Asset Allocation by Age, Explained

Asset allocation is an investment strategy that helps you decide the ratio of different asset classes in your portfolio to ensure that your investments align with your risk tolerance, time horizon, and goals.

In other words, the way you allocate, or divide up the assets in your portfolio helps to balance risk, while aiming for the highest return within the time period you have to achieve your investment goals.

How do you set your portfolio to get the best asset allocation by age? Here’s what you need to know about asset-based asset allocation.

Key Points

•   Asset allocation is the process of dividing investments among different asset classes based on factors like age, risk tolerance, and financial goals.

•   Younger investors can typically afford to take more risks and allocate a higher percentage of their portfolio to stocks.

•   As investors approach retirement, they may shift towards a more conservative asset allocation, with a higher percentage allocated to bonds and cash.

•   Regularly reviewing and rebalancing your asset allocation is important to ensure it aligns with your changing financial circumstances and goals.

•   Asset allocation is a personal decision and should be based on individual factors such as risk tolerance, time horizon, and investment objectives.

What Is Age-Based Asset Allocation?

The mix of assets you hold will likely shift with age. When you’re younger and have a longer time horizon, you might want to hold more stocks, which offer the most growth potential. Also, that longer time horizon gives you plenty of years to help ride out volatility in the market.

You will likely want to shift your asset allocation as you get older, though. As retirement age approaches, and the point at which you’ll need to tap your savings draws near, you may want to shift your retirement asset allocation into less risky assets like bonds and cash equivalents to help protect your money from downturns.

In the past, investment advisors recommended a rule of thumb whereby an investor would subtract their age from 100 to know how much of their portfolio to hold in stocks. What is an asset allocation that follows that rule? A 30-year-old might allocate 70% of their portfolio to stocks, while a 60-year-old would allocate 40%.

However, as life expectancy continues to increase — especially for women — and people rely on their retirement savings to cover the cost of longer lifespans (and potential healthcare expenses), some industry experts and advisors now recommend that investors keep a more aggressive asset allocation for a longer period.

The new thinking has shifted the formula to subtracting your age from 110 or 120 to maintain a more aggressive allocation to stocks.

In that case, a 30-year-old might allocate 80% of their portfolio to stocks (110 – 30 = 80), and a 60-year-old might have a portfolio allocation that’s 50% stocks (110 – 60 = 50) — which is a bit more aggressive than the previous 40% allocation.

These are not hard-and-fast rules, but general guidelines for thinking about your own asset allocation strategy. Each person’s financial situation is different, so each portfolio allocation will vary.

💡 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.

Asset Allocation Models by Age

As stated, age is a very important consideration when it comes to strategic asset allocation. Here are some asset allocation examples for different age groups.

Asset Allocation in Your 20s and 30s

For younger investors, the conventional wisdom suggests they may want to hold most of their portfolio in stocks to help save for long-term financial goals like retirement.

That said, when you’re young, your financial footing may not be very secure. You probably haven’t built much of a nest egg, you may change jobs relatively frequently, and you may have debt, such as student loans, to worry about. Setting up a potentially volatile, stock-focused allocation might feel nerve-wracking.

If you have a 401(k) at work, this might be your primary investment vehicle — or you may have set up an IRA. In either account you can invest in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that hold a mix of stocks, providing some low-cost diversification without sacrificing the potential for long-term growth.

You could also invest in a target date fund, which is designed to help to manage your asset allocation over time (more on these funds below).

When choosing funds, it’s important to consider both potential performance and fees. Index funds, which simply mirror the performance of a certain market index, may carry lower expense ratios but they may generate lower returns compared to, say, a growth fund that’s more expensive.

Remember that the younger you are, the longer you have to recover from market downturns or losses. So allocating a bigger chunk of your investments to growth funds or funds that use an active management strategy could make sense if you feel their fees are justified by the potential for higher returns — and the higher risk that comes along with it.

And of course, you can counterbalance higher-risk/higher-reward investments with bonds or bond funds (as a cushion against volatility), index funds (to help manage costs) or target date funds (which can do a bit of both). Just be aware that the holdings within some funds can overlap, which could hamper your diversification strategy and require you to choose investment carefully.

Asset Allocation in Your 40s and 50s

As you enter middle age you are potentially entering your peak earning years. You may also have more financial obligations, such as mortgage payments, and bigger savings goals, such as sending your kids to college, than you did when you were younger. On the upside, you may also have 20 years or more before you’re thinking about retiring.

In the early part of these decades, one approach is to consider keeping a hefty portion of your portfolio still allocated to stocks. This may be useful if you haven’t yet been able to save much for your retirement because you’d be able to add potential growth to your portfolio, and still have some years to ride out any volatility.

Depending on when you plan to retire, adding stability to your portfolio with bonds as you approach the latter part of these decades might be a wise choice. For example, you may want to begin by shifting more of your IRA assets to bonds or bond funds at this stage. These investments may produce lower returns in the short term compared to mutual funds or ETFs. But they can be useful for generating income once you’re ready to begin making withdrawals from your accounts in retirement.

Asset Allocation in Your 60s

Once you hit your 60s and you’re nearing retirement age, your allocation will likely shift toward fixed-income assets like bonds, and maybe even cash. A shift like this can help prepare you for the possibility that markets may be down when you retire.

If that’s the case, you might be able to use these fixed-income investments to provide income during the downturn, so you can avoid selling stocks while the markets are down since doing so would lock in losses and might curtail future growth in your portfolio. Thus, leaning on the fixed-income portion of your portfolio allows time for the market to recover before you need to tap into stocks.

If you haven’t retired yet, you can continue making contributions to your 401(k) to grow your nest egg and take advantage of any employer match.

If you chose to invest in a target date fund within your retirement account when you were younger, it’s likely that fund’s allocation would now be tilting toward fixed-income assets as well.

Retirement Asset Allocation

Once you’ve retired it may seem like you can kick back and relax with all of your asset allocation worries behind you. Yet, your portfolio allocation is as important to consider now as it was in your 20s.

When you retire, you’ll likely be on a fixed income — and you won’t be adding to your savings with earned wages. Your retirement could last 20 to 30 years or more, so consider holding a mix of assets that includes stocks that might provide some growth. Keeping a modest stock allocation might help you avoid outliving your savings and preserve your spending power.

While that may sound contrary to the suggestion above for pre-retirees to keep more of their assets allocated to fixed-income, the difference is the level of protection you might want just prior to retirement. Now as an official retiree, and thinking about the potential decades ahead, you may want to inject a little growth potential into your portfolio.

It might also make sense to hold assets that grow faster than the rate of inflation or are inflation-protected, such as Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, which can help your nest egg hold its value.

These are highly personal decisions that, again, go back to the three intersecting factors that drive asset allocation: your goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. There’s no right answer; the task is arriving at the right answer for you.

Understanding Assets and Asset Classes

At its heart, a financial asset is anything of value that you own, whether that’s a piece of property or a single stock. When you invest, you’re typically looking to buy an asset that will increase in value.

