Throwing a Gender Reveal Party on a Budget

6 Cheap Gender Reveal Ideas for Those on a Tight Budget

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it probably means you or someone you care about is starting a family (or adding to one). One popular way to celebrate is with a gender reveal party: It’s a fun way to get all the expectant parents’ loved ones involved before the new addition arrives.

But gender reveal parties, like any kind of get-together, can quickly get expensive. Renting a space, ordering flowers and decorations, and wrangling the menu can add up. Which can be an issue, especially if the couple that is expecting or the person hosting is trying to also save for, say, the baby’s nursery or a baby shower.

So read on for six gender reveal party ideas that will be a fun way to share the news without breaking the bank.

Cheap Gender Reveal Ideas

When ​​saving for a baby, it’s vital to protect your finances, even during celebrations. Sure, you want to share the excitement in a stylish way, but there are cribs, strollers, and lots of diapers to be bought! To help you pull off a gender reveal on a budget, read on.

💡 Quick Tip: Make money easy. Enjoy the convenience of managing bills, deposits, and transfers from one online bank account with SoFi.

1. Keep It Small

You can save money by downsizing your event. Instead of inviting anyone and everyone, try including just friends and family. Not only will a smaller party keep costs low, but it will make the event more personal and a whole lot less frantic. An intimate gathering with those closest to you can be a lovely way to celebrate learning a baby’s gender. Plus, it allows the host or guest of honor to get more quality time with each invitee.

However, you may want to run this by the expectant mother if you are organizing the party on her behalf. She should have the last say about the invite list so that no one significant gets missed.

2. Choose a Cheap or Free Venue

You can hold a gender reveal party anywhere. When you think about it, it’s a very accommodating event without a lot of rules about the dress code, timing, or the activities involved. So, you can likely make any location work, whether it’s at home, a local restaurant, or elsewhere.

•   Be creative with the location. Instead of a full (pricey) restaurant meal, could you host a party at a local coffee bar (some host events)? Or could you do an afternoon tea at a favorite eatery, before they open for dinner? These kinds of options can help you save a considerable amount of money.

•   When picking where to have the party, you may need to factor in the size of your guest list and the type of gender reveal you want. For example, if you plan to use a gender-reveal powder cannon, you probably need a venue outdoors.

•   Rented venues can be expensive, so for a gender reveal on a budget, consider hosting at home.

•   Look at other cheap locations like a nearby green space. Many gender reveal parties are happily hosted in a local park. You bring cushions, a picnic blanket, and all the trimmings, and you’re set, without the cost of renting.

3. Send Digital Invites

Invitations are where many people let their creativity shine. But physically mailing them out may not be the most cost-effective option; you’ll have to buy the cards and spend money on postage, too. If you are looking for a way to send fun invites but for a fraction of the price and time, consider digital versions.

•   There are apps and websites that offer digital invite services. You can find a wide range of gender-reveal invitation templates on them. Spend a few minutes scrolling; you may find some totally free options, or you might spend anywhere from $10 to $20 on them. You can also find fun graphics and animations to make them unique.

•   These resources make planning a party more straightforward for the host. That’s because they usually come with a function that lets guests RSVP digitally, so you can keep track of who is coming. You can also usually automate updates and reminders.

•   Where to start? Try exploring Punchbowl, Evite, and Paperless Post for some great evite options.

4. Make Your Own Decorations

Similar to birthday parties, a gender reveal party isn’t complete without a few decorations. Here are some ways to keep costs down:

•   Easy DIY décor can include banners, streamers, candles, and table centerpieces. Often, you only need cardstock, ribbon, and paper to get creative. You might also be able to find printable images online. Sayings like “Whether pink or blue, we love you” and the like can be a fun way to underscore the reason everyone has gathered.

•   Use what you already have — outside. Anyone with a green thumb can take advantage of their garden to liven up their party. You can set the whole event up outdoors if the weather is nice or use flowers to decorate your home. For example, fresh flowers in mason jars or dollar-store vases are a simple but effective centerpiece.

•   A quick reminder: Even if the parents know the gender already, decorations shouldn’t give it away. Instead, aim for a gender-neutral look or a mix of pinks and blues so that nothing spoils the surprise.

5. Do a Potluck

Hosting a gender reveal party that includes a meal can get very pricey, very fast. No matter the size of your guest’s appetite, you have to purchase food per head. Some recommend around a half-pound of meat and half a bottle of wine for each person at an event. That alone could rack up a bill equal to a few months’ worth of baby supplies.

Instead, consider a potluck.

•   A potluck can save you significant costs in the food department.

•   It’s a great way to bond as a community or family. Everyone plays a role. You may find that having a number of people contributing makes the endeavor more creative.

•   Hosting a potluck does take a bit of organization to make sure, say, that not everyone brings a dessert, but the savings and sense of teamwork may be well worth it.

