How to Know When to Sell a Stock

Knowing when to sell a stock is a complex enterprise, even for the most sophisticated investors. In a perfect world you’d sell a stock when you’d made a profit and wanted to capture the gains. But even that scenario raises questions of your target amount (have you made enough?) and timing (would it be better to hold the stock longer?).

Similar questions arise when the stock is losing value. Is it a true loser or is the company just underperforming? Should you sell and cut your losses — or would you be locking in losses just before a rebound?

Adding to the above there are questions of personal need, opportunity costs, tax considerations, and more that investors must keep in mind as they decide when to sell their stocks. Fortunately there is a fairly finite list of considerations, as well as different order types like market sell, stop-loss, stop-limit, and others that give investors some control over the decision of when to sell a stock.

Key Points

•   Knowing when to sell stocks requires considering factors such as a company’s fundamentals, opportunity cost, valuation, personal needs, and tax implications.

•   Economic reports and earnings releases can affect stock prices, but there is no specific ideal time to sell.

•   Different sell order types, such as market sell, limit sell, stop-loss sell, and stop-limit sell, offer investors varying levels of control and execution.

•   Investors selling stock should consider how a sale aligns with their financial goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon.

•   Financial advisors and online brokerage platforms provide options for selling stocks, but costs and individual preferences should be considered.



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

When Is a Good Time to Sell Stocks?

There are a few ways to approach the question of when to sell stocks. Risk, style, investing goals, and how much time you have are all critical variables. Perhaps the most relevant answer is “when you need to,” as that criterion alone requires specific calculations that depend on your overall plan, the type of investor you are, your risk tolerance, market conditions (i.e. stock market fluctuations), and of course the stock itself.

When deciding when to sell a stock, you might weigh:

•   How the stock fits into your goals

•   Company fundamentals

•   Economic trends

•   Your hoped-for profit

•   Volatility and/or losses

•   Taxes

In addition, whether you sell your stocks will boil down to your investment style — are you day trading or employing a buy-and-hold strategy? — how much risk you’re willing to assume, and your overall time horizon and other goals (i.e. tax considerations).

Many investors who are simply investing for retirement may rarely sell stocks. After all, over time the average stock market return has been about 10% (not taking inflation into account).

And while there are no guarantees, in general the old saying that “time in the market is better than timing the market” tends to hold true.

Others, who are looking to turn a profit on a weekly or monthly basis, may sell much more frequently. It’s more a matter of looking at what you’re hoping to generate from your investments, and how fast you’re hoping to generate it.

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8 Reasons You Might Sell a Stock

There are several reasons that could prompt you to think about selling your stock.

1. When You No Longer Believe in the Company

When you bought shares of a certain company, you presumably did so because you believed that the company was promising and you wanted to invest in its stock, and/or that the share price was reasonable. But if you start to believe that the underlying fundamentals of the business are in decline, it might be time to sell the stock and reinvest those funds in a company with a better outlook.

There are many reasons you may lose faith in a stock’s underlying fundamentals. For example, the company may have declining profit margins or decreasing revenue, increased competition, new leadership taking the company in a different direction, or legal problems.

Part of the task here is differentiating what might be a short-term blip in the stock price due to a bad quarter or even a bad year, and what feels like it could be the start of a more sustained change within the business.

Recommended: Tips on Evaluating Stock Performance

2. Due to Opportunity Cost

Every investment decision you make comes at the cost of some other decision you can’t make. When you invest your money in one thing, the tradeoff is that you cannot invest that money in something else.

So, for each stock you buy you are doing so at the cost of not buying some other asset.

Given the performance of the stock you’re currently holding, it might be worth evaluating it to see if there could be a more profitable way to deploy those same dollars. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that provide easy access to other asset classes — like bonds or commodities — have also created competition to simply holding company stocks.

This is easier said than done, however, because we are often emotionally invested in the stocks that we’ve already purchased. Nonetheless, it’s important to include an evaluation of opportunity costs as part of your overall decision about when to sell a stock.

3. Because the Valuation Is High

Often, stocks are evaluated in terms of their price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios. The market price per share is on the top of the equation, and on the bottom of the equation is the earnings per share. This ratio allows investors to make an apples-to-apples comparison of the relative earnings at different companies.

The higher the number, the higher the price as compared to the earnings of that company. A P/E ratio alone might not tell you whether a stock is going to do well or poorly in the future. But when paired with other data, such as historical ratios for that same stock, or the earnings multiples of their competitors or a benchmark market, like the S&P 500 Index, it may be an indicator that the stock is currently overpriced and that it may be time to sell the stock.

A P/E ratio could increase due to one of two reasons: Because the price has increased without a corresponding increase in the expected earnings for that company, or because the earnings expectations have been lowered without a corresponding decrease in the price of the stock. Either of these scenarios tells us that there could be trouble for the stock on the horizon, though nothing’s a sure bet.

4. For Personal Reasons

It’s also possible that you may need to sell a stock for personal reasons, such as:

•   You need the cash (owing to a job loss, emergency, etc.)

•   You no longer believe in the mission of the company

•   Your risk tolerance has changed and you’re moving away from equities

•   You want to try another strategy other than active investing, for example automated investing, where your investment choices are largely guided by the input of a sophisticated algorithm.

Since personal reasons may also have emotions attached to them, it’s wise to balance out your personal feelings with an evaluation of other reasons to sell the stock.

5. Because of Taxes

Employing a tax-efficient investing strategy shouldn’t outweigh making decisions based on other priorities. Still, it’s important to take taxes into account when making decisions about which stocks to keep and which stocks to sell.

When purchased outside of a retirement account, gains on the sale of an investment are subject to capital gains tax rules. It may be possible to offset some capital gains with capital losses, which are triggered by selling stocks at a loss.

This strategy is known as tax-loss harvesting.

For example, if an investor sells a security for a $25,000 gain, and sells another security at a $10,000 loss, the loss could be applied so that the investor would only see a capital gain of $15,000 ($25,000 – $10,000).

If you’re considering this as part of a self-directed trading strategy, you may want to consult a tax professional, as the rules can be complicated in terms of short-term vs. long-term gains, replacing a stock you sell with one that’s substantially different, as well as how to carryover losses.

•   Understanding how a tax loss can be carried forward

The difference between capital gains and capital losses is called a net capital gain. If losses exceed gains, that’s a net capital loss.