The three broad groups, or asset classes, that are generally held in investment accounts are stocks, bonds, and cash. When you invest, you will likely hold different proportions of these asset classes.

Asset Allocation Examples

What are some asset allocation examples? Well, your portfolio might hold 60% stocks, 40% bonds, and no cash — or 70% stocks, 20% bonds, and 10% in cash or cash equivalents. But how you decide that ratio gets into the nuts and bolts of your actual asset allocation strategy, because each of these asset types behaves differently over time and has a different level of risk and return associated with it.

•   Stocks. Stocks typically offer the highest rates of return. However, with the potential for greater reward comes higher risk. Typically, stocks are the most volatile of these three categories, especially in the short term. But over the long term, the return on equities (aka stocks) has generally been positive. In fact, the S&P 500 index, a proxy for the U.S. stock market, has historically returned an average of 10% annually.

•   Bonds. Bonds are traditionally less risky than stocks and offer steadier returns. A general rule of thumb is that bond prices move in the opposite direction of stocks.

When you buy a bond, you are essentially loaning money to a company or a government. You receive regular interest on the money you loan, and the principal you paid for the bond is returned to you when the bond’s term is up. When buying bonds, investors generally accept smaller returns in exchange for the security they offer.

•   Cash. Cash, or cash equivalents, such as certificates of deposit (CDs) or money market accounts, are the least volatile investments. But they typically offer very low returns.

💡 Quick Tip: Are self-directed brokerage accounts cost efficient? They can be, because they offer the convenience of being able to buy stocks online without using a traditional full-service broker (and the typical broker fees).

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How Do Diversification and Rebalancing Fit In?

The old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” is apt for a number of concepts in investing.

Putting all of your money in one investment may expose you to too much risk. When it comes to asset allocation, you can help manage risk by spreading money out over different asset classes that are then weighted differently within a portfolio.

Here is a possible asset allocation example: If your stock allocation was 100%, and the stock market hit a speed bump, your entire portfolio could lose value. But if your allocation were divided among stocks, bonds, and cash, a drop in the value of your stock allocation wouldn’t have the same impact. It would be mitigated to a degree, because the bonds and cash allocation of your portfolio likely wouldn’t suffer similar losses (remember: bond prices generally move in the opposite direction of stocks, and cash/cash equivalents rarely react to market turmoil).

Diversification

Portfolio diversification is a separate, yet related, concept. Simple diversification can be achieved with the broader asset classes of stocks, bonds, and cash. But within each asset class you could also consider holding many different assets for additional diversification and risk protection.

For example, allocating the stock portion of your portfolio to a single stock may not be a great idea, as noted above. Instead, you might invest in a basket of stocks. If you hold a single stock and it drops, your whole stock portfolio falls with it. But if you hold 25 different stocks — when one stock falls, the effect on your overall portfolio is relatively small.

On an even deeper level, you may want to diversify across many types of stock — for example, varying by company size, geography, or sector. One way some investors choose to diversify is by holding mutual funds, index funds, or ETFs that themselves hold a diverse basket of stocks.

Rebalancing

What is rebalancing? As assets gain and lose value, the proportion of your portfolio they represent also changes. For example, say you have a portfolio allocation that includes 60% stocks and the stock market ticks upward. The stocks you hold might have appreciated and now represent 70% or even 80% of your overall portfolio.

In order to realign your portfolio to your desired 60% allocation, you might rebalance it by selling some stocks and buying bonds. Why sell securities that are gaining value? Again, it’s with an eye toward managing the potential risk of future losses.

If your equity allocation was 60%, but has grown to 70% or 80% in a bull market, you’re exposed to more volatility. Rebalancing back to 60% helps to mitigate that risk.

The idea of rebalancing works on the level of asset allocation and on the level of asset classes. For example, if your domestic stocks do really well, you may sell a portion to rebalance your dometic allocation and buy international stocks.

You can rebalance your portfolio at any time, but you may want to set regular check-ins, whether quarterly or annually. There may be no need to rebalance if your asset allocation hasn’t really shifted. One general rule to consider is the suggestion that you rebalance your portfolio whenever an asset allocation changes by 5% or more.

What’s the Deal with Target Date Funds?

One tool that some investors find useful to help them set appropriate allocations is a target date fund. These funds, which were described briefly above, are primarily for retirement, and they are typically geared toward a specific retirement year (such as 2030, 2045, 2050, and so on).

Target funds hold a diverse mix of stocks and fixed-income investments. As the fund’s target date approaches, the mix of stocks and bonds the fund automatically adjusts to a more conservative allocation — aka the fund’s “glide path.”

For example, if you’re 35 and plan to retire at 65, you could purchase shares in a target-date fund with a target date 30 years in the future. While the fund’s stock allocation may be fairly substantial at the outset, as you approach retirement the fund will gradually increase the proportion of fixed-income assets that it holds.

Target-date funds theoretically offer investors a way to set it and forget it. However, they also present some limitations. For one, you don’t have control over the assets in the fund, nor do you control how the fund’s allocation adjusts over time.

Target funds are typically one-size-fits-all, and that doesn’t always work with an individual’s unique retirement goals. For example, someone aggressively trying to save may want to hold more stocks for longer than a particular target date fund offers. Also, as actively managed funds, they often come with fees that can take a bite out of how much you are ultimately able to save.

The Takeaway

While many investors spend time researching complex issues like bond yields and options trading, understanding and executing a successful asset allocation strategy — one that works for you now, and that you can adjust over the long term — can be more challenging than it seems.

Although asset allocation is a fairly simple idea — it’s basically how you divide up different asset classes in your portfolio to help manage risk — it has enormous strategic implications for your investments as a whole. The three main factors that influence your asset allocation (goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon) seem straightforward enough as separate ideas, yet there is an art and a science to combining them into an asset allocation that makes sense for you. Like so many other things, arriving at the right asset allocation is a learning process.

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


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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.

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

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How to Analyze Stocks: 4 Ways

When it comes to investing in stocks, there’s no single way to analyze stocks to find a sure winner. That being said, there are many methods that ordinary investors can use to find stocks that are trading at a discount to their underlying value.

The first step in how to analyze a stock before buying is reviewing financial statements. From there, investors can use various methods of analysis to assess investment opportunities and potentially identify worthwhile investments.

Key Points

•   There are four common methods of analyzing stocks: technical analysis, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, and fundamental analysis.

•   Technical analysis focuses on supply and demand patterns in stock charts to make investment decisions.

•   Qualitative analysis examines factors like a company’s leadership, product, and industry to evaluate investment opportunities.

•   Quantitative analysis uses data and numerical figures to predict price movements in stocks.

•   Fundamental analysis looks at a company’s financial health and value to determine if its stock is underor overvalued.

Why Analyzing Stocks Is Important

The process of stock analysis can reveal important information about a company and its history, allowing investors to make more informed decisions about buying or selling stocks. Analyzing stocks can help investors identify which investment opportunities they believe will deliver strong returns. Further, stock analysis can assist investors in spotting potentially bad investments.

Whether you’re strategy involves short vs. long term investing, or day trading, analyzing stocks is going to be important.

