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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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.
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The Strategic Guide to Early Retirement

An early retirement used to be considered a bit of a dream, but for many people it’s a reality — especially those who are willing to budget, save, and invest with this goal in mind.

If you’d like to retire early, there are concrete steps you can take to help reach your goal. Here’s what you need to know about how to retire early.

Understanding Early Retirement

Early retirement typically refers to retiring before the age of 65, which is when eligibility for Medicare benefits begins. Some people may want to retire just a few years earlier, at age 60, for instance. But others dream of retiring in their 40s or 50s or even younger.

Clarifying Early Retirement Age and Goals

You’re probably wondering, how can I retire early? That’s an important question to ask. First, though, you have to decide at what age to retire.

Schedule a few check-ins with yourself, and/or a partner or loved ones, to discuss what “early retirement” means. Is it age 50? Age 55? And what might your early retirement look like? Will you stop working completely? Work part-time? Or maybe you want to switch to a different field or start a business? Perhaps you dream of going back to school, volunteering, or traveling.

Early retirement is different for everyone. So the clearer you can get about the details now, the smarter you can be about how much money you need to make your plan work.

Insights into the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) Movement

There’s a movement of people who want to retire early. It’s called the FIRE movement, which stands for “financially independent, retire early.” FIRE has become a worldwide trend that’s inspiring people to work toward retiring in their 50s, 40s, and even their 30s.

Here’s how it works: In order to retire at a young age, people who follow the FIRE movement allocate 50% to 75% of their income to savings. However, that can be challenging because it means they have to sacrifice certain lifestyle pleasures along the way. For instance, they might not be able to eat out or travel.

Once they retire, FIRE proponents tend to use investments that pay dividends as passive income sources to help support themselves. However, dividend payments depend on company performance and they’re not guaranteed. So a FIRE adherent would likely need other sources of income in retirement as well.


💡 Quick Tip: Before opening an investment account, know your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. These fundamentals will help keep your strategy on track and with the aim of meeting your goals.

Financial Planning for Early Retirement

In order to start planning to retire early, you need to calculate how much money you’ll need to live on once you stop working. How much would you have to save and invest to arrive at an amount that would allow you to retire early? Here’s how to help figure that out.

Estimating Retirement Costs and Income Needs

Many people wonder: How much do I need to retire early? There isn’t one answer to that question. The right answer for you is one that you must arrive at based on your unique needs and circumstances. That said, to learn whether you’re on track for retirement it helps to begin somewhere, and the Rule of 25 may provide a good ballpark estimate.

The Rule of 25 recommends saving 25 times your annual expenses in order to retire. Why? Because according to one rule of thumb, you should only spend 4% of your total nest egg every year. By limiting your spending to a small percentage of your savings, the logic goes, your money is more likely to last.

Here’s an example: if you spend $75,000 a year, you’ll need a nest egg of $1,875,000 in order to retire.

$75,000 x 25 = $1,875,000

With that amount saved, and assuming an annual withdrawal rate of 4%, you would have $75,000 per year in income.

Obviously, this is just an example. You might need less income in retirement or more — perhaps a lot less or a lot more, depending on your situation. If your desired income is $50,000, for example, you’d need to save $1,250,000.

The Benefits of Social Security

Once you reach the age of 62, which some consider a traditional retirement age, you are then able to claim Social Security benefits. (Age 67 is considered “full retirement” age for those born in 1960 and later, and you can wait to claim benefits until age 70.)

The longer you wait to claim Social Security, the higher your monthly payments will be. You could add those Social Security benefits to your income or consider reinvesting the money, depending on your circumstances as you get older.

Recommended: Typical Retirement Expenses to Prepare For

Effective Savings Strategies

How do you save the amount of money you’d need for your early retirement plan?

Having a budget you can live with is critical to making this plan a success. The essential word here isn’t budget, it’s the whole phrase: a budget you can live with.

There are countless ways to manage how you budget. There’s the 50-30-20 plan, the envelope method, the zero-based budget, and so on. You could test a couple of them for a couple of months each in order to find one you can live with.

