## What Is Theta in Options? All You Need to Know

Theta, in relation to options, describes the rate in change in an option’s value. Options have two sources of value: intrinsic value and time value. From the moment an options contract is created, the time value component decays. This rate of change in value with respect to time is known as theta.

Understanding theta is crucial if you are going to trade options. Several factors, including an option’s moneyness and the time to expiration, will impact theta. Here are the basic concepts that you should know about.

## How Does Theta Work?

Holding all other factors equal, options tend to decline in value over time as they approach their expiration date. The intuition behind this relationship is simple: once an option expires, it can no longer be exercised, and thus it no longer has any value.

This rate of change in value of an option is referred to as theta. Usually displayed as a negative dollar amount, an option’s theta value represents how much an option’s price decreases per day as it matures.

💡 Interested in Theta? Check out the other Greeks in options trading.

## What Are Examples of Theta?

One way to think of theta in options trading is an analogy of an ice cube sitting on a countertop. As the ice cube sits on the warm countertop, it gradually melts away, and the melting becomes more rapid as time passes. Similarly, an option’s time value always decreases, with the decrease becoming more rapid the closer an option is to expiring.

Let’s say there is a stock ABC with a price of \$80. The theta for an options contract expiring in three months with a strike price of \$85 might be -\$0.05. That means you can expect to lose five cents per day due to time decay, or theta. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the security’s price will go down each day, since it will also be affected by up and down movements of the underlying stock price itself.

In this scenario, not all options of stock ABC will have the same theta value of -\$0.05. An option with the same strike price of \$85 but a year until expiration will usually have a lower theta than one expiring next month.

💡 Quick Tip: Options can be a cost-efficient way to place certain trades, because you typically purchase options contracts, not the underlying security. That said, options trading can be risky, and best done by those who are not entirely new to investing.

## What Is a Negative Theta in Options?

Because theta represents the amount of money an option contact loses every day, it is customarily represented as a negative number. A theta value of -\$0.15 for a particular option means that particular option will lose 15 cents of time value each day.

But because the time value loss of an option (theta) isn’t linear, you shouldn’t expect it to lose exactly 15 cents of time value every day. Theta will increase as the option expiration date gets closer. This is very important to know if you’re attempting to time the market, since it will help you understand when the best time is to make your move.

## Understanding Options Theta Decay

There are many different strategies for trading options, and theta affects them differently. Since theta is a negative number, it works against buyers of options. But if you are selling an option (like in a covered call or other option strategy), theta works in your favor.

When you are selling an option contract, you are hoping that the option will decrease in value or expire worthless. So a high theta value works for an option seller since it represents the amount of money the contract will lose each day.

💡 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.

## Calculating Theta

Calculating theta, or any of the other Greeks, requires using advanced mathematical formulas, and depends on the particular pricing model you choose. Options investors typically calculate theta on a daily or weekly basis.

Generally theta will be smaller for options that are far away from their expiration date and larger as you get closer to expiration. You can use this knowledge to determine your best plan depending on your time horizon for investing.

## The Takeaway

Whether you’re trading basic options or more complicated options spreads, it is important to understand theta. It represents how much value your option will lose as time moves closer to its maturity, holding other factors constant. One needs to be especially careful to take note of theta when trading out-of-the-money options.

Qualified investors who are ready to try their hand at options trading, despite the risks involved, might consider checking out SoFi’s options trading platform. The platform’s user-friendly design allows investors to trade through the mobile app or web platform, and get important metrics like breakeven percentage, maximum profit/loss, and more with the click of a button.

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to \$1,000 in the stock of your choice.

Photo credit: iStock/fizkes

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

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

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

SOIN0324017

## How To Make Changes to Your 401(k) Contributions

Whether you just set up your 401(k) plan or you established one long ago, you may want to change the amount of your contributions — or even how they’re invested. Fortunately, it’s usually a fairly straightforward process to change 401(k) contributions.

How often can you change your 401(k) contributions? You may be able to make changes at any time, depending on your plan. After all, the point of a 401(k) plan is to help you save for your retirement. So it’s important to keep an eye on your account and your investments within the account, to make sure that you’re saving and investing according to your goals.

Learn how to maximize your 401(k), change your 401(k) contributions, and save for retirement.

## Purpose of a 401(k)

A 401(k) is a retirement account that a company may offer to its employees. In some cases, enrollment in the employer’s 401(k) is automatic; in other cases it’s not. Be sure to check, so that you can take advantage of this savings opportunity.

Employees may contribute a portion of their paycheck to their 401(k) account, and employers might also contribute to each employee’s account (again, depending on the plan).

The employer’s portion is called the company’s “match” or matching funds. Typically, an employer might match up to a certain percentage of what the employee saves. One common matching plan is when a company matches 50 cents for every dollar saved, up to 6% of the employee’s total contributions. Terms vary, so it’s best to ask your Human Resources representative what the match is.