💡 Quick Tip: The best stock trading app? That’s a personal preference, of course. Generally speaking, though, a great app is one with an intuitive interface and powerful features to help make trades quickly and easily.

Understanding Financial Statements

The first step in understanding stock analysis is knowing the basics of business reporting. There are three main types of financial statements that an investor may need to look at when doing analysis:

•   Income statement: This statement shows a company’s profits, which are calculated by subtracting expenses from revenue.

•   Balance sheet: The balance sheet compares a company’s assets, liabilities, and stockholder equity.

•   Statement of cash flows: This statement outlines how a company is spending and earning its money.

In addition to these statements, a company’s earnings report contains information that can be useful for doing qualitative analysis. The annual report includes the company’s plans for the future and stock value predictions.

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4 Ways to Analyze a Stock

The next step in stock evaluation is deciding which type of analysis to do. Here’s a look at some of the different methods for how to analyze a stock.

1. Technical Analysis

Technical analysis is a method for analyzing stocks that looks directly at a stock’s supply and demand in order to make investing decisions. This form of analysis takes the stance that all information needed is present within stock charts and the analysis of history and trends.

Some key focal points of technical analysis are:

•   Stock prices move in trends.

•   History repeats itself.

•   Stock price history can be used to make price predictions.

•   Stock price contains all relevant information for making investing decisions.

•   Technical analysis does not consider intrinsic value.

Trend indicators are one of the most important parts of technical analysis. These indicators attempt to show traders whether a stock will go up or down in value. Uptrends mean higher highs and higher lowers, whereas downtrends mean lower lows and lower highs. Some common trend tools include linear regression, parabolic SAR, MACD, and moving averages.

Technical analysis also uses leading indicators and lagging indicators. Leading indicators signal before new trends occur, while lagging indicators signal after a trend has ended. These indicators look at information such as volume, price, price movement, open, and close.

There can be some pros and cons to using technical analysis, however, which can be important to consider when factoring in your risk tolerance.

Day traders tend to focus on technical analysis to try to capitalize on short-term price fluctuations. But because technical analysis generally focuses on short-term fluctuations in price, it’s not as often used for finding long-term investment opportunities.

Further, while technical analysis relies on objective and consistent data, it can produce false signals, particularly during trading conditions that aren’t ideal. This method of analysis also fails to take into consideration key fundamentals about individual shares or the stock market.

2. Qualitative Stock Analysis

When considering how to analyze a stock, it’s also a good idea to look at whether the company behind the stock is really a good business. Qualitative analysis looks into factors like a company’s leadership team, product, and the overall industry it’s a part of.

A few key qualitative metrics to look at are:

•   Competitive advantage: Does the company have a unique edge that will help it be successful in the long term? If a company has patents, a unique manufacturing method, or broad distribution, these can be positive competitive advantages.

•   Business model: Analyzing a business model includes looking at products, services, brand identity, and customers to get a sense of what the company is offering.

•   Strong leadership: Even a great idea and product can fail with poor management. Looking into the credentials of the CEO and top executives of a company can help in evaluating whether it’s a good investment.

•   Industry trends: If an industry is struggling, or looks like it may in the future, an investor may decide not to invest in companies in that industry. On the other hand, new and growing industries may be better investments. This is not always the case, as there are strong companies in weak industries, and vice versa.

3. Quantitative Analysis

Similar to technical analysis, quantitative analysis looks at data and numbers in an attempt to predict future price movements. Specifically, quantitative analysis evaluates data, such as a company’s revenues, price-to-earnings ratio, and earnings-per-share ratio, and uses statistical modeling and mathematical techniques to predict a stock’s value.

The upside is that this financial data is publicly available, and it creates an objective, consistent starting point. It can help with identifying patterns, and it can be useful in assessing risk. However, it requires sifting through a lot of data. Further, there’s no certainty when it comes to patterns, which can change.

4. Fundamental Analysis

Fundamental analysis looks at a company from a basic financial standpoint. This gives investors a sense of the company’s financial health and whether its stock may be under- or overvalued. Fundamental analysis takes the stance that a company’s stock price doesn’t necessarily equate to its value.

There are a number of key tools for fundamental analysis that investors might want to familiarize themselves with and use to get a fuller picture of a stock.

Earnings Per Share (EPS)

One of the main goals for many investors is to buy into profitable companies. Earnings per share, or EPS, tells investors how much profit a company earns per each share of stock, and how much investors are benefiting from those earnings. Companies report EPS quarterly, and the figure is calculated by dividing a company’s net income, minus dividend payouts, by the number of outstanding shares.

Understanding earnings per share can give investors guidance on a stock’s potential movement. On a basic level, a high EPS is a good sign, but it’s especially important that a company shows a high or growing EPS over time. The reason for this is that a company might have a temporarily high EPS if they cut some expenses or sell off assets, but that wouldn’t be a good indicator of the actual profitability of their business.

Likewise, a negative EPS over time is an indicator that an investor may not want to buy a stock.

Revenue

While EPS relates directly to a company’s stock, revenue can show investors how well a company is doing outside the markets. Positive and increasing revenues are an indicator that a company is growing and expanding.

Some large companies, especially tech companies, have increasing revenues over time with a negative EPS because they continue to feed profits back into the growing business. These companies can see significant stock value increases despite their lack of profit.

One can also look at revenue growth, which tracks changes in revenue over time.

Price-to-earnings (P/E) Ratio

One of the most common methods of analyzing stocks is to look at the P/E ratio, which compares a company’s current stock price to its earnings per share. P/E is found by dividing the price of one share of a stock by its EPS. Generally, a lower P/E ratio is a good sign.

Using this ratio is a good way to compare different stocks. One can also compare an individual company’s P/E ratio with an index like the S&P 500 Index to get a sense of how the company is doing relative to the overall market.

The downside of P/E is that it doesn’t include growth.

Price-Earnings-Growth (PEG) Ratio

Since P/E doesn’t include growth, the PEG ratio is another popular tool for analyzing stocks and evaluating stock performance. To look at EPS and revenue together, investors can use the price-earnings-growth ratio, or PEG.

PEG is calculated by dividing a stock’s P/E by its projected 12-month forward revenue growth rate. In general, a PEG lower than 1 is a good sign, and a PEG higher than 2 indicates that a stock may be overpriced.

PEG can also be used to make predictions about the future. By looking at PEG for different time periods in the past, investors can make a more informed guess about what the stock may do next.

Price-to-Sales Ratio (P/S)

The P/S ratio compares a company’s stock price to its revenues. It’s found by dividing stock price by revenues. This can be useful when comparing competitors — if the P/S is low, it might be more advantageous to buy.

Debt-Equity Ratio

Although profits and revenue are important to look at, so is a company’s debt and its ability to pay it back. If a company goes into more and more debt in order to continue growing, and they’re unable to pay it back, it’s not a good sign.

Debt-equity ratio is found by dividing a company’s total liabilities (debt) by its shareholder equity. In general, a debt-equity ratio under 0.1 is a good sign, while a debt-equity ratio higher than 0.5 can be a red flag for the future.