Another strategy for saving more is to get a side hustle to bring in some extra income. You can put that money toward your early retirement goal.

Adjusting Your Financial Habits

As you consider how to retire early, one of the first things you’ll need to do is cut your expenses now so that you can save more money. These strategies can help you get started.

Lifestyle Changes to Accelerate Savings

Take a look at your current spending and expenses and determine where you could cut back. Maybe instead of a $4,000 vacation, you plan a $2,000 trip instead, and then save or invest the other $2,000 for retirement.

You may be able to live more of a minimalist lifestyle overall. Rather than buying new clothes, for instance, search through your closets for items you can wear. Eat out less and cook at home more. Cut back on some of the streaming services you use. Scrutinize all areas of your spending to see what you can eliminate or pare back.

Debt Management Before Retirement

Obviously, it’s very difficult to achieve a big goal like saving for an early retirement if you’re also trying to pay down debt. It’s wise to work to pay off any and all debts you might have (credit card, student loan, personal loan, car loan, etc.).

That’s not only because being debt-free feels better — it also saves you money. For example, the interest rate you’re paying on credit card or store cards can be quite high, often above 15% or even 20%. If you owe $6,000 on a credit card at 17% interest, for example, when you pay that off, you’re essentially saving the interest that debt was costing you each year.

Health Care Planning: A Critical Component of Early Retirement

When you retire early, you need to think about health insurance since you’ll no longer be getting it through your employer. Medicare doesn’t begin until age 65, so start researching the private insurance market now to understand the different plans available and what you might need.

It’s critical to have the right health insurance in place, so make sure you devote proper time and attention to this task.

Investment Management for Future Retirees

Next up, you’ll need to decide what to invest in and how much to invest in order to grow your savings without putting it at risk.

Understanding Your Investment Options

How do you invest to retire early? You can invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), target date funds, and more.

One major factor to consider is how aggressively you want to invest. That means: Are you ready to invest more in equities, say, taking on the potential for greater risk in order to possibly reap potential gains? Or would you feel more at ease if you invested using a more conservative strategy, with less exposure to risk (but potentially less reward)?

Whichever strategy you choose, you may want to invest on a regular cadence. This approach, called dollar-cost averaging, is one way to maximize potential market returns and mitigate the risk of loss.

Balancing Growth and Risk in Your Investment Portfolio

Because you have less time to save for retirement, you will likely want your investments to grow. But you also need to consider your risk tolerance, as mentioned above. Think about a balanced, diversified portfolio that has the potential to give you long-term growth without taking on more risk than you are comfortable with.

As you get closer to your early retirement date, you can move some of your savings into safer, more liquid assets so that you have enough money on hand for your living, housing, and healthcare expenses.

Retirement Accounts: 401(k)s, IRAs, and HSAs

If your employer offers a retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b), that’s the first thing you want to take advantage of — especially if your employer matches a percentage of your savings.

The other reason to save and invest in an employer-sponsored plan is that in most cases the money you save the plan reduces your taxable income. These accounts are considered tax deferred because the amount you save is deducted from your gross income. So the more you save, the less you might pay in taxes. You do pay ordinary income tax on the withdrawals in retirement, however.

The caveat here is that you can’t access those funds before you’re 59½ without paying a penalty. So if you plan to retire early at 50, you will need to tap other savings for roughly the first decade to avoid the withdrawal penalties you’d incur if you tapped your 401(k) or Individual Retirement Account (IRA) early.

Be sure to find out from HR if there are any other employee benefits you might qualify for, such as stock options or a pension, for instance.

Additionally, if your employer offers a Health Savings Account as part of your employee benefits, you might consider opening one.

A Health Savings Account allows you to save additional money: For tax year 2024, the HSA contribution caps are $4,150 for individuals and $8,300 for family coverage.