The money a participant contributes to their 401(k) plan is technically called an “elective salary deferral” because it’s optional, not required, and those deductions are not included in an employee’s taxable income. That’s why 401(k) and similar accounts (like a 403(b) and most IRAs) are often called tax-deferred accounts: You don’t pay taxes on the money you’ve saved until you withdraw the money in retirement.

This tax benefit can be significant. Every dollar you save reduces your taxable income, which may result in a lower tax bill in some cases.

💡 Quick Tip: The advantage of opening a Roth IRA and a tax-deferred account like a 401(k) or traditional IRA is that by the time you retire, you’ll have tax-free income from your Roth, and taxable income from the tax-deferred account. This can help with tax planning.

## Can You Change Your 401(k) Contribution at Any Time?

While the opportunity to make changes to some employee benefits, like health insurance, are generally only offered once a year during so-called open enrollment periods, many 401(k) plans allow participants to change the amount of their 401(k) contributions at any point. According to Department of Labor guidelines, an employer must allow plan participants to change investments at least quarterly (sometimes more often, if company stock or other high-risk investments are offered by the plan).

These are some of the reasons you may want to change 401(k) contribution amounts.

### The Ability to Save More

You may have gotten a raise, or experienced a change in your financial circumstances, and wish to increase the percentage of your savings. Contributions to these plans are typically expressed as a percentage of your annual salary. For example, if you earn \$75,000 per year, and your contribution rate is 10%, you would save a total of \$7,500 per year. If you got a raise to \$80,000 and now wish to contribute 12%, you would save a total of \$9,600 per year.

### To Get the Match

As discussed above, some 401(k) plans offer a savings match from the employer. In most cases, the match is a set percentage of the employee’s contribution. If you started your 401(k) at a point when you couldn’t get the full match, you may want to increase your contributions to get the full employer match.

If you’ve held the account for a while, say a year or more, the original allocation of your investments — i.e. the balance between equities, cash, and fixed income investments — may have shifted. Restoring the original balance of your investments may be a priority, if your strategy and risk tolerance haven’t changed.

You also might want to shift the asset allocation because your financial strategy has become more aggressive (i.e. tilting toward stocks) or more conservative (tilting toward cash and fixed income).

### Setting Up Automatic Increases

Some plans offer participants the option of automatically increasing their contribution rate every year, typically up to a certain percentage (e.g. 15%), and not to exceed the maximum contribution levels. The IRS contribution limit for 401(k) plans for 2024 is \$23,000 for participants under age 50. Those 50 and older can save an extra \$7,500 in “catch-up contributions”, for a total of \$30,500. For 2023, the contribution limit is \$22,500 for participants under age 50. Those 50 and older can save an extra \$7,500 in “catch-up contributions”, for a total of \$30,000.

Setting up automatic increases allows you to save more in your 401(k) each year without having to think about it; this can be beneficial for overcoming the inertia common among some savers.

## How to Change 401(k) Contributions: 3 Steps

Again, the 401(k) plan provider will be able to advise participants on how often they can make changes to their contributions, and what the process will look like. For employees unsure of who the plan provider is, the company’s human resource department can point them in the right direction.

In some cases, participants can change their contributions directly through their plan provider’s website. Generally, the process of making changes to a 401(k) looks like this:

### Step 1:

The employee contacts their 401(k) provider to discuss how to change contributions for their particular 401(k) plan.

### Step 2:

The employee considers how much of their paycheck they want to contribute to their 401(k) moving forward, taking their company’s 401(k) match into consideration, and ideally contributing at least that much. The employee might also change their asset allocation, depending on plan rules.

### Step 3:

The participant fills out any forms (online or via paperwork) to confirm their new contribution.

Often, these steps can take just a few minutes, using your plan sponsor’s website.

## Why Contribute to a 401(k)? 3 Good Reasons

Contributing to a 401(k) plan is an important way to save for retirement. The funds in a 401(k) are invested, generally in mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or target date funds — which can offer the potential for growth over time. Typically there are about eight to 12 investment options in most 401(k) plans.

But perhaps the three best reasons to contribute to a 401(k) plan are the opportunity to save automatically via regular payroll deductions; the potentially lower tax bill; and the ability to get “free money” from your employer match, if it’s offered.

### Low-stress Saving

For many people, this type of investment is easy because you can choose how much of your salary to contribute each pay period, and deductions happen automatically. You don’t have to think about your savings, your contributions are taken directly from each paycheck, so it helps to build your nest egg over time.

### Lower Taxable Income

Another benefit is the potential for savings during tax season. Since the contributions an employee makes to their 401(k) plan over the course of the year aren’t included in their taxable income, that can lower their overall taxable income. This, in turn, may result in an individual falling into a lower tax bracket and paying less income tax for that year.