•   If an investor has an overall net capital loss for the year, they can deduct up to $3,000 against other kinds of income — including their salary and interest income.

•   Any excess net capital loss can be carried over to subsequent years (known as a tax-loss carryover or carry forward) and deducted against capital gains and up to $3,000 of other kinds of income — depending on the circumstances.

•   For those who are married filing separately, the annual net capital loss deduction limit is only $1,500.

Recommended: Unrealized Gains and Losses Explained

6. To Rebalance a Portfolio

If you’re looking to make some tweaks to your investment strategy for one reason or another, you may want to sell some stocks as a part of a strategy to rebalance your portfolio. The reason for rebalancing is to keep your portfolio anchored on the asset allocation that you prefer.

As some investments rise and fall over time, your asset allocation naturally shifts. Some asset classes might exceed the percentage you originally chose, based on your risk tolerance.

Investors are encouraged to rebalance their portfolios regularly — but not too often — as market and economic conditions can and do change. An annual rebalancing strategy is common.

This typically involves taking a look at your desired asset allocation, thinking about your risk tolerance (and how it may have changed), and deciding how you may want to change the different asset classes that comprise your portfolio, if at all.

7. Because You Made a Mistake

You may want to sell stocks if you simply made a mistake. Perhaps the company or sector is not a priority for you, or not a good bet in your eye. Maybe a stock is too risk or volatile. Maybe you bought into a company because it was in the news, or friends were raving about it (a.k.a. FOMO trading).

All of these conditions can happen to investors, and knowing when to sell a stock sometimes means owning up to a mistake.

Recommended: Guide to Financially Preparing for Retirement

8. You’ve Met Your Goals

In the best case, of course, you might want to sell a stock once you’ve met your goals. Perhaps the price is right, or you’re ready to retire, or you’ve crossed some other threshold where you no longer need to hold onto the stock.
In that case, the decision to sell will likely come down to timing and taxes. Or, if you’re preparing to retire, you may also want to consider whether you’re holding the stock in a tax-deferred account or not.


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

4 Reasons You Might Not Want to Sell a Stock

In addition to weighing possible reasons for selling a stock, there are counter arguments for holding onto your shares.

1. Because a Stock Went Up

As mentioned, most stock prices will go up at some point, and you may want to hold onto your stock in the hope that it will continue to grow. That’s a valid reason, especially if you’re thinking long term.

Just bear in mind that there are no guarantees, and past performance is no guarantee of future results, as the industry mantra goes. So even if a stock’s price is rising, you may want to have a few other reasons for not selling the stock.

2. Because a Stock Went Down

Just as a stock may go up, the price will also go down at some point. At those moments it may be tempting to cut your losses before you accrue even bigger ones — especially if you believe that the stock’s value will continue to drop.

But, again, it may be helpful to think longer term rather than what’s happening today. The stock price might rebound, and you may only lock your losses in by selling. Analyzing the company fundamentals as well as the economic climate can help you make this decision.

Recommended: What Happens If a Stock Goes to Zero?

3. Because of an Economic Forecast

Economic forecasting uses a range of economic indicators — such as interest rates, consumer confidence, the rate of inflation, unemployment rates — to predict or anticipate economic growth. But economic forecasting is not an exact science, and it’s wise to consider other factors.

In addition, economic forecasts come and go. This is especially the case in the short term. Therefore, changes in stock prices may have as much to do with investor sentiment or outside forces (such as political or economic events or announcements) as they do with the health of the underlying company.

4. Because Everyone Else Is Selling

Understanding the impact of other investors on your own decisions is equally important. While you may think you’re capable of remaining calm in the face of media hype and headlines, as numerous behavioral finance studies have shown it’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in what other investors are doing.

If you find yourself questioning your own investment plan or your own logic, think twice to make sure the impulse to sell isn’t brought on by strong emotions or by the opinions of others.

Selling a Stock 101

These are the basic steps required to cash out and sell stocks:

1.    Whether by phone or via an online brokerage account platform, let your broker know which of your stock holdings you’d like to sell.

2.    Specify which order type (more on that below). This can determine at what price level your stock is sold.

3.    Fill out any other information your broker requires in order to initiate the sale. For instance, some accounts may have a “time in force” option, or when the order expires. Keep in mind, the trade date is different from the settlement date. It usually takes a couple of days for a trade to settle.

4.    Click “Sell” or “Submit Order.”

Different Sell Order Types

There are several different stock order types that can be useful in different situations.

Market Sell Order

This order type involves selling a stock immediately. The order will be executed without the investor specifying any price level to sell at. It’s important for investors to know however that because share prices are constantly shifting, they might not get the exact price they see on their stock-data feed. There may also be a difference due to delayed versus real-time stock quotes to consider as well.

Generally speaking, the advantage of using a market order is that your trade is likely to be executed quickly. That’s especially true for bigger or more popular stocks, which tend to be more liquid. But again: the biggest potential drawback is that you might not get the exact price you thought you were due to market volatility.

Limit Sell Order

Limit orders involve selling a stock at a specific price. For example, if you’re buying stocks, you can specify a price that you’re willing to pay — the trade will then be executed at that price, or lower.

If you’re selling stocks, the inverse is true — your stock will be sold at the specified price, or higher.

The upside to using limit orders is that they give investors some semblance of control by allowing them to name their price. The investor can then walk away, and let their brokerage handle the execution for them.

The downsides, though, include the fact that the trade may never execute if the specified price isn’t reached, and that using limit orders may take some practice and experience to properly execute.

Stop-Loss Sell Order

A stop-loss order is a level at which an automatic sell order kicks in. In other words, an investor specifies a price at which the broker should start selling, should the stock hit that level. This can also be referred to as a “sell-stop order.” But note that there are other types of stop-loss orders, such as buy-stop orders, and trailing stop-loss orders.

Stop-loss orders can be useful in that they can prevent investors from losing more than they’re comfortable with, or that they can afford to lose. They, as the name implies, are a very useful tool to prevent losses. But depending on overall market conditions, they can also work against an investor. If there’s a short-term drop in share prices, for instance, it’s possible that an investor could miss out on gains if share prices rebound in the medium or long term.

Stop-Limit Sell Order

A stop-limit sell order is an order that’s executed if your stock’s price drops to a certain price, but only if the shares can be sold at or above the limit price specified. They are, in effect, a sort of bridge between stop and limit orders. These types of orders can help investors dodge the risk that a stop order executed at an unexpected price, giving them more control over the price at which a sell order will execute.