Debt-to-EBITDA

Similar to debt-to-equity, debt-to-EBITDA measures the ability a company has to pay off its debts. EBITDA stands for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization.

A high debt-to-EBITDA ratio indicates that a company has a high amount of debt that it may not be able to pay off.

Dividend Yield

While a stock’s price can vary significantly from day to day, dividend payments are a way that investors can earn a consistent amount of money each quarter or year. Not every company pays out dividends, but large, established companies sometimes pay out some of their earnings to shareholders rather than reinvesting the money into their business.

Dividend yield is calculated by dividing a company’s annual dividend payment by its share price. The average dividend yield for S&P 500 companies is around 2%.

One thing to note is that dividends are not guaranteed — companies can change their dividend amounts at any time. So if a company has a particularly high dividend yield, it may not stay that way.

Price-to-Book Ratio (P/B)

Price-to-book ratio, or P/B, compares a company’s stock market value to its book value. This is a useful tool for finding companies that are currently undervalued, meaning those that have a significant amount of growth but still relatively low stock prices.

P/B ratio is found by dividing the market price of a stock by the company’s book value of equity. The book value of equity is found by subtracting the company’s total liabilities from its assets.

Company Reports and Projections

When companies release quarterly and annual earnings reports, many of them include projections for upcoming revenue and EPS. These reports are a useful tool for investors to get a sense of a stock’s future. They can also affect stock price as other shareholders and investors will react to the news in the report.

Professional Analysis

Wall Street analysts regularly release reports about the overall stock market as well as individual companies and stocks. These reports include information such as 12-month targets, stock ratings, company comparisons, and financial projections. By reading multiple reports, investors may start to see common trends.

While analysts aren’t always correct and can’t predict global events that affect the markets, these reports can be a useful tool for investors. They can keep them up-to-date on any key happenings that may be on the horizon for particular companies. The information in the reports also can result in stock prices going up or down, since investors will react to the predictions.

Quantitative vs Qualitative Analysis

Here’s a quick rundown looking at the key differences between quantitative and qualitative analysis. Again, this can be important when weighing your risk need to knows as an investor.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Analysis

Quantitative Analysis

Qualitative Analysis

Looks at data and numerical figures to predict price movements Looks at business factors such as leadership, product, and industry
May require sifting through a lot of data, and may be difficult for some investors Metrics include business models, competitive advantage, and industry trends
Concerned more with the “quantity” and hard data a business produces Concerned more with the “quality” of a business

Pros and Cons of Doing Your Own Stock Analysis

If you feel like you can do a little stock analysis on your own, there are some pros and cons to it.

Pros

Perhaps the most obvious pro to doing your own stock analysis is that you don’t need to pay someone else to do it, you can do it on your own schedule, and learn as you go. You can develop knowledge that’ll likely help you as you continue to invest in the future. There are also numerous tools out there that you can use to analyze stocks which may not have been around in years or decades past.

Cons

Stock analysis can be an involved process, which can require a lot of investment in and of itself — both monetarily (if you’re using paid tools) and in terms of time. Depending on how deep you want to go, too, it can be a complex process. You may get frustrated or burnt out, or even make a mistake that leads to a bad investment decision.

💡 Quick Tip: Are self directed brokerage accounts cost efficient? They can be, because they offer the convenience of being able to buy stocks online without using a traditional full-service broker (and the typical broker fees).

Buying Stocks With SoFi

There are a number of ways to analyze stocks, including technical, fundamental, quantitative, and qualitative analysis. The more an investor gets comfortable with terms like P/E ratio and earnings reports, the more informed they can be before making any decisions. Stock analysis is an involved process, however, and may be above the typical investors’ head and ability.

It is important to do your research and homework in relation to your investments, however. If you feel like you could use some guidance or a helping hand, speaking with a financial professional is never really a bad idea.

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).

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.

FAQ

What is the best way to analyze a stock?

There’s no “best” way to analyze stocks. The right option for an investor will depend on their personal preferences and investing objectives. And remember, there’s no need to just use one method to analyze a stock — often, analysts will combine different methods of analysis to generate a more robust stock analysis.

What are key indicators to look for when analyzing a stock?

There are a ton of potential indicators that investors can look at, but some broad indicators that investors can start with include stock price history, moving averages, a company’s competitive advantages, business models, and industry trends.

What is an example of stock analysis?

A very, very basic example of stock analysis would include looking at a stock’s share price, comparing it to its historical averages and moving averages, overall market conditions, and looking at the company’s financial statements to try and gauge where it might move next.


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.

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All You Need to Know About a Negative Bank Balance

Negative Bank Balance: What Happens to Your Account?

Having a negative bank balance, or overdrafting your account, is a pretty common occurrence, but it can lead to costly fees and lack of access to your account.

A negative balance can start simply: You might forget to note a purchase you made with your debit card or an automatic payment you set up. Or maybe you had an emergency pop up that required you to spend more than usual…and more than the money you had in your checking account.

The resulting negative bank balance can have a serious impact, leading to overdraft fees, declined transactions, account closure, and credit impact. Read on to learn more on this topic, ways to avoid a negative bank account balance, and what to do if you wind up with one.

Key Points

•   Having a negative bank balance can result in costly fees, declined transactions, account closure, and credit impact.

•   A negative balance occurs when you make payments that exceed the funds in your account.

•   Overdraft protection can help cover the difference, but it comes with fees.

•   A negative bank balance can lead to overdraft fees, non-sufficient funds fees, account closure, and credit impact.

•   To avoid a negative bank balance, monitor your account, set up alerts, and consider linking accounts or using overdraft protection.

What Is a Negative Bank Account Balance?

Your account becomes negative when the balance goes below zero. It’s also called an overdraft. This occurs when you make payments that you don’t have enough money in the account to cover. If the bank accepts the payment, your account incurs a debt, making your balance negative.

To help you visualize this, here’s an example:

•   Imagine you have $500 in your account, and you write a check for $515, because you thought you had a balance of $600.

•   If the bank pays the $515, you end up with an account balance of minus $15. That’s the difference between how much money you had in the account and how much the bank paid the person that cashed your check. The bank did you a favor by making up the difference.

💡 Quick Tip: Want to save more, spend smarter? Let your bank manage the basics. It’s surprisingly easy, and secure, when you open an online bank account.

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What Makes a Bank Balance Negative?

Your balance goes negative when you have withdrawn more than you have in your account.

•   If you try to use your debit card, it will likely be declined, unless you have overdraft protection.

•   If you wrote a check, it will bounce, or be returned — unless you have overdraft protection.

•   With overdraft protection, the bank will typically pay the difference, and you will be charged a fee called an overdraft fee. Understand that you have to opt into overdraft coverage for ATM and debit-card transactions, but your bank may provide the coverage automatically on other transactions.

This kind of coverage means you can avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment of a check bouncing. However, the bank fees can add up. While overdraft fees vary by bank, you will usually pay about $35 a pop.

Here are a couple of the more common ways that a negative bank balance can occur.

