I Make $200,000 a Year, How Much House Can I Afford?

An income of $200,000 a year puts you in a good position to afford a home priced at $600,000. But whether you should aim higher or lower than this in your house hunt will depend on your debt, how much you’ve saved for a down payment, and current interest rates, among other factors. Read on for a breakdown of the variables that could affect how much of a mortgage you can manage.

What Kind of House Can I Afford with $200,000 a Year?

Not so very long ago, if you’d asked someone: “If I make $200,000 a year, how much house can I afford?” they probably would have said, “A mansion!” Of course, that isn’t necessarily true anymore. But that income still can get you a pretty sweet home in most places.

You can get an idea of how much house you can afford on a $200,000 income by using an online mortgage calculator or by prequalifying with one or more lenders for a home mortgage loan. Or you can run the numbers yourself using a calculation like the 28/36 rule, which says your mortgage payment shouldn’t be more than 28% of your monthly gross income, and your total monthly debt — including your mortgage payment — shouldn’t be more than 36% of your income. Let’s take a closer look at what could affect how much you can borrow and what your payments might be.

💡 Quick Tip: Not to be confused with prequalification, preapproval involves a longer application, documentation, and hard credit pulls. Ideally, you want to keep your applications for preapproval to within the same 14- to 45-day period, since many hard credit pulls outside the given time period can adversely affect your credit score, which in turn affects the mortgage terms you’ll be offered.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

Understanding Debt-to-Income Ratio

You can expect lenders to look carefully at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) — the second number in the 28/36 rule — when they’re deciding how much mortgage you can afford. It tells them how you’re handling the debt you already have and if you can manage more.

Your DTI ratio is calculated by dividing your total monthly debt payments by your monthly gross income. Mortgage lenders generally look for a DTI ratio of 36% or less; but depending on the lender and the type of home loan you’re hoping to get, you may be able to qualify with a DTI up to 43% or even 50%.

Typically, the lower your risk, the better your borrowing options. So if you want the best loan amount, rate, and terms, you’ll want to keep an eye on this number.

Your Down Payment Also Can Affect Costs

You may not need a hefty down payment to qualify for some home loans. But the more you can comfortably put down on a house, the less you’ll have to borrow, which can help lower your monthly payments. And if you put down at least 20%, you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which will further reduce your payments.

Other Factors that Can Affect Home Affordability

Your income, debt, and down payment are all primary factors in determining how much house you can afford. But there are other things that also can affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage that’s manageable, including:

Interest Rates

A lower mortgage interest rate can significantly lower your monthly payment — and the amount you’ll pay for your home over time. While interest rates are relatively consistent across the market, lenders do compete for customers, so you may benefit from shopping around. You also can help your chances of qualifying for a better rate by making sure your finances are in good shape and you have a solid credit score.

Loan Term

The most common mortgage term is 30 years, but different loan lengths are available depending on the type of mortgage you choose — and each has pros and cons. If you’re deciding between a 15-year vs. a 30-year mortgage, for example, the shorter term may offer a less expensive interest rate, which could save you money over the life of your loan. But the 30-year term will likely have lower monthly payments, which may be a better fit for your budget.

Homeowners Insurance

Understanding how to buy homeowners insurance and comparing the policies available may help you minimize this expense. Lenders require borrowers to have an adequate amount of homeowners insurance, and if you live in a state that’s considered “high risk,” the cost of coverage could be significant.

HOA Fees

If you’re buying in a community with lots of amenities, homeowners association (HOA) dues could add a substantial amount to your monthly home costs. (The monthly average is about $250, but fees can go as high as $2,500 or more.)

Property Taxes

Property taxes, which are generally based on the assessed value of a home, are often included in a borrower’s monthly mortgage payment, so it’s important to include this amount when you calculate home affordability. (Check your county’s website for the correct number.)


If you’re a fan of real estate shows like House Hunters, you already know the city or even the particular neighborhood you want to live in can be a big factor in determining how much house you can afford. The overall cost of living can vary by state, and costs are also typically higher in cities vs. rural areas. If you aren’t willing to compromise on location, you may have to increase your housing budget to buy in the area you want.

Recommended: Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S.

How to Afford More House with Down Payment Assistance

If you have the means to manage a higher monthly payment but you need some help with your down payment, there are state and federal down payment assistance programs that can help.

Many programs set limits on how much an eligible home can cost, or on the homebuyer’s income. But it’s worth checking out what’s available to you — especially if you live in a state with higher home values. In California, for example, where homes can be expensive, a first-time homebuyer with a $200,000 income still can qualify for assistance in some counties.

Home Affordability Examples

With a home affordability calculator, you can get a basic idea of how much house you can afford by plugging in some basic information about your income, savings, debt, and the home you hope to buy. Here are some hypothetical examples:

Example #1: Saver with a Little Debt

Annual income: $200,000

Amount available for down payment: $80,000

Monthly debt: $650

Mortgage rate: 6.5%

Property tax rate: 1.125%

House budget: $700,000

Example #2: Less Debt, But Also Less Savings

Gross annual income: $200,000

Amount available for down payment: $20,000

Monthly debt: $200

Mortgage rate: 6.5

Property tax rate: 1.125%

House budget: $605,000

How You Can Calculate How Much House You Can Afford

Along with using an online calculator to figure out how much house you might be able to afford on a $200,000 income, you also can run the numbers on your own. Some different calculations include:

The 28/36 Rule

We already covered the 28/36 rule, which combines two factors that lenders typically look at to determine home affordability: income and debt. The first number sets a limit of 28% of gross income as a homebuyer’s maximum total mortgage payment, including principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. The second number limits the mortgage payment plus any other debts to no more than 36% of gross income.

Here’s an example: If your gross annual income is $200,000, that’s $16,666 per month. So with the 28/36 rule, you could aim for a monthly mortgage payment of about $4,666—as long as your total debt (including car payments, credit cards, etc.) isn’t more than $6,000.

The 35/45 Model

Another DIY calculation is the 35/45 method, which recommends spending no more than 35% of your gross income on your mortgage and debt, and no more than 45% of your after-tax income on your mortgage and debt.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your gross monthly income is $16,666 and your after-tax income is about $13,000. In this scenario, you might spend between $5,833 and $5,850 per month on your debt payments and mortgage combined. This calculation gives you a bit more breathing room with your mortgage payment, as long as you aren’t carrying too much debt.

The 25% After-Tax Rule

If you’re worried about overspending, or you have other goals you’re working toward, this method will give you a more conservative result. With this calculation, your target is to spend no more than 25% of your after-tax income on your mortgage. Let’s say you make $13,000 a month after taxes. With this method, you would plan to spend $3,250 on your mortgage payments.

