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The Mortgage Underwriting Process: How Long Does it Take?

Underwriters are a bit like jurors: They soberly weigh the evidence and render a verdict. Unlike jurors, underwriters sometimes reach out to those they are, well, judging to obtain additional information, clarify a matter, or otherwise help the case for mortgage approval.

If the underwriter finds that you’re fiscally fit enough to take on a mortgage and that the amount you want to borrow is a manageable size, you’re on your way to a home purchase. So you want to put your best foot forward where the underwriter is concerned. By learning about underwriting, you’ll be prepared for the document-gathering and hurdles ahead.

What Is Mortgage Underwriting?

Underwriters protect a bank, credit union, or mortgage company by making sure that they only give loan approval to aspiring homeowners who have a good chance of paying the lender back.

If you’re wondering what is the underwriting process, here are some of their tasks:

•   Verify documents and financial information and make sure that enough savings exist to supplement income or contribute toward the down payment.

•   Check an applicant’s credit score and history and note any bankruptcies, late payments, significant debts, or other red flags.

•   Calculate the debt-to-income ratio by adding up monthly debt payments and dividing that number by monthly pretax income.

•   Request additional documents and ask questions if necessary. For example, if a homebuyer has had more than one job over the past year and their income is not consistent, an underwriter may want to see more assets.

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

5 Steps of the Mortgage Underwriting Process

The mortgage-seeking journey is a winding path that eventually arrives at the underwriter. Automated underwriting may approve your loan application, though a human underwriter will verify your application and documentation. If the software refers your application to manual underwriting, that’s usually a slower process.

Here are common steps leading to underwriting:

1. Explore Your Budget

Prequalifying for a mortgage is a quick move that will provide a ballpark budget for your home purchase, based on self-reported financial info. And you can employ a home affordability calculator to get a feel for your top price.

Think, too, about lending questions you’ll have during the mortgage process.

2. Get Preapproved for a Loan

Shop around for the best deal, and best-fitting loan, with a mortgage broker or direct lender. This is the time to submit documentation of your income, employment, assets, and debts and allow a hard pull of your credit score. What credit score is needed to buy a house? Much depends on whether you plan to use a conventional or government-backed mortgage loan (an FHA loan is more lenient).

A mortgage preapproval letter, often good for 30 to 90 days, indicates the lender’s willingness to lend you a particular amount at a tentative or locked interest rate. A preapproval letter also allows a buyer to act quickly in a seller’s market.

3. Find Your Home

Once you find a home that meets your needs, you’ll need to agree on a price. Ideally it is within the amount you’ve budgeted and been preapproved for.

4. Apply for the Loan

You may choose one of the lenders you gained preapproval from, or another lender, to apply for the mortgage. You’ll receive a loan estimate within three business days from each lender you apply with.

If you go with one of the former, you submitted documents in order to get preapproved. Still, the lender will likely ask for further documentation now that you’re ready to act on a purchase, and will take another look at your credit.

5. Wait for the Underwriting Verdict

A loan processor will confirm your information, and then it’s time for the underwriter to review your credit scores and history, employment history, income, debts, assets, and requested mortgage amount.

The underwriter will order an appraisal of the chosen property and get a copy of the title insurance, which shows that there are no liens or judgments. Finally, the underwriter will consider your down payment.

Then comes the decision on your mortgage application: approved, suspended (more documentation is needed), or denied. How long does underwriting take? The verdict could come in as little as a few days.

Required Information for Underwriting

Lenders are going to request a lot of documents from mortgage loan applicants.

Income verification. The lender will want to see W-2s from the past two years, your two most recent bank statements, and two most recent pay stubs. Those who are self-employed will need to document stable work and payments and ideally have a business website. Applicants will typically need to show evidence of at least two years of self-employment income in the same field.

Any additional income. Pension, Social Security, alimony, dividends, and the like all count.

Proof of assets. This can include checking and savings accounts, real estate you own, retirement savings, and personal property. A lender might want to see that a down payment and closing costs have been in an applicant’s account for a while.

Debts. Your debt-to-income ratio matters greatly, so list all monthly debt payments, each creditor’s name and address, account numbers, loan balances, and minimum payment amounts.

Gift letter. If you’ve received money from a family member or another person to put toward your home purchase, the lender will request a gift letter for the mortgage and proof of that funding in your account.

Rent payments. Renters will likely need to show evidence of payments for the past 12 months and give contact information for landlords for two years.

How Long Does Underwriting Take?

Underwriting may take a couple of days to more than a week. It all depends on how complicated someone’s finances are and how busy an underwriter is. Thankfully, underwriters typically do everything online these days, so an applicant can upload documents to a website or simply email them.

Can You Speed Up the Mortgage Underwriting Process?

Most of the methods used to speed up the underwriting process are not in the hands of the borrower but rather methods lenders can use to accelerate their review. An applicant can help ensure an efficient underwriting process by making sure they submit all the requested information and documents the first time around, thereby lessening the likelihood an underwriter will have questions.