Different Ways to Sell Stocks

There are desktop platforms and mobile phone apps that offer brokerage services. These are likely the most common platforms individual or retail investors use to currently buy or sell stocks. However, another option is through a financial advisor.

Financial advisors are professionals who have been entrusted to handle certain financial responsibilities and you can send them a stock sale order to execute. They can do a number of other things for you, too, including proffer advice and help you formulate an investing strategy. But there are costs to using financial advisors, so it may not be worth it, depending on how involved in the markets you are.

The Takeaway

There are times when it may be a good idea to sell your stocks, and others when it’s not. For example, if you’ve lost faith in a company, need a cash infusion, or are doing some portfolio rebalancing, it may be a good time to sell shares of a certain stock.

On the other hand, if you’re unnerved that your stock’s price fell after a bad earnings report, you may want to hold on and let things play out. It’s difficult, and is a true test of your risk tolerance. But over time, it should become easier and more natural as you gain experience as an investor.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).


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FAQ

How can you tell when to sell a stock?

There’s no exact science, and determining whether it’s a good time to sell a stock will come down to the individual investor’s strategy, risk tolerance, and time horizon. However, you can also keep an eye on a stock’s valuation, consider your opportunity costs, and weigh other factors in order to make the decision.

Should you ever sell stocks when they’re down?

You can sell stocks when they lose value for any number of reasons, but it’s wise to make sure you’re doing so as a part of an overall investing strategy, e.g. tax-loss harvesting, and not simply because you’re making an emotional or impulsive decision based on current market conditions.

How much profit do I need before I sell a stock?

There’s no exact science or answer to determine how much of a return you’d need to see before you sell a stock. That’s up to the specific investor, and there may be times when selling a stock at a loss is preferable for tax purposes or other reasons.


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What Is Stock Volatility and How Do You Measure It?

What Is Stock Volatility?

Stock volatility is often defined as big swings in price, but technically the volatility of a stock refers to how much its price tends to vary from the mean. The same is true of stock market volatility; when an index tends to perform a certain percentage above or below the mean, it’s a signal of volatility.

Generally, the higher the volatility of a stock, the more risk an investor incurs when they purchase or hold it. But volatility can also provide opportunities for some investors.

How to Measure Stock Volatility

There are a handful of ways to measure stock volatility. Each metric gives investors different information, and a different view of stock market fluctuations.

Standard Deviation

Standard deviation is a common stock volatility measure; it refers to how far a stock’s performance varies from its average. Investors often measure an investment’s volatility by the standard deviation of returns compared with a broader market index or past returns. Standard deviation measures the extent to which a data point deviates from an expected value, i.e. the mean return.

Beta

Beta is another way to measure volatility; it captures systematic risk, which refers to the volatility of a security (or of a portfolio) versus the market as a whole.

For example, beta can measure the volatility of a stock versus its benchmark (e.g. the S&P 500 or another relevant index). If a stock or mutual fund has a beta of 1.0, its inherent volatility is no different than the market at large. If the beta of a stock is higher or lower than its benchmark, that indicates higher or lower volatility.

Recommended: How to Find Portfolio Beta

VIX

The Cboe Global Markets Volatility Index, known as the VIX for short, is a tool used to measure implied volatility in the market. In simple terms, the VIX index tells investors how professional investors feel about the market at any given time.

The VIX Index is a real-time calculation that measures expected volatility in the stock market. One of the most recognized barometers of fluctuations in financial markets, the VIX measures how much volatility investing experts expect to see in the market over the next 30 days. This measurement reflects real-time quotes of S&P 500 Index (SPX) call option and put option prices.

Maximum Drawdown

Maximum drawdown, or MDD, is another stock volatility measure, and can give investors a sense of how much downside risk exists for a given stock (though not the risks of the stock market overall). It basically measures the maximum fall in value that a stock has seen in the past, and is reflected in the difference between that maximum trough, and the highest peak in value before its value fell.

You may recognize the terms peak and trough when discussing the business cycle and bull markets, too. MDD is a peak-to-trough calculation, in other words. It’s a simpler calculation than standard deviation, too:

MDD= Trough Value−Peak Value / Peak Value​



💡 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.

Using Standard Deviation to Calculate Volatility

You can use the standard deviation and variance of returns to create a basic measure of stock volatility. This measure captures variance in price changes over a certain period of time, so you can gauge how far from the mean the stock price tends to go (i.e. how volatile it is).

Formula: σT = volatility, where:

σ = standard deviation of returns

T = number of time periods

1. To arrive at the variance, imagine a stock that starts in January with a monthly closing price of $10, and adds $1 per month. Month 1 = $10. Month 2 = $11. Month 3 = $12 … and so on, for all 12 months (or whatever time period you choose).

2. Add the stock price for each month, to arrive at a total of $186.

3. Divide $186 by the number of time periods (12 months in this case) to get an average stock price of $15.50 for the year.

4. Subtract the mean ($15.50) from each monthly value; include results that are negative numbers.

5. Square all the deviations (which will also remove negative numbers), and add them together to get the sum ($50.50); divide the sum by the number of time periods (in this case 12) to get a variance of $4.21.

6. Take the square root of $4.21 to get $2.05 = which is the standard deviation for this particular stock. Knowing this provides an important point of comparison for investors, because it indicates whether a stock’s price fluctuations could be within ‘normal’ ranges or too volatile.

Recommended: What Is a Stock?

Types of Stock Volatility

There are two common types of stock volatility that investors use to measure the riskiness of an investment: implied volatility and historical volatility. These two types of volatility are often used by options traders, who make trades based on the potential volatility of the options contract’s underlying asset.

Historical Volatility

Historical volatility (HV), also known as statistical volatility, is a measurement of the price dispersion of a financial security or index over a period of time. Investors calculate this by determining the average deviation from an average price. Historical volatility typically looks at daily returns, but some investors use it to look at intraday price changes.

As the name implies, historical volatility used past performance to assess present volatility. When a stock sees large daily price swings compared to its history, it will typically have a historical volatility reading. Historical volatility does not measure direction; it simply indicates the deviation from an average.

Implied Volatility

Implied volatility (IV) is a metric that captures the market’s expectation of future movements in the price of a security. Implied volatility employs a set of predictive factors to forecast the future changes of a security’s price.