Keep in mind that these equations can only give you a rough idea of how much you can spend. When you want to be more certain about the overall price tag and monthly payments you can afford, it helps to go through the mortgage preapproval process.

Recommended: 2024 Home Loan Help Center

How Your Monthly Payment Affects Affordability

Some eager homebuyers can tend to put most of their focus on a home’s listing price or the interest rate. But it’s how those factors and others combine to raise or lower the monthly payment that can ultimately determine whether a buyer can afford the home or not.

Before signing on the dotted line, it’s a good idea to run the numbers on an online mortgage calculator to be confident you can stay on track.

If you do find yourself struggling a bit — perhaps because your income changes or an unexpected life event occurs — refinancing to a new loan with a lower payment may be an option. (Especially if interest rates drop.) But how soon you can refinance may depend on the type of loan you have.

Types of Home Loans Available to $200,000 Households

A $200,000 income can go a long way toward helping a buyer qualify for certain mortgage options, such as a conventional or jumbo loan. But a higher salary also could make you ineligible for a government-backed loan that has income limits. There also may be limits on the purchase price and type of property, depending on the mortgage you get.

Here are a few of the options that may be available to $200,000-income households:

Conventional Loans This loan is issued by a private lender, such as a bank, credit union, or other financial institution.

FHA loans Insured by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans are a good resource for borrowers with a lower credit score or little money available for a down payment. There are no limits on how much you can earn and get an FHA loan, but there may be a limit on how much you can borrow depending on where you plan to reside.

VA loans A loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is an excellent option for eligible members of the U.S. military and surviving spouses. There are no income limits on VA loans, and there are no longer standard loan limits on VA direct or VA-backed home loans.

USDA loans These loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are meant to help moderate- to low-income borrowers buy homes in eligible (typically rural) areas. Loan limits and income limits are based on the home’s location.

💡 Quick Tip: Keep in mind that FHA home loans are available for your primary residence only. Investment properties and vacation homes are not eligible.

The Takeaway

There are several variables that factor into how much home you can afford. Besides your income, lenders will look at your credit, your debt, and your down payment to determine how much you can borrow. To find a loan and monthly payment that’s a good fit for you, it’s a good idea to research and compare different loan types and amounts. And, if you have questions, you can seek advice from a qualified mortgage professional.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


Is $200,000 a good salary for a single person?

According to the Census Bureau, only 11.5% of U.S. households earned $200,000 or more in 2022. So, if you’re earning $200,000 all on your own, you could say you’re doing pretty well.

What is a comfortable income for a single person?

“Comfortable” is a subjective term and can vary from one person to the next. For some people comfortable means being able to buy what they want. For others it means crafting and following a careful budget so that they know where their money is going each month.

What is a livable wage in 2024?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator lists living costs across the U.S., and its “livable wage” varies widely based on family size and location. For a single person with no children in Napa County, California, for instance, the living wage is $21.62 per hour. In Boone County, Nebraska, it’s $14.93 per hour.

What salary is considered rich for a single person?

The top 5% of earners made, on average, $335,891 in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Economic Policy Institute. (If you feel as though you have to be in the top 1% to be “rich,” you’d have to earn $819,324 or more.)

Photo credit: iStock/YvanDube

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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.

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

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

¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.


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How Soon Can You Refinance Student Loans?

Typically, student loan borrowers cannot refinance their debt until they graduate or withdraw from school. At that point, federal student loans and the majority of private student loans have a grace period, so it can make sense to refinance right before the grace period ends.

Depending on your financial situation, the goal of refinancing may be to snag a lower interest rate and/or have lower monthly payments. Doing so can alleviate some of the stress you may feel when repaying your debt. In this guide, you’ll learn when you can refinance and what options are available, plus the potential benefits and downsides of each.

What Do Your Current Loans Look Like?

Before deciding whether or not to refinance your student loans, you need to know where your loans currently stand. Look at the loan servicers, loan amounts, interest rates, and terms for all loans before making a decision.

Contact Info for Most Federal Student Loans

The government assigns your loan to a loan servicer after it is paid out. To find your loan servicer, visit your account dashboard on studentaid.gov, find the “My Aid” section, and choose “View loan servicer details.” You can also call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243.

Loans Not Owned by the Department of Education

Here’s how to get in touch:

•   If you have Federal Family Education Loan Program loans that are not held by the government, contact your servicer for details. Look for the most recent communication from the entity sending you bills.

•   If you have a Federal Perkins Loan that is not owned by the Education Department, contact the school where you received the loan for details. Your school may be the servicer for your loan.

•   If you have Health Education Assistance Loan Program loans and need to find your loan servicer, look for the most recent communication from the entity sending you bills.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are not given by the government, but rather banks, credit unions, and online lenders. You’ll need to find your specific lender or servicer in order to find out your loan information.

Can You Refinance Student Loans While Still in School?

You may be able to refinance your student loans while still in school with certain lenders, but doing so may not make the most sense for your situation.

If you’re worried about interest accruing on your unsubsidized federal loans and/or private student loans while in school, you can most certainly make interest-only payments on them in order to keep the interest from capitalizing.

One important note: With federal student loans, any payments you make while still in school or during the grace period will not count as a qualifying payment toward loan forgiveness, if you plan on using that.

💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

Which Loans Can Be Refinanced While Enrolled?

You can refinance any type of student loan while enrolled in school, assuming that the lender allows it. If you’re still in school and want to refinance, a lender will want to make sure you have a job or job offer on the table, are possibly in your last year of school, and have a solid credit profile. You could also consider refinancing your student loans with a cosigner if you do not meet the lender’s requirements on your own.

A couple of important points if you are considering refinancing federal student loans with a private lender:

•   Doing so means you will forfeit federal benefits and protections, such as forbearance and forgiveness, among others.

•   If you refinance for an extended term, you may have a lower monthly payment but pay more interest over the life of the loan. This may or may not suit your financial needs and goals, so consider your options carefully.

Which Loans Can’t Be Refinanced While Enrolled?

If you find a lender willing to refinance your student loans while still in school, they most likely won’t exclude a certain type of loan. However, it is best not to refinance federal student loans while enrolled. Federal Subsidized Loans, for example, do not start earning interest until after the grace period is over. Since you aren’t paying anything in interest, it doesn’t make sense to refinance and have to start paying interest on your loans immediately.

If you plan on using federal benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans or student loan forgiveness, refinancing student loans could be a bad idea. Refinancing gives you a new loan with a new private lender, thereby forfeiting your eligibility to federal benefits and protections, as noted above.