How You Can Improve Your Chance of Being Approved

Before applicants try to get a mortgage, they can take a number of steps to improve their chances of getting approved.

Lighten the debt load. It’s critical to pay off as much debt as possible and to try to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30%, though some lenders like to see a ratio below 25%.

Applicants can pay off debt faster by making a budget (and sticking to it), using cash instead of credit cards to make purchases, and negotiating interest rates with creditors.

Look at credit reports. Applicants should also scour their credit reports and fix any mistakes so that their score is as high as possible. Federal law guarantees the right to access credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus annually for free.

The reports show only credit history, not credit scores. There are ways to monitor your credit scores and track your money at no cost.

Attempt to boost income. Applicants may want to apply for higher-paying jobs or get to know the benefits of a side hustle so they can save more money.

Ask for a gift or loan partner. You could also ask a family member for a gift to put toward the down payment, or you could ask a relative with a stable credit history and income if they would apply for the loan as a co-borrower or cosigner.

With an underwriter extending a hand, a solution may be found that leads to approval.

The Takeaway

Ready to apply for a mortgage? Prepare for a probing look at your private life — the financial one — by an underwriter, who is gauging the risk of lending you a bundle of money. The underwriter looks at a homebuyer’s finances and history, the loan amount, and the chosen property and renders a verdict.

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.


How long does it take for the mortgage underwriter to make a decision?

Underwriting can take anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks, depending in part on the complexity of a mortgage applicant’s financial situation and how thorough applicants are in submitting requested documents.

Is underwriting the last step before closing?

Not quite. After the underwriter signs off on the loan, it’s likely that your lender will want to do a final verification of your employment status, credit score, income, or all of the above. You’ll then be sent closing documents to review, and you’ll need to arrange payment of the closing costs, usually via a cashier’s check or bank transfer. At that point, you should be headed to a closing.

How often do underwriters deny loans?

About one in 10 loan applications are denied, according to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Denials are less common for conventional loan applicants than for those applying for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans. Denial rates tend to be higher for refinance applicants than for home purchasers.

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.


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How Are Real Estate Commission Fees Changing?

It has long been the norm in real estate transactions for the buyer’s and seller’s agents to be paid with a commission fee — typically 5% to 6% of the house price — that was split between the two agents and paid by the seller. But in early 2024, the National Association of Realtors®, a real estate trade association, agreed to settle a group of lawsuits that challenged this commission structure for violating antitrust laws and contended that commissions were artificially inflated.

NAR will pay out $418 million in damages. But more importantly for homebuyers, the fallout could trigger big changes in how homebuyers work with real estate agents to make their purchase — and maybe even save buyers and sellers a little money. NAR Realtors handle the majority of sales in the U.S., so this settlement could have a significant impact on real estate transactions going forward.

How might real estate agent fees work in this new environment? If you plan to buy or sell a home, it’s important to understand. Let’s take a closer look at how homebuyers and sellers might be affected.

What’s Changing About Real Estate Commissions?

The NAR settlement, which was preliminarily approved by a judge in April 2024, means that as of August 2024, sellers’ agents will no longer be required to offer to share commissions with buyers’ agents. If a commission (paid by the seller) is compensating the seller’s agent but not the buyer’s agent, homebuyers will likely be responsible for paying their own agent.

This isn’t all bad news for buyers. Sellers might reduce home prices if their costs associated with paying a broker are lower. It’s also possible that buyers’ brokers will compete for customers by keeping their fees low. But it’s too soon to say what exactly will happen.

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

What Does a Buyer’s Real Estate Agent Do?

If you’re a homebuyer, especially a first-time homebuyer, you may be wondering what services you would be paying for when you hire a real estate agent. Agents can perform a variety of services on behalf of their clients. If you’re buying a home, an agent can help you:

•   Narrow your search to the most desirable properties for your budget

•   View the homes in person or virtually

•   Make an offer on a property

•   Navigate the home inspection process

•   Negotiate any contingencies you’d like to include in the home contract

•   Prepare for closing

Who Pays the Agents’ Commissions?

It remains to be seen whether real estate agents will charge by the hour or bill customers a flat rate — or if some agents will continue to work on commission that is perhaps paid by the buyer.

Buyer’s real estate agents might begin to charge a fee (vs. a commission) for showing homes and shepherding clients through the purchase process. For buyers, this would add to the cost of a home purchase. Buyers have long suspected that sellers baked the commission fees into a property’s price, so that, in effect, buyers were already paying the commission. But while buyers could cover those baked-in costs out of their home mortgage loan, new fees paid by the buyer to the agent would come from the buyer’s pocket.