Implied volatility doesn’t anticipate which way prices might move, up or down, only how likely the volatility will be.

What Causes Market Volatility?

The stock market is known for having boom-and-bust cycles, which is another way of describing stock market volatility. And there are numerous factors that can influence market volatility. Here are just a few:

Company Performance

Regarding individual stocks, events tied to the company’s performance can drive volatility in its shares. This can include countless factors including: earnings reports, a product announcement, a merger, a change in management, and much more.

Investor Behavior

Long periods of rising share prices tend to drive investors to take on more risk. They enter into more speculative positions and buy assets like high-risk stocks.

In doing so, investors may disregard their own risk tolerance, and make themselves more vulnerable to market shocks. This pattern can lead to market busts when investors need to sell their holdings en masse when the market is shaky.

Global Events

For instance, the early stages of the COVID pandemic in February and March 2020 created shockwaves in the markets. As economies across the globe shut down, investors began to sell off risky assets, bringing about high levels of volatility in the financial markets.

Governments enacted extraordinary fiscal and monetary stimulus programs to calm this volatility and bring stability to the markets.

But even as these efforts took effect, other global factors — the war in Ukraine impacting energy prices — also took a toll. And federal reserve interest rate increases during 2022 — instituted at the fastest rate in history in an effort to tamper inflation — likewise roiled the markets, causing stock volatility.

Seasonality

You’ve heard the old saying, “Sell in May and go away.” That’s a reflection of a phenomenon called market seasonality, which means that year in and year out there are certain patterns that tend to occur around the same times.

While seasonality certainly doesn’t guarantee any investment outcomes, some sectors do see more demand and greater production during specific times of year. Summer months tend to impact the travel sector; the fall might see an uptick in school-related consumer goods, and so on.

Depending on the year, this rise and fall of demand can impact volatility for some stocks.

Market Cycles

In a similar way, markets also have their cycles; these cycles emerge thanks to trends generated by what’s going on in different business sectors. For example, the rapid evolution of AI in 2023 and early 2024 may have sparked a bit of a market cycle in the tech sector, as the demand for certain products and technologies jumped.

That said, it’s difficult to spot a market cycle until it’s over. Sometimes what appears to be a cycle is simply a normal set of fluctuations. But the anticipation or perception of a cycle can drive volatility.

Liquidity

Other factors that can drive volatility include liquidity and the derivatives market. Stock liquidity is the ease with which an asset can be bought and sold without affecting prices. If an asset is tough to unload and gets sold at a significantly lower price, that could inject fear into the market and cause other investors to sell, ramping up volatility.

Separately, there’s sometimes a debate as to whether equity derivatives — contracts that are based on an underlying asset (e.g. futures and options) — can cause volatility. For instance, in 2020, investors debated whether large volumes of stock options trading caused sellers of the options, typically banks, to hedge themselves by buying stocks, exposing the market to sudden ups and downs when the banks had to purchase or sell shares quickly.

What Causes Stock Prices to Go Up?

As noted, any number of things can cause a stock’s price to go up — be it good or bad news. For instance, geopolitical events can cause certain stocks to appreciate in price, while others may fall. When there’s political instability, some investors seek safer investments and may pile into consumer staple stocks, or investments that track the price of precious metals.

When the economy is faring well, earnings season can be another time during which stock prices go up as companies report positive news to investors, who may, in turn, feel better about the economy overall, which can affect their investing decisions.

What Causes Stock Prices to Go Down?

Just as nearly anything and everything can drive stock prices up, there are countless factors that can likewise drive values down. That can include bad earnings reports from companies, or earnings data that doesn’t live up to expectations. Political or regulatory changes can also spook investors, who may sell certain stocks and drive prices down.

Again: Stock prices can go down for any and every reason, or no reason at all. This is as good a time as any to remind you that there really is no such thing as a completely safe investment.


💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self-directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.

How to Manage Volatility When Investing

Let’s imagine that it’s 2007, and an individual has money invested in the U.S. stock market. Unfortunately, this investor is about to face one of the largest stock market crashes in history: The S&P 500 fell by 48% during the crash of 2008-2009.

This sort of dramatic drop in the stock market isn’t typical, and it can be traumatic even for the savviest and most experienced investor. So, the first step to handling stock market volatility is understanding that there will always be some price fluctuation.

The second step is to know one’s risk tolerance and financial goals, then invest, readjust, and rebalance your portfolio accordingly.

Balance Risk and Reward

Generally speaking, higher rewards sometimes come with higher risks. For example, younger investors in their 20s might want to target higher growth options and be open to more volatile stocks. They may have enough time to weather the gains and losses and, possibly, come out ahead over time.

The reverse is true for someone approaching retirement who wants stable portfolio returns. With a shorter time horizon there’s less time to recover from volatility, so investing in lower-risk securities may make more sense.
Some strategies offer ways that more cautious investors might take to mitigate volatility in their portfolios. One way is diversification.

Portfolio diversification involves investing your money across a range of different asset classes — such as stocks, bonds, and real estate — rather than concentrating all of it in one area. Studies have shown that by diversifying the assets in your portfolio, you may offset a certain amount of investment risk and thereby improve returns.

For example: Lower volatility stocks, such as utility or consumer staple companies, can add stability to a stock portfolio. Meanwhile, energy, technology, and consumer discretionary shares tend to be more turbulent because their businesses are more cyclical, or tied to the broader economy.

Another way to diversify one’s portfolio is to add bonds, alternative investments, or even cash. When deciding to add bonds or stocks to a portfolio, it’s helpful to know that the former is generally a less volatile asset class.

This is useful to know if you’re managing your own portfolio, or if you want to try automated investing, where a sophisticated algorithm provides different asset allocation options in pre-set portfolios.

There are a few other things to take into consideration when managing volatility in your portfolio.

Assess Risk Tolerance

A big part of effectively managing stock volatility as it relates to your portfolio is knowing your limits, or, as discussed, your risk tolerance. How much risk can you actually handle when it comes down to it?

Every investor will need to give that question some thought when deciding how to deploy their money.

While bigger risks often come with bigger rewards, when the market does experience a downturn, there’s the outstanding question of whether you’ll stick to your investing strategy or cut and run. Each investor’s risk tolerance will be different, but it’s important to think about how you can actually handle the risk you take on when investing.