6. Opt for These Ways to Do the Reveal

The most important part of a gender reveal party is the reveal itself. But, you don’t have to pay for expensive fireworks, a band, or an entire room of balloons to make a statement. Some budget-friendly ideas include:

•   Gender reveal confetti or powder cannons

•   A giant balloon filled with colored confetti; pop it to reveal the gender

•   Cupcakes or cake with the gender color inside

•   A pinata filled with either pink or blue ribbons and glitter

You can also set the stage with color-themed food and drink. Some hosts like to have pitchers of fun fruit drinks, one tinted pink and the other blue with berries.

Recommended: A Guide to Using Savings Clubs

Setting Your Gender Reveal Party Budget

Your budget will obviously vary with the type of party you are planning. If you have a backyard potluck for 10 close friends it will, of course, be much more affordable than a meal for a few dozen guests at a rented space.

For example, let’s say you choose a large venue; that alone may cost you upwards of $200 to rent. In addition, decorating the location may be expensive, anywhere from $50 to $100 and up. That’s because there is more space to cover than your garden or living room. Plus you’ll need to factor in the food as well. Ka-ching! And double ka-ching if you live in a major city; your costs are likely to be higher.

That said, only you and your loved ones know what will be the right way to celebrate the upcoming birth. Just like putting together a budget for a baby, be methodical.

Budget Beforehand

Sit down early in the planning process and create a budget for your party. If there is more than one host, pool your resources and determine the total you can spend. It’s essential to do this before you start party planning.

•   Go line by line, item by item. Write down what you need and estimate the cost. That way, you know exactly what you need to buy and how much it will cost. Otherwise, there’s every chance that you’ll discover your cheap gender reveal party wound up being a high-cost celebration.

•   Understand where the funds are coming from. Is the expectant couple or individual footing the bill? If you are organizing, who else might contribute? Sometimes family members of the parents-to-be are also willing to help. They may contribute some cash or offer to bring items to the event.

Stick to Your Budget

It sounds self-explanatory: Stick to the budget you make. However, any party planner knows that it’s easier said than done, whether you have a baby shower, birthday, or anniversary on your hands.

•   Hold yourself and the team that’s organizing the event accountable. It’s very easy to dip a little further into your funds for extra decorations, more flowers, or a beautifully decorated dessert. While those gestures are nice, they come at a financial cost. You may need to separate your “party fund” from your savings account. Or, if you have a co-host, report your spending to each other. You’ll be less inclined to go overboard that way.

•   Play around with your distribution of funds. For instance, maybe you have a baker in the family who can bake a fab gender reveal cake. In that case, you can put more money toward a venue. Or, perhaps you are hosting a potluck version of a gender reveal party. That frees up some cash for decorations or how you handle the big reveal.

It’s a balancing act, for sure, but with a little planning and a strong commitment to your budget, you can host a gender reveal party that won’t leave you with debt to pay off.

Recommended: Budgeting for Beginners

The Takeaway

Hosting a gender reveal on a budget may take a bit of extra planning. But spending less won’t make the event any less memorable. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to test your creative muscles and come together as loved ones. Play around with your budget to find the best party plan. Maybe you host it at a restaurant but it’s a tea party instead of a full meal. Or perhaps you gather in someone’s yard or a local park and then have enough to splurge on an amazing cake. It’s all about balance.

Whether you’re expecting a baby or simply planning a party for one of your besties, life is expensive. That’s why finding a banking partner that offers competitive interest rates and low (or no fees) can be important.

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.

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FAQ

What is a good budget for a gender reveal party?

Budgets will vary depending on the host’s means and goals and the expectant parents’ desires. However, you can stretch a fund further with a more relaxed event. For example, a small barbecue in your backyard with a few friends won’t cost as much as a luxe rented location but may make up for that with the warm, intimate vibe.

Who usually throws a gender reveal party?

There is no norm; anyone can throw a gender reveal party, from a close family member to the parents to a best friend. It’s all good! In some cases, there are even multiple hosts. This allows everyone to take on a smaller financial burden than a singular host. The only rule is to keep the gender a secret during planning.

How much should a gender reveal cake cost?

The cost of gender reveal cake can vary in price depending on where you buy it, how big it is, and how ornate it is. Prices often land in the range of $25 to $50. However, features like surprise candy inside will likely run you more money. And if you purchase a cake from a highly rated patisserie in a big city it will probably be considerably more expensive than one at a local bakery in the suburbs.


Photo credit: iStock/Ievgeniia Shugaliia

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

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Default Deferral Rate 401(k) Explained

Default Deferral Rate 401(k) Explained

Your 401(k) deferral rate is the amount that you contribute to the plan via your paychecks. Many companies have a default deferral rate on 401(k) plans, in which they automatically direct a certain amount of your paycheck to your 401(k) plan. This occurs automatically, unless you opt out of participation or select a higher default rate.

The default deferral rate on 401(k) plans varies from one plan to another (and not all plans have a default rate), though the most common rate is 7%. If you’re currently saving in a 401(k) plan or will soon enroll in your employer’s plan, it’s important to understand how automatic contributions work.

What Is a 401(k) Deferral Rate?

A deferral rate is the percentage of salary contributed to a 401(k) plan or a similar qualified plan each pay period. Each 401(k) plan can establish a default deferral percentage, which represents the minimum amount that employees automatically contribute, unless they opt out of the plan.