Is It Worth Refinancing Only Some of Your Loans?

Yes, it can be worth refinancing only some of your loans. The student loans you may want to focus on refinancing may include ones that have a variable rate (and you prefer a fixed rate), ones with a relatively high interest rate, or ones where you’ve had a less-than-ideal relationship with the servicer and are looking for a new experience.

When you might want to think twice about refinancing:

•   If you have federal loans and plan on using an income-based repayment plan, for example, it makes sense not to include those loans in the refinance.

•   If you have a low, fixed interest rate currently, you should probably keep those loans as is. The main reason to refinance is to secure a lower interest rate or a lower payment. Keep in mind, though, that by lowering your payment, you typically are extending your term. This can mean that you end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

Pros and Cons of Refinancing Student Loans

Pros Cons

•   Possibly lower your monthly payment

•   Possibly lower your interest rate

•   Shorten or lengthen the loan term

•   Switch from variable to fixed interest rate, or vice versa

•   Combine multiple loans into one

•   Lose access to federal benefits and protections

•   Lose access to remaining grace periods

•   May be difficult to qualify

•   May end up paying more in interest if you lengthen the term

Examples of Refinancing Before Earning a Degree

As stated above, there are some lenders that may allow you to refinance before you graduate or withdraw from school. These lenders may currently include Citizens Bank, Discover, RISLA, and Earnest.

Graduate students are also eligible to refinance their undergraduate student loans, assuming they meet the lender’s requirements or use a cosigner. Parents with Parent PLUS Loans are also typically allowed to refinance their loans prior to their child graduating. Rules will vary by lender, so make sure to do your research and choose a lender that will work with your unique situation.

💡 Quick Tip: Federal parent PLUS loans might be a good candidate for refinancing to a lower rate.

Alternatives to Refinancing

If refinancing your student loans isn’t the right option for you, there are alternatives to refinancing you can explore.

•   The main alternative is student loan consolidation, which combines your federal student loans into one loan with one monthly payment. The main difference between consolidation and refinancing is the interest rate on a federal loan consolidation is the weighted average of the rates of the loans you are consolidating, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percentage.

•   You typically won’t save on interest, but you can lower your monthly payment by extending the loan term. Doing this, however, means you’ll probably pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

•   Student loan refinancing refers to paying off current loans with a new loan from a private lender, preferably with a lower rate. This rate is not the weighted average of the loans, but rather is based on current market rates, your credit profile, and your debt-to-income ratio.

•   Other alternatives to refinancing include making interest-only payments while still enrolled in school or requesting a student loan forbearance if you’re struggling to make your payments. Forbearance means you can reduce or pause payments for a designated period of time.

You’ll want to know all your student loan repayment options — and the pros and cons of consolidating or refinancing your loans, prior to making a decision.

A calculator tool for student loan refinancing can come in handy when estimating savings, both monthly and over the life of your loan.

Weighing Perks and Interest Rates

Before deciding whether refinancing is right for you, it’s important to again highlight this important point: If you refinance your federal student loans with a private lender, those loans will no longer be eligible for programs like income-driven repayment plans, federal forbearance, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

But if you can get a lower interest rate, refinancing may be a good fit. Most refinancing lenders offer loan terms of five to 20 years. Shortening or elongating your loan term can affect your monthly payment and the total cost over the life of your loan.

For some borrowers, lengthening the term and lowering the monthly payment will be a valuable option, even though it can mean paying more interest over the life of the loan. Only you can decide if this kind of refinancing makes sense for your personal finances.

The Takeaway

When can you refinance student loans? As soon as you establish a financial foundation or bring a solid cosigner aboard. Can you refinance your student loans while in school? Yes, however, not all lenders offer this and it may not make sense for your situation. It’s also important to understand the implications of refinancing federal student loans with a private lender. If you do not plan on using federal benefits and protections and are comfortable with the possibility of paying more interest over the loan’s term, it might be a move worth considering.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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.

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.


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What Is a Liquid Certificate of Deposit?

Guide to Liquid Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

If you’re in search of a low-risk way to grow your money, a liquid certificate of deposit (CD) might be worth a closer look. A liquid CD gives you a fixed, guaranteed rate of interest for a specific term, but unlike standard CDs, you don’t pay a penalty if you withdraw the funds before the maturity date.

Granted, the returns you earn on a liquid CD may not compete with stock market investments, but knowing that your money is earning interest and likely won’t incur any losses can be powerful benefits.
Here, you’ll learn more about liquid CDs, including:

•   What a liquid CD is

•   How to withdraw money from a liquid CD

•   The pros and cons of liquid CDs

•   Alternatives to liquid CDs.

What Is a Liquid Certificate of Deposit?

Before you think about investing in a CD, here’s a look at definitions:

•   A certificate of deposit, or CD, is a savings vehicle that usually gives you a bit of interest with virtually no risk, provided you keep the money in place for a certain term. If, however, you withdraw funds before the CD matures (or reaches the end of its term), you are usually penalized. You will likely lose some or all of the interest earned and perhaps even a bit of the principal. In other words, are certificates of deposit liquid? Usually not.

•   A liquid certificate of deposit, on the other hand, gives you flexibility. It allows the account holder to withdraw money from their account prior to the maturity date without incurring penalties. This means you can access funds in the CD should you need them without penalty. However, the rates for liquid CDs tend to be lower than other kinds of CDs.

💡 Quick Tip: Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts do, and online banks are more likely than brick-and-mortar banks to offer you the best rates.

Understanding a Liquid CD

You may be wondering, “What are liquid assets?” In the realm of finance, the concept of “liquid” means that an asset can quickly be converted to cash. A liquid CD is a time-bound deposit account where you can earn interest for a specific period of time. Compared to traditional CD’s however, liquid CDs will not charge you early withdrawal penalties. This means you can easily liquidate (turn into cash) your CD without taking a hit in terms of its value.

As noted above, there’s a “but” to this proposition, which you may hear referred to as no-penalty CDs: Liquid CDs typically pay less than traditional CDs. Depending on which financial institution you go to, these products can offer various terms, either as little as a few months or up to several years or longer. Your fixed interest rate will vary according to the length of the term you’ve chosen. Typically, the longer you hold your money in the liquid CD, the higher the rate of return.

What can be a big plus about CD rates is that they are locked in during the full term. This means even if interest rates decrease, your rate would not change. Some financial institutions may require a minimum deposit for these CDs, and they can be significantly higher than traditional CDs; some are at the $10,000 and up level. What’s more, the minimum deposit may go up if you are seeking a higher interest rate, while others don’t have a minimum deposit requirement at all.