Stick to Long-Term Investing Strategies

One way to manage market volatility is to stick to a long-term investing strategy, such as a buy-and-hold strategy. If you stick to long-term investments rather than derivatives or other short-term assets or tools, you can somewhat ignore the day-to-day ups and downs of stock prices, and in doing so you may be able to better weather market volatility.

Avoid Timing the Market

Timing the market, as it relates to trading and investing, means waiting for ideal market conditions, and then making a move to try and capitalize on the best market outcome. But nobody can predict the future, and this is a high-risk strategy.

When seeing stock market charts and business news headlines, it can be tempting to imagine you can strike it rich by timing your investments perfectly. In reality, figuring out when to buy or sell securities is extremely difficult. Both professional and at-home investors make serious mistakes when trying to time the market.

Consider Dollar-Cost Averaging

Dollar cost averaging is essentially a way to manage volatility as you continue to save and build wealth. It’s a basic investment strategy where you buy a fixed dollar amount of an investment on a regular cadence (e.g. weekly or monthly). The goal is not to invest when prices are high or low, but rather to keep your investment steady, and thereby avoid the temptation to time the market.

That’s because with dollar cost averaging (DCA) you invest the same dollar amount each time. When prices are lower, you buy more; when prices are higher, you buy less. Otherwise, you might be tempted to follow your emotions and buy less when prices drop, and more when prices are increasing (a common tendency among investors).

How Much Stock Volatility Is Normal?

The average stock market return in the U.S. is roughly 10% annualized over time, or about 6% or 7% taking inflation into account.

When looking at nearly 100 years of data, as of the end of July 26 2023, the yearly average stock market return was between 8% and 12% only eight times. In reality, stock market returns are typically much higher or much lower.

It’s also important to remember that past market performance is not indicative of future returns. But looking at history can help an investor gauge how much volatility and market fluctuation might be considered normal. Since the end of World War II, the S&P 500 has posted 14 drops of more than 20%, including the most recent in 2022 — a dip precipitated by the rapid rise in interest rates.

These prolonged downturns of 20% or more are considered bear markets. While bear markets have a bad name, they don’t always lead to recession, and on average bear markets are shorter than bull markets.

Investing in Stocks With SoFi

Stock volatility is the pace at which the price of a company’s shares move up or down during a certain period of time. Volatility is a complex topic, and it often sparks debate among investors, traders, and academics about what causes it.

While equities are considered an important part of any investment portfolio, they are also known for being volatile, and some degree of turbulence is something most stock investors have to live with.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).


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

FAQ

Is volatility the same as risk?

In a sense, yes. Volatility is an indicator of risk. So a stock that is highly volatile, with big price changes, is considered riskier than a stock that is less volatile and maintains a more stable price.

Who should buy stocks when volatility strikes?

Certain types of investors, e.g. day traders and options traders, may have strategies that enable them to profit from volatile securities (although there are no guarantees). In some cases, ordinary investors with a very high risk tolerance may want to invest in a volatile stock — but they have to be willing to face the possibility of steep losses.

What is the best stock volatility indicator?

Perhaps the most common or popular one is the VIX. Depending on which way the VIX is trending, it may throw off buy or sell signals to investors. The VIX can be helpful for assessing risk in order to capitalize on anticipated market movements.

What is good volatility for a stock?

Deciding whether the volatility of a certain stock is “good” is a matter of your personal investing style and goals. Some investors may seek out volatile equities if they believe they have a strategy that can capitalize on price fluctuations. Other investors with a long-term view may not mind volatility if they believe the outcome over time will be favorable — while others may opt for as little volatility in their portfolios as possible.

What causes volatility in a stock?

Just about anything can cause stock volatility. Some of the more common causes of volatility are earnings reports or other company news; geopolitical news and developments; or broader economic changes, such as interest rate hikes or inflation.


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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.

Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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

Disclaimer: The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.

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Guide to Mortgage Relief Programs

Whether a layoff, inflation, or other bugaboo is causing you to struggle with your mortgage payments, life rafts are available.

Options for people who need mortgage relief include forbearance, loan modification, and refinancing. Here’s a closer look at each option.

What Are Mortgage Relief Programs?

Relief programs don’t magically make monthly mortgage payments disappear, but they can pause or lower those payments.

Through a perennial form of mortgage relief, mortgage forbearance, borrowers facing financial troubles may be able to defer or trim payments short term.

It’s important to know that if you even anticipate a problem making a payment, it would be smart to contact your mortgage servicer (the company you send your mortgage payments to) immediately to talk about your options.

Tardy payments damage credit scores, and late payments stay on a credit report for seven years.

Catching a Break Through Mortgage Relief

The remedies for mortgage payment anguish come in several forms.

Forbearance at Any Time

While pandemic-related laws that required lenders to provide mortgage forbearance relief to struggling homeowners expired in April 2023, many lenders offer forbearance programs to borrowers on a case-by-case basis. If you’re dealing with a short-term crisis, you can reach out to your lender and ask for mortgage forbearance, to temporarily pause or lower your mortgage payments.

Many lenders will ask for documentation to prove the hardship. They also will want to know whether the hardship is expected to last for six months or less or 12 months.

During forbearance, interest accrues and is added to the loan balance. All suspended or reduced payments will need to be paid back.

Refinancing

Homeowners coming out of forbearance may find that it’s a good time for a mortgage refinance, aiming for a lower rate and possibly different repayment term.

When choosing a mortgage term, know that the longer the term, the lower the payments, in general.

It’s generally thought that you should have at least 20% equity in your home to refinance. Your debt-to-income ratio and credit will be assessed if you apply.

There are two refi options for low- to moderate-income homeowners whose current mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae’s RefiNow and Freddie Mac’s Refi Possible are designed to help those homeowners get better mortgage rates and reduce upfront costs.

Someone with a VA loan can look into an interest rate reduction refinance loan, and an FHA loan borrower may look into an FHA Streamline Refinance or standard conventional refi.


💡 Quick Tip: Lowering your monthly payments with a mortgage refinance from SoFi can help you find money to pay down other debt, build your rainy-day fund, or put more into your 401(k).

Loan Modification

Homeowners who expect a permanent change in finances, or who are exiting forbearance but don’t qualify for refinancing, can ask for a loan modification.

Loan modification may result in a lower interest rate, a lower principal balance, an extension of the repayment term, or a combination.

You might have to prove the hardship to be approved.