For example, someone making a $50,000 annual salary would automatically contribute a minimum of $1,500 per year to their plan if it had a 3% automatic deferral rate.

Employees can choose not to participate in the plan, or they can contribute more than the minimum deferral percentage set by their plan. They may choose to contribute 10%, 15% or more of their salary into the plan each year, and receive a tax benefit up to the annual limit. Again, the more of your income you defer into the plan, the larger your retirement nest egg may be later.

There are several benefits associated with changing your 401(k) contributions to maximize 401(k) salary deferrals, including:

•   Reducing taxable income if you’re contributing pre-tax dollars

•   Getting the full employer matching contribution

•   Qualifying for the retirement saver’s credit

If you qualify, the Saver’s Credit is worth up to $1,000 for single filers or $2,000 for married couples filing jointly. This credit can be used to reduce your tax liability on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

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Average Deferral Rate

Studies have shown that more employers are leaning toward the higher end of the scale when setting the default deferral rate. According to research from the Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA), for instance, 32.9% of employers use an automatic default deferral rate of 6% versus 29% that set the default percentage at 3%.

In terms of employer matching contributions, a recent survey from the PSCA found that 96% of employers offer some level of match. The most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor suggests that the average employer match works out to around 3.5%. Again, it’s important to remember that not every employer offers this free money to employees who enroll in the company’s 401(k).

Research shows that higher default rates result in higher overall retirement savings for participants.

What Is the Actual Deferral Percentage Test?

The actual deferral percentage (ADP) test is one of two nondiscrimination tests employers must apply to ensure that employees who contribute to a 401(k) receive equal treatment, as required by federal regulations. The ADP test counts elective deferrals of highly compensated employees and non-highly compensated employees to determine proportionality. A 401(k) plan passes the ADP test if the actual deferral percentage for highly compensated employees doesn’t exceed the greater of:

•   125% of the ADP for non-highly compensated employees, or the lesser of

•   200% of the ADP for non-highly compensated employees or the ADP for those employees plus 2%

If a company fails the ADP test or the second nondiscrimination test, known as actual contribution percentage, then it has to remedy that to avoid an IRS penalty. This can mean making contributions to the plan on behalf of non-highly compensated employees.

How Much Should I Contribute to Retirement?

If you’re ready to start saving for retirement, using your employer’s 401(k), one of the most important steps is determining your personal deferral rate. The appropriate deferral percentage can depend on several things, including:

•   How much you want to save for retirement total

•   Your current age and when you plan to retire

•   What you can realistically afford to contribute, based on your current income and expenses

A typical rule of thumb suggested by financial specialists is to save at least 15% of your gross income toward retirement each year. So if you’re making $100,000 a year before taxes, you’d save $15,000 in your 401(k) following this rule. But it’s important to consider whether you can afford to defer that much into the plan.

Using a 401(k) calculator or retirement savings calculator can help you to get a better idea of how much you need to save each year to reach your goals, based on where you’re starting from right now. As a general rule, the younger you are when starting to invest for retirement the better, as you have more time to take advantage of the power of compounding returns.

If you don’t have a 401(k), you can still save for retirement through an individual retirement account (IRA) and set up automatic deposits to mimic paycheck deferrals and give you the benefit of dollar-cost averaging.

Contribution Limits

It’s important to keep in mind that there are annual contribution limits for 401(k) plans. These limits determine how much of your income you can defer in any given year and are established by the IRS. The IRS adjusts annual contribution limits periodically to account for inflation.

For 2023, employees are allowed to contribute $22,500 to their 401(k) plans. An additional catch-up contribution of $7,500 is allowed for employees aged 50 or older. That means older workers may be eligible to make a total contribution of $30,000.

For 2024, employees can contribute $23,000 to their 4091(k), and those 50 and older can make an additional catch-up contribution of $7,500.

The total annual 2023 contribution limit for 401(k) plans, including both employee and employer matching contributions, is $66,000. For 2024, the total annual contribution limit is $69,000.

The money that you contribute to the 401(k) is yours, but you might not own the contributions from your employer until a certain period of time has passed, if your plan uses a 401(k) vesting schedule.

You’re not required to max out the annual contribution limit and employers are not required to offer a match. But the more of your salary you defer to the plan and the bigger the matching contribution, the more money you could end up with once you’re ready to retire.

The Takeaway

Contributing to a 401(k) can be one of the most effective ways to save for retirement but it’s not your only option. If you don’t have a 401(k) at work or you want to supplement your salary deferrals, you can also save using an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

An IRA allows you to set aside money for the future while snagging some tax breaks. With a traditional IRA, your contributions may be tax-deductible. A Roth IRA, meanwhile, allows for tax-free distributions in retirement.

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

Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

What is a good deferral rate for 401(k)?

A good deferral rate for 401(k) contributions is one that allows you to qualify for the full employer match if one is offered, at a minimum. The more money you defer into your plan, the more opportunity you have to grow wealth for retirement.

What is an automatic deferral?