How Do You Withdraw Money From a Liquid CD?

If you have decided that you need to withdraw from your liquid CD, here’s what usually happens:

•   Check with your bank about how long it will take to process a withdrawal and whether you need to withdraw a certain percentage at a time. (Some banks may require you to close the account entirely.)

•   When ready, notify your bank of your withdrawal.

•   You will likely have to wait about a week after opening the liquid CD before you can start withdrawing.

•   Wait for your funds. Withdrawal is likely not as quick as withdrawing funds from a checking or savings account; your financial institution might require anywhere from a week to a month to process the transaction.

Recommended: What Happens If a Direct Deposit Goes to a Closed Account?

Liquid CD: Real World Example

Once you have decided a no-penalty CD is right for you, you will need to go to a bank or credit union that offers this account. Once you’ve opened an account, you have to fund it.

How it grows will depend on the principal, your APY (annual percentage yield), and how often the CD compounds the interest, which could be, say, daily or monthly.

•   If you invested $10,000 in a liquid CD with a three-year at a rate of 5.30%, at the end of the three-year period with interest compounded monthly, you will have a total balance of about $11,719.28.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

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Pros of a Liquid CD

When evaluating liquid CDs, it’s worthwhile to review the benefits of these accounts. Some of the key upsides are:

•   Liquidity. You can access and withdraw your funds prior to the term’s end. Perhaps you’re having an emergency that requires cash, or you decide to move around your money to better meet your financial goals. It’s possible!

•   No penalties. If you dip into the account before it matures, you won’t be assessed a fee.

•   Security. Liquid CDs are safe investments. These accounts are federally insured up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership category, per insured institution. You’ll know your money is protected when you open a liquid CD with a bank or credit union. Even in the very rare situation of a bank failure, you’re covered as noted.

•   Guaranteed returns. When you start a liquid CD account, you usually know the interest rate upfront. It may not be stratospheric, but it’s a sure thing.

Cons of a Liquid CD

Now that we’ve explored the good things about a liquid CD, we need to give equal time to the potential downsides:

•   Lower rate of return. The interest rates are significantly lower compared to certificate of deposit rates.

•   Withdrawal rules. Yes, these accounts are more accessible, but after your deposit has been in place for a week, your withdrawal guidelines may be quite specific. For instance, you may have to remove all your funds if you want to make a withdrawal, or the amount might be limited to a certain percentage that doesn’t suit your needs. Check before starting a liquid CD investment.

•   Tax implications. Earnings on your liquid CD will be taxed at your federal rate, which is something to keep in mind as that will take your return down a notch.

Recommended: How to Automate Your Personal Finances

Alternatives to a Liquid CD

If the idea of a liquid CD doesn’t sound like an appealing low-risk investment option, there are alternatives to also consider.

Traditional CDs

Traditional certificates of deposit require you to stow your money away for a certain period of time. In exchange, you receive a return at the end of that period. The catch is, you are not able to withdraw your funds during this holding period. If you have a financial emergency, for example, and need the money from your CD, you will receive penalties for withdrawing your cash before the period of maturity.

However, this might be a gamble you are willing to take, especially if you have a nice, healthy emergency fund set aside. You’ll earn a better rate of return than with a liquid CD.


CD laddering usually involves opening CDs of different term lengths. This strategy allows you to invest long-term CDs which provide higher rates of return, while having the ability to access your funds through a shorter-term CD maturing.

Money Market Account

Another CD alternative is a money market account, which is similar to a savings account with some added benefits. Money market accounts typically require minimum balances and offer rates comparable to savings accounts, which can change over time. While the rates may be lower than a CD, money market accounts typically allow you to withdraw and transfer your money six times per month or more.

Emergency Fund

An emergency fund, or a rainy-day fund, is a savings account that should only be used in times of financial emergencies or unexpected expenses. Depending on your financial position, you can have an emergency fund in a regular savings account, money market account, CD, or liquid CD. It depends on how much you plan to access your emergency fund and how much interest you want to earn in the account.

High-Yield Savings Account

A high-yield savings account can offer a competitive rate of interest, depending on the financial institution offering it (online banks tend to pay more than traditional ones). And you’ll have more liquidity than a CD because you can deposit and withdraw from the account more frequently, though the specifics may vary with each bank. If you want easy access to your funds plus interest, a high-yield bank account may be a good option.

The Takeaway

Liquid CDs are a financial product that offers the safety and guaranteed return of a traditional CD with the bonus of not being penalized if you make an early withdrawal. For those who are comfortable locking their money into a CD but worry an emergency or other need might pop up, this accessibility can be very attractive. Worth noting: Expect lower interest rates from a liquid CD than a standard one. Alternatives to a liquid CD can include a high-yield savings account.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

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


Are CDs liquid investments?

Traditional CDs are not liquid investments. Funds held in a CD cannot be accessed until the account term is reached. If you need to withdraw money from your CD prior to its maturity date, you will have to pay a penalty. A liquid CD, however, offers flexibility to withdraw money from your account prior to its term date without the usual fees.

What is a non-penalty CD?

A non-penalty CD, also known as a liquid CD, is a time deposit that offers interest on your money. However, the rate is usually somewhat lower than the rate for a typical CD (the kind with penalties). The longer the term you choose for your liquid CD, the more you usually can earn.

How much is the penalty for early withdrawal from a CD?

Each financial institution has its own way of calculating this, but it usually involves losing some of all of the interest you have accrued. If you have a two-year traditional CD and withdraw funds early, the fee could vary considerably; a recent search found anywhere from two months’ to a year’s’ worth of interest. If you have a liquid or no-penalty CD, you will of course avoid these fees.

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SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.

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.

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


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A Complete Guide to Private Student Loans

The average cost of college in the U.S. is $36,436 per year, including books, supplies, and daily living expenses, according to the Education Data Initiative. While grants and scholarships can significantly lower your out-of-pocket expenses, they typically don’t cover the full cost of your college education.

Student loans, both federal and private, can help bridge this gap in financial aid to allow you to attend the college of your choice. Federal student loans are funded by the government. They tend to offer the best rates and terms but come with borrowing limits. If you still have gaps in funding, you can turn to private student loans.

Private student loans are funded by banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Private lenders set their own eligibility criteria, and interest rates generally depend on a borrower’s creditworthiness. While private student loans don’t offer all the same borrower protections as federal loans, they can still be a smart choice to help you pay for educational expenses, as long as you do your research.

This guide offers private student loan basics, including what they are, how they work, their pros and cons, and how to apply for one.

What are Private Student Loans?