And in the future, when they might likely be in a lower tax bracket due to retirement, they’ll pay lower taxes when they withdraw the money from their 401(k) account.

Note: Withdrawing money from a 401(k) account before retirement age may lead to early withdrawal penalties.

Another perk of enrolling in a 401(k) plan is the notion of “free money” from one’s employer. Some companies match a portion of their employees’ contributions — often around 50 cents to \$1 for each dollar that an employee contributes.

Typically, an employer might set a maximum matching limit, such as 3% to 6% of the employee’s salary.

This matching contribution is often referred to as free money because the contribution effectively increases an employee’s income without increasing their current tax bill. It’s worth noting that an employer’s match generally vests over the course of three or four years — meaning that the employer-contributed money will accrue in the account, but an employee won’t be able to keep it if they switch jobs, unless they remain with the company for that set period of time.

## Setting up Recurring Contributions

When it comes to setting up a 401(k), the process varies by workplace. Some companies offer automatic enrollment to employees, automatically reducing the employee’s wages by a certain amount and diverting that money to the employee’s 401(k) plan, unless the employee chooses not to have their wages contributed.

Or, an employee can choose to enroll, but to contribute a custom amount. This type of contribution is referred to as an elective deferral.

In companies that don’t offer automatic enrollment as an option, employees will need to work with their HR department and retirement plan provider to get their 401(k) set up.

Participants need to decide how much they want to contribute and they may need to choose their investments. They can also opt to take advantage of autopilot settings, and can roll over a 401(k) from a past job into their new one.

💡 Quick Tip: How do you decide if a certain trading platform or app is right for you? Ideally, the investment platform you choose offers the features that you need for your investment goals or strategy, e.g., an easy-to-use interface, data analysis, educational tools.

## How Much to Save for Retirement

The Department of Labor (DOL) outlined a few best practices for investing in order to save for retirement.

It estimated that most Americans will need 70% to 90% of their preretirement income saved by retirement, in order to maintain their current standard of living. Doing that math can give plan participants an idea of how much they should be contributing to their 401(k).

Participants might also consider a few basic investment principles, such as diversifying retirement investments to reduce risk and improve return. These investment choices may evolve overtime depending on someone’s age, goals, and financial situation.

The DOL recommends that employees contribute all they can to their employer-sponsored 401(k) plan to take advantage of benefits like lower taxes, company contributions, and tax deferrals.

## Adding Alternative Investments to a 401(k)

Some savers may find themselves interested in pursuing alternative investments when saving for retirement. An alternative investment takes place outside of the traditional markets of stocks, fixed-income, and cash. This method may appeal to those looking for portfolio diversification. Popular examples of alternative investments are private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, real estate, and commodities.

Self-directed 401(k)s allow participants to add alternate investments to their 401(k) portfolio. With a self-directed 401(k), the investor chooses a custodian such as a brokerage or investment firm to hold the amount of assets and execute the purchase or sale of investments on the participant’s behalf. If an employer offers a self-directed 401(k), the custodian will likely be the plan administrator.

## The Takeaway

For employees looking to change 401(k) contributions, the process is often as simple as reaching out to your plan provider and confirming that you’re allowed to make a change at this time.

Some companies have rules around when and how often employees can make changes to their contributions. Once you have the go-ahead to make the change, and have considered what works best for your current financial situation and your future goals, it’s generally straightforward.

A company-sponsored 401(k) plan offers many benefits, but once you leave your job, many of those benefits — including the employer-matching program — no longer apply. At that point, you may want to consider doing a rollover of your previous 401(k) to an IRA, so you can remain in control of your money.

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

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

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

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

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

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

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

An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of the Fund carefully before investing. This and other important information are contained in the Fund’s prospectus. For a current prospectus, please click the Prospectus link on the Fund’s respective page. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing.
Alternative investments, including funds that invest in alternative investments, are risky and may not be suitable for all investors. Alternative investments often employ leveraging and other speculative practices that increase an investor's risk of loss to include complete loss of investment, often charge high fees, and can be highly illiquid and volatile. Alternative investments may lack diversification, involve complex tax structures and have delays in reporting important tax information. Registered and unregistered alternative investments are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as mutual funds.
Please note that Interval Funds are illiquid instruments, hence the ability to trade on your timeline may be restricted. Investors should review the fee schedule for Interval Funds via the prospectus.

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected]. Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing.
Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.

SOIN0124069

## What Is the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule? Are There Exceptions?

The Roth IRA 5-year rule is one of the rules that governs what an investor can and can’t do with funds in a Roth IRA. The Roth IRA 5-year rule comes into play when a person withdraws funds from the account; rolls a traditional IRA account into a Roth; or inherits a Roth IRA account.

Here’s what you need to know.