An automatic deferral is a deferral of salary into a 401(k) plan or similar qualified plan through paycheck deductions. Your employer automatically redirects money from your paycheck into your retirement account.

What is the maximum default automatic enrollment deferral rate?

This depends on your employer. Some employers may set the threshold higher to allow employees to make better use of the plan.


Photo credit: iStock/guvendemir

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

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

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

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What Is a Non-Deductible IRA?

What Is a Non-Deductible IRA?

A non-deductible IRA is an IRA, or IRA contributions, that cannot be deducted from your income. While contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible, non-deductible IRA contributions offer no immediate tax break.

In both cases, though, contributions grow tax free over time — and in the case of a non-deductible IRA, you wouldn’t owe taxes on the withdrawals in retirement.

Why would you open a non-deductible IRA? If you meet certain criteria, such as your income is too high to allow you to contribute to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA, a non-deductible IRA might help you increase your retirement savings.

It helps to understand how non-deductible contributions work, what the rules and restrictions are, as well as the potential advantages and drawbacks.

Who Is Eligible for a Non-Deductible IRA?

Several factors determine whether an individual is ineligible for a traditional IRA, and therefore if their contributions could fund a non-deductible IRA. These include an individual’s income level, tax-filing status, and access to employer-sponsored retirement plans (even if the individual or their spouse don’t participate in such a plan).

If you and your spouse do not have an employer plan like a 401(k) at work, there are no restrictions on fully funding a regular, aka deductible, IRA. You can contribute up to $7,000 in 2024; $8,000 if you’re 50 and older. In 2023, you can contribute up to $6,500; $7,500 if you’re 50 or older. And those contributions are tax deductible.

However, if you’re eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored plan, or if your spouse is, then the amount you can contribute to a deductible IRA phases out — in other words, the amount you can deduct gets smaller — based on your income:

•   For single filers/head of household: the 2024 contribution amount is reduced if you earn more than $77,000 and less than $87,000. Above $87,000 you can only contribute to a non-deductible IRA. (For 2023, the phaseout begins when you earn more than $73,000 and less than $83,000. If you earn more than $83,000, you can’t contribute to a traditional IRA.)

•   For married, filing jointly:

◦   If you have access to a workplace plan, the phaseout for 2024 is when you earn more than $123,00 and less than $143,000. (For 2023, the phaseout is when you earn more than $116,000, but less than $136,000.)

◦   If your spouse has access to a workplace plan, the 2024 phaseout is when you earn more than $230,000 and less than $240,000. (For 2023, the phaseout is when you earn more than $218,000 but less than $228,000.)

💡 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.

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Non-Deductible IRA Withdrawal Rules

The other big difference between an ordinary, deductible IRA and a non-deductible IRA is how withdrawals are taxed after age 59 ½. (IRA withdrawals prior to that may be subject to an early withdrawal penalty.)

•   Regular (deductible) IRA: Contributions are made pre-tax. Withdrawals after 59 ½ are taxed at the individual’s ordinary income rate.

•   Non-deductible IRA: Contributions are after tax (meaning you’ve already paid tax on the money). Withdrawals are therefore not taxed, because the IRS can’t tax you twice.

To make sure of this, you must report non-deductible IRA contributions on your tax return, and you use Form 8606 to do so. Form 8606 officially documents that some or all of the money in your IRA has already been taxed and is therefore non-deductible. Later on, when you take distributions, a portion of those withdrawals will not be subject to income tax.

If you have one single non-deductible IRA, then the process is similar to a Roth IRA. You deposit money you’ve paid taxes on, and your withdrawals are tax free.

It gets more complicated when you mix both types of contributions — deductible and non-deductible — in a single IRA account.

Here’s an example of different IRA withdrawal rules:

Let’s say you qualified to make deductible IRA contributions for 10 years, and now you have $50,000 in a regular IRA account. Then, your situation changed — perhaps your income increased — and now only 50% of the money you deposit is deductible; the other half is non-deductible.

You contribute another $50,000 in the next 10 years, but only $25,000 is deductible; $25,000 is non-deductible. You diligently record the different types of contributions using Form 8606, so the IRS knows what’s what.

When you’re ready to retire, the total balance in the IRA is $100,000, but only $25,000 of that was non-deductible (meaning, you already paid tax on it). So when you withdraw money in retirement, you’ll owe taxes on three-quarters of that money, but you won’t owe taxes on one quarter.

Contribution Limits and RMDs

There are limits on the amount that you can contribute to an IRA each year, and deductible and non-deductible IRA account contributions have the same contribution caps. People under 50 years old can contribute up to $7,000 for 2024, and those over 50 can contribute $8,000 per year. People under 50 years old can contribute up to $6,500 for 2023, and those over 50 can contribute $7,500 per year.

IRA account owners are required to start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs), similar to a 401(k), from their account once they turn 73 years old. Prior to that, account holders can take money out of their account between ages 59 ½ and 73 without any early withdrawal penalty.

Individuals can continue to contribute to their IRA at any age as long as they still meet the requirements.

Benefits and Risks of Non-Deductible IRA

While there are benefits to putting money into a non-deductible IRA, there are some risks that individuals should be aware of as well.