Miscalculation/Mistakes

Overdrafts can happen easily with miscalculations and mistakes. These are the most basic errors — say, getting the math wrong on how much is in your account, or forgetting about an automatic dedication that hits and takes your balance down lower than you believed it to be.

Multiple Ways to Withdraw From an Account

With all that’s going on in your life, it’s possible you’re not exactly sure what checks you’ve written have been cashed and what incoming checks have cleared. You may unwittingly make a payment or ATM withdrawal thinking you’re good, but discover you’re certainly not. Or perhaps when you’re calculating in your head how much you have, you forget about the money taken out through one of your monthly automatic bill payments.

What Happens if Your Bank Account Remains Negative?

Here are some of the issues a negative bank account can trigger.

Overdraft Fee

An overdraft fee of about $35 may be assessed when you go into the negative balance territory. Or the bank could also decline the transaction and charge you a non-sufficient funds (or NSF) fee. This is sometimes called an insufficient funds fee, and it is typically the same amount as the bank’s overdraft fee. Also, the person who tried to cash a check that bounced may charge you a returned check fee.

Account Closure

What happens if you don’t pay an overdrawn account? If you don’t fix your negative balance by depositing money into your account, or if you overdraw your account so often the powers that be at the bank raise their eyebrows, your days as a bank customer may come to a close. They can opt to shutter the account, and it can be difficult to reopen a closed bank account.

Credit Impact and Debt Collection

If you have an ongoing negative bank account balance, the bank will likely notify a checking account reporting company (like ChexSystems) about your activity. They will keep the information in their records for up to seven years, which could make it difficult for you to open a new bank account with favorable terms.

Also, a bank that closed your account because you had so many overdrafts might sell your debt to a collection company, which could negatively impact your credit score.

💡 Quick Tip: Bank fees eat away at your hard-earned money. To protect your cash, open a checking account with no account fees online — and earn up to 0.50% APY, too.

Differences Between Overdraft and Non-sufficient Funds

Here’s a little more detail on the distinction between an overdraft and non-sufficient funds fee:

•   An overdraft fee is what a bank or credit union charges you when they have to cover your transaction when you don’t have enough funds available in your account. It’s typically about $35.

•   When a financial institution returns a check or electronic transaction without paying it, they can charge a non-sufficient funds fee. It’s usually the same amount as the overdraft fee they charge. The difference is, with a non-sufficient funds fee, the bank is not covering the shortfall; they are essentially voiding the transaction.

What to Do With a Negative Bank Balance

Fortunately, a negative bank balance is not a problem without solutions. You can take steps to get back on track.

Check Your Recent Activity and Balance

Determine what went wrong and triggered the negative balance. Check your bank’s app (or go online) and also see what charges haven’t been paid or received. Do the math. This will give you an idea of where you stand and how soon you may be back in the positive zone for your balance.

Evaluate Upcoming Automatic Payments

Automating your finances can be a convenient tool, but if you are in overdraft, automatic payments could pop up and derail your efforts. Make sure to account for recurring payments when figuring out how to get your account out of a negative balance.

Deposit Money into the Account

Once you understand your situation, take action. Deposit enough money to ensure that you won’t overdraw again. Remember to include not only the money you need to bring your balance back into positive territory, but ideally put in enough to give yourself some cushion.

Request a Waived Fee

Your bank or credit union may have a sympathetic ear. Make a request to have your fee waived. They may be feeling generous, particularly if this is your first offense.

Pay the Fees

If you knock on the door of fee forgiveness and you get a no, pay what you owe. If you don’t, you’ll just make your situation worse, meaning the bank could close your account, turn the matter over to debt collection, or take legal action. While the bank may not close your account right away, taking action sooner rather than later is usually best.

Recommended: 10 Tips for Avoiding Overdraft Fees

Tips for Avoiding a Negative Bank Balance

There are ways to steer clear of a negative bank account balance. Try these tips:

•   Set up account alerts to let you know when your account balance reaches a certain number. If you know your account is getting low, you can take steps to avoid going into the negative balance zone.

•   Do balance your bank account regularly so you see how much you have on deposit and how your money is trending. Downloading your bank’s app can allow you to do this easily.

•   Consider setting alerts about when automatic deductions are being made. That way, you can monitor your bank account and its balance to make sure you can cover the debit.

•   Explore what overdraft protection your bank offers. It could be that you can link a savings account to your checking which can be tapped to cover overdrafts. It will likely cost you a fee for that transfer, but it’s likely not as steep as an overdraft fee.

Your bank might allow you to link a credit card (watch out for high interest rates here) to your checking account or to borrow from a line of credit. Know your options. While you don’t want overdrafts to be a regular occurrence, you do want to be protected in case they crop up.

The Takeaway

Having a negative bank balance can lead to pricey overdraft fees and could trigger additional financial issues if this situation occurs often or isn’t remedied. It’s wise to keep tabs on your money and use tools that a bank may offer to help you avoid a negative bank account balance or resolve it if it occurs.

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 I still use my debit card if my account is negative?

Maybe, if you’re enrolled in your bank’s overdraft coverage. But even if you can, it’s unwise. You’ll likely incur a fee for each payment you make from a negative account.

How are non-sufficient funds different from an overdraft?

An overdraft fee is what a bank or credit union charges you when they have to cover a transaction that you made and didn’t have the money for in your account. In contrast, when a financial institution returns a check or electronic transaction without paying it, they can charge a nonsufficient funds (NSF) fee. Either way, the fee is typically $35 or so.

How do I avoid having a negative bank account?

Sign up for email alerts and texts for when your account reaches a certain low figure; monitor your bank account online; link your accounts to cover for one another; and consider signing up for overdraft protection.

Can you go to jail for a negative bank balance?

It is highly unlikely. Overdrawing your bank account is not a criminal offense.

How long can you have a negative bank balance?

Each bank has its own policy. While your bank account won’t be closed immediately if you have a negative bank balance, resolve the issue as soon as possible.


Photo credit: iStock/kupicoo

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.

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

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What Is Disposable Income?

Here’s the definition of disposable income: It’s the amount of money you have available to spend or save after your income taxes have been deducted.

You may also hear this sum of money called disposable earnings or disposable personal income (or DPI). Another interesting fact: Disposable income is carefully watched by economists because it is a valuable indicator of the economy’s health.

What’s more, as you may realize, disposable income is the basis of your own personal budget. It’s an indicator of your financial status as well as the foundation for deciding how to spend and save your cash.

Key Points

•   Disposable income refers to the money available for spending or saving after income taxes have been deducted.

•   It is an important indicator of an individual’s financial status and is used to determine how to allocate funds.

•   Disposable income is different from discretionary income, which takes into account essential expenses.

•   Calculating disposable income involves subtracting taxes and other mandatory deductions from gross earnings.

•   Budgeting disposable income involves tracking spending, setting goals, and allocating funds for basic living expenses, discretionary spending, and saving/investing.

What Is Disposable Income?

Simply put, the disposable income definition is money you have left over from your earnings after taxes and any other mandatory charges are deducted.

