others offer a mix of different bond types. Bond funds are generally considered fairly safe, and they may help round out the fixed-income portion of your retirement portfolio.

IPO ETFs

An initial public offering or IPO represents the first time a company makes its shares available for trade on a public exchange. Investors can invest in individual IPOs or multiple IPOs through an ETF. IPO ETFs invest in companies that have recently gone public so they offer an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. IPO ETFs are generally considered safer than IPOs, but still, they are relatively risky.

The Takeaway

Mutual funds can be part of a diversified retirement planning strategy. Regardless of whether you choose to invest in mutual funds, ETFs or something else, the key is getting started sooner rather than later. Time can be one of your most valuable resources when investing for retirement.

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).


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

Photo credit: iStock/kali9


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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2022 Best States To Retire in for Tax Purposes

2024 Best States to Retire in for Tax Purposes

Many people consider relocating when they retire to reduce their cost of living and make their savings last longer. When weighing the pros and cons of moving to another state, it’s important to consider the total tax burden there, including state and local taxes on retirement income, property tax, even sales tax. Some areas with a lower tax burden have a higher overall cost of living, which can cancel out any savings.

Below we look at the best states to retire in for taxes and how to tell if moving will be worth it.

Key Points

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•   Start by writing your name as the payee and the amount you want to transfer.

•   Sign the check on the signature line as the payer and write “For Deposit Only” on the back.

•   Deposit the check into your other account through a mobile banking app or at a bank branch.

•   Keep a record of the transaction for your own records and to reconcile your accounts.

Most Tax-Friendly States for Retirement

A number of states exempt Social Security income from state taxes. A smaller number offer a tax break on other retirement income, such as IRAs and 401(k) plans, private pensions, interest, dividends, and capital gains.

These are the 10 tax-friendly states for retirees, according to Kiplinger:

1.    Mississippi

2.    Tennessee

3.    Wyoming

4.    Nevada

5.    Florida

6.    South Dakota

7.    Iowa

8.    Pennsylvania

9.    Alaska

10.    Texas

But before you complete that change of address card, you’ll want to look at the bigger picture.


💡 Quick Tip: How much your home is worth impacts your property taxes, homeowners insurance, and net worth. Online tools can help you easily estimate home value whenever you need it.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best State to Retire In

When choosing where to retire, it’s wise to first consider issues like safety, access to healthcare, distance to friends and family, or living near other people of retirement age.

Make a list of features that are important to you in a retirement locale, and consider whether any of them could indirectly impact your cost of living, such as being close to friends and family.

Then look at the total cost of living in an area: housing, food, transportation, cultural activities, and other expenses. These retirement expenses generally have a bigger impact on one’s lifestyle than taxes.

Finally, to determine whether a state is tax-friendly for retirees, look at the following:

Does the State Tax Social Security?

Generally, Social Security income is subject to federal tax. But some states also tax Social Security above a certain income threshold, while other states offer tax exemptions for individuals in lower tax brackets.

The states that tax some or all Social Security benefits are Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Does the State Tax Pensions?

Many states tax income from pensions, but 14 states do not. These states are: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

And these 13 states do not tax income from 401(k) plans: Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.

Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming have no state income tax.

Recommended: Tax-Friendly States That Don’t Tax Pensions or Social Security Income

Other Taxes That Affect Retirees

When choosing the best state for you to retire in, it’s a good idea to look into sales tax and property taxes too. States that don’t charge sales tax are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. On the other hand, New Hampshire has very high property taxes, reducing the benefit of no sales tax.

Recommended: When to Start Saving for Retirement

States to Avoid When Retiring

Choosing the best state to retire in sometimes means making compromises. If safety and healthcare access are top priorities, for instance, you may not get your ideal weather. But for many retirees, a high cost of living is a deal-breaker.

Here are the 10 states with the highest annual cost of living, according to a 2023 analysis conducted by GOBankingRates:

1.    Hawaii: $124,486

2.    Massachusetts: $100,325

3.    California: $92,829

4.    New York: $90,821

5.    Alaska: $83,995

6.    Maryland: $83,058

7.    Oregon: $81,786

8.    Vermont: $77,904

9.    Connecticut: $77,235

10.    New Hampshire: $76,766

Recommended: Avoid These 12 Retirement Mistakes

The Best States to Retire in 2024

As noted above, the best state to retire in will depend on an individual or couple’s budget, lifestyle, and values. But recent trends may help point you in the right direction.