Benefits

There are several reasons you might choose to open a non-deductible IRA. In some cases, you can’t make tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA, so you need another retirement savings account option. Though your contributions aren’t deductible in the tax year you make them, funds in the IRA that earn dividends or capital gains are not taxed, because the government doesn’t tax retirement savings twice.

Another reason people use non-deductible IRAs is as a stepping stone to a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs also have income limits, but they come with additional choices. High income earners can start by contributing funds to a non-deductible IRA, then convert that IRA into a Roth IRA. This is called a backdoor Roth IRA.

One thing to keep in mind with a backdoor Roth is that the conversion may not be entirely tax free. If an IRA account is made up of a combination of deductible and non-deductible contributions, when it gets converted into a Roth account some of those funds would be taxable.

Risks

The primary benefits of non-deductible IRAs come when used to later convert into a Roth IRA. It can be risky to keep a non-deductible IRA ongoing, especially if it’s made up of both deductible and non-deductible contributions, which can be tricky to keep track of for tax purposes. You can keep a blended IRA, it just takes more work to keep track of the amounts that are taxable.

As noted above, it requires dividing non-deductible contributions by the total contributions made to all IRAs one has in order to figure out the amount of after-tax contributions that have been made.

Non-Deductible IRA vs Roth IRA

With a non-deductible IRA, you contribute funds after you’ve paid taxes on that money, and therefore you’re not able to deduct the contributions from your income tax. The contributions that you make to the non-deductible IRA earn non-taxable interest while they are in the account. The money isn’t taxed when it is withdrawn later.

Roth IRA contributions are similarly made with after-tax money and one can’t get a tax deduction on them. Also, a Roth IRA allows an individual to take out tax-free distributions during retirement.

Unlike other types of retirement accounts, a Roth IRA doesn’t require the account holder to take out a minimum distribution amount.

There are income limits on Roth IRAs, so some high-income earners may not be able to open this type of account. The non-deductible IRA is one way to get around this rule, because an individual can start out with a non-deductible IRA and convert it into a Roth IRA.

How Can I Tell If a Non-Deductible IRA Is the Right Choice?

Non-deductible IRAs can be a way for high-income savers to make their way into a backdoor Roth account. This strategy can help them reduce the amount of taxes they owe on their savings. However, they may not be the best type of account for long-term savings or lower-income savers.

The Takeaway

For many people, contributing to an ordinary IRA is a clearcut proposition: You deposit pre-tax money, and the amount can be deducted from your income for that year. Things get more complicated, however, for higher earners who also have access (or their spouse has access) to an employer-sponsored plan like a 401(k) or 403(b). In that case, you may no longer qualify to deduct all your IRA contributions; some or all of that money may become non-deductible. That means you deposit funds post tax and you can’t deduct it from your income tax that year.

In either case, though, all the money in the IRA would grow tax free. And the upside, of course, is that with a non-deductible IRA the withdrawals are also tax free. With a regular IRA, because you haven’t paid taxes on your contributions, you owe tax when you withdraw money in retirement.

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

Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.


Photo credit: iStock/Drazen Zigic

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

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

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

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

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What Is a Joint Will?

Joint Will: What Is a Mutual Will?

When you’re married and are each other’s beneficiaries, it makes sense to create a single joint will, right? Not necessarily. Even if you plan to leave everything to your significant other upon death, creating this kind of legal document may lead to complications down the line.

Let’s take a closer look at the different kinds of wills married couples can create so you can decide what’s best for you. Here’s what you need to know so you can have the right legal paperwork in place.

What Is a Joint Will?

A joint will is a single shared legal document, signed by two or more people. It is relatively uncommon today, and many attorneys recommend against them. One of the motivations for a joint will is that, when one person dies, it’s nearly impossible for a surviving spouse to change the terms of the will. This can be problematic because circumstances change over time. What if the person mentioned to inherit property in the will has passed away?

That said, a joint will for a couple can seem desirable precisely because it’s not flexible. This can ensure that a child from a previous marriage, for example, inherits what is outlined in the will even if their parent dies before their new spouse does. But these sort of permanent clauses can be handled in a trust, which can allow for complex, shifting situations.


💡 Quick Tip: A trust is a customized estate planning tool that can be helpful for your heirs in addition to a will.

How Do Joint Wills Work?

A joint will for a married couple is a single document, signed by two partners. When you’re both alive, changes can be made as long as you both agree. But once a partner dies, the will becomes binding.

For this reason, a joint will for a married couple can be binding, restrictive, and not necessarily optimal for the complexity of modern-day life.

Say that the will stipulates that the house the couple owns will be inherited by their three children upon the death of both spouses. But what if the surviving spouse has a financial emergency and wants to sell the house? Or simply wants to downsize to a smaller living space? Because of the will, they could be stuck in a difficult scenario.

Also consider that a joint will doesn’t always cover the ‘what ifs’ that can come up during life. From remarriage to family disputes to having more children, a joint will can lock assets in time, making it tough for the surviving spouse to move on.

How Do Mutual Wills Work?