And they aren’t the only fees a buyer has to pay to finalize the purchase of a home. Closing costs can include:

•   Attorney fees

•   Title search and title insurance fees

•   Credit check fees

•   Upfront costs paid to cover homeowners insurance and/or property taxes

•   Home mortgage loan origination fees

•   Mortgage points, if you choose to purchase them

•   Recording fees

Closing costs typically run between 3% and 6% of the home’s purchase price. So if you’re buying a $300,000 home, you might pay anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000 at closing, not including the down payment.

Closing costs are usually the buyer’s responsibility, but it’s not unusual for buyers to persuade sellers to share some expenses that are paid in advance.

All this may lead some buyers to consider shopping for a home without the help of an agent. If you’re thinking of going this route, be prepared to spend lots more time researching potential properties, reaching out to schedule viewings, and vigorously advocating for yourself if you’re in a seller’s market. And be ready to be your own best representative in negotiations.

Recommended: Cost of Living By State

What Does a Seller’s Agent Commission Cover?

Real estate commissions compensate a seller’s agent for the work the agent puts into helping sell the home. What this specifically entails can depend on the agent you’re working with and your needs. But again, this often involves researching listings, preparing comparative analyses, guiding home viewings, and helping to negotiate offers.

Here is how the commission fee has typically worked in the past: Say a home sells for $366,000 (the average home price in Fresno, California) and the commission is 6%, or $21,960.

If the sellers owe $250,000 on the home’s mortgage, they’d be poised to pocket $116,000 in profit. But first they have to subtract $21,960 to cover the commission fee. It’s likely that the commission fees will be lower now that the commission is not shared between the buyer’s and seller’s agents. But exactly what percentage a seller’s commission fee will be is up in the air.

Commissions are paid out once the transaction is complete. This typically happens after the buyer and seller have signed their closing paperwork. The seller will receive a check for any profits due to them from the sale, while the agent receives a check for the commission. Exact amounts of commissions, like home sale prices, vary widely by state.

It’s worth noting that there are still other costs involved in selling a home. You may pay a separate fee for professional staging or photography to get it ready to list, for example.

Recommended: Home Appraisals 101: What You Need to Know

Flat Fee vs Real Estate Commission Fee

There are real estate brokerages that advertise listing services for a flat fee. Usually, the flat fee is very low and may only include a listing with photos on the MLS (the Multiple Listing Service, a list of available properties). Real estate agents who charge a flat fee usually don’t offer to schedule showings or manage the listing in other ways.

Are Real Estate Commissions Negotiable?

More than ever, thanks to the NAR settlement, real estate commission fees may be on the table for negotiations. A seller may be able to ask for a reduced commission if you’re working with an agent to sell multiple properties. The agent may be open to accepting a slightly lower fee per deal if there are multiple deals in play. This, of course, depends on how likely those properties are to sell at your desired price point.

As a buyer, how you might negotiate paying your agent in this new payment structure remains to be seen — and it will be up to you to start that conversation. Remember that you can also still negotiate a house price in other ways, such as by tailoring your offer price and asking the seller for help on closing costs.

Why Even Involve Agents?

You could buy a house without a Realtor® but having a professional’s help can be invaluable, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. (Realtors® are real estate agents who are members of the country’s largest trade association, the National Association of Realtors®. They subscribe to a strict code of ethics.)

A real estate agent or Realtor® can help you navigate the ins and outs of the homebuying process so that you can feel confident about your purchase.

Real estate agents are legally obligated to put their clients’ best interests first. They are trained to negotiate price and contingencies, handle legally binding documents, prepare and show properties for sale, and market homes through the MLS.

And if you’re thinking about selling your home on your own, it’s worth considering that homes for sale by owner usually sell for an average of $100,000 less than agent-assisted sales.

The Takeaway

Changes in the way that real estate agents are paid are underway, and while sellers will continue to pay their agents a commission, buyers may increasingly need to pay their agents themselves. Whether buyers come out ahead financially in this changed compensation structure remains to be seen. Bottom line? If you are in the market for a new home, make sure you discuss an agent’s fee structure and payment process before signing on.

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 commission and flat rate the same?

No. A flat rate is a specific rate negotiated for a certain service, while a commission-based fee is based on a price, such as the sale price of a home. For a seller, a flat rate typically covers only basic real estate agent services such as listing the property in a database.

What fee do most Realtors charge?

Historically, most real estate agents have worked on commission and would split an amount equal to 5%-6% of a home’s price, which was paid by the seller. Now, seller’s agents may still be paid on commission (albeit a smaller percentage) but buyer’s agents will increasingly be paid by the buyer. This means buyers will need to negotiate a fee with a real estate agent before agreeing to be represented by that agent in their home search. The amount of the fee will vary based on factors such as location, services provided, and time spent.

What is the difference between a flat fee and a fixed fee?

Yes, a flat fee and a fixed fee are the same when it comes to how a real estate agent is paid.

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.


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Can You Refinance Student Loans More Than Once?