## What Is the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule?

The Roth IRA 5-year rule pertains to withdrawals of earnings from a Roth IRA. A quick reminder of how a Roth works: An individual can contribute funds to a Roth IRA, up to annual limits. For 2024, the maximum IRS contribution limit for Roth IRAs is \$7,000. Investors 50 and older are allowed to contribute an extra \$1,000 in catch-up contributions. For 2023, the maximum IRS contribution limit for Roth IRAs is \$6,500 annually. Investors 50 and older can contribute an extra \$1,000.

Roth IRA contributions can be withdrawn at any time without tax or penalty, for any reason at any age. However, investment earnings on those contributions can only typically be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free once the investor reaches the age of 59 ½ — and as long as the account has been open for at least a five-year period. The five-year period begins on January 1 of the year you made your first contribution to the Roth IRA. Even if you make your contribution at the very end of the year, you can still count that entire year as year one.

## Example of the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule

To illustrate how the 5-year rule works, say an investor opened a Roth IRA in 2022 to save for retirement. The individual contributed \$5,000 to a Roth IRA and earned \$400 in interest and they now want to withdraw a portion of the money. Since this retirement account is less than five years old, only the \$5,000 contribution could be withdrawn without tax or penalty. If part or all of the investment earnings is withdrawn sooner than five years after opening the account, this money may be subject to a 10% penalty.

In 2027, the investor can withdraw earnings tax-free from the Roth IRA because the five-year period will have passed.

💡 Quick Tip: How much does it cost to open a new IRA account? Often there are no fees to open an IRA, but you typically pay investment costs for the securities in your portfolio.

## Exceptions to the 5-Year Rule

There are some exceptions to the Roth IRA 5-year rule, however. According to the IRS, a Roth IRA account holder who takes a withdrawal before the account is five years old may not have to pay the 10% penalty in the following situations:

•   They have reached age 59 ½.

•   They are totally and permanently disabled.

•   They are the beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner.

•   They are using the distribution (up to \$10,000) to buy, build, or rebuild a first home.

•   The distributions are part of a series of substantially equal payments.

•   They have unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of their adjusted gross income for the year.

•   They are paying medical insurance premiums during a period of unemployment.

•   They are using the distribution for qualified higher education expenses.

•   The distribution is due to an IRS levy of the qualified plan.

•   They are taking qualified reservist distributions.

## 5-Year Rule for Roth IRA Conversions

Some investors who have traditional IRAs may consider rolling them over into a Roth IRA. Typically, the money converted from the traditional IRA to a Roth is taxed as income, so it may make sense to talk to a financial or tax professional before making this move.

If this Roth IRA conversion is made, the 5-year rule still applies. The key date is the tax year in which the conversion happened. So, if an investor converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA on September 15, 2022, the five-year period would start on January 1, 2022. If the conversion took place on March 10, 2023, the five-year period would start on January 1, 2023. So, unless the conversion took place on January 1 of a certain year, typically, the 5-year rule doesn’t literally equate to five full calendar years.

If an investor makes multiple conversions from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, perhaps one in 2023 and one in 2024, then each conversion has its own unique five-year window for the rule.

## 5-Year Rule for Inherited Roth IRA

The 5-year rule also applies to inherited Roth IRAs. Here’s how it works.

When the owner of a Roth IRA dies, the balance of the account may be inherited by beneficiaries. These beneficiaries can withdraw money without penalty, whether the money they take is from the principal (contributions made by the original account holder) or from investment earnings, as long as the original account holder had the Roth IRA for at least five years. If the original account holder had the Roth IRA for fewer than five tax years, however, the earnings portion of the beneficiary withdrawals is subject to taxation until the five-year anniversary is reached.

People who inherit Roth IRAs, unlike the original account holders, must take required minimum distributions (RMDs). They can do so by withdrawing funds by December 31 of the 10th year after the original holder died if they died after 2019 (or the fifth year if the original account holder died before 2020), or have the withdrawals taken out based upon their own life expectancy.

💡 Quick Tip: All investments come with some degree of risk — and some are riskier than others. Before investing online, decide on your investment goals and how much risk you want to take.

## How to Shorten the 5-Year Waiting Period

To shorten the five-year waiting period, an investor could open a Roth IRA online and make a contribution on the day before income taxes are due and have it applied to the previous year. For example, if one were to make the contribution in April 2023, that contribution could be considered as being made in the 2022 tax year. As long as this doesn’t cause problems with annual contribution caps, the five-year window would effectively expire in 2027 rather than 2028.

If the same investor opens a second Roth IRA — say in 2024 — the five-year window still expires (in this example) in 2027. The initial Roth IRA opened by an investor determines the beginning of the five-year waiting period for all subsequently opened Roth IRAs.