Your contributions are considered pre-tax, similar to 401(k) or IRA contributions, and the money you withdraw for qualified medical expenses is tax free (although you’ll pay taxes on money spent on non-medical expenses).

Finally, consider opening a Roth IRA. The advantage of saving in a Roth IRA vs. a regular IRA is that you’re contributing after-tax money that can be withdrawn penalty- and tax-free at any time.

To withdraw your earnings without paying taxes or a penalty, though, you must have had the account for at least five years (as per the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule), and you must be over 59 ½.


💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that a traditional Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, is a tax-deferred account? That means you don’t pay taxes on the money you put in it (up to an annual limit) or the gains you earn, until you retire and start making withdrawals.

The Pillars of Early Retirement

Retiring early means you’ll need to have income coming in to help support you. You may have a pension, which can also help. Once you’ve identified the income you’ll be generating, you’ll need to withdraw it in a manner that will help it last over the years of your retirement.

Establishing Multiple Income Streams

Having different streams of income is important so that you’re not just relying on one type of money coming in. For instance, your investments can be a source of potential income and growth, as mentioned. In addition, you may want to get a second job now in addition to your full-time job — perhaps a side hustle on evenings and weekends — to generate more money that you can put toward your retirement savings.

The Role of Social Security and Pensions in Early Retirement

Social Security can help supplement your retirement income. However, as covered above, the earliest you can collect it is at age 62. And if you take your benefits that early they will be reduced by as much as 30%. On the other hand, if you wait until full retirement age to collect them, you’ll receive full benefits. If you were born in 1960 or later, your full retirement age is 67. You can find out more information at ssa.gov.

If your employer offers a pension, you should be able to collect that as another income stream for your retirement years. Generally, you need to be fully vested in the plan to collect the entire pension. The amount you are eligible for is typically based on what you earned, how long you worked for the company, and when you stop working there. Check with your HR department to learn more.

The Significance of Withdrawal Strategies: Rules of 55 and 4%

When it comes to withdrawing money from your investments after retirement, there are some rules and guidelines to be aware of. According to the Rule of 55, the IRS allows certain workers who leave their jobs to take penalty-free distributions from their current employer’s workplace retirement account, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), the year they turn 55.

The 4% rule is a general rule of thumb that recommends that you take 4% of your total retirement savings per year to cover your expenses.

To figure out what you would need, start with your desired yearly retirement income, subtract the annual amount of any pension or additional revenue stream you might have, and divide that number by 0.4. The resulting amount will be 4%, and you can aim to withdraw no more than that amount every year. The rest of your money would stay in your retirement portfolio.

Monitoring Your Progress Towards Early Retirement

To stay on course to reach your goal of early retirement, keep tabs on your progress at regular intervals. For instance, you may want to do a monthly or bi-monthly financial check-in to see where you’re at. Are you saving as much as you planned? If not, what could you do to save more?

Using an online retirement calculator can help you keep track of your goals. From there you can make any adjustments as needed to help make your dreams of early retirement come true.

How to Manage Early Retirement When You Get There

The budget you make in order to save for an early retirement is probably a good blueprint for how you should think about your spending habits after you retire. Unless your expenses will drop significantly after you retire (for instance, if you move or need one car instead of two, etc.), you can expect your spending to be about the same.

That said, you may be spending on different things. Whatever your retirement looks like, though, it’s wise to keep your spending as steady as you can, to keep your nest egg intact.

The Takeaway

An early retirement may appeal to many people, but it takes a real commitment to actually embrace it as your goal. These days, many people are using movements like FIRE (financial independence, retire early) to help them take the steps necessary to retire in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.

You can also make progress toward an early retirement by determining how much money you’ll need for post-work life, budgeting, and cutting back on expenses . And by saving and investing wisely, you may be able to make your goal a reality.

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.

FAQs

How much do you need to save for early retirement?

There isn’t one right answer to the question of how much you need to save for early retirement. It depends on your specific needs and circumstances. However, as a starting point, the Rule of 25 may give you an estimate. This guideline recommends saving 25 times your annual expenses in order to retire, and then following the 4% rule, and withdrawing no more than 4% a year in retirement to cover your expenses.