Refinancing your student debt can have many benefits, including saving money on interest, lowering your monthly payments, or changing your repayment terms. But can you do it more than once? And, if so, should you?

Yes. And maybe.

There is no limit on how many times you can refinance your student loans. If your finances and credit have improved since you last refinanced and/or market interest rates have gone down, it may be worthwhile to refinance your loans, even if you’ve refinanced before.

That said, refinancing multiple times isn’t always worthwhile. Here are key things to consider before you refinance your student loans more than once.

How Many Times Can You Refinance Student Loans?

Technically, there is no limit to the number of times you can refinance your student loans with a private lender. In fact, as long as you qualify, you can refinance your student loans as many times and as often as you’d like. And given that lenders often don’t charge prepayment penalties or origination fees, there may be no extra cost involved with refinancing your student loans again.

Refinancing student loans again generally makes the most sense when your finances or credit score improves or interest rates decline. In these cases, it may be possible to save thousands of dollars in interest by reducing your interest rate by a couple percentage points.

If you’re not able to get a lower rate, however, refinancing may not make sense, especially if it extends your repayment term, leading to higher costs.

Also keep in mind that if you only have federal student loans, refinancing with a private lender may not be your best option, since it means giving up government protections like income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

When Should You Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans Again?

If you’ve already refinanced your loans with a private lender, here are some key reasons why you might consider refinancing again.

Your Financial Situation Has Changed

If you have experienced a significant improvement in your credit score, income, or overall financial health since your last refinance, you may be eligible for a better loan rate and terms than you did even a year ago. In fact, some borrowers with limited or poor credit might refinance their loans multiple times as their credit score improves and they become more desirable applicants.

Interest Rates Have Come Down

Student loan rates are not only tied to your creditworthiness, but also current economic conditions. If market interest rates have dropped since your last refinance, you might be able to secure a lower rate, reducing your overall interest payments. Even a small reduction in interest rates can lead to substantial savings over the life of the loan.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on market trends and compare current rates to what you’re paying to determine if refinancing again makes financial sense.

Recommended: 3 Factors That Affect Student Loan Interest Rates

You’re Looking for Different Loan Terms

Changing loan terms can also be a reason to refinance again. Perhaps your initial refinance resulted in a longer loan term to lower your monthly payments, but now you’re in a better financial position and can afford higher payments to pay off your loan faster.

Conversely, you might need to extend your loan term to lower monthly payments due to a change in financial circumstances. Just be aware that extending your repayment term can cost you more money in interest over time.

What Are Some Advantages of Refinancing Multiple Times?

Before you decide to refinance your student loan again, it’s important to know the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy. Here’s a look at some of the pros of refinancing more than once.

•   Save money: Refinancing multiple times can help you take advantage of lower interest rates as your financial situation improves or as market rates decrease. Each reduction in interest rates can save you money over the life of your loan. You can also shorten your loan term to pay off your debt faster, which can also reduce what you pay in interest.

•   Better lender benefits: Refinancing with a different lender can provide access to better benefits, such as more flexible repayment options and hardship programs (such as deferment or forbearance). Choosing a lender that offers these benefits can provide additional financial security.

•   Promotional offers: Some lenders will offer special promotions or discounts for refinancing with them — if you see a great deal, it may be worth making the switch to that lender.

What Are Some Disadvantages of Refinancing Multiple Times?

Refinancing again also has potential drawbacks. Here are some to consider.

•   Credit impact: When you formally apply for a refinance, the lender runs a hard credit inquiry, which can negatively affect your credit score. While a single inquiry has a minimal impact, multiple inquiries in a short period can lower your credit score.

•   You could end up paying more: If you refinance to a longer repayment term, or even the same term every few years, you’re extending the amount of interest payments you make. This can keep you in debt longer and increase the total amount of interest you pay. If you refinance to a variable-rate student loan, the rate could also go up during the life of the loan.

•   Time and effort: The process of refinancing can be time-consuming, involving research and making comparisons between lenders, as well as paperwork and credit checks. Doing this multiple times requires a significant investment of time and effort. It might not always be worth it if you won’t save much money with your new loan.

Things to Look for When Refinancing

If you’re considering another refinance, it’s important to look at the following factors to ensure you’re making a smart financial decision.

•   Interest rates: Compare the offered interest rates with your current rate to ensure you’re getting a better deal.

•   Fixed vs. variable rates: Variable-rate loans have interest rates that typically start off lower, but can fluctuate based on market rates. The rate could climb if the rate or index it’s tied to goes up (and vice versa). Variable-rate loans might be a good choice for shorter-term loans. The longer the loan term, the bigger the chance of a rate hike.

•   Loan terms: Evaluate the terms of the new loan, including the length of the loan and monthly payment amounts. Keep in mind that a longer term can lead to lower payments but increase the total cost of your loan in the end.