## The Takeaway

For Roth IRA account holders, the 5-year rule is key. After the account has been opened for five years, an account holder who is 59 ½ or older can withdraw investment earnings without incurring taxes or penalties. While there are exceptions to this so-called 5-year rule, for anyone who has a Roth IRA account, this is important information to know about.

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

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

## FAQ

### Do I have to wait 5 years to withdraw from my Roth IRA?

Because of the Roth IRA 5-year rule, you generally have to wait at least five years before withdrawing earnings tax-free from your Roth IRA. You can, however, withdraw contributions you made to your Roth IRA at any time tax-free.

### Does the 5-year rule apply to Roth contributions?

No, the Roth IRA rule does not apply to contributions made to your Roth IRA, only to earnings. You can withdraw contributions you made to your IRA tax-free at any time.

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

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

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

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

SOIN0124023

## Bank Account Application Denied? What It Means to Be ‘Blacklisted’ and What to Do

It may seem as if having a bank account is a given in life, but actually, it’s not: Some people get rejected and have to work hard (really hard) to attain that privilege. There’s a situation called being blacklisted by banks, and it’s a tough one to overcome.

Granted, for many, having enough money for a deposit and valid ID gives you all you need to open a bank account.

But if you’ve had problems with a bank account before and your screening report reveals those issues, you could be denied. But all is not lost: Take a deep breath and read on. We’ll share:

•   What it means to be blacklisted

•   Why this happens

•   What you can do to earn back the ability to access the financial products and services you need

## What Does It Mean to Be on the ChexSystems Blacklist?

Unless you’ve had trouble opening a bank account, it’s possible you’ve never even heard of ChexSystems. Think of ChexSystems as being akin to the credit reporting agencies that determine your all-important FICO credit score. Except instead of keeping track of how well you manage debt the way Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion do, ChexSystems records how well you manage your banking life.

Do you have a history of bouncing checks, overdrawing your account, failing to pay bank fees, suspicious activity, or have had your account closed by a financial institution? If so, it’s likely ChexSystems knows about and is keeping track of those negative activities. Approximately 80% of banks use these agencies’ screening reports when deciding whether to approve a consumer’s application to open a checking or savings account.

Along with your report, banks also may use your ChexSystems Consumer Score to assess your potential risk as a new or returning customer. A score can range from 100 to 899 — and a higher score signifies lower risk.

There’s no official point or score at which consumers are automatically “blacklisted” by ChexSystems or the banks that use its services. Each financial institution determines independently how much risk is acceptable when deciding to open a new account for a client. But if your score is in the lower range, you should be aware that your application could be refused. The reason why: You don’t appear to be someone who will use your bank accounts responsibly.

If you’re planning to open an account and you’re wondering what your current ChexSystems Consumer Score is, you can request it at the ChexSystems website. You’re able to get one free report per year.

## What to Do If You Are Blacklisted

So let’s say you’ve applied for a bank account and got rejected. That can be an upsetting feeling. After all, bank accounts — especially checking accounts — are the hub of most people’s financial lives. Paychecks are deposited there, and bills and other debts are paid out of that same account. You may wonder how you will ever get a bank account after being blacklisted.

We have good news: If a financial institution denies your request to open an account, there are a few things you may be able to do to improve your standing. Here are four steps to take.

### 1. Request a Consumer Disclosure Report

The bank or credit union that declined to open an account for you should inform you which reporting agency (ChexSystems or another) generated the report it used when considering your application. You can then contact that agency by phone, mail, or online to request a free copy of the report. You’ll then take a look at exactly what’s on your record.

### 2. Report Any Discrepancies

Once you receive a copy of your file, you should be able to see which banks or credit unions provided negative information about you to the reporting agency. If the report doesn’t match up to your experiences, there may have been an error, or the problem could be connected to identity theft. Either way, it’s a good idea to check your own records for any discrepancies and prepare to address what you may uncover.

### 3. Dispute Any Errors Found

Consumer reporting agencies must comply with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. That means they are required to ensure the information they provide is as accurate as possible. What’s more, by law, they can’t include certain types of negative information that’s more than seven years old. (ChexSystems typically keeps negative information on a report for five years.)

If you feel your banking report has errors, is incomplete, or that some negative information is out of date, your next move may be to file a dispute. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides sample letters for contacting both the financial institution that supplied the incorrect data and the agency that included it in its report. Or, you can file your dispute on the ChexSystems website.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, ChexSystems must verify the negative information within 30 days or delete it from your ChexSystems report.

You also may want to get an updated credit report from one or all three of the major credit bureaus to see if there are similar problems there. You can request those reports for free at annualcreditreport.com. If you find anything amiss, you can dispute those credit report errors.

To be clear, your ChexSystems score is not the same as the FICO credit score lenders look at when you apply for a credit card or loan. And the banking reports ChexSystems provide do not include the same information as credit reports. But if there’s inaccurate information in a report about your checking account activity, there may be similar issues with your credit reports — especially if you’ve been the victim of identity theft. If you can catch discrepancies early, you may be able to head off future questions about your creditworthiness.