Often when people talk about student loans, they’re referring to federal student loans, which are provided by the federal government. Private student loans, by contrast, are given out by individual banks and lenders. Students typically turn to private student loans when federal loans won’t cover all of their costs.

You can use the money from a private school loan to pay for expenses like tuition, fees, housing, books, and supplies. Interest rates for private student loans may be variable or fixed and are set by the lender. Repayment terms can be anywhere from five to 20 years.

Unlike federal student loans, borrowers must pass a credit check to qualify for private student loans. Since most college students don’t have enough credit history to take out a large loan, a cosigner is often required.

💡 Quick Tip: Fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee SoFi private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

How Do Private Student Loans Work?

How Private Student Loans Work

Loan amounts, interest rates, repayment terms, and eligibility requirements for undergraduate private student loans vary by individual lenders. If you’re in the market for a private student loan, it’s key to shop around and compare your options to find the best fit.

To get a private student loan, you need to file an application directly with your lender of choice. Based on the information you submit, the lender will determine whether or not you are approved and, if so, what rates and terms you qualify for.

If you’re approved, the loan proceeds will typically be disbursed directly to your university. Your school will apply that money to tuition, fees, room and board and any other necessary expenses. If there are funds left over, the money will be given for you to use toward other education-related expenses, such as textbooks and supplies.

Repayment policies vary by lender but typically you aren’t required to make payments while you’re attending school. Some lenders will allow you to defer payments until six months after you graduate. However, interest typically begins accruing as soon as the loan is dispersed. Similar to unsubsidized federal student loans, the interest that accrues while you’re in school is added to your loan balance.

The Pros and Cons of Private Student Loans

Pros of Private Student Loans

Cons of Private Student Loans

Apply any time of the year May require a cosigner
Higher loan amounts Less flexible repayment options
Choice of fixed or variable rates No loan forgiveness programs
Quick application process Can lead to over-borrowing
Statute of limitations on collection Not always discharged in death or disability
Options for international students No federal subsidy

If federal financial aid — including grants, work-study, and federal student loans — isn’t enough to cover the full cost of college, private student loans can fill in any gaps. Just keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the same borrower protections that come with federal student loans. Before taking out a private student loan, it’s a good idea to fully understand their pros and cons.

The Benefits of Private Student Loans

Here’s a look at some of the advantages that come with private student loans.

Apply Any Time of the Year

Unlike federal student loans, which have application deadlines, you can apply for private student loans any time of the year. As a result, they can be helpful if you’re facing a mid-year funding shortfall or if your college expenses go up unexpectedly.

Higher Loan Amounts

Federal loans have annual maximums. For example, a first year undergraduate can borrow up to $5,500. The aggregate max you can borrow from the government for your entire undergraduate education is $31,000. Private student loan limits vary with each lender, but you can typically borrow up to the full cost of attendance minus any financial aid received.

Choice of Fixed or Variable Interest Rates

Federal loans only offer fixed-rate loans, while private lenders usually give you a choice between fixed or variable interest rates. Fixed rates remain the same over the life of the loans, whereas variable rates can change throughout the loan term, depending on benchmark rates.

Variable-rate loans usually have lower starting interest rates than fixed-rate loans. If you can afford to pay off your student loans quickly, you might pay less interest with a variable-rate loan from a private lender than a fixed-rate federal loan.

Quick Application Process

While federal student loans require borrowers to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, private student loans do not. You can apply for most private student loans online in just a few minutes without providing nearly as much information. In some cases, you can get a lending decision within 72 hours. By comparison, it typically takes three to five days for the government to process the FAFSA if you submit electronically, and seven to 10 days if you mail in the form.

Statute of Limitations

While you never want to default on your student loans (since it can cause significant damage to your credit), it can be nice to know that private student loans come with a statute of limitations. This is a set period of time that lenders have to take you to court to recoup the debt after you default. The time frame varies by state, but it can range anywhere from three to 10 years. After that period ends, lenders have limited options to collect from you.

However, that’s not the case with federal student loans. You must eventually repay your loans, and the government can even garnish your wages and tax refunds until you do.

Options for International Students

International students typically don’t qualify for federal financial aid, including federal student loans. Some private lenders, however, will provide student loans to non-U.S. citizens who meet specific criteria, such as attending an eligible college on at least a half-time basis, having a valid student visa, and/or adding a U.S. citizen as a cosigner.

When we say no fees we mean it.
No origination fees and late fees
when you take out a student loan with SoFi.

The Disadvantages of Private Student Loans

Private student loans also have some downsides. Here are some to keep in mind.

Requires a Cosigner

Most high school and college students don’t make enough income or have a strong credit history to qualify for private student loans on their own. Though some lenders will take grades and income potential into consideration, most students need a cosigner to qualify for a private student loan. Your cosigner is legally responsible for your student debt, and any missed payments can negatively affect their credit. If you can’t repay your loans, your cosigner is responsible for the entire amount.

The good news is that some private student loans allow for a cosigner release.That means that after you make a certain number of on-time payments, you can apply to have the cosigner removed from the loan.

Less Flexible Repayment Options

Federal student loans offer several different types of repayment plans, including Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plans, which calculate your monthly payment as a percentage of your income. With the new Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan, for example, your monthly payments are generally equal to 5% of your discretionary income (which is the extra income you have after paying for basic necessities).

With private student loans, on the other hand, usually the only way to reduce your monthly payment is to refinance the loan to a lower interest rate, a longer repayment term, or both.

No Loan Forgiveness Programs

Federal student loans come with a few different forgiveness programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), IDR forgiveness. and Teacher Loan Forgiveness. While these programs have strict eligibility requirements, they can help many low-income borrowers. Private lenders, however, generally don’t offer programs that forgive your debt after meeting certain requirements.

If you’re experiencing financial hardship, however. the lender may agree to temporarily lower your payments, waive a payment, or shift to interest-only payments.

Can Lead to Over-Borrowing

Private loans typically allow you to borrow up to 100% of your cost of attendance, minus other aid you’ve already received. Just because you can borrow that much, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Borrowing the maximum incurs more interest over the duration of your loans and increases your payments, which can make repayment more difficult.

Not Always Discharged in Death or Disability

Federal loans are discharged if the borrower passes away, which means that the debt will be cleared and won’t count against the borrower’s estate. With private student loans, however, lenders can try to collect any outstanding loan amounts against a borrower’s estate in the event of death. They can’t, however, try to collect from a relative who did not cosign the debt.

Also keep in mind that your private loan could go into automatic default if your cosigner passes away, even if you’ve been making your payments on time.

No Federal Subsidy

Subsidized federal student loans, awarded based on financial need, come with an interest subsidy, meaning the government pays your interest while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate. This can add up to a significant savings.