These are the top 10 states that retirees are moving to, according to United Van Lines’ annual National Movers Study:

1.    Wyoming

2.    Delaware

3.    South Carolina

4.    Florida

5.    Maine

6.    Arizona

7.    New Mexico

8.    South Dakota

9.    West Virginia

10.    Alabama

If cost of living is your sole concern, the following are the 10 least expensive states, according to Bankrate:

1.    West Virginia

2.    Mississippi

3.    Iowa

4.    Alabama

5.    Missouri

6.    Oklahoma

7.    Indiana

8.    Kansas

9.    Wyoming

10.    Arkansas

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States with the Lowest Tax Burden

An area’s total tax burden is the sum of all property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes (which affect the price of goods), and individual income taxes. Below are the states with the lowest total tax burden for retirees.

Rank

State

Total Tax Burden

1 Alaska 5.06%
2 Delaware 6.12%
3 New Hampshire 6.14%
4 Tennessee 6.22%
5 Florida 6.33%
6 Wyoming 6.42%
7 South Dakota 6.69%
8 Montana 6.93%
9 Missouri 7.11%
10 Oklahoma 7.12%

States With the Most Millionaires

One way to measure the overall desirability of an area is the number of millionaires who live there. After all, millionaires can afford to live in states that have high-quality healthcare, nice weather, and diverse cultural offerings. These are not the cheapest states in terms of cost of living or taxes, but their popularity may help non-millionaires reevaluate their must-haves vs. nice-to-haves.

Rank

State

% of Millionaire Households

1 New Jersey 9.76%
2 Maryland 9.72%
3 Connecticut 9.44%
4 Massachusetts 9.38%
5 Hawaii 9.20%
6 District of Columbia 9.12%
7 California 8.51%
8 New Hampshire 8.47%
9 Virginia 8.31%
10 Washington 8.18%
Source: Statista

Does It Make Financial Sense to Relocate in Retirement?

For workers who already live in a state with moderate taxes, near family, and have a lifestyle they enjoy and can afford, there may not be any compelling reason to move. But for those looking to make a change or lower their retirement expenses, it may make financial sense to relocate.

Just remember that housing, food, transportation, and other expenses usually have a bigger impact on one’s retirement lifestyle than taxes.

Pros and Cons of Relocating for Tax Benefits

Lower taxes alone may not be enough to motivate someone to pick up and move house. Other factors should also support the decision.

Pros of Relocating for Tax Benefits

•   Potentially lower cost of living

•   Discovering a community of like-minded retirees

•   Possibly ticking off other boxes on your list

Cons of Relocating for Tax Benefits

•   Other living costs may cancel out the tax benefits

•   Moving costs are high, and the stress can be tough

•   Need to find another home in a seller’s market


💡 Quick Tip: We love a good spreadsheet, but not everyone feels the same. An online budget planner can give you the same insight into your budgeting and spending at a glance, without the extra effort.

The Takeaway

The best state to retire in for tax purposes depends on an individual’s budget, lifestyle, and values. Some states with lower taxes for retirees can have higher housing and transportation costs, canceling out any tax benefit. A financial advisor can help you decide if saving on taxes is worth the expense and trouble of relocating.

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FAQ

What are the 3 states that don’t tax retirement income?

Nine states don’t tax retirement plan income because they have no state income taxes at all: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi and Pennsylvania don’t tax distributions from 401(k) plans, IRAs, or pensions. Alabama and Hawaii don’t tax pensions, but do tax distributions from 401(k) plans and IRAs.

Which state is the best state to live in for tax purposes?

Alaska has the lowest overall tax rates.

Which states do not tax your 401k when you retire?

Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming do not tax 401(k) plans when you retire.


Photo credit: iStock/Jeremy Poland

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Dogs of the Dow: Meaning, How It Works & Examples

Dogs of the Dow: Meaning, How It Works & Examples

What Are the Dogs of the Dow?

The “Dogs of the Dow” is an investment strategy that focuses on large, established companies that offer relatively high dividends. There are different ways to pursue the strategy, but it generally attempts to outperform the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) by investing in the highest dividend-yielding stocks from among the 30 stocks that comprise the DJIA.

The Dow Jones is among the oldest and most popular stock indices in the world, with casual investors often using it as a shorthand for the performance of the broader stock market, and even the global economy. Over time, the Dogs of the Dow tends to perform in line with it.

The Dogs of the Dow strategy became popular in 1991 with the publication of Beating the Dow in which author Michael B. O’Higgins coined the term “Dogs of the Dow.” The strategy itself reflects the assumption – usually true – that blue-chip companies have the stability to continue to pay out their regular dividends regardless of the performance of their stocks.

How the Dogs of the Dow Work

The formula for identifying the companies in the Dogs of the Dow is – by the standards of economics – fairly simple. It comes down to the stock’s dividend yield, calculated by dividing the annual dividend paid by a stock (in dollars) by its stock price. The stocks with the highest dividend yields are the Dogs of the Dow.

Followers of the Dogs of the Dow strategy believe the dividend paid by a company more accurately reflects its average value than the trading price of that company’s stock. Unlike the dividend, the stock price is always in flux.