### 4. Pay Off Outstanding Debts and Fees

Of course, there is the possibility that the black marks on your report are valid. Maybe you bailed on an account that was overdrawn or had another negative situation. If information on your report was accurate, you still may be able to improve your chances of opening an account. You will probably want to show that you are trying to rectify past problems.

Check with the bank that declined your recent application for an account. A banker there may have some suggestions. It could help, for example, if you can pay off any old fees you still owe to ChexSystems’ member institutions. Once those past bad debts are taken care of, you can ask the bank or credit union that provided the negative information to update that item on your ChexSystems report.

You still may have to wait five years for the negative information to be completely removed from your report. But ultimately, it’s up to each individual bank — not ChexSystems — to decide if a customer’s application will be approved or denied. If the bank sees you’re making an effort to right old wrongs, it may reconsider your application. That’s why connecting with a banker to explain what steps you’re taking can be a move in the right direction.

## How to Avoid Being Blacklisted by ChexSystems

Obviously, the best way to avoid getting a low ChexSystems Consumer Score or a negative report is to avoid the activities that could make you a riskier bank customer. If you want to be a good checking and savings account customer, avoid such things as:

•   Bouncing checks or running up too many overdraft fees

•   Having an account closed involuntarily

•   Committing ATM or debit card abuse

•   Being suspected of fraud or illegal activity

•   Opening and closing multiple accounts in a short period of time

But there are other steps you can take to further secure your finances and your financial reputation. Consider these options as well to boost your standing as a banking customer. They can help you avoid being blacklisted.

If there’s information on a ChexSystems report that you weren’t aware of, you may have been the victim of identity theft. Reviewing your accounts regularly could help you clear up problems faster. Even if you don’t have this kind of fraudulent activity on your record, it’s still a good idea to stay on top of your financial profile. Here are some key steps.

•   It’s a good idea to periodically request and scrutinize your free ChexSystems report.

•   You’ll also want to get free copies of your three major credit reports from annualcreditreport.com at least annually. Again, your goal is to make sure that everything is up-to-date and accurate and that there isn’t any fraud or identity theft occurring.

•   It’s also a good idea to regularly check your bank account and credit card statements to make sure there aren’t any transactions you aren’t aware of. Many financial institutions offer online tools and mobile apps that can make tracking your accounts easy and convenient.

•   You may want to set up a low balance alert for your checking account. That way, you’ll get a text or email when your balance reaches a certain threshold, and you’ll know to stop using the account until you make a deposit. That can help avoid overdrawing your account and bouncing checks and/or triggering fees. You also might consider setting up bank alerts for unusual activity, overdrafts, and new log-ins.

### Find an Alternative to a Traditional Banking Account

If you’ve been rejected and are worried that you might be unable to open a bank account, don’t give up hope. If your ChexSystems report seems to be blocking you from getting an account, you may have other options.

•   Some banks and credit unions offer what are called “second chance” checking accounts. These typically offer fewer features and higher fees than regular bank accounts to customers who have been blocked by a ChexSystems report or score.

•   There are also some banks and credit unions that don’t use ChexSystems when making decisions on account applications. You might be able to enjoy the same benefits as other account holders, with low or no fees, if you choose to do business with one of those financial institutions. A little online research should show you which banks don’t depend upon ChexSystems.

By investing a bit of time and energy, you should be able to find an account that suits your needs even if you have been blacklisted.

## The Takeaway

If a bank denied your application for a new checking or savings account, it could be that you were blacklisted due to negative information on your ChexSystems report.

You still have options, though. If the information on your report is wrong or more than seven years old, you can dispute the negative information and have your report corrected. And if it turns out the negative information is true, you can take steps to remedy the situation and possibly open an account elsewhere. The convenience of a bank account may well be within reach.

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 SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall. Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

## FAQ

### Can I open a bank account if I’m blacklisted?

You may have a few options if you’ve been blocked from opening an account. You could try to fix your old problems, and ask the bank to reconsider. You could sign up for a “second chance” account that’s geared to people with a negative banking history. Or, you could look for a bank that doesn’t base its decisions about customer accounts on ChexSystems reports.

### How long are you blacklisted from banks?

Every bank has its own policies when it comes to deciding a customer’s account eligibility. But if you have negative items on a ChexSystems report that could cause a bank to decline your account application, you can expect that information to stay on your report for up to five years.

### What does it mean when your bank account is blacklisted?

If someone tells you that you have a blacklisted bank account, it generally means you have enough negative information on your ChexSystems report — or a low enough ChexSystems score — that the bank sees you as a risk. They therefore decline to offer you an account.

Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

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.