Fortunately, there are options for those who worry about a joint will being too rigid. A more common option that offers flexibility is what’s known as a mutual will, or mirror will. In this case, two documents are created, one for each spouse. They may be identical, but because they are two documents, separately signed, the surviving spouse can then modify their own individual will when their partner passes away.

But what if you are concerned that you might die first and your surviving spouse could, say, omit a child or other loved one from their inheritance? (Yes, that may sound odd, but life contains many complicated family situations!) In this case, lawyers may recommend a trust as an option to ensure that your own personal wishes are carried out when it comes to your property. The trust can also make sure that your directives are followed when it comes to joint property mutually owned, like real estate.

Recommended: Important Estate Planning Documents to Know

Joint Will vs Individual Will: Pros and Cons

So, what are the pros and cons of joint wills versus individual (separate) wills? In general, the biggest con against a joint will may be the lack of flexibility. But for some people with relatively simple estates, this can seem like a positive.

Pros of a joint will:

•   Simplicity. It’s a one-and-done proposition!

•   Clarity. It ensures that both partner’s wishes, as written, will be respected, even after death.

Cons of a joint will:

•   Rigidity. If a partner gets remarried or has more children, it will be complicated if not impossible to change the original will.

Pros of an individual will:

•   Flexibility. After a partner dies, the surviving partner can change the will to reflect their new reality.

•   Simplicity. You can create one document and each sign it separately. Each individual is then free to amend their own will.

Cons of an individual will:

•   Flexibility. Yes, this is a double-edged sword. These wills aren’t “carved in stone” which can be a good or bad thing. Here’s the latter: With individual wills, the wishes of the partner who dies first may not be fully honored. These concerns may be solved by the creation of a trust.

•   Maintenance-intensive. A surviving partner may want to rewrite their will over time as their life circumstances change.

Do Husbands and Wives Need Individual Wills?

In most cases, yes, it’s beneficial if husbands and wives have separate wills. The wills can be identical — also called a mutual will or mirror will — but having two distinct documents that are individually signed can help protect against what-ifs in the future. Having individual wills can give flexibility to the surviving spouse.

Let’s say that a joint will stipulates that a house owned jointly by a married couple will go to children upon the death of both spouses. That means if one spouse dies, the other spouse may not be able to sell the house that he or she lives in, even in the case of financial hardship. A joint will can lock a surviving spouse in time, despite evolving circumstances.

Instead, a couple may prefer individual wills. These can mirror each other, but the surviving spouse retains flexibility in case their needs or circumstances change after the spouse dies.

Worth noting: For some, the lack of flexibility of a joint will may be seen as positive. For example, some couples may want a joint will to ensure their children receive an inheritance, even if the surviving spouse remarries. However, some legal experts believe this goal can better be achieved through the creation of a trust.

As you think about making your will, it can be helpful to consider the pros and cons of a joint will. Getting an expert opinion can also be a smart move.

What Happens to a Joint Will When Someone Dies?

A joint will is essentially frozen in time when someone dies. The will becomes “irrevocable,” and property must be divided according to the terms of the will. If it says all assets are to be inherited by the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse will inherit assets. But confusion may occur if and when both spouses pass away. A joint will then makes it hard, if not impossible, to reallocate property.

Let’s consider another scenario to see why a joint will can be problematic. Perhaps a joint will specifies that a certain sum of money is to go to a charity upon death. If the charity no longer exists after one spouse passes away, this may lead to complications and a legal headache.

In short: A joint will is similar to a time capsule. While its contents may make sense now, it can be helpful to consider “what ifs” that may happen ten, twenty, or fifty years in the future. This can lead some couples to decide that individual wills will work better.

Recommended: What Happens If You Die Without A Will?

Can You Make a Joint Will Online?

It is possible to make a joint will online. But because not every state recognizes a joint will, it’s important to make sure you live in a state that does before you move forward.


💡 Quick Tip: It’s recommended that you update your will every 3-5 years, and after any major life event. With online estate planning, changes can be made in just a few minutes — no attorney required.

The Takeaway

End-of-life planning is an important way to express your wishes and protect those closest to you. A will is one key component of that, but married couples have an important choice to make when deciding whether to have joint or individual wills. Even if you and your spouse are the ultimate joined-at-the-hip lovebirds, having separate wills may be a good idea. It can often provide more flexibility and family peace in the years ahead.

When you want to make things easier on your loved ones in the future, SoFi can help. We partnered with Trust & Will, the leading online estate planning platform, to give our members 15% off their trust, will, or guardianship. The forms are fast, secure, and easy to use.

Create a complete and customized estate plan in as little as 15 minutes.


Photo credit: iStock/fizkes

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Ladder Insurance Services, LLC (CA license # OK22568; AR license # 3000140372) distributes term life insurance products issued by multiple insurers- for further details see ladderlife.com. All insurance products are governed by the terms set forth in the applicable insurance policy. Each insurer has financial responsibility for its own products.
Ladder, SoFi and SoFi Agency are separate, independent entities and are not responsible for the financial condition, business, or legal obligations of the other, Social Finance. Inc. (SoFi) and Social Finance Life Insurance Agency, LLC (SoFi Agency) do not issue, underwrite insurance or pay claims under Ladder Life™ policies. SoFi is compensated by Ladder for each issued term life policy.
SoFi Agency and its affiliates do not guarantee the services of any insurance company.
All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.