This money (which may also be referred to as expendable income) can then be spent or saved as you see fit. You will likely use it for your basic living expenses, or the needs in your daily life, such as housing, utilities, food, transportation, healthcare, and minimum debt payments.

You may also spend that money on the wants in life, such as dining out, entertainment, travel, and non-vital purchases, such as a cool new watch or mountain bike.

Your disposable income can also be allocated towards your goals, such as saving for your child’s college education, the down payment on a house, and/or retirement.

💡 Quick Tip: Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts do, and online banks are more likely than brick-and-mortar banks to offer you the best rates.

Why Disposable Income Is Important

There are different types of income, and disposable income is usually defined as the amount of money you keep after federal, state, and local taxes and other mandatory deductions are subtracted from gross earnings. Consider these details:

•  Mandatory deductions include Social Security, state income tax, federal income tax, and state disability insurance.

•  Voluntary deductions, such as health benefit deductions, 401(k) contributions, deductions for other employer-sponsored benefits, as well as any assignments of support (such as child support) are excluded from the calculation. These costs are considered part of your disposable earnings.

•  Disposable income is an important number not just for consumers, but also the nation as a whole. The average disposable income of the country is used by analysts to measure consumer spending, payment ability, probable future savings, and the overall health of a nation’s economy.

•  International economists use national measures of disposable income to compare economies of different countries.

On an individual level, your disposable income is also a key economic indicator because this is the actual amount of money you have to spend or save.

For example, if your salary is $60,000, you don’t actually have $60,000 to spend over the course of the year. Federal, state, and possibly other local taxes will be deducted, as will Social Security and Medicare taxes.

What is left over is what you would have to spend on everything else in your life, such as housing, transportation, food, health insurance and other necessities.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should spend all of your disposable income. Another thing to consider is disposable vs. discretionary income. This will tell you actually how much money you have to play with.

Recommended: What’s the Difference Between Income and Net Worth?

Disposable Income vs. Discretionary Income

Although they’re often confused with one another, disposable income is completely different from discretionary income.

While disposable income is your income minus only taxes, discretionary income takes into account the costs of both taxes and other essential expenses. Essential expenses include rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, insurance, clothing, and more.

Discretionary income is what you can have leftover after the essentials are subtracted. This is what you can spend on nonessential or discretionary items.

Some costs that fall under the discretionary category are dining out, vacations, recreation, and luxury items, like jewelry. Although internet service and your cell phone may seem like necessities, these expenses are considered discretionary expenses.

Similarities

Both disposable and discretionary income are a way of looking at income after taxes.

However, discretionary income goes a step further and deducts essential expenses, such as housing and healthcare.

Differences

As you might expect, discretionary income is always less than disposable income. When you subtract discretionary income from disposable income, the amount that remains is how much you can put towards wants (fun spending) and savings.

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!


Calculating Disposable Income

Disposable income refers to the amount of earnings left over after mandatory federal, state and local deductions. But disposable income is not necessarily the same as your take-home pay.

Deductions from your paycheck may include additional items such as health insurance, retirement plan contributions, and health savings accounts. These deductions are voluntary, not mandatory.

To calculate your disposable earnings, you can simply subtract federal, state and local taxes, Medicare, and Social Security from your gross earnings. Be sure to include any passive income streams, such as rental income, or side hustle earnings (more on that in a moment), when doing the math for your gross income. The resulting amount is your disposable income.

How to calculate disposable income

Some of the finer points to note:

•  You may want to keep in mind, however, that taxes deducted from your paycheck are an estimate. If you have a history of getting a large refund or having a large amount of taxes due, it may be worth reviewing your withholdings through your employer.

This could help you adjust the withholdings so it is closer to the actual expected tax that will be calculated when you file. You can then plan accordingly.

•  Even if you’re a contractor or freelancer, or if you made additional income from side gigs along with your salary, you can still calculate your disposable income.

This requires subtracting your quarterly tax payments and any additional taxes you will owe from your overall income. You can then determine your monthly after-tax income.

Setting aside money to pay taxes can also help you budget with your disposable income.

💡 Quick Tip: Most savings accounts only earn a fraction of a percentage in interest. Not at SoFi. Our high-yield savings account can help you make meaningful progress towards your financial goals.

Disposable Income Budgeting

Calculating your disposable income is a key first step in preparing a budget. You need to know how much you have to spend in order to plan your monthly spending and saving.

A personal budget puts you in control of your disposable income and helps you make financial decisions. It forces you to take a closer look at how you’re spending your money.

Here are a few ideas that could be helpful when developing a budget based on disposable income.

Tracking Spending

Disposable income is what’s coming into your account every month. It’s a good idea to also determine what is going out each month.

To do this, you can gather up bank and credit card statements, as well as receipts, from the past three months or so, and then list all of your monthly spending (both essential and discretionary/nonessential).

To make this list more accurate, you may want to actually track your spending for a month. You can do this with a phone app (your bank’s app may include this function), by carrying a small notebook and jotting down everything you buy, or by saving all of your receipts and logging it later.

This can be an eye-opening exercise. Many of us have no idea how much we’re spending on the little things, like morning coffees, and how much they can add up to at the end of the month.

Once you see your spending laid out in black and white, you may find some easy ways to cut back, such as getting rid of subscriptions and streaming services that you rarely use, brewing coffee at home, cooking more and getting less take-out, or getting rid of a pricy gym membership and working out at home.

Setting Goals And Spending Targets

Tracking income and spending can provide a great starting point for setting financial goals and spending targets.

•  Goals are things that a person aims for in the short- or long-term — like paying off student loans or buying a new car.

•  Spending targets are how much you want to spend each month in general categories in order to have money left over to put towards your savings goals.

Since essential spending often can’t be adjusted, spending targets are typically for discretionary income.

One option for budgeting disposable income is the 50/30/20 plan. This suggests spending about 50% on necessities, 30% on discretionary items, and then putting aside 20% for savings and other long-term goals.

These percentages are general guidelines, however, and can be adjusted as needed based on individual circumstances. For example, if you live in a competitive housing area, rent may take up a larger portion of your expenses, and you may have to bump up necessity spending to 60% and decrease fun money to 20% instead.

Or, if you are saving for something in the near term, like a car or a wedding, you may want to temporarily bump up the savings category, and pull back unnecessary spending for a few months.

3 Uses for Your Disposable Income

Once you have calculated your disposable income, you can consider the ways you might divide it up:

Basic Living Expenses

Some of your disposable income will go towards necessities, such as:

•  Housing

•  Utilities

•  Food

•  Healthcare

•  Transportation

•  Insurance

•  Minimum debt payments.

Discretionary Spending

Next, there are the wants in life. These are things that are not vital for survival but can certainly make things more enjoyable:

•  Eating out

•  Entertainment, such as streaming platforms, movies, concerts, and books

•  Clothing that isn’t essential (like winter boots)

•  Electronics, like the latest mobile phone

•  Travel

•  Gifts.