When the stock prices of companies go down in response to the business cycle, the ratio of those companies’ dividends to their stock prices will go up. In other words, the dividends of those stocks will be disproportionately high in relation to their stock prices. Adherents of the Dogs of the Dow strategy believe the companies with that high dividend-to-stock-price ratio will eventually revert to their mean and should grow faster when the business cycle turns, and their prices increase. In addition to promising performance, the strategy also offers investors regular income in the form of dividend payments.


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

Who Are the Dogs of the Dow in 2023?

The 2023 Dogs of the Dow are led by Verizon with a dividend yield of 6.62%, followed by Dow with a dividend yield of 5.56%. The others are: Intel (5.52%), Walgreens (5.14%), 3M (4.97%), IBM (4.68%), Amgen (3.24%), Cisco (3.19%), Chevron (3.16%), and JP Morgan Chase (2.98%).

The Dogs are always changing, as are the companies that make up the DJIA itself. In 2020, for example, Salesforce.com joined the index – a rare entrant that has never paid its investors a dividend. In the same year, troubled aerospace titan and DJIA member Boeing suspended its dividend.

Between 2022 and 2023, Cisco and JP Morgan Chase joined the list, and Merck and Coca-Cola left the list because their dividend yields dropped.

It’s easy to see that the highest-yielding stocks in the DJIA are always changing. This means that an investor who is pursuing this strategy needs to regularly rebalance their holdings, whether monthly, quarterly or annually.

One reason such rebalancing is necessary is that even though the large stocks in the DJIA typically have lower volatility than some other stocks, their values still change over time. So rebalancing is an important step toward preventing a situation where one stock plays too big of a role in a portfolio’s performance. But with a Dogs of the Dow strategy, rebalancing is even more important, as the companies that fit the description will change on a semi-regular basis.

Investing in the Dogs of the Dow

Different investors view the Dogs of the Dow differently. Some say it’s only the five or 10 DJIA stocks with the highest dividend-to-share-price relationship. But it’s worth noting that not all 30 companies on the DJIA index currently pay dividends.

Investors can buy 10, 15 or all 30 of those stocks through a brokerage account. Or they can invest in the DJIA by purchasing exchange-traded funds (ETFs). There are even Dogs of the Dow ETFs that invest in the dividend-focused strategies similar to Dogs of the Dow approach. But when buying one of these funds, it is important to read their strategies before investing.

Recommended: What Are Dividend ETFs?

Pros and Cons of Dogs of the Dow Strategy

There are several advantages to using a Dogs of the Dow strategy, but there are also some drawbacks for investors to consider.

Dogs of the Dow: Pros

• The strategy invests in Blue Chip companies with a long history of success and industry-leading positions.

• It has a history of outperforming the DJIA.

• Investors receive regular dividend payments.

Dogs of the Dow: Cons

• The IRS taxes dividends paid by the stocks at the income-tax rate rather than the lower capital gains rate.

• It is a value-oriented strategy that may lag during growth markets.

• The strategy isn’t widely diversified.



💡 Quick Tip: When you’re actively investing in stocks, it’s important to ask what types of fees you might have to pay. For example, brokers may charge a flat fee for trading stocks, or require some commission for every trade. Taking the time to manage investment costs can be beneficial over the long term.

Does Dogs of the Dow Still Work?

The Dogs of the Dow struggled during the market upheaval of 2020. As a group of 10, the Dogs lost 13% over the course of the year, well below the 7% increase posted by the DJIA. In 2021, the Dogs were also below the DJIA and the S&P 500. And 2021 was the third straight year the Dogs didn’t do as well as the broader Dow.

However, in 2022, Dogs of the Dow did better than the DIJA with a positive return of 2.2%, while the DJIA had a negative return of -7.0.

Historically, Dogs of the Dow has occasionally done worse than the broader DJIA, notably in the financial crisis of 2008, when it suffered larger losses than the index. But through the 10 years that followed, it outperformed the Dow, though not profoundly.

But even small amounts of outperformance add up over time. A $10,000 investment in the DJIA made at the outset of 2008 would have grown to approximately $17,350 by the end of 2018. The same amount invested in the Dogs of the Dow strategy would have reached $21,420 by the end of 2018, assuming that the investor rebalanced their holdings once per year.

Recommended: What Is the Average Stock Market Return?

The Takeaway

Dogs of the Dow is an investment strategy that uses dividends as a way to spot undervalued Blue Chip stocks, and to benefit from economic cycles.

While investors may be interested in exploring the Dogs of the Dow, the strategy does have pros and cons. Investors should weigh the benefits and drawbacks carefully before using it.

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Photo credit: iStock/Helin Loik-Tomson


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.

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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.

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