The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

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Our account fee policy is subject to change at any time.
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## Investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

With REIT investing, you gain access to income-producing properties without having to own those properties outright. REITs may own several different kinds of properties (e.g. commercial, residential, storage) or focus on just one or two market segments.

Real estate investment trusts or REITs can be a great addition to a portfolio if you’re hoping to diversify. REIT investing might appeal to experienced investors as well as beginners who are looking to move beyond stocks and bonds.

## What Is a REIT?

A REIT is a trust that owns different types of properties that generate income. REITs are considered a type of alternative investment, because they don’t move in sync with traditional stock and bond investments.

Some of the options you might find in a REIT can include:

•   Apartment buildings

•   Shopping malls or retail centers

•   Warehouses

•   Self-storage units

•   Office buildings

•   Hotels

•   Healthcare facilities

REITS may focus on a particular geographic area or property market, or only invest in properties that meet a minimum value threshold.

A REIT may be publicly traded, meaning you can buy or sell shares on an exchange the same as you would a stock. They can also be non-traded, or private. Publicly traded and non-traded REITs are required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but non-traded REITs aren’t available on public stock exchanges.

Private REITs aren’t required to register with the SEC. Most anyone can invest in public REITs while private REITs are typically the domain of high-net-worth or wealthy investors.

## How Do REITs Work?

With REIT investing individuals gain access to various types of real estate indirectly. The REIT owns and maintains the property, collecting rental income (or mortgage interest).

Investors can buy shares in the REIT, which then pays out a portion of the collected income to them as dividends.

To sum it up: REITs let investors reap the benefits of real estate investing without having to buy property themselves.

### REIT Qualifications

Certain guidelines must be met for an entity to qualify as a REIT. The majority of assets must be connected to real estate investment. At least 90% of taxable income must be distributed to shareholders annually as dividend payouts.

•   Be organized in a way that would make it taxable as a corporation if not for its REIT status

•   Have a board of trustees or directors who oversee its management

•   Have shares that are fully transferable

•   Have at least 100 shareholders after its first 100 as a REIT

•   Allow no more than 50% of its shares to be held by five or fewer individuals during the last half of the taxable year

•   Invest at least 75% of assets in real estate and cash

•   Generate at least 75% of its gross income from real estate, including rents and mortgage interest

Following these rules allows REITs to avoid having to pay corporate tax. That benefits the REIT but it also creates a secondary boon for investors, since the REIT may be better positioned to grow and pay out larger dividends over time.

## Types of REITs

The SEC classifies three categories of REITs: equity, mortgage, and hybrid. Each type of REIT may be publicly traded, non-traded, or private. Here’s a quick comparison of each one.

•   Equity REITs own properties that produce income. For example, an equity REIT might own several office buildings with units leased to multiple tenants. Those buildings generate income through the rent the tenants pay to the REIT.

•   Mortgage REITs don’t own property. Instead, they generate income from the interest on mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. The main thing to know about mortgage REITs is that they can potentially produce higher yields for investors, but they can also be riskier investments.

•   Hybrid REITs own income-producing properties as well as commercial mortgages. So you get the best (and potentially, the worst) of both worlds in a single investment vehicle.

Aside from these classifications, REITs can also be viewed in terms of the types of property they invest in. For example, there are storage-unit REITs, office building REITs, retail REITs, healthcare REITS, and more.

Some REITs specialize in owning land instead of property. For example, you might be able to own a stake in timberland or farmland through a real estate investment trust.

## How Do REITs Make Money?

REITs make money from the income of the underlying properties they own. Again, those income sources can include:

•   Rental income

•   Interest from mortgages

•   Sale of properties

As far as how much money a REIT can generate, it depends on a mix of factors, including the size of the REIT’s portfolio, its investment strategy, and overall economic conditions.

Reviewing the prospectus of any REIT you’re considering investing in can give you a better idea of how it operates. One thing to keep in mind with REITs or any other type of investment is that past performance is not an indicator of future returns.

## How to Invest in REITs

There are a few ways to invest in REITs if you’re interested in adding them to your portfolio. You can find them offered through brokerages and it’s easy to open a trading account if you don’t have one yet.

### REIT Shares

The first option for investing in REITs is to buy shares on an exchange. You can browse the list of REITs available through your brokerage, decide how many shares you want to buy, and execute the trade. When comparing REITs, consider what it owns, the potential risks, and how much you’ll need to invest initially.

You might buy shares of just one REIT or several. If you’re buying multiple REITs that each hold a variety of property types, it’s a good idea to review them carefully. Otherwise, you could end up increasing your risk if you’re overexposed to a particular property sector.

### REIT Funds

REIT mutual funds allow you to own a collection or basket of investments in a single vehicle. Buying a mutual fund focused on REITs may be preferable if you’d like to diversify with multiple property types.

When researching REIT funds, consider the underlying property investments and also check the expense ratio. The expense ratio represents the annual cost of owning the fund. The lower this fee is, the more of your investment returns you get to keep.