Saving and Investing

In addition to the spending outlined above, you will likely want to save money or invest it for your short-term and/or long-term goals. These may include:

•  Your emergency fund

•  The down payment for a house

•  A college fund for children

•  Money to start your own business

•  A new car

•  Retirement.

Opening a Savings Account With SoFi

Disposable income is a key concept in budgeting, as it refers to the income that’s left over after you pay taxes. Knowing how much disposable income you have is the foundation for putting together a simple budget that allows for necessary expenses, having fun, while also saving for the future. Finding the right banking partner is another important element of planning for tomorrow.

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


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

FAQ

What does disposable income mean?

Disposable income (or what may be known as disposable earnings) is the money you have left after taxes and other mandatory deductions are taken out of your income.

What is an example of disposable income?

An example of disposable income would be a $100,000 gross salary, minus $30,000 in taxes and $15,300 in Social Security and Medicare deductions. The remaining $54,700 is disposable income.

What is the difference between disposable income and discretionary income?

Disposable income refers to earnings minus taxes and mandatory deductions, such as Social Security and Medicare. Discretionary income is a subset of disposable income. It is the money left once you have paid for essentials, such as housing, utilities, food, and healthcare. The money that is left can be used for non-essential spending and for saving.



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.

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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Guide to Tax-Loss Harvesting

Tax-loss harvesting enables investors to use investment losses to help reduce the tax impact of investment gains, thus potentially lowering the amount of taxes owed. While a tax loss strategy – sometimes called tax loss selling — is often used to offset short-term capital gains (which are taxed at a higher federal tax rate), tax-loss harvesting can also be used to offset long-term capital gains.

Of course, as with anything having to do with investing and taxes, tax-loss harvesting is not simple. In order to carry out a tax-loss harvesting strategy, investors must adhere to specific IRS rules and restrictions. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Tax-Loss Harvesting?

Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy that enables an investor to sell assets that have dropped in value as a way to offset the capital gains tax they may owe on the profits of other investments they’ve sold. For example, if an investor sells a security for a $25,000 gain, and sells another security at a $10,000 loss, the loss could be applied so that the investor would only see a capital gain of $15,000 ($25,000 – $10,000).

This can be a valuable tax strategy for investors because you owe capital gains taxes on any profits you make from selling investments, like stocks, bonds, properties, cars, or businesses. The tax only hits when you profit from the sale and realize a profit, not for simply owning an appreciated asset.


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

How Tax-Loss Harvesting Works

In order to understand how tax-loss harvesting works, you first have to understand the system of capital gains taxes.

Capital Gains and Tax-Loss Harvesting

As far as the IRS is concerned, capital gains are either short term or long term:

•   Short-term capital gains and losses are from the sale of an investment that an investor has held for one year or less.

•   Long-term capital gains and losses are those recognized on investments sold after one year.

Understanding Short-Term Capital Gains Rates

The one-year mark is crucial, because the IRS taxes short-term investments at the investor’s much-higher marginal or ordinary income tax rate. There are seven ordinary tax brackets: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.

For high earners, gains can be taxed as much as 37%, plus a potential 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), also known as the Medicare tax. That means the taxes on those quick gains can be as high as 40.8% — and that’s before state and local taxes are factored in.

Understanding Long-Term Capital Gains Rates

Meanwhile, the long-term capital gains taxes for an individual are simpler and lower. These rates fall into three brackets, according to the IRS: 0%, 15%, and 20%. Here are the rates for tax year 2023, per the IRS.

The following table breaks down the long-term capital-gains tax rates for the 2023 tax year (for taxes that are filed in 2024) by income and filing status.

Capital Gains Tax Rate

Income – Single

Married, filing separately

Head of household

Married, filing jointly

0% Up to $44,625 Up to $44,625 Up to $59,750 Up to $89,250
15% $44,626 – $492,300 $44,626 – $276,900 $59,751 – $523,050 $89,251 – $553,850
20% More than $492,300 More than $276,900 More than $523,050 More than $553,850

Source: Internal Revenue Service

So if you’re an individual filer, you won’t pay capital gains if your total taxable income is $44,625 or less. But if your income is between $44,626 to $492,300, your investment gains would be subject to a 15% capital gains rate. The rate is 20% for single filers with incomes over $492,300.

As with all tax laws, don’t forget the fine print. As noted above, the additional 3.8% NIIT may apply to single individuals with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $200,000 or married couples with a MAGI of at least $250,000.

Also, long-term capital gains from sales of collectibles (e.g, coins, antiques, fine art) are taxed at a maximum of 28% rate. This is separate from regular capital gains tax, not in addition to it.

Short-term gains on collectibles are taxed at the ordinary income tax rate, as above.

Recommended: Everything You Need to Know About Taxes on Investment Income

Rules of Tax-Loss Harvesting

The upshot is that investors selling off profitable investments can face a stiff tax bill on those gains. That’s typically when investors (or their advisors) start to look at what else is in their portfolios. Inevitably, there are likely to be a handful of other assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, or different types of investments that lost value for one reason or another.

While tax-loss harvesting is typically done at the end of the year, investors can use this strategy any time, as long as they follow the rule that long-term losses apply to long-term gains first, and short-term losses to short-term gains first.

Bear in mind that although a capital loss technically happens whenever an asset loses value, it’s considered an “unrealized loss” in that it doesn’t exist in the eyes of the IRS until an investor actually sells the asset and realizes the loss.

The loss at the time of the sale can be used to count against any capital gains made in a calendar year. Given the high taxes associated with short-term capital gains, it’s a strategy that has many investors selling out of losing positions at the end of the year.

Tax-Loss Harvesting Example

If you’re wondering how tax-loss harvesting works, here’s an example. Let’s say an investor is in the top income tax bracket for capital gains. If they sell investments and realize a long-term capital gain, they would be subject to the top 20% tax rate; short-term capital gains would be taxed at their marginal income tax rate of 37%.

Now, let’s imagine they have the following long- and short-term gains and losses, from securities they sold and those they haven’t:

Securities sold:

•   Stock A, held for over a year: Sold, with a long-term gain of $175,000

•   Mutual Fund A, held for less than a year: Sold, with a short-term gain of $125,000

Securities not sold:

•   Mutual Fund B: an unrealized long-term gain of $200,000

•   Stock B: an unrealized long-term loss of $150,000

•   Mutual Fund C: an unrealized short-term loss of $80,000

The potential tax liability from selling Stock A and Mutual Fund A, without tax-loss harvesting, would look like this:

•   Tax without harvesting = ($175,000 x 20%) + ($125,000 x 37%) = $35,000 + $46,250 = $81,250

But if the investor harvested losses by selling Stock B and Mutual Fund C (remember: long-term losses apply to long-term gains and short term losses to short term gains first), the tax picture would change considerably:

•   Tax with harvesting = (($175,000 – $150,000) x 20%) + (($125,000 – $80,000) x 37%) = $5,000 + $16,650 = $21,650

Note how the tax-loss harvesting strategy not only reduces the investor’s tax bill, but potentially frees up some money to be reinvested in similar securities (restrictions may apply there; see information on the wash sale rule below).


💡 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.