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

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401(k) Taxes: Rules on Withdrawals and Contributions

Employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401(k) are a common way for workers to save for retirement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a little more than half of private industry employees participate in a retirement plan at work. So participants need to understand how 401(k) taxes work to take advantage of this popular retirement savings tool.

With a traditional 401(k) plan, employees can contribute a portion of their salary to an account with various investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and cash.

There are two main types of workplace 401(k) plans: a traditional 401(k) plan and a Roth 401(k). The 401(k) tax rules depend on which plan an employee participates in.

Traditional 401(k) Tax Rules

When it comes to this employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, here are key things to know about 401(k) taxes and 401(k) withdrawal tax.

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Retirement Plans

401(k) Contributions are Made With Pre-tax Income

One of the biggest advantages of a 401(k) is its tax break on contributions. When you contribute to a 401(k), the money is deducted from your paycheck before taxes are taken out, which reduces your taxable income for the year. This means that you’ll pay less in income tax, which can save you a significant amount of money over time.

If you’re contributing to your company’s 401(k), each time you receive a paycheck, a self-determined portion of it is deposited into your 401(k) account before taxes are taken out, and the rest is taxed and paid to you.

For 2024, participants can contribute up to $23,000 to a 401(k) plan, plus $7,500 in catch-up contributions if they’re 50 or older. These contribution limits are up from 2023, when the limit was $22,500, plus the additional $7,500 for those aged 50 and up.

401(k) Contributions Lower Your Taxable Income

The more you contribute to your 401(k) account, the lower your taxable income is in that year. If you contribute 15% of your income to your 401(k), for instance, you’ll only owe taxes on 85% of your income.

Withdrawals From a 401(k) Account Are Taxable

When you take withdrawals from your 401(k) account in retirement, you’ll be taxed on your contributions and any earnings accrued over time.

The withdrawals count as taxable income, so during the years you withdraw funds from your 401(k) account, you will owe taxes in your retirement income tax bracket.

Early 401(k) Withdrawals Come With Taxes and Penalties

If you withdraw money from your 401(k) before age 59 ½, you’ll owe both income taxes and a 10% tax penalty on the distribution.

Although individual retirement accounts (IRAs) allow penalty-free early withdrawals for qualified first-time homebuyers and qualified higher education expenses, that is not true for 401(k) plans.

That said, if an employee leaves a company during or after the year they turn 55, they can start taking distributions from their 401(k) account without paying taxes or early withdrawal penalties.

Can you take out a loan or hardship withdrawal from your plan assets? Many plans do allow that up to a certain amount, but withdrawing money from a retirement account means you lose out on the compound growth from funds withdrawn. You will also have to pay interest (yes, to yourself) on the loan.

Roth 401(k) Tax Rules

Here are some tax rules for the Roth 401(k).

Your Roth 401(k) Contributions Are Made With After-Tax Income

When it comes to taxes, a Roth 401(k) works the opposite way of a traditional 401(k). Your contributions are post-tax, meaning you pay taxes on the money in the year you contribute.

If you have a Roth 401(k) and your company offers a 401(k) match, that matching contribution will go into a pre-tax account, which would be a traditional 401(k) account. So you would essentially have a Roth 401(k) made up of your own contributions and a traditional 401(k) of your employer’s contributions.

Recommended: How an Employer 401(k) Match Works

Roth 401(k) Contributions Do Not Lower Your Taxable Income

When you have Roth 401(k) contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck, your full paycheck amount will be taxed, and then money will be transferred to your Roth 401(k).

For instance, if you’re making $50,000 and contributing 10% to a Roth 401(k), $5,000 will be deposited into your Roth 401(k) annually, but you’ll still be taxed on the full $50,000.

Roth 401(k) Withdrawals Are Tax-Free

When you take money from your Roth 401(k) in retirement, the distributions are tax-free, including your contributions and any earnings that have accrued (as long as you’ve had the account for at least five years).

No matter what your tax bracket is in retirement, qualified withdrawals from your Roth 401(k) are not counted as taxable income.

There Are Limits on Roth 401(k) Withdrawals

In order for a withdrawal from a Roth 401(k) to count as a qualified distribution — meaning, it won’t be taxed — an employee must be age 59 ½ or older and have held the account for at least five years.

If you make a withdrawal before this point — even if you’re age 61 but have only held the account since age 58 — the withdrawal would be considered an early, or unqualified, withdrawal. If this happens, you would owe taxes on any earnings you withdraw and could pay a 10% penalty.

Early withdrawals are prorated according to the ratio of contributions to earnings in the account. For instance, if your Roth 401(k) had $100,000 in it, made up of $70,000 in contributions and $30,000 in earnings, your early withdrawals would be made up of 70% contributions and 30% earnings. Hence, you would owe taxes and potentially penalties on 30% of your early withdrawal.