Is early retirement a practical goal?

For some people, early retirement can be a practical goal if they plan properly. You’ll need to decide at what age you want to retire, and how much money you’ll need for your retirement years. Then, you will need to map out a budget and a concrete strategy to save enough. It will likely require adjusting your lifestyle now to cut back on spending and expenses to help save for the future, which can be challenging.


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.

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.

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.


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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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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What Is Mobile Deposit and How Does It Work?

Mobile deposit is a fast, easy, and convenient way to deposit a check without going to the bank. You just snap a photo of your check with your smartphone and upload it to your bank’s app.

But you may have questions about this feature, even if you are already using it. For instance, how do you endorse a check for mobile deposit? How long will the check take to clear? Keep reading to find out the answer to these questions and more.

What Is A Mobile Check Deposit?

A mobile deposit is a process that allows you to deposit a check into your account using your phone’s or your tablet’s camera. Typically, you open your bank’s mobile app and type in the amount of the check and take a photo of both the front and the back of the check. Before you do this, be sure to endorse the check.

Some details about mobile deposit you may want to note:

•   The app generally lets you use this feature 24 hours a day, although some banks may only make a same-day deposit up until a certain hour, like 10:00 pm. Every bank will be different, but most banks will deposit a check quite late in the evening, even if they won’t allow 24 hours.

•   How long do mobile deposits take to clear? Deposits may show up immediately, later on the same day, or the next day. Sometimes, they’ll be fully available and sometimes partially, depending on the rules of your bank.

For example, say you make a mobile deposit worth $3,000. Your bank may make $500 available immediately and the remaining $2,500 available in two business days. Each bank is going to have its own funds availability policy, though there are some federal regulations on how long a bank can place a hold on a deposited check. Ask your financial institution about their policies.

•   Some banks may have one-day or monthly dollar limits on mobile deposits (like $10,000 per month). Others may have limits on the size of checks that they are willing to cash over mobile deposit. For example, some banks will not allow customers to mobile deposit checks worth more than $5,000.

💡 Quick Tip: An online bank account with SoFi can help your money earn more — up to 4.60% APY, with no minimum balance required.

How Secure Is Mobile Check Deposit?

Just like mobile banking in general, mobile deposit is typically very safe. However, there are a few steps you can take to boost security.

•   Double-check that you have entered the check amount properly. Otherwise, there might be issues processing the deposit.

•   Be sure you’ve endorsed the check for mobile deposit properly (more on that below).

•   Follow best practices for the security of your banking app. Never share passwords or other login information.

•   Keep checks secure and private, and make sure to shred them when they’ve been deposited and the funds have cleared.

How Does Mobile Deposit Work?

How does mobile deposit work? For the customer, it’s quite simple actually Here’s a closer look.

1. Verify If Your Bank Offers Mobile Depositing

Many banks offer mobile depositing. But if you’re new to this feature or have a new bank account, make sure mobile deposit is available.

2. Review Mobile Deposit Limits

Some banks will have limits about mobile deposit. Perhaps your bank only allows up to $500 or $2,500 a day or $10,000 a month via mobile deposit. You want to know that before you attempt to deposit a check that’s over the limit.

3. Endorse Your Check for Deposit

How do you endorse a check for mobile deposit? That depends on your bank. Some may be fine with you signing your name on the bank. Others may request that you add language such as “For Electronic Deposit at [bank name].” Familiarize yourself with your financial institution’s guidelines so you avoid any delays with your mobile deposit.

4. Follow Your Bank’s Mobile Banking Instructions to Deposit Your Check

Next, you’ll follow the instructions to deposit the check. They typically go something like this:

•   Log into your bank’s mobile banking app and navigate to the mobile deposit feature.

•   Select the account you want to deposit the check into.

•   Enter the amount of the check.

•   Take a photo of the endorsed check, front and back.