Considerations Before Using Tax-Loss Harvesting

As with any investment strategy, it makes sense to think through a decision to sell just for the sake of the tax benefit because there can be other ramifications in terms of your long-term financial plan.

The Wash Sale Rule

For example, if an investor sells losing stocks or other securities they still believe in, or that still play an important role in their overall financial plan, then they may find themselves in a bind. That’s because a tax regulation called the wash sale rule prohibits investors from receiving the benefit of the tax loss if they buy back the same investment too soon after selling it.

Under the IRS wash sale rule, investors must wait 30 days before buying a security or another asset that’s “substantially identical” to the one they just sold. If they do buy an investment that’s the same or substantially identical, then they can’t claim the tax loss.

For an investment that’s seen losses, that 30-day moratorium could mean missing out on growth — and the risk of buying it again later for a higher price.

Matching Losses With Gains

A point that bears repeating: Investors must also be careful which securities they sell. Under IRS rules, like goes with like. So, long-term losses must be applied to long-term gains first, and the same goes for short-term losses and short-term gains. After that, any remaining net loss can be applied to either type of gain.

How to Use Net Losses

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

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

•   Any excess net capital loss can be carried over to subsequent years and deducted against capital gains, and up to $3,000 of other kinds of income — depending on the circumstances.

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

How to Use Tax-Loss Harvesting to Lower Your Tax Bill

When an investor has a diversified portfolio, every year will likely bring investments that thrive and others that lose money, so there can be a number of different ways to use tax-loss harvesting to lower your tax bill. The most common way, addressed above, is to apply capital losses to capital gains, thereby reducing the amount of tax owed. Here are some other strategies:

Tax-Loss Harvesting When the Market Is Down

For investors looking to invest when the market is down, capital losses can be easy to find. In those cases, some investors can use tax-loss harvesting to diminish the pain of losing money. But over long periods of time, the stock markets have generally gone up. Thus, the opportunity cost of selling out of depressed investments can turn out to be greater than the tax benefit.

It also bears remembering that many trades come with trading fees and other administrative costs, all of which should be factored in before selling stocks to improve one’s tax position at the end of the year.

Tax-Loss Harvesting for Liquidity

There are years when investors need access to capital. It may be for the purchase of a dream home, to invest in a business, or because of unforeseen circumstances. When an investor wants to cash out of the markets, the benefits of tax-loss harvesting can really shine.

In this instance, an investor could face bigger capital-gains taxes, so it makes sense to be strategic about which investments — winners and losers — to sell by year’s end, and minimize any tax burden.

Tax-Loss Harvesting to Rebalance a Portfolio

The potential benefits of maintaining a diversified portfolio are widely known. And to keep that portfolio properly diversified in line with their goals and risk tolerance, investors may want to rebalance their portfolio on a regular basis.

That’s partly because different investments have different returns and losses over time. As a result, an investor could end up with more tech stocks and fewer energy stocks, for example, or more government bonds than small-cap stocks than they intended.

Other possible reasons for rebalancing are if an investor’s goals change, or if they’re drawing closer to one of their long-term goals and want to take on less risk.

That’s why investors check their investments on a regular basis and do a tune-up, selling some stocks and buying others to stay in line with the original plan. This tune-up, or rebalancing, is an opportunity to do some tax-loss harvesting.

How Much Can You Write Off on Your Taxes?

If capital losses exceed capital gains, under IRS rules investors can then deduct a portion of the net losses from their ordinary income to reduce their personal tax liability. Investors can deduct the lesser of $3,000 ($1,500 if married filing separately), or the total net loss shown on line 21 of Schedule D (Form 1040).

In addition, any capital losses over $3,000 can be carried forward to future tax years, where investors can use capital losses to reduce future capital gains. This is known as a tax loss carryforward. So in effect, you can carry forward tax losses indefinitely.

To figure out how to record a tax loss carryforward, you can use the Capital Loss Carryover Worksheet found on the IRS’ Instructions for Schedule D (Form 1040).

Benefits and Drawbacks of Tax-Loss Harvesting

While tax-loss harvesting can offer investors some advantages, it comes with some potential downsides as well.

Benefits of Tax-Loss Harvesting

Obviously the main point of tax-loss harvesting is to reduce the amount of capital gains tax on profits after you sell a security.

Another potential benefit is being able to literally cut some of your losses, when you sell underperforming securities.

Tax-loss harvesting, when done with an eye toward an investor’s portfolio as a whole, can help with balancing or rebalancing (or perhaps resetting) their asset allocation.

As noted above, investors often sell off assets when they need cash. Using a tax-loss harvesting strategy can help do so in a tax-efficient way.

Drawbacks of Tax-Loss Harvesting

While selling underperforming assets may make sense, it’s important to vet these choices as you don’t want to miss out on the gains that might come if the asset bounces back.

Another of the potential risks of tax-loss harvesting is that if it’s done carelessly it can leave a portfolio imbalanced. It might be wise to replace the securities sold with similar ones, in order to maintain the risk-return profile. (Just don’t run afoul of the wash-sale rule.)

Last, it’s possible to incur excessive trading fees that can make a tax-loss harvesting strategy less efficient.

Pros of Tax-Loss Harvesting Cons of Tax-Loss Harvesting
Can lower capital gains taxes Investor might lose out if the security rebounds
Can help with rebalancing a portfolio If done incorrectly, can leave a portfolio imbalanced
Can make a liquidity event more tax efficient Selling assets can add to transaction fees

Creating a Tax-Loss Harvesting Strategy

Interested investors may want to create their own tax-loss harvesting strategy, given the appeal of a lower tax bill. An effective tax-loss harvesting strategy requires a great deal of skill and planning.

It’s important to take into account current capital gains rates, both short and long term. Investors would be wise to also weigh their current asset allocation before they attempt to harvest losses that could leave their portfolios imbalanced.

All in all, any strategy should reflect your long-term goals and aims. While saving money on taxes is important, it’s not the only rationale to rely on for any investment strategy.

The Takeaway

Tax loss harvesting, or selling off underperforming stocks and then potentially getting a tax reduction for the loss, can be a helpful part of a tax-efficient investing strategy.

There are many reasons an investor might want to do tax-loss harvesting, including when the market is down, when they need liquidity, or when they are rebalancing their portfolio. It’s an individual decision, with many considerations for each investor — including what their ultimate financial goals might be.

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 tax-loss harvesting really worth it?

When done carefully, with an eye toward tax efficiency as well as other longer-term goals, tax-loss harvesting can help investors save money that they can invest for the long term.

Does tax-loss harvesting reduce taxable income?

Yes. The point of tax-loss harvesting is to reduce income from investment gains (profits). But also when net losses exceed gains, the strategy can reduce your taxable income by $3,000 per year.

Can you write off 100% of investment losses?

It depends. Investment losses can be used to offset a commensurate amount in gains, thereby lowering your potential capital gains tax bill. If there are still net losses that cannot be applied to gains, up to $3,000 per year can be applied to reduce your ordinary income. Net loss amounts in excess of $3,000 would have to be carried forward to future tax years.


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

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.

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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