•   Fees and costs: Be aware of any fees associated with the refinance and calculate whether the savings outweigh these costs.

•   Lender reputation: Research the lender’s reputation and customer service to ensure you’re working with a reliable and supportive institution.

•   Borrower benefits: Consider the benefits offered by the lender, such as flexible repayment options, forbearance, or deferment.

Recommended: How Soon Can You Refinance Student Loans?

Refinancing Your Student Loans With SoFi

Refinancing student loans multiple times can be a strategic move to save money and better manage your debt. While there’s no limit to how many times you can refinance, it’s important to carefully consider the costs, benefits, and your financial goals each time.

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.


Can I consolidate student loans more than once?

Typically, you can’t consolidate federal student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan more than once. However, you may be able to do this if you have federal loans that were not included in a previous consolidation, or you previously consolidated loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) consolidation program. Remember that federal consolidation does not lower your interest rate.

With private student loan consolidation, called refinancing, there is no limit on the number of times it can be done. Each refinance creates a new loan with new terms, so you’ll want to evaluate the benefits, interest rates, and any potential fees before deciding to refinance again.

How many times can you refinance a loan?

There is typically no set limit on how many times you can refinance a loan, including student loans. As long as you qualify, you can refinance your student loans as many times and as often as you’d like. Each refinance involves taking out a new loan to pay off the existing one, so it’s important to consider factors like interest rates, loan term, and any associated fees.

How many times can you take out student loans?

There’s no set limit on how many student loans you can take out, but the federal government and private lenders do impose lending limits based on dollar amount.

For federal student loans, there are annual and aggregate (lifetime) limits based on your degree level and dependency status. For private student loans, lenders set their own annual and aggregate student limits. Often, they will cover up to the annual cost of attendance minus other financial aid each year.

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.

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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .


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Investment Strategies By Age

Your age is a major factor in the investment strategy you choose and the assets you invest in. The investments someone makes when they’re in their 20s should look very different from the investments they make in their 50s.

Generally speaking, the younger you are, the more risk you may be able to tolerate because you’ll have time to make up for investment losses you might incur. Conversely, the closer you are to retirement, the more conservative you’ll want to be since you have less time to recoup from any losses. In other words, your investments need to align with your risk tolerance, time horizon, and financial goals.

Most important of all, you need to start saving for retirement now so that you won’t be caught short when it’s time to retire. According to a 2024 SoFi survey of adults 18 and older, 59% of respondents had no retirement savings at all or less than $49,999.

Here is some information to consider at different ages.

Investing in Your 20s

In your 20s, you’ve just started in your career and likely aren’t yet earning a lot. You’re probably also paying off debt such as student loans. Despite those challenges, this is an important time to begin investing with any extra money you have. The sooner you start, the more time you’ll have to save for retirement. Plus, you can take advantage of the power of compounding returns over the decades. These strategies can help get you on your investing journey.

Strategy 1: Participate in a Retirement Savings Plan

One of the easiest ways to start saving for retirement is to enroll in an employer-sponsored plan like a 401(k). Your contributions are generally automatically deducted from your paycheck, making it easier to save.

If possible, contribute at least enough to qualify for your employer’s 401(k) match if they offer one. That way your company will match a percentage of your contributions up to a certain limit, and you’ll be earning what’s essentially free money.

Those who don’t have access to an employer-sponsored plan might want to consider setting up an individual retirement account (IRA). There are different types of IRAs, but two of the most common are traditional and Roth IRAs. Both let you contribute the same amount (up to $7,000 in 2024 for those under age 50), but one key difference is the way the two accounts are taxed. With Roth IRAs, contributions are not tax deductible, but you can withdraw money tax-free in retirement. With traditional IRAs, you deduct your contributions upfront and pay taxes on distributions when you retire.

Strategy 2: Explore Diversification

As you’re building a portfolio, consider diversification. Diversification involves spreading your investments across different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and real estate investment trusts (REITs). One way twentysomethings might diversify their portfolios is by investing in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Mutual funds are pooled investments typically in stocks or bonds, and they trade once per day at the end of the day. ETFs are baskets of securities that trade on a public exchange and trade throughout the day.

You may be able to invest in mutual funds or ETFs through your 401(k) or IRA. Or you could open a brokerage account to begin investing in them.

Strategy 3: Consider Your Approach and Comfort Level

As mentioned, the younger an individual is, the more time they may have to recover from any losses or market downturns. Deciding what kind of approach they want to take at this stage could be helpful.

For instance, one approach involves designating a larger portion of investments to growth funds, mutual funds or ETFs that reflect a more aggressive investing style, but it’s very important to understand that this also involves higher risk. You may feel that a more conservative approach that’s less risky suits you better. What you choose to do is fully up to you. Weigh the options and decide what makes sense for you.