Subsidies don’t exist with private student loans. Interest accrues from day one; in some cases, you might need to make interest payments while still in school. If you don’t pay the interest as you go, it’s added to your debt as capitalized interest when you finish school. (This is also the case with federal unsubsidized loans.)

Federal vs Private Student Loans

Here’s a look at the key differences between federal vs. private student loans.

Federal Student Loans vs. Private Student Loans

The Application Process

Federal student loans are awarded as a part of a student’s financial aid package. In order to apply for federal student loans, students must fill out the FAFSA each year. No credit check is needed to qualify.

To apply for private student loans, students need to fill out an application directly with their preferred lender. Application requirements may vary depending on the lender. A credit check is typically required.

Recommended: Financial Aid vs Student Loans

Interest Rates

The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress. Once you’ve taken out a federal loan, your interest rate is locked for the life of the loan.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the interest rate on Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans for undergraduates is 5.50%, the rate on Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students is 7.05%, and the rate on Direct PLUS loans for graduate students, professional students, and parents is 8.05%. The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress.

Private lenders, on the other hand, are free to set interest rates. Rates may be fixed or variable and depend on several factors, including your (or your cosigner’s) credit score, loan amount, and chosen repayment term. Private student loan rates range anywhere from 2.99% to 14.96% APR for fixed-rate loans and 2.99% to 14.86% APR for variable-rate loans.

Repayment Plans

Borrowers with federal student loans can select from several different federal repayment plans , including income-driven repayment plans. You can defer payments while enrolled at least half-time and immediately after graduation

Repayment plans for private loans are set by the individual lender. Many private student loan lenders allow you to defer payments during school and for six months after graduation. They also have a variety of repayment terms, often ranging from five to 20 years.

Options for Deferment or Forbearance

Federal student loan borrowers can apply for deferment or forbearance if they encounter financial difficulties while they are repaying their loans. These options allow borrowers to pause their loan payments (interest, however, will typically continue to accrue).

Some private lenders may offer options for borrowers who are facing financial difficulties, including short periods of deferment or forbearance. Some also offer unemployment protection, which allows qualifying borrowers who have lost their job through no fault of their own to modify payments on their student loans.

Loan Forgiveness

Borrowers with federal student loans might be able to pursue loan forgiveness through federal programs such as PSLF or Teacher Loan Forgiveness, or after paying down their balances on an IDR plan for a certain period of time.

Since private student loans aren’t controlled by the government, they are not eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs. Though private lenders will often work with borrowers to avoid default, private student loans are rarely forgiven. Generally, it only happens if the borrower becomes permanently disabled or dies.

Should You Consider Private Student Loans?

There are many different types of student loans. It’s generally a good idea to maximize federal student loans before turning to private student loans. That way, you’ll have access to income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness programs, and extended deferment and forbearance periods.

If you still need money to cover tuition or other expenses, and you (or your cosigner) has strong credit, a private student loan can make sense.

Private student loans can also be useful if your expenses suddenly go up and you’ve already maxed out federal student loans, since they allow you to access additional funding relatively quickly. You might also consider a private student loan if you don’t qualify for federal loans. If you’re an international student, for example, a private loan may be your only college funding option.

Another scenario where private student loans can make sense is if you only plan to take out the loan short-term. If you’ll be able to repay the loan over a few years, private student loans could end up costing less overall.

Recommended: When to Apply for Student Loans

How to Get a Private Student Loan

Here’s a look at the steps involved in getting a private student loan.

1.    Shop around. Your school may have a list of preferred lenders, but you’re not restricted to this list. You can also do your own research to find top lenders. As you evaluate lenders, consider factors like interest rates, how much you can borrow, the loan term, when you must start repayment, any fees, and if the lender offers any hardship programs.

2.    See if you can prequalify. Some lenders allow borrowers to get a quote by filling out a prequalification application. This generally involves a soft credit inquiry (which won’t impact your credit score) and tells you what interest rates and terms you may qualify for. Completing this step can help you decide if you need a cosigner.

3.    Gather your information. To officially apply for a private student loan, you typically need to provide your Social Security number, birthdate, and home address, as well as proof of employment and income. You may also need to provide other financial information, such as your assets, rent or mortgage, and tax returns. If you have a cosigner, you’ll have to provide their personal and financial details as well.

4.    Submit your application. Once you’ve completed your application, the lender will typically contact your school to verify your information and eligibility. They will then process the student loan and notify you about your approval and disbursement of your money.

💡 Quick Tip: Parents and sponsors with strong credit and income may find much lower rates on no-fee private parent student loans than federal parent PLUS loans. Federal PLUS loans also come with an origination fee.

Does Everyone Get Approved for Private Student Loans?

No. Requirements for private student loans will vary depending on the lender, but generally to qualify you need to:

•   Attend an accredited school (this typically includes four-year colleges and, sometimes, two-year community colleges and trade schools).

•   Have a strong credit score (usually in the mid-600s or higher).

•   Have a steady income that can cover your expenses.

If you don’t meet these qualifications you can apply with a cosigner who does.

Apply for a Private Student Loan with SoFi

Private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders to help college students cover their educational expenses. They are not part of the federal student loan program, and generally do not feature the flexible repayment terms or borrower protections offered by federal student loans. However, private student loans come with higher loan limits, and the borrowing costs are sometimes lower compared to their federal counterparts. If you’re thinking about a private student loan for college, it pays to shop around to find the best rates and terms.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


Why would someone get a private student loan?

Students typically turn to private student loans when federal loans won’t cover all of their costs. Private student loans come with higher borrowing limits than their federal counterparts. The aggregate max you can borrow from the government for your entire undergraduate education is $31,000. With private loans, on the other hand, you can typically borrow up to the total cost of attendance, minus any financial aid received, every year. This gives you more flexibility to get the financing you need.

Will private student loans be forgiven?

Private student loans aren’t funded by the government, so they don’t offer the same forgiveness programs. In fact, private student loan forgiveness is rare.

If you experience financial hardship, however, many lenders will work with you to stay out of default. They may agree to temporarily lower your payments, waive a payment, or switch to interest-only payments. Or, you might qualify for deferment or forbearance, which temporarily postpones your payments (though interest continues to accrue).

Are private student loans paid to you or the school?

Typically, lenders will send your private student loan money to your school, which will apply the loan to your current charges. The school will then transfer any balance to you to use towards other costs, such as school supplies and other living expenses.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.


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What To do With an Inheritance: A Comprehensive Guide

Getting an inheritance can usher in a wide range of emotions.