•   Review the details (your bank’s app may show the details, such as the check amount and account it’s heading towards and ask if everything looks correct).

•   Submit your check.

Recommended: Guide to Signing Over a Check

5. Keep Your Check and Wait for the Money to Be Deposited

Just as with a check deposited at a bank’s ATM or branch, the money may not be immediately available for use. Checks typically take a bit of time to clear. Here’s how mobile deposit works:

•   When you snap that photo, a financial institution will generally produce a copy of the check as a stand-in for the physical copy. Using this facsimile, a bank will work to collect the money from the check writer’s account.

•   Even before the bank is able to retrieve the money from the check’s source, the money may show as deposited into your account. Though the technology is incredibly swift, the money itself isn’t actually moving that fast.

•   Money often becomes available in one day, but it could typically take up to several business days, depending on the bank’s policies, the bank the funds are drawn from, and other variables.

This lag time can create problems — you might spend or transfer the funds before the money has fully cleared.

It’s wise to hold onto the physical copy of your check for two weeks in case there is a problem getting the check deposited. If you need to, mark it so you know that you’ve already deposited the check. Once you know it’s cleared, shred or destroy the check so that no one can obtain the information.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Benefits of Mobile Deposit

Now that you know how the mobile deposit process works, here’s a guide to the benefits of mobile deposits.

Save Yourself a Trip to the ATM

This is a major benefit of mobile banking. Having to take a trip to a bank branch or ATM to deposit a check can be a real hassle. With this kind of deposit (and online banking in general), you don’t need to budge from wherever you are to get that check into your bank account.

Deposits Can Be Done Later than at Bank Branches

For lots of working people, getting to the bank before it closes at 5:00 pm on a weekday is difficult to do. With mobile banking, checks can be deposited at any time of day, any day of the week. You can be in your pjs, watching a streaming series, and quickly get that money deposited. That’s a major benefit of mobile banking.

Exactly when the cash becomes available to use (and in what amount) will depend on that particular bank’s rules, but many banks have extended hours for mobile deposit. Customers can generally access at least some money, even with deposits made later in the evening or on the weekends.

Deposit Money Later in the Day

For lots of working people, getting to the bank before it closes at 5:00 pm on a weekday is difficult to do. With mobile banking, checks can be deposited at any time of day, any day of the week. You can be in your pjs, watching a streaming series, and quickly get that money deposited.

Deposits Are Credited Quickly

Because of the extended hours offered by mobile deposits, it may be possible to deposit a check and see the money available in your account faster than if you had to wait until you make it to a branch location. If you deposit the check during mobile deposit hours and the amount is, say, $200 or under, it is possible to see your funds immediately. But, as mentioned above, it’s always wise to make sure the check has fully cleared before transferring or spending it. Remember, it’s not the same as depositing cash into your account.

Deposit a Check From Anywhere

Sometimes, you’re simply not anywhere near a branch or appropriate ATM but need to deposit a check. One of mobile banking’s biggest benefits is being able to deposit a check from anywhere in the world, whether you’re on vacation, attending a business meeting out of town, or otherwise not at your home base.

Deposits Are Secure

In terms of security, mobile banking is very safe. Depositing your checks through your mobile app can be as secure as any other digital banking process. Most banks and credit unions use enhanced security processes and encryption to protect their customers.

Also, if you are worried that your phone might be stolen and the image of your check could potentially fall into the wrong hands, don’t be. The image of a check that is deposited via mobile banking isn’t stored on your phone.

A Few Downsides to Mobile Deposit

Now that you’ve heard about the benefits of mobile banking when it comes to depositing checks, let’s acknowledge that there are also a few downsides. A couple to consider:

•   If you want to cash your check and get those bills in hand, you will not be able to do so via mobile deposit. The funds must go into your account.

•   Your mobile deposit might wind up bouncing, just as a check can bounce when deposited via other means. Don’t assume that just because it’s deposited, you can go and spend it.