Recommended: Loan Modification vs. Refinancing

Applying for Mortgage Relief

Again, when homeowners realize that they might have trouble making their monthly mortgage payment, they would be doing themselves a favor by contacting their loan servicer.

This applies to primary homes, multifamily property, and vacation homes.

Suffering in silence does no good. Working with your mortgage servicer could lead to one of the mortgage relief options described above or an agreement to try a short sale to avoid foreclosure.

A deed in lieu (an arrangement where you give your mortgage lender the deed to your home) is also sometimes used to avoid foreclosure.

Recommended: 6 Ways to Lower Your Mortgage Payment

What to Do During Forbearance

A homeowner in mortgage forbearance might want to keep track of the following:

•   Automatic payments. Any automatic payments or transfers to mortgage accounts should be paused by the borrower during the forbearance period. It’s unlikely the payments will be paused automatically, so it might be best to double-check.

•   Credit scores. On any loan, deferring payments shouldn’t affect credit scores, but homeowners might want to keep an eye on their scores in the event of an error.

•   Savings account. Now might be a good time to set aside any extra income to pay for the mortgage once forbearance ends.

•   Any changes to income. If a borrower’s income is restored during forbearance, they might need to contact their lender.

•   Property taxes and insurance payments. If homeowners insurance and taxes are paid through an escrow account, it should go into forbearance along with the mortgage. Homeowners who do not have an escrow account may be on the hook for those payments.

Homeowners interested in an extension of a forbearance period need to ask their mortgage servicer.


💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.

How to Repay Forbearance

Homeowners who received Covid hardship forbearance are not required to repay their paused payments in a lump sum when the forbearance period ends.

For those with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, options include a repayment plan with higher mortgage payments, putting the missed payments at the end of the loan, and a loan modification.

Borrowers with FHA loans can put the money owed into a no-interest lien that comes payable if they sell the home or refinance the mortgage. Or they can negotiate to lower their mortgage payments with a loan modification.

Options for USDA and VA loan repayment include adding the missed payments to the end of the loan, and loan modification.

In general, a homeowner can expect one of the following scenarios:

•   Repaying the forbearance amount in a lump sum.

•   An amount is added to the borrower’s monthly payment until the forbearance amount is repaid in full.

•   The forbearance amount is added to the end of the loan.

Recommended: Guide to Buying, Selling, and Updating Your Home

The Takeaway

Federal mortgage relief programs help homeowners who are experiencing hardship. General mortgage forbearance is possible during most any household setback. Refinancing could be an answer for some borrowers who are coming out of forbearance.

SoFi can help you save money when you refinance your mortgage. Plus, we make sure the process is as stress-free and transparent as possible. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates on a traditional mortgage refinance or cash-out refinance.

A new mortgage refinance could be a game changer for your finances.


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


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.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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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Do Part-Time Students Have to Pay Back Student Loans?

Editor's Note: For the latest developments regarding federal student loan debt repayment, check out our student debt guide.

One question that can come up for part-time students is whether they need to pay back student loans if they’re not attending classes full time. In short, if a student meets their school’s requirements for half-time enrollment, they are generally not required to make payments on federal student loans. Private student loans have their own terms and depending on the lender, students may be required to make payments on their loan while they are enrolled in school.

Part-time college enrollment is expected to increase 10% by 2031. Students may be part-time because of financial reasons, caregiver or parental duties, medical issues, or other reasons, but for all scenarios, balancing college with other duties and needs can be a struggle.

What Is a Part-Time College Student?

A part-time college student is someone who is not taking a full course load during any given academic quarter or semester. Individual schools set the standards for what counts as a full- or part-time student, but in general, full-time students may take about 12 credits or four classes at a time.

Part-time students may take anywhere from six to 11 credits or two to three classes per academic period.

Students may choose to attend college part-time in order to take care of family obligations, work a day job, or because of other circumstances that don’t allow them to take four classes at one time.

Repaying Student Loans as a Part-Time Student

In general, part-time students may not need to pay back their federal student loans while they are attending school as long as they don’t drop below half-time enrollment — or as long as they haven’t graduated.

What does this mean in practicality? If you’re a part-time student and you are taking at least half of the full-load credit hours, you generally won’t need to start paying off your federal student loans until you graduate, withdraw, or drop below half-time enrollment. Federal loans also come with a grace period, meaning you technically won’t be required to make payments for six months after graduating, withdrawing, or dropping below half-time enrollment.

For example, if a full course load at your school is 12 credits, and you’re taking six credits this semester, you are still enrolled at least half-time, and wouldn’t normally be required to start paying back your federal student loans.

If, however, you drop down below half-time enrollment by taking only one three-credit class, you would no longer be attending school at least half-time and may be required to start paying off your federal student loans.


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

When Do I Have to Start Paying Back My Student Loans?

If you are a part-time student who graduates, withdraws, or drops below half-time enrollment, you may not need to start paying back your federal student loans right away. Many new grads, or those entering a repayment period for the first time, are given a six-month grace period, as mentioned above, before they have to start paying federal student loans back.

The exact length of any grace period depends on the type of loan you have and your specific circumstances. For example, Federal Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans all have a standard six-month grace period before payments are due.

Factors That May Influence the Grace Period

If you’re a member of the armed forces and are called to active duty 30 days or more before your grace period ends, you could delay the six-month grace period until after you return from active duty.

Another situation that could impact your grace period is if you re-enroll in school at least half-time before the end of the grace period. You will receive the full grace period again on your federal student loans when you graduate, withdraw, or drop below part-time enrollment.

This is because, in general, once you start attending school at least half-time again, you’re no longer obligated to start making payments on federal student loans. In this situation, you would still get a grace period after you graduate, even though you may have used part of a grace period while you were attending school less than half-time. Note that most loan types will still accrue interest during the grace period.

You may lose out on any grace period if you consolidate your federal student loans with the federal government during your grace period. In that scenario, you’ll typically need to start paying back your loan once the consolidation is disbursed (paid out).

Repayments for Private Student Loans

If you have private student loans, don’t count on getting a grace period before you start paying back your loans. Student loans taken out from private lenders don’t have the same terms and benefits as federal student loans, which means that private student loans may not offer a grace period at all or it may be a different length than the federal grace period.

Some lenders may require students make payments on private student loans while they are enrolled in school. If you have a private loan or are considering a private loan, check with the lender directly to understand the terms for repayment, including whether or not there is a grace period.

How Do I Pay Back My Student Loans?