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Investing in Your 30s

Once you’re in your 30s, you may have advanced in your career and started earning more money. However, at this stage of life you may also be starting a family, and you likely have financial obligations such as a mortgage, a car loan, and paying for childcare. Plus, you’re probably still paying off your student loans. Still, despite these expenses, contributing to your retirement should be a top priority. Here are some ways to do that.

Strategy 1: Maximize Your Contributions

Now that you’re earning more, this is the time to max out your 401(k) or IRA if you can, which could help you save more for retirement. In 2024, you can contribute up to $23,000 in a 401(k) and up to $7,000 in an IRA. (If you have a Roth IRA, there are income limits you need to meet to be eligible to contribute the full amount, which is one thing to consider when choosing between a Roth IRA vs. a traditional IRA.)

Strategy 2: Consider Adding Fixed-Income Assets to the Mix

While you can likely still afford some risk since you have several decades to recover from downturns or losses, you may also want to add some fixed-income assets like bonds or bond funds to your portfolio to help counterbalance the risk of growth funds and give yourself a cushion against potential market volatility. For example, an investor in their 30s might want 20% to 30% of their portfolio to be bonds. But, of course, you’ll want to determine what specific allocation makes the most sense for your particular situation.

Strategy 3: Get Your Other Financial Goals On Track

While saving for retirement is crucial, you should also make sure that your overall financial situation is stable. That means paying off your debts, especially high-interest debt like credit cards, so that it doesn’t continue to accrue interest. In addition, build up your emergency fund with enough money to tide you over for at least three to six months in case of a financial setback, such as a major medical expense or getting laid off from your job. And finally, make sure you have enough funds to cover your regular expenses, such as your mortgage payment and insurance.

Investing in Your 40s

You may be in — or approaching — your peak earning years now. At the same time, you likely have more expenses, as well, such as putting away money for your children’s college education, and saving up for a bigger house. Fortunately, you probably have at least 20 years before retirement, so there is still time to help build your nest egg. Consider these steps:

Strategy 1: Review Your Progress

According to one rule of thumb, by your 40s, you should have 3x the amount of your salary saved for retirement. This is just a guideline, but it gives you an idea of what you may need. Another popular guideline is the 80% rule of aiming to save at least 80% of your pre-retirement income. And finally, there is the 4% rule that says you can take your projected annual retirement expenses and divide them by 4% (0.04) to get an estimate of how much money you’ll need for retirement.

These are all rough targets, but they give you a benchmark to compare your current retirement savings to. Then, you can make adjustments as needed.

Strategy 2: Get Financial Advice

If you haven’t done much in terms of investing up until this point, it’s not too late to start. Seeking help from financial advisors and other professionals may help you establish a financial plan and set short-term and long-term financial goals.

Even for those who have started saving, meeting with a financial specialist could be useful if you have questions or need help mapping out your next steps or sticking to your overall strategy.

Strategy 3: Focus on the Your Goals

Since they might have another 20-plus years in the market before retirement, some individuals may choose to keep a portion of their portfolio allocated to stocks now. But of course, it’s also important to be careful and not take too much risk. For instance, while nothing is guaranteed and there is always risk involved, you might feel more comfortable in your 40s choosing investments that have a proven track record of returns.

Investing in Your 50s

You’re getting close to retirement age, so this is the time to buckle down and get serious about saving safely. If you’ve been a more aggressive investor in earlier decades, you’ll generally want to become more conservative about investing now. You’ll need your retirement funds in 10 years or so, and it’s vital not to do anything that might jeopardize your future. These investment strategies by age may be helpful to you in your 50s:

Strategy 1: Add Stability to Your Portfolio

One way to take a more conservative approach is to start shifting more of your portfolio to fixed-income assets like bonds or bond funds. Although these investments may result in lower returns in the short term compared to assets like stocks, they can help generate income when you begin withdrawing funds in retirement since bonds provide you with periodic interest payments.

You may also want to consider lower-risk investments like money market funds at this stage of your investment life.

Strategy 2: Take Advantage of Catch-up Contributions

Starting at age 50, you become eligible to make catch-up contributions to your 401(k) or IRA. In 2024, you can contribute an additional $7,500 to your 401(k) for a total contribution of $30,500 for the year if you max out your plan.

In 2024, the catch-up contribution for an IRA is an additional $1,000 for a total maximum contribution of $8,000 for the year. This allows you to stash away even more money for retirement.

Strategy 3: Consider Downsizing

Your kids may be out of the house now, which can make it the ideal time to cut back on some major expenses in order to save more. You might want to move into a smaller home, for instance, or get rid of an extra car you no longer need.

Think about what you want your retirement lifestyle to look like — lots of travel, more time for hobbies, starting a small business, or whatever it might be — and plan accordingly. By cutting back on some expenses now, you may be able to save more for your future pastimes.

Investing in Your 60s

Retirement is fast approaching, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to pull back on your investing. Every little bit you can continue to save and invest now can help build your nest egg. Remember, your retirement savings may need to last you for 30 years or even longer. Here are some strategies that may help you accumulate the money you need.