•   There are mobile deposit frauds that occur, often in which a person or organization you don’t know well sends you a check and asks for you to deposit it and then send a portion back to them. Keep your guard up!

Recommended: Guide to Check Verification

The Takeaway

What is mobile deposit? It’s a feature that allows you to deposit a check from virtually anywhere and at any time, using an app on your smartphone. There are many advantages to mobile banking, such as saving you time and energy vs. taking the check to a bricks-and-mortar branch or an ATM. It’s one of the ways that mobile banking can help make managing your personal finances more convenient.

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

Can someone mobile deposit money into my account?

In order to make a mobile deposit to your account, you need to be logged into your account on your device. For this reason, it is unlikely someone could make a mobile deposit to your account.

Can I mobile deposit a check that’s not in my name?

There are some financial institutions that will permit a mobile deposit of someone else’s check (which you may hear referred to as a third-party check or a check that’s been signed over to you), but others (such as Bank of America) prohibit this.

How secure is mobile check deposit?

Mobile check deposits are very secure and can be more convenient than carrying a check to a bank or ATM to deposit it.

Are mobile deposits instant?

Mobile deposits are not instantaneous. The check may take from one day to several days to clear, although the fact that you deposited the check may pop up on your banking app very quickly.

How do you endorse a check for mobile deposit?

How to endorse a check for mobile deposit may vary among banks. Check yours to see exactly how this should be done. It’s often a matter of signing your name and writing “For electronic deposit” on the back of the check.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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The 50/30/20 Rule: Budgeting Your Money Wisely

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a super simple way to budget; say, no more than three figures you had to keep in mind to take control of your finances? That’s exactly what the 50/30/20 budget rule (aka the 50 30 20 rule) can do for you. It’s a simple and effective way to manage your money, allocating 50% of your take-home income to “musts,” 30% to “wants,” and 20% to saving for your future.

For anyone who has ever felt that budgeting was too complicated and headache-triggering to take on, this guideline can make things clear and easy.

What Is the 50/30/20 Rule?

The 50/30/20 budget or “rule” is a budgeting framework that can be relatively easy to create and implement. It’s one potential way to help keep your finances on track and help you work towards your goals.

The 50/30/20 numbers refer to percentages of your take-home income that you would allocate to three main categories: ”needs” or “musts” (essentials), “wants” (nonessentials), and saving (financial goals), respectively.

The primary goal of the 50/30/20 rule is to learn to prioritize saving money by making it a key part of your spending plan.

Everyone’s financial needs and goals are different, however. And, while these percentages can be a great starting point, you may find that you need to tweak these exact numbers to better suit your needs and current financial situation.

Where Did the 50/30/20 Rule Come From?

The 50/30/20 budget rule gained popularity when Sen. Elizabeth Warren explained it in her book, “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan,” which was first published in 2005.

The simplicity of the concept (and the math) contributed to its appeal. The idea of dividing one’s money into three instantly understandable buckets proved to have staying power.

50/30/20 Budget Calculator


How the 50/30/20 Rule Works

In the 50/30/20 budget, you allocate your take-home (or after-tax) income into three main categories or buckets according to percentages. Here’s the breakdown:

50% to “Needs”

These are things you cannot live without and the bills you cannot avoid paying. Consider them the “musts;” the items that you need to survive or that would leave you in a difficult situation if you didn’t pay them.

Here are some examples of typical needs:

•   Rent or one of the different kinds of mortgage payments that are possible (in a nutshell, your housing costs)

•   Utilities, including electricity, WiFi, and water

•   Car payments and/or other transportation expenses (say, to get to work)

•   Groceries (but not that pricey takeout salad)

•   Basic clothing (what you need to wear in daily life, at work, and/or to stay warm; not the latest style of jeans just because they’re cool)

•   Insurance payments

•   Healthcare costs

•   Debt payment, such as the minimums on student loans and/or your credit card

The “needs” category does not include items that are extras, such as Netflix, dining out, and clothing beyond what you need for work. Those fall under the next category.