On one hand, you’ve just lost someone close to you, and that can be very difficult to process and deal with. On the other hand, inheritance money can change lives for the better. Who hasn’t dreamed of getting a chunk of change to put toward their financial dreams?

But receiving a sudden windfall can also be unexpectedly stressful. If you mismanage an inheritance, it could leave you back where you started financially, or even create new financial problems for you.

It’s crucial to think carefully about what to do with an inheritance, and to consider all your options before you act. From paying off debt to buying a home to investing the inheritance, there are many ways to use your inheritance that may help you get ahead financially.

Here are some ideas for what to do with an inheritance, including how to think about this new money and how to invest your inheritance in your financial goals.

First Steps After Receiving an Inheritance

If you receive an inheritance, first take a breath and just sit with the news for a bit. Don’t do anything rash or you might end up regretting it.

The Importance of Slowing Down

It’s wise to take it easy right now. You’ve just lost someone close to you and you are still dealing emotionally with that. Give yourself time to grieve before making any major decisions about what to do with an inheritance. In most cases, you don’t have to do anything about the inheritance immediately, so don’t feel pressured to act right away. Instead, take your time and be strategic.

For instance, you could put the money in a high-yield savings account for the time being. Then, when you’re ready, you can start mapping out a plan for the funds.

Paying Tribute: Honoring Their Legacy in Your Decisions

Your loved one worked hard to earn or accumulate the money you’ve inherited. Take some time to feel gratitude toward them and what they’ve done for you.

Think about how they might want you to spend the money. Would they want you to put it toward your retirement savings? Buy a house so you can finally stop renting? Keeping your loved one top of mind as you plan what to do with the money, might help give you purpose and hold you accountable so that you don’t spend the inheritance frivolously.

Building Your Support Team: Financial Advisors, Lawyers, and Accountants

Inheriting money can be confusing since you probably aren’t quite sure how the process works. And you may not know the best thing to do with the funds. That’s why having some support, such as estate lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors, might be wise, especially if you’re inheriting a large sum.

But be an active participant in the process. Ask these professionals for their input and suggestions and then carefully weigh the different options. You need to make the decisions that are best for you and your situation.

💡 Quick Tip: If you’re opening a brokerage account for the first time, consider starting with an amount of money you’re prepared to lose. Investing always includes the risk of loss, and until you’ve gained some experience, it’s probably wise to start small.

Managing a Cash Inheritance

Receiving a cash inheritance is a great reason to sit down and review your financial situation and assess your current needs and priorities. Looking at your financial statements — including your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities — might be the easiest way to start.

Taking some time to think about your short-term and long-term financial goals may help define your values and guide you as you determine the best course of action for saving and investing the money. How you ultimately invest an inheritance will depend on your financial goals.

Strategies for Small, Medium, and Large Sums

What you do with your inheritance may depend on how much you inherit. If it’s a small sum, you may want to put it toward a downpayment on a house, for example. Or you could use it to build up an emergency fund.

If you inherit a medium-size sum, you may want to earmark it for your children’s college education. Or you could put it toward your own retirement savings.

And finally, if you inherit a large sum, you may want to do several different things with the money. For instance, you may decide to invest a chunk of it for your future. And you might use another portion if it to pay off your mortgage or other debts you have. Perhaps you want to donate some to charity. You could even use some of the money to take the vacation you’ve always dreamed of.

Balancing Savings, Debt Repayment, and Investments

It could be wise to make several financial moves with your inheritance to help secure your future. That way you can balance your different priorities.

Some of the money could go into your emergency savings fund so that you have a robust financial cushion in case you need it.

Another portion might go toward paying off debt, such as credit card or student loan debt. This can help free up your cash flow and even help you save more money for your future.

And you could invest the rest for retirement. You can explore the different types of retirement accounts that you may be eligible for to find the right options for you.

Retirement, Education, and Emergency Fund Priorities

Saving and investing for retirement could be an excellent use of inheritance money. As mentioned above, the first step is determining which type of account to open.

Because inherited money is not earned income, you cannot put it directly into a retirement account like a traditional or Roth IRA. However, you could open a brokerage account and build an investment portfolio for retirement. You may want to consider stocks, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or a mix of all three in your portfolio.

Another priority for your inheritance might be your children’s college education. You could consider using your inherited money to fund a college savings account or invest towards your child’s future educational costs.

This can be done through a 529 plan, a prepaid tuition plan, or a Coverdell education savings account. A 529 plan allows for tax-free investment growth when the money is used for higher education expenses.

Each state has its own 529 plan, but you’re not required to use the plan for the state for which you live. Some states may offer a state income tax deduction if you use their state’s plan, so check with the plan (or your tax advisor) to be sure.

Another way you may want to use inherited money is building up an emergency fund. Just like it sounds, an emergency fund is cash, typically held in a savings account, that’s available in the event of an emergency, such as a sudden, unexpected expense like a car accident or a root canal. Having the cash available to cover such an expense may help you avoid going into credit card or other debt in the future.

While it’s ultimately up to you to determine how much money to keep in an emergency fund, you may want to consider having the recommended three to six months’ worth of expenses in the bank. This amount may help cover you in the event you are laid off from your job and need time to find a new opportunity.

Investment Opportunities for Inherited Wealth

Once you’ve paid off any debts you owe and allocated money to an emergency fund and possibly to your children’s college funds, you may want to invest the rest for your future financial goals.

Diversifying Investments: Stocks, Bonds, and Funds

Building a diversified, balanced portfolio with investments that have different degrees of risk is one strategy to consider. Diversification may help mitigate risk, though it’s important to remember that there is still risk involved with investing. Some investments with different levels of risk to explore are stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Stocks are considered more volatile — they may potentially offer higher growth but also have higher risk — while bonds typically have lower risk and smaller returns. Mutual funds typically include a mix of stocks and bonds.

Tax-Advantaged Accounts and Minimizing Tax Burden

Inheritances are not considered taxable income for federal taxes. However, any earnings on your inherited assets are generally taxable.

Some of the most popular types of accounts that may offer tax advantages include IRAs and 401(k)s. Inheritance money per se cannot be invested in these accounts (because it’s not earned income). However, the additional money you get from an inheritance might give you the flexibility to use your income to open an IRA or contribute more to your 401(k) at work.

Here’s how: If you use inheritance money to pay down debt or pay bills, such as your mortgage, you may be able to afford to invest more of your earned income in a retirement account. Because some of these accounts are tax deferred, including traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, they may also help reduce your tax burden.

Real Estate Investments: Pros, Cons, and Considerations

If you’re thinking about investing your inheritance in real estate, you might want to consider a real estate investment trust (REIT). A REIT is a company that owns or operates properties that generate income. With a REIT, you can invest in real estate properties without having to buy actual properties and manage them yourself.