There are things you can do to make paying back your loans as painless as possible. When you enter loan repayment on a federal student loan, you’ll be automatically enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan, which requires you to pay off your loan within 10 years.

However, there are other types of federal student loan repayment plans available, including income-driven repayment plans like the SAVE Plan and loan forgiveness programs for public service, and it is always worth learning about the different plans so you can make an educated choice.

Recommended: Student Loan Forgiveness Guide

As mentioned, private student loans have different requirements than federal student loans. Individual lenders will determine the repayment plans available to borrowers.

Take a Look at Refinancing

One option you may want to consider is refinancing your student loans with a private lender. Refinancing your student loans allows you to combine your federal and/or private student loans into one new, private loan with a new interest rate and new terms.

It’s important to remember, however, that student loan refinancing isn’t right for everyone. If you refinance your federal loans, they will no longer be eligible for any federal repayment assistance, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program or income-driven repayment plans.

The Takeaway

Part-time student loans who are enrolled at least half-time, based on the definition at their school, are generally not required to make payments on their federal student loans. Private student loans have terms and conditions that are set by the individual lender, and may require students make payments on their loans while they are enrolled in school.

If your student loan payments are due and you’re hoping to lower your interest rate or monthly payment, consider refinancing them with SoFi. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) SoFi offers an easy online application, competitive rates, and no origination fees. It takes just two minutes to fill out an application and your credit score will not be impacted during the prequalification stage.

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

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


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


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


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

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

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What Are the Different Types of Taxes?

What Are the Different Types of Taxes?

There are a variety of taxes you may have to pay, such as Income tax, capital gains tax, sales tax, and property tax. Whether you’re new to the workforce or a seasoned retiree, taxes can be complicated to understand and to pay.

This guide can help. Here, you’ll learn more about what taxes are, the different types of taxes to know about, and helpful tax filing ideas. Read on to raise your tax I.Q.

What Are Taxes?

At a high level, taxes are involuntary fees imposed on individuals or corporations by a government entity. The collected fees are used to fund a range of government activities, including but not limited to schools, road maintenance, health programs, and defense measures.

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t think too hard about your money. Automate your budgeting, saving, and spending with SoFi’s seamless and secure online banking app.

Different Types of Taxes to Know

Here’s a detailed look at what are many of the different types of taxes that can be levied and the ways in which they’re typically calculated and imposed.

Income Tax

The federal government collects income tax from people and businesses, based upon the amount of money that was earned during a particular year. There can also be other income taxes levied, such as state or local ones. Specifics of how to calculate this type of tax can change as tax laws do.

The amount of income tax owed will depend upon the person’s tax bracket; it will typically go up as a person’s income does. That’s because the U.S. has a progressive tax system for federal income tax, meaning individuals who earn more are taxed more.

If you’re wondering “What tax bracket am I in?” know that there are currently seven different federal tax brackets. The amount owed will also depend on filing categories like single; head of household; married, filing jointly; and married, filing separately.

Deductions and credits can help to lower the amount of income tax owed. And if a federal or state government charges you more than you actually owed, you’ll receive a tax refund. It can be helpful to check the IRS website or online tax help centers to learn more about income tax.

Property Tax

Property taxes are charged by local governments and are one of the costs associated with owning a home.

The amount owed varies by location and is calculated as a percentage of a property’s value. The funds typically help to fund the local government, as well as public schools, libraries, public works, parks, and so forth.

Property taxes are considered to be an ad valorem tax, which means they are based on the assessed value of the property.

Payroll Tax

Employers withhold a percentage of money from employees’ pay and then forward those funds to the government. The amount being withheld will vary, based on a particular employee’s wages, with federal payroll taxes being used to fund Medicare and Social Security.

There are limits on the portion of income that would be taxed. For example, in 2024, a person’s income that exceeds $168,600 is not subject to a common payroll deduction, Social Security tax.

Because this tax is applied uniformly, rather than based on income throughout the system, payroll taxes are considered to be a regressive tax.

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Inheritance/Estate Tax

These are actually two different types of taxes.

•   The first — the inheritance tax — can apply in certain states when someone inherits money or property from a deceased person’s estate. The beneficiary would be responsible for paying this tax if they live in one of several different states where this tax exists and the inheritance is large enough.

•   The federal government does not have an inheritance tax. Instead, there is a federal estate tax that is calculated on the deceased person’s money and property. It’s typically paid out from the assets of the deceased before anything is distributed to their beneficiaries.

There can be exemptions to these taxes and, in general, people who inherit from someone they aren’t related to can anticipate higher rates of tax.

Regressive, Progressive, and Proportional Taxes

These are the three main categories of tax structures in the U.S. (two of which have already been mentioned above). Here are definitions that include how they impact people with varying levels of income.

What’s a Regressive Tax?

Because a regressive tax is uniformly applied, regardless of income, it takes a bigger percentage from people who earn less and a smaller percentage from people who earn more.

As a high-level example, a $500 tax would be 1% of someone’s income if they earned $50,000; it would only be half of one percent if someone earned $100,000, and so on. Examples of regressive taxes include state sales taxes and user fees.

What’s a Progressive Tax?

A progressive tax works differently, with people who are earning more money having a higher rate of taxation. In other words, this tax (such as an income tax) is based on income.

This system is designed to allow people who have a lower income to have enough money for cost of living expenses.

What’s Proportional Tax?

A proportional tax is another way of saying “flat tax.” No matter what someone’s income might be, they would pay the same proportion. This is a form of a regressive tax and proportional taxes are more common at the state level and less common at the federal level.

Capital Gains Tax

Next up, take a closer look at the capital gains tax that an investor may be responsible for paying when having stocks in an investment portfolio. This can happen, for example, if they sell a stock that has appreciated in value over the purchase price.

The difference in the increased value from purchase to sale is called “capital gains” and, typically, there would be a capital gains tax levied.

An exception can be when an investor sells increased-in-value stocks through a tax-deferred retirement investment inside of the account. Meanwhile, dividends are taxed as income, not as capital gains.

It’s also important for investors to know the difference between short-term and long-term capital gains taxes. In the U.S. tax code, short-term is one year or less, while long-term is anything longer. For tax year 2023, the federal tax rate on gains made by short-term investments are taxed as ordinary income. For long-term investment gains, the rates will be between 0% and 20%, based on filing status and taxable income.