30% to “Wants”

Also known as personal, discretionary, or nonessential spending, these are the things you buy that you could technically live without. This includes:

•   Dining out or takeout food

•   Going to the movies, a show, or a concert

•   Vacation/travel costs

•   Streaming channel subscriptions (unless they are somehow vital for your work)

•   New clothes, simply because you feel like buying them

•   Electronics that are cool but not vital to your job

•   Spa treatments

•   Ubers or taxis instead of public transportation.

Wants are all the little extras and upgrades you spend money on that make life more fun.

20% to Savings

This is the money you save for future financial goals. This category often provides a means to financial security. This includes:

•   Money put into an emergency fund

•   Saving for a downpayment on a home

•   IRA or other retirement contributions

•   Extra payments to help pay off your loans sooner (minimum payments are part of the “needs” category).

Even though the budget is written as 50/30/20, the purpose of this system is to prioritize the saving aspect, this 20%. (It may be more appropriately named the 20/50/30 budget.) The goal here is to get people to save for tomorrow rather than just spend today.

The idea is to make space for the 20% without laboring over the rest. The minutiae of where your fun money is going ($5 for a latte here, $10 for an appetizer there) isn’t super important if you’re saving enough to meet your financial goals.

Another point to note: If you aren’t saving 20% of your income right now, that’s okay. The process of setting up the 50/30/20 budget will help you find out where your money is going so that you can make adjustments. After completing your budget breakdown, you can address the areas where you’d like to cut back.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Benefits of the 50/30/20 Budget

The 50/30/20 rule may be a minimalist budget, but it can pack the same powerful benefits you would get with a more labor-intensive budget.

Some of the payoffs of setting up and following a 50/30/20 include:

•   Knowing where you stand. As a popular adage goes, “what gets measured gets improved.” It can be hard to start spending less and saving more if you aren’t clear on how much and where you are currently spending.

•   Identifying easy ways to cut back. As with any budgeting process, the 50/30/20 budget can reveal opportunities to cut back on spending. Simply going through the process – and seeing exactly where your money is going each month – can help to motivate you to make some relatively pain-free adjustments.

•   Reducing financial stress. While building a budget may seem like a stress-inducing exercise, it can ultimately relieve a lot of financial worry. It can add structure and clarity to your spending. Instead of angsting over every purchase, you’ll have built-in boundaries that allow you to spend freely within your budget.

•   Simplifying the budgeting process. By having fewer categories than a traditional monthly budget, the 50/30/20 rule of thumb can be easy to set up and to maintain. It can also be simple to track a 50/30/20 budget digitally.

•   Achieving your savings goals. By making saving a priority and setting some money aside before you start spending, a 50/30/20 budget can help you work effectively towards your financial goals. Whether that’s creating an emergency fund, making a downpayment on a home, or going on a great vacation is your decision.

Tips for Implementing the 50/30/20 Budget

Want to give the 50/30/20 budget a try? If you decide to go this route, or you’re just looking for some budgeting basics, here are some steps you can take to get started.

Gathering Your Financial Records

To get started with any kind of budget, it’s helpful to collect the last three months or so of bank and credit card statements, pay stubs, receipts, and bills.

Calculating Your Monthly Income

You can use your statements to figure out exactly how much money you are bringing in each month after taxes are taken out. You can think of after-tax dollars as the pot of money you have to siphon into the three budget categories each month.

Setting a Savings Target

You may want to begin with the most important category, which is the 20% (savings). Since the goal for this budget is to turn the 20% into a nonnegotiable part of the plan, you’d calculate 20% of your monthly after-tax income and set that figure aside for things like debt repayment, cash savings, retirement investing, and any other financial goals that you have.

Even if you don’t feel it’s realistic for you to put 20% into saving right now, you might run the exercise assuming that you will. You’ll be able to tinker with the numbers later.

Calculating Essential Monthly Expenses

Next, you may want to make a list of all of your monthly essential or fixed expenses, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, and insurance.