Strategy 1: Get the Most Out of Social Security

The average retirement age in the U.S. is 65 for men and 63 for women. But you may decide you want to work for longer than that. Waiting to retire can pay off in terms of Social Security benefits. The longer you wait, the bigger your monthly benefit will be.

The earliest you can start receiving Social Security Benefits is age 62, but your benefits will be reduced by as much as 30% if you take them that early. If you wait until your full retirement age, which is 67 for those born in 1960 or later, you can begin receiving full benefits.

However, if you wait until age 70 by working longer or working part time, say, the size of your benefits will increase substantially. Typically, for each additional year you wait to claim your benefits up to age 70, your benefits will grow by 8%.

Strategy 2: Review Your Asset Allocation

Just before and during retirement, it’s important to make sure your portfolio has enough assets such as bonds and dividend-paying stocks so that you’ll have income coming in. You’ll also want to stash away some cash for unexpected expenses that might pop up in the short term; you could put that money in your emergency fund.

Some individuals in their 60s may choose to keep some stocks with growth potential in their asset allocation as a way to potentially avoid outliving their savings and preserve their spending power. Overall, people at this stage of life may want to continue the more conservative approach to investing they started in their 50s, and not choose anything too aggressive or risky.

Strategy 3: Keep investing in your 401(k) as long as you’re still working.

If you can, max out your 401(k), including catch-up contributions, in your 60s to sock away as much as possible for retirement. This can be especially helpful if you didn’t invest as much as you ideally should have at earlier ages. Contributing to your 401(k) could also help lower your taxable income now, when you may be in a higher income tax bracket than you were in previous decades.

Also, you can continue to contribute to any IRAs you may have — up to the limit allowed by the IRS, which is $8,000 in 2024, including catch-up contributions. If you have a Roth IRA, you will need to meet the income limits in order to contribute.

The Takeaway

Investing for retirement should be a priority throughout your adult life, starting in your 20s. The sooner you begin, the more time you’ll have to save. And while it’s never too late to start investing for retirement, focusing on investment strategies by age, and changing your approach accordingly, can generally help you reach your financial goals.

For instance, in your 20s and 30s you can typically be more aggressive since you have time to make up for any downturns or losses. But as you get closer to retirement in your 40s, 50s, and 60s, your investment strategy should shift and take on a more conservative approach. Like your age, your investment strategy should adjust across the decades to help you live comfortably and enjoyably in your golden years.

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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.

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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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HSA vs FSA: The Similarities and Differences

A health savings account (HSA) and a flexible savings account (FSA) are both tax-advantaged savings accounts that help you pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. To contribute to an HSA, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan. To contribute to an FSA, you can have any type of health plan but your employer must offer an FSA as a benefit. Here’s a closer look at the similarities and differences between FSAs and HSAs and how to choose between them.

HSA and FSA, Explained

A health savings account (HSA) is designed to help individuals with high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) save for medical expenses. Contributions to an HSA are tax-deductible (or deducted from your paycheck pretax), and the funds can be used for a wide range of qualified medical expenses. HSAs also offer investment options and grow tax-free. In addition, withdrawals for qualified expenses are tax-free.

In 2024, a health plan is considered an HDHP if it has a minimum deductible of $1,600 for individual plans and $3,200 for family coverage.

A flexible spending account (FSA) is a benefit offered by employers that allows employees to set aside pretax dollars for eligible healthcare expenses. Unlike HSAs, FSAs do not require an HDHP. However, FSAs typically have a “use-it-or-lose-it” rule, meaning that any unused funds at the end of the plan year are forfeited unless your employer offers a grace period or a certain amount to roll over.

If you leave your job, you lose your FSA unless you’re eligible for FSA continuation through COBRA.

Differences Between HSA and FSA

Even when you have health insurance, you may run into medical expenses that your plan doesn’t cover, such as copays, eyeglasses, dental expenses, medications, diagnostic tests, and hospital fees. Both HSAs and FSAs allow you to set aside pretax money to cover these costs. But there are some key differences between them. Here’s how these two types of savings accounts compare at a glance.

Feature HSA FSA
Eligibility Must have a high-deductible health plan No specific health plan requirement
Ownership Account owned by the individual Account owned by the employer
Contribution Limits $4,150 for individuals, $8,300 for families (2024) $3,200 per year (2024)
Funds Rollover Unused funds roll over year to year Generally, “use-it-or-lose-it” policy
Portability Remains with the individual if they change jobs Typically not portable
Investment Options Can be invested in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds No investment options
Tax Advantages Contributions and earnings aren’t taxed; distributions are tax-free if used for eligible medical expenses. Contributions are pretax; distributions are tax-free and can only be used for eligible medical expenses.
Contribution Changes Can change contribution amounts anytime Contribution amount is typically set at the beginning of the year
Access to Funds Funds are available as they are deposited Full annual election amount available from the start of the year

Similarities Between HSA and FSA

Despite their differences, HSAs and FSAs share several similarities:

•   Funds from either type of account can be used for qualified medical expenses.