Recommended: Capital Gains Tax Guide

Ideas For Tax-Efficient Investing

Ideas for tax-efficient investing can include to select certain investment vehicles, such as:

•   Exchange-traded funds (ETFs): These are baskets of securities that trade like a stock. They can be tax-efficient because they typically track an underlying index, meaning that while they allow investors to have broad exposure, individual securities are potentially bought and sold less frequently, creating fewer events that will likely result in capital gains taxes.

•   Index mutual funds: These tend to be more tax efficient than actively managed funds for reasons similar to ETFs.

•   Treasury bonds: There are no state income taxes levied on earned interest.

•   Municipal bonds: Interest, in general, is exempted from federal taxes; if the investor lives within the municipality where these local government bonds are issued, they can typically be exempt from state and local taxes, as well.

VAT Consumption Tax

In the U.S., taxpayers are charged a regressive form of tax, a sales tax, on many items that are purchased. In Europe, the system works differently. A VAT tax is a form of consumption tax that’s due upon a purchase, calculated on the difference between the sales price and what it cost to create that product or service. In other words, it’s based on the item’s added value.

Here’s one big difference between a sales tax and a VAT tax:

•   Sales tax is charged at the final part of the sales transaction.

•   VAT, on the other hand, is calculated throughout each supply chain step and then built into the final purchase price.

This leads to another difference. Sales taxes are added onto the purchase price that’s listed; VAT contains those fees within the price and so nothing extra is added onto the price tag that a buyer would see.

Sales Tax

Ka-ching! You are probably used to sales tax being added to many of your purchases. It’s a method that governments use to collect revenue from citizens, and in America, it can vary by state and local area.

Funds collected via sales tax are frequently used for local and state budget items. These might include school, road, and fire department expenses.

Excise Tax

An excise tax is one that is applied to a specific item or activity. Some common examples are the taxes added to alcoholic beverages, amusement/betting pursuits, cigarettes (yes, the “sin taxes,” as they are sometimes called, gasoline, and insurance premiums.

These taxes are primarily paid by businesses but are sometimes passed along to consumers, who may or may not be aware that these taxes can be rolled into retail prices. Some excise taxes, however, are paid directly by consumers, such as property taxes and certain taxes on retirement accounts.

Luxury Tax

Luxury tax is just what it sounds like: tax on purchases that aren’t necessities but are pricey purchases. It can be paid by a business and possibly passed along to the consumer. Typical examples of items that are subject to a luxury tax include expensive boats, airplanes, cars, and jewelry.

The revenue that’s raised by these taxes may fund an array of government programs designed to benefit U.S. citizens.

Corporate Tax

Here’s another tax with a name that tells the story. Corporate tax is, quite simply, a tax on a corporation’s profits, or taxable income. This is based on a business’ revenue once a variety of expenses are subtracted, such as administrative expenses, the cost of any goods sold, marketing and selling costs, research and development expenses, and other related and operating costs.

Corporate taxes are specific to each country, with some having higher rates than others, and there are a variety of ways to lower them via loopholes, subsidies, and deductions.

Tariffs

Tariffs represent a protectionist tool that governments may use. That is, they are taxes levied on imported goods at the border. The idea is typically that this will help boost the cost of imports and hopefully nudge consumers to buy items made on home soil.

Surtax

A surtax is an additional tax levied by the government in addition to other taxes. It is typically paid by consumers when the government needs to raise funds for a specific program. For instance, a 10% surtax was levied on individual and corporate income by the Johnson administration in 1968. The funds were collected to help fund the war effort in Vietnam.

Tax Filing Ideas

Now that you know what are the different types of taxes, consider the event that makes many of us contemplate this topic: filing taxes. It’s an annual ritual that may trigger anxiety for many, but if you spend a little time educating yourself about the process, it’s not so scary. Here, a few ways to help make preparing for tax season easier:

•   Consider how you’d like to file. Choose the method that best suits your needs and comfort level. You might want to work with a professional tax preparer to assist you, or perhaps use tax software to help you through the process. (Some taxpayers will qualify for the IRS Free File service, which is a free guided software tool.)

Another option is to fill out either the IRS form 1040 or 1040-SR by hand and mail it in, but given how this can open you up to human error and handwriting or typing mistakes, it’s not recommended.

•   Gather all your paperwork. Being organized can be half the battle here. Develop a system that works for you (you might want to use a tax-preparation checklist) to collect such items as:

◦   Your W-2s and/or 1099 forms reflecting your income

◦   Proof of any mortgage interest paid or property taxes

◦   Retirement account contributions

◦   Interest earned on investments or money held in bank accounts

◦   State and local taxes paid

◦   Donations to charities

◦   Educational expenses

◦   Medical bills that were not reimbursed

•   Even if you are lower-income and don’t need to file, consider doing so. It may be to your financial benefit. For instance, you might qualify for certain tax breaks, such as the earned income tax credit (EITC) or, if you’re a parent, the child credit.

•   Whether you owe money or are getting a refund, know how to settle your account with the IRS. If you’ll be receiving a tax refund, you may want to request that it be sent via direct deposit to make the process as seamless and speedy as possible. If, on the other hand, you owe money, there are an array of ways to send funds, including payment plans. Do a little research to see what suits you best.

By getting ahead of tax filing deadlines in these ways, you can likely make this annual ritual a little less intimidating and time-consuming.

Recommended: Guide to Filing Taxes for the First Time

The Takeaway

Understanding the different kinds of taxes can help you boost your financial literacy and your ability to budget well. You’ll know a bit more about why you pay federal and any state and local taxes and also be aware of other charges like luxury taxes and sales taxes.

Here’s another way to help your finances along: by partnering with a bank that puts you first.

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

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

FAQ

What are the most common taxes people use?

The most common taxes that Americans pay are income tax on their earnings, sales tax on purchases, and property tax on their homes.

How many categories of taxes are there?

There are easily more than a dozen kinds of taxes levied in the U.S. Which ones you are liable for will depend on a variety of factors, such as whether you are an individual or represent a business, whether you purchase luxury items, and so forth.

Will I use all of these forms of taxes?

Which forms of taxes you will be liable for will likely depend upon the specifics of your situation. For example, among the most common taxes are income, property, and sales taxes, but if you rent rather than own your home, you won’t owe property taxes. If you purchase a boat, you might pay a luxury tax; if you like to frequent casinos, you could be paying excise taxes.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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