Currently, do essential items absorb more than 50% of your take-home income each month? If so, what percentage do they comprise? And, is there any way to reduce any of these monthly expenses?

Building a Hypothetical Budget

After adding up savings and essentials, what is left over is what can be allocated towards discretionary spending, or the “wants” outline above.

It can be helpful to keep in mind that the 50/30/20 numbers are just a guideline. If the cost of living is high where you live, for example, it may not be feasible to keep essentials to 50% of your take-home income. In this case, you may need to reduce spending on wants.

Or, you may decide that at this point you can’t quite afford to put 20% into savings. There are variations on the 50/30/20 theme that accommodate these situations, such as the 70/20/10 rule, which acknowledges that for some people, a hefty 70% will be needed for the “musts” of life.

Recommended: Cost of Living by State Comparison

Once you see your numbers in black and white, you can play with the percentages and come up with a workable plan for roughly how much you can spend on nonessentials, or fun, each month.

Putting Your Plan into Action

Now that you have a basic guideline of how much money you will put into one type of savings account each month and how much cash you can spend each month on wants, it’s time to give your budget a try.

You may want to plan on tracking your spending for two to three months to start. You can do this by saving receipts and logging expenses according to the three categories at the end of the day. Or, you could use a budgeting app that makes it easy to track and categorize expenses.

Another tip: Try automating your finances and having money transferred from your checking account to your savings right after payday. That way, you won’t see the cash sitting in checking and think it’s there for the spending.

Making Some Tweaks

After tracking your spending for several months, you’ll probably have enough data to refine your original 50/30/20 budget. From there you can adjust the categories based on your actual spending, not just your projected spending.

You may also find that you need to adjust your spending. Discretionary spending is typically the easiest place to do some trimming.

You may decide you need to cook at home (rather than get takeout) a few more times a week, save on streaming services by dropping a channel you rarely watch, or ditch the gym membership and work out at home.

it may also be possible to pare back some of your fixed monthly expenses. Reducing utility bills, saving on gas, and, if possible, rent, could free up more money for fun spending.

After making some adjustments, you can execute your new and improved budget. You may want to continue to track spending in a method that works best for you until spending according to your budget becomes second nature.

The Takeaway

The 50/30/20 rule of thumb is a set of easy guidelines for how to plan your budget. Using them, you allocate your monthly after-tax income to the three categories: 50% to “needs,” 30% to “wants,” and 20% to saving for your financial goals.

Your percentages may need to be adjusted based on your personal circumstances and goals. But using this simple formula can be a good way to get a better handle on your finances, and to start working more effectively towards your goals.

You may find that technology can make sticking to a budget simpler. If you open a bank account online with SoFi, you’ll have features and perks that can help make the most of your money. Our Checking and Savings offers a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and charges you no account fees. Plus you’ll spend and save in one convenient place, be able to track where your money goes, and use Vaults and Roundups to boost your savings.

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

FAQ

Is the 50/30/20 rule a realistic goal?

For many people, the 50/30/20 rule is a realistic way to budget for essentials, discretionary expenses, and savings contributions. For others, it may not be realistic. If you are just starting your work life, earn a lower salary, live in an area where housing is very expensive, or have considerable debt to manage, you might do better with a different budget guideline.

Is the 50/30/20 rule weekly or monthly?

When budgeting, people typically work with their monthly expenses, since that is how housing costs, utilities, and other payments (say, student loans and credit card debt) are assessed. You could, however, apply the 50/30/20 guideline to your weekly spending and see how your finances are tracking.

What is the 60/30/10 rule budget?

The 60/30/10 budget is a different version of the 50/30/20 rule that can work well for super savers. It allocates 30% more for the “musts” of life and 10% for discretionary spending. The remaining 60% is for saving, investment, and paying off debt.

What is the 70/20/10 rule for money?

The 70/20/10 rule is a budgeting system that allocates 70% of one’s take-home income towards needs (minus debt) and “wants” (discretionary spending), 20% to saving and investing, and 10% towards debt repayment or donations.


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

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