•   With both accounts, you can save significantly on medical expenses due to tax advantages.

•   Employers are allowed to contribute to both HSAs and FSAs (though this is not common with FSAs).

•   You can access funds immediately with either type of account. With an FSA, however, you’ll have access to full elected contribution at the start of the year.

Recommended: HSA vs HRA: Main Differences and Which Is Right for You

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Can You Have an HSA and FSA at the Same Time?

Generally, no. However, there is one exception: If you have a limited-purpose FSA (LPFSA), which only covers dental and vision expenses, you can contribute to both an HSA and an LPFSA. This allows you to put more pretax dollars aside for your healthcare expenses than you could with an HSA alone.

Just keep in mind that you can’t “double dip,” meaning you cannot get reimbursed twice for the same expense — you must decide which account you want to use for reimbursement.

Recommended: HSA vs. HMO: What’s the Difference?

How Do You Choose Between an HSA and FSA?

Choosing between an HSA and FSA depends on your healthcare needs, financial situation, and employment status.

Scenarios When You Should Consider an HSA

•   You have a high-deductible health plan. If you have an HDHP, you are eligible for an HSA. The tax advantages and ability to save for future healthcare expenses can make opening an HSA a smart choice.

•   You’re interested in long-term savings. HSAs allow you to roll over unused funds year to year, making them ideal for long-term healthcare savings. And at age 65, you can treat an HSA like a traditional 401(k) or IRA — you can withdraw funds for any reason, though you will pay taxes on any funds not used for qualified medical expenses.

•   You want to grow your healthcare savings. HSAs offer investment options like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

•   You want to be able to take your healthcare savings with you if you leave your job. HSAs are portable and remain with you even if you change jobs, providing consistent coverage regardless of employment status.

Recommended: 15 Easy Ways to Save Money

Scenarios When You Should Consider an FSA

•   You don’t have (or want to enroll in) an HDHP. FSAs do not require a high-deductible health plan, making them accessible regardless of current health insurance.

•   You have fairly predictable healthcare costs. If you’re able to anticipate regular healthcare expenses each year, an FSA can help you save money by using pretax dollars for these predictable costs. If you over-contribute, however, you forfeit any unused balance (unless your employer allows a grade period or a certain amount to roll over).

•   Your employer offers FSA contributions. Some employers offer contributions to FSAs, providing additional savings and making FSAs a valuable benefit.

•   You want to have immediate access to your healthcare savings. FSAs provide immediate access to the full annual contribution amount at the beginning of the year, which can be beneficial for upfront medical expenses.

The Takeaway

Both HSAs and FSAs offer valuable tax advantages and can help you manage healthcare costs, but they cater to different needs and situations.

If you have a high-deductible health plan and want long-term savings with investment opportunities, an HSA can be a great choice. On the other hand, if you don’t have a high-deductible health plan and your employer offers an FSA, you’ll likely want to take advantage of this benefit. An FSA can help you save for (and save money on) healthcare expenses in the coming year.

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Is it better to have an HSA or FSA?

It depends on your healthcare plan and employment situation. A health savings account (HSA) can be a good fit if you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), since it offers higher contribution limits and allows you to carry funds forward. An FSA can work well if your employer offers this benefit, you do not have an HDHP, and you have predictable healthcare expenses (since these plans are often “use-it-or-lose-it”).

Is it good to have both an HSA and FSA?

Generally, you cannot contribute to or spend from a health savings account (HSA) and a flexible spending account (FSA) simultaneously, as both accounts are designed for medical expenses and have overlapping benefits.

However, there is one exception: You can have an HSA and a limited-purpose FSA (LPFSA) at the same time. An LPFSA specifically covers dental and vision expenses. This combination can be beneficial if you have significant dental and vision expenses in addition to regular medical costs, providing comprehensive coverage and enhanced tax advantages.

What happens if I switch from an HSA to an FSA?

If you switch from a health savings account (HSA) to a flexible savings account (FSA), you can no longer contribute to your HSA once your FSA becomes active. However, you still own the HSA and can use the remaining HSA funds for qualified medical expenses. In addition, the funds in your HSA will continue to grow tax-free.

Can I have an HSA if my wife has an FSA?

If your wife’s flexible savings account (FSA) is a general-purpose FSA, which covers a range of medical expenses, you cannot contribute to a health savings account (HSA). However, if her FSA is a limited-purpose FSA (LPFSA), which only covers dental and vision expenses, you can contribute to your HSA.

It’s important to review the specific rules and eligibility criteria for both accounts and coordinate with your spouse to optimize your tax savings and healthcare benefits.

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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.

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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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