Again, you can find REIT mutual funds offered through a brokerage. It’s also possible to buy them through a 401(k) or similar workplace retirement plan if they’re on your plan’s list of approved investments.

### REIT ETFs

A REIT exchange-traded fund (or ETF) combines features of stocks and mutual funds. An ETF can hold multiple real estate investments while trading on an exchange like a stock.

REIT ETFs may be attractive if you’re looking for an easy way to diversify, or more flexibility when it comes to trading.

In general, ETFs can be more tax-efficient than traditional mutual funds since they have lower turnover. They may also have lower expense ratios.

## Benefits and Risks of REITs

Are REITs right for every investor? Not necessarily, and it’s important to consider where they might fit into your portfolio before investing. Weighing the pros and cons can help you decide if REITs make sense for you.

### Benefits of REITs

•   Dividends. REITs are required to pay out dividends to shareholders, which can mean a steady stream of income for you should you decide to invest. Some REITs have earned a reputation for paying out dividends well above what even the best dividend stocks have to offer.

•   Diversification. Diversifying your portfolio is helpful for managing risk, and REITs can make that easier to do if you’re specifically interested in property investments. You can get access to dozens of properties or perhaps even more, inside a single investment vehicle.

•   Hands-off investing. Managing actual rental properties yourself can be a headache. Investing in REITs lets you reap some of the benefits of property ownership without all the stress or added responsibility.

•   Market insulation. Real estate generally has a low correlation with stocks. If the market gets bumpy and volatility picks up, REITs can help to smooth the ride a bit until things calm down again.

💡 Quick Tip: It’s smart to invest in a range of assets so that you’re not overly reliant on any one company or market to do well. For example, by investing in different sectors you can add diversification to your portfolio, which may help mitigate some risk factors over time.

### Risks of REITs

•   Liquidity challenges. Buying REIT shares may be easy enough, but selling them can be a different matter. You may need to plan to hold on to your shares for a longer period than you’re used to or run into difficulties when trying to trade shares on an exchange.

•   Taxation. REIT investors must pay taxes on the dividends they receive, which are treated as nonqualified for IRS purposes. For that reason, it might make sense to keep REIT investments inside a tax-advantaged IRA to minimize your liability.

•   Interest rate sensitivity. When interest rates rise, that can cause REIT prices to drop. That can make them easier to buy if the entry point is lower, but it can make financing new properties more expensive or lower the value of the investments the REIT owns.

•   Debt. REITs tend to carry a lot of debt, which isn’t unusual. It can become a problem, however, if the REIT can no longer afford to service the debt. That can lead to dividend cuts, making them less attractive to investors.

## The Takeaway

REITs can open the door to real estate investment for people who aren’t inclined to go all-in on property ownership. REITs can focus on a single sector, like storage units or retail properties, or a mix. If you’re new to REITs, it’s helpful to research the basics of how they work before diving into the specifics of a particular investment.

Ready to expand your portfolio's growth potential? Alternative investments, traditionally available to high-net-worth individuals, are accessible to everyday investors on SoFi's easy-to-use platform. Investments in commodities, real estate, venture capital, and more are now within reach. Alternative investments can be high risk, so it's important to consider your portfolio goals and risk tolerance to determine if they're right for you.

Invest in alts to take your portfolio beyond stocks and bonds.

## FAQ

### How do I buy a REIT?

You can buy shares of a REIT through a broker if it’s publicly traded on an exchange. If you’re trying to buy shares of a private REIT, you can still go through a broker, but you’ll need to find one that’s participating in the offering. Keep in mind that regardless of how you buy a REIT, you’ll need to meet minimum investment requirements to purchase shares.

### Can I invest \$1,000 in a REIT?

It’s possible to find REITs that allow you to invest with as little as \$1,000 and some may have a minimum investment that’s even lower. Keep in mind, however, that private or non-traded REITs may require much larger minimum investments of \$10,000 or even \$50,000 to buy in.

### Can I sell my REIT any time?

If you own shares in a public REIT you can trade them at any time, the same way you could a stock. If you own a private REIT, however, you’ll typically need to wait for a redemption period to sell your shares. Redemption events may occur quarterly or annually and you may pay a redemption fee to sell your shares.

### What is the average return on REITs?

The 10-year annualized return for the S&P 500 United States REIT index, which tracks the performance of U.S. REITs, was 2.34%. Like any sector, however, REITs have performed better and worse over time. Also, the performance of different types of REITs (self-storage, strip malls, healthcare, apartments, etc.) can vary widely.

Photo credit: iStock/ozgurcoskun

An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of the Fund carefully before investing. This and other important information are contained in the Fund’s prospectus. For a current prospectus, please click the Prospectus link on the Fund’s respective page. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing.
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