If the plan allows it, you can take a loan from your Roth 401(k), just like a traditional 401(k), and the same rules and limits apply to how much you can borrow. Any Roth 401(k) loan amount will be combined with outstanding loans from that plan or any other plan your employer maintains to determine your loan limits.

You Can Roll Roth 401(k) Money Into a Roth IRA

Money in a Roth 401(k) account can be rolled into a Roth IRA. Like an employer-sponsored Roth 401(k), a Roth IRA is funded with after-tax dollars.

One of the significant differences between a Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA is that the 401(k) requires participants to start taking required minimum distributions at age 72, but there is no such requirement for a Roth IRA.

It’s important to note, however, that there’s also a five-year rule for Roth IRAs: Earnings cannot be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free from a Roth IRA until five years after the account’s first contribution. If you roll a Roth 401(k) into a new Roth IRA, the five-year clock starts over at that time.

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on a 401(k) Rollover?

If you do a direct rollover of your 401(k) into an IRA or another eligible retirement account, you generally won’t have to pay taxes on the rollover. However, if you receive the funds from your 401(k) and then roll them over yourself within 60 days, you may have to pay taxes on the amount rolled over, as the IRS will treat it as a distribution from the 401(k).

Recommended: How to Roll Over Your 401(k)

Do You Have to Pay 401(k) Taxes after 59 ½?

If you have a traditional 401(k), you will generally have to pay taxes on withdrawals after age 59 ½. This is because the money you contributed to the 401(k) was not taxed when you earned it, so it’s considered income when you withdraw it in retirement.

However, if you have a Roth 401(k), you can withdraw your contributions and earnings tax-free in retirement as long as you meet certain requirements, such as being at least 59 ½ and having had the account for at least five years.

Do You Pay 401(k) Taxes on Employer Contributions?

The taxation of employer contributions to a 401(k) depends on whether the account is a traditional or Roth 401(k).

In the case of traditional 401(k) contributions, the employer contributions are not included in your taxable income for the year they are made, but you will pay taxes on them when you withdraw the funds from the 401(k) in retirement.

In the case of Roth contributions, the employer contributions are not included in a post-tax Roth 401(k) but rather in a pre-tax traditional 401(k) account. So, you do not pay taxes on the employer contributions in a Roth 401(k), but you do pay taxes on withdrawals.

How Can I Avoid 401(k) Taxes on My Withdrawal?

The only way to avoid taxes on 401(k) withdrawals is to take advantage of a Roth 401(k), as noted above. With a Roth 401(k), your contributions are made post-tax, but withdrawals are tax-free if you meet certain criteria to avoid the penalties mentioned above.

However, even if you have to pay taxes on your 401(k) withdrawals, you can take the following steps to minimize your taxes.

Consider Your Tax Bracket

Contributing to a traditional 401(k) is essentially a bet that you’ll be in a lower tax bracket in retirement — you’re choosing to forgo taxes now and pay taxes later.

Contributing to a Roth 401(k) takes the opposite approach: Pay taxes now, so you don’t have to pay taxes later. The best approach for you will depend on your income, your tax situation, and your future tax treatment expectations.

Strategize Your Account Mix

Having savings in different accounts — both pre-tax and post-tax — may offer more flexibility in retirement.

For instance, if you need to make a large purchase, such as a vacation home or a car, it may be helpful to be able to pull the income from a source that doesn’t trigger a taxable event. This might mean a retirement strategy that includes a traditional 401(k), a Roth IRA, and a taxable brokerage account.

Decide Where To Live

Eight U.S. states don’t charge individual income tax at all: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. And New Hampshire only taxes interest and dividend income.

This can affect your tax planning if you live in a tax-free state now or intend to live in a tax-free state in retirement.

The Takeaway

Saving for retirement is one of the best ways to prepare for a secure future. And understanding the tax rules for 401(k) withdrawals and contributions is essential for effective retirement planning. By educating yourself on the rules and regulations surrounding 401(k) taxes, you can optimize your retirement savings and minimize your tax burden.

Another strategy to help stay on top of your retirement savings is to roll over a previous 401(k) to a rollover IRA. Then you can manage your money in one place.

SoFi makes the rollover process seamless. The process is automated so there’s no need to watch the mail for your 401(k) check — and there are no rollover fees or taxes.

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Do you get taxed on your 401(k)?

You either pay taxes on your 401(k) contributions — in the case of a Roth 401(k) — or on your traditional 401(k) withdrawals in retirement.

When can you withdraw from 401(k) tax free?

You can withdraw from a Roth 401(k) tax-free if you have had the account for at least five years and are over age 59 ½. With a traditional 401(k), withdrawals are generally subject to income tax.

How can I avoid paying taxes on my 401(k)?

You never truly avoid paying taxes on a 401(k), as you either have to pay taxes on contributions or withdrawals, depending on the type of 401(k) account. By contributing to a Roth 401(k) instead of a traditional 401(k), you can withdraw your contributions and earnings tax-free in retirement.


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.

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.

Update: The deadline for making IRA contributions for tax year 2020 has been extended to May 17, 2021.
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