But REITS do come with risks. For instance, REITs tend to be very sensitive to changes in interest rates. When rates rise, the value of a REIT can fall. Also, commercial properties can be affected by trends. For instance, if a REIT focuses on a type of store that suddenly becomes less popular with consumers, your investment could take a hit.

💡 Quick Tip: Distributing your money across a range of assets — also known as diversification — can be beneficial for long-term investors. When you put your eggs in many baskets, it may be beneficial if a single asset class goes down.

How to Handle Inherited Properties and Valuables

Part of your inheritance might include a house, a car, antiques, or jewelry. These can all be financially beneficial, depending on their value. But they can also pose challenges since you will need to decide what to do with them.

Decisions for an Inherited House: Sell, Rent, or Move In?

If you inherit a house, for instance, the big decision you’ll face is whether to move into it, rent it, or sell it.

Selling the house will provide you with a profit. You could then use that money to pay debt or invest for the future. There may also be a tax benefit. That’s because inherited homes have a step-up tax basis. That means you don’t pay taxes on the full amount of the home, but only on any amount it sold for that’s more than what the home was worth on the date your loved one died. So if the house was worth $300,000 at the time your relative died, and you sell it for $375,000, you only pay taxes on $75,000.

Just remember that you’ll have to empty out the house and get it ready to sell. You’ll also need to pay the utilities, mortgage, taxes, etc. until the house sells.

You can rent out the home instead, which could potentially give you steady rental income. However, you will need to manage the property and take care of maintenance and repairs. This could be tricky if you don’t live nearby. And even if you do, it can be time consuming. You’ll also need to figure out the tax implications of renting out the house, which may be complicated.

Finally, you may choose to move into the house. This might be a good option for you if you haven’t been able to afford buying a home of your own previously. Just remember that while you won’t have to pay a mortgage, you will have to pay such ongoing expenses as real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance.

Inherited Vehicles and Heirlooms: Assessing Value and Sentiment

If you inherit a vehicle like a car, you’ll need to decide whether to keep it or sell it. Your decision will likely depend on the age of the vehicle and the shape it’s in. It will also hinge on whether you need or want a new car. You might be perfectly happy with your own current vehicle. In that case, you could sell the inherited car and make a profit from it.

Deciding what to do with inherited items that have sentimental value as well as monetary value — such as jewelry, antiques, or a relative’s prized collection — can be more difficult. You may feel an attachment to these items. Wait a bit before making a decision about them and give yourself time to think through the best course of action. For instance, you might want to hold onto a few items that have special meaning to you and sell the rest. Or perhaps you’ll decide you’re not ready to part with them and you’ll keep them all. Do what feels right to you.

Tax Implications of an Inheritance

There are two types of taxes related to an inheritance: estate taxes and inheritance taxes.

Estate and Inheritance Taxes: What You Need to Know

The federal government does not impose an inheritance tax. That means you won’t have to pay federal taxes on your inheritance. But keep in mind that any earnings you make from your inheritance are subject to taxes.

Some states have inheritance taxes that you may need to pay. To find out if your state is one of them, check with the state department of taxation. You might also want to consult a tax professional.

Estate taxes are a different matter. These taxes are not levied against you, the person inheriting money. Instead, they are levied against the estate of the deceased person. However, unless the estate is extremely large ($12.92 million or more in 2023, and $13.61 in 2024), the estate won’t have to pay federal estate taxes.

Capital Gains Tax: How It Affects Your Inherited Assets

Capital gains taxes are something you typically pay when you sell inheritance assets and make money on them. Thanks to what’s known as a step-up in basis, the value of the item you inherit is adjusted to its value on the date of your loved one’s death.

For example, if you inherit a house your mother bought for $100,000 and the house is worth $500,000 on her date of death, the value of the house is adjusted to $500,000. If you sell the house for that amount, there are no capital gains. If you sell the house for more than $500,000 you pay capital gains on anything over that amount.

In addition to real estate, this rule also generally applies to other things you inherit, such as stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and collectibles.

Capital gains taxes can be quite complicated, so you may want to consult a tax professional to make sure you report and pay these taxes properly.

Leveraging Professional Financial Advice

Dealing with an inheritance and all it involves can be overwhelming. A trusted advisor could help you decide what to do with the money in order to make the most of it.

Choosing the Right Advisor for Your Inheritance Needs

You may want to begin your search for an advisor with the person or people associated with the estate before it was passed along, such as the estate’s executor or a trustee.

That said, you’ll want to be certain that this person is a “fiduciary,” which means that they always act in your best financial interest.

Another option is to directly hire a financial advisor. When choosing a financial advisor, you can start by asking family, friends, and colleagues for recommendations. You can also consult industry associations such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors or the Financial Planning Association

The Role of Financial Planning in Estate Inheritance

A financial planner can help you create a financial plan for your inheritance based on your financial goals and your current situation.

A good financial plan can help you make the most of your money. It can allocate money to help you pay down debt and to create an emergency fund. It can also help you manage your inheritance assets. For instance, you might choose to put some of the money in investments to help reach future financial goals such as buying a house or saving for retirement.

Inheriting money requires careful decision making. That’s why having a solid financial plan in place can be so useful. It can help you stay on track to meet your goals.

Avoiding Common Mistakes with Inherited Wealth

When you receive an inheritance, it’s wise to take some time to decide the best course of action to take. This can help prevent you from doing something you may regret later. These are some common mistakes to avoid:

Failing to put together a solid financial plan. A good plan lays out your financial goals and priorities. It can help you pay off debt now and save money for your future. Without such a plan, you might end up frittering away a chunk of your inheritance before you realize it.

Making emotional decisions. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult, and emotions could cloud your judgment about what to do with your inheritance. Don’t make rash decisions. Instead, put the money someplace safe for the time being, like a high-yield savings account, and give yourself time to grieve before making major decisions.

Spending too much. You may be tempted to use your windfall to purchase a boat or buy a luxury car. While these purchases are fun, they won’t help you in the long-term the way paying off debt or saving for your retirement will. Plus, cars and boats require ongoing maintenance — and even storage in the case of the boat — that you’ll need to keep paying for.

If you’re not careful, you could end up burning through your entire inheritance and not have a lot to show for it. Instead, create a financial plan as outlined above. In your plan you can set aside a small part of your inheritance for fun spending. For instance, maybe you dedicate 5% or 10% of the amount you inherited to taking that trip to Italy you’ve always dreamed of. That way you’ll be able to enjoy some of the money now and save and invest the rest for the future.

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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.

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

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