When to Start Saving for Retirement

When Should You Start Saving for Retirement?

If you ask any financial advisor when you should start saving for retirement, their answer would likely be simple: Now, or in your 20s if possible.

It’s not always easy to prioritize investing for retirement. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you might have student loans or other goals that seem more “immediate,” such as a down payment on a house or your child’s tuition. But starting early is important because it can allow you to save much more. In fact, setting aside a little every year starting in your 20s could mean an additional hundreds of thousands of dollars of accumulated investment earnings by retirement age.

No matter what age you are, putting away money for the future is a good idea. Read on to learn more about when to start saving for retirement and how to do it.

This article is part of SoFi’s Retirement Planning Guide, our coverage of all the steps you need to create a successful retirement plan.


money management guide for beginners

What Is the Ideal Age to Start Saving for Retirement?

Ideally, you should start saving for retirement in your 20s, if possible. By getting started early, you could reap the benefits of compound interest. That’s when money in savings accounts earns interest, that interest is added to the principal amount in the account, and then interest is earned on the new higher amount.

Starting to save for retirement in your 20s can allow you to save much more. In fact, setting aside a little every year starting in your 20s could mean an additional hundreds of thousands of dollars of accumulated investment earnings by retirement age.

That said, if you are older than your 20s, it’s not too late to start saving for retirement. The important thing is to get started, no matter what your age.

Boost your retirement contributions with a 1% match.

SoFi IRAs now get a 1% match on every dollar you deposit, up to the annual contribution limits. Open an account today and get started.


Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

The #1 Reason to Start Early: Compound Interest

If you start saving early, you could reap the benefits of compound interest.

CFP®, Brian Walsh says, “Time can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. If you start saving early, you make it a habit, and you start building now, time becomes your best friend because of compounded growth. If you delay — say 5, 10, 15 years to save — then time becomes your worst enemy because you don’t have enough time to make up for the money that you didn’t save.”

Here’s how compound interest works and why it can be so valuable: The money in a savings account, money market account, or CD (certificate of deposit) earns interest. That interest is added to the balance or principle in the account, and then interest is earned on the new higher amount.

Depending on the type of account you have, interest might accrue daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, twice a year, or annually. The more frequently interest compounds on your savings, the greater the benefit for you.

Investments — including investments in retirement plans, such as an employee-sponsored 401(k) plan or a traditional or Roth IRA — likewise benefit from compounding returns. Over time, you can see returns on both the principal as well as the returns on your contributions. Essentially, your money can work for you and potentially grow through the years, just through the power of compound returns.

The sooner you start saving and investing, the more time compounding has to do its work.

💡 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.

Saving Early vs Saving Later

To understand the power of compound returns, consider this:

If you start investing $7,000 a year at age 25, by the time you reach age 67, you’d have a total of $2,129,704.66. However, if you waited until age 35 to start investing the same amount, and got the same annual return, you’d have $939,494.76.

Age

Annual Return

Savings

25 8% $2,129,704.66
35 8% $939,494.76

As you can see, starting in your 20s means you may save double the amount you would have if you waited until your 30s.

Starting Retirement Savings During Different Life Stages

Retirement is often considered the single biggest expense in many peoples’ lives. Think about it: You may be living for 20 or more years with no active income.

Plus, while your parents or grandparents likely had a pension plan that kicked off right at the age of 65, that may not be the case for many workers in younger generations. Instead, the 401(k) model of retirement that’s more common these days requires employees to do their own saving.

As you get started on your savings journey, do a quick assessment of your current financial situation and goals. Be sure to factor in such considerations as:

•   Age you are now

•   Age you’d like to retire

•   Your income

•   Your expenses

•   Where you’d like to live after retirement (location and type of home)

•   The kind of lifestyle you envision in retirement (hobbies, travel, etc.)

To see where you’re heading with your savings you could use a retirement savings calculator. But here are more basics on how to get started on your retirement savings strategy, at any age.

Starting in Your 20s

Starting to save for retirement in your 20s is something you’ll later be thanking yourself for.

As discussed, the earlier you start investing, the better off you’re likely to be. No matter how much or little you start with, having a longer time horizon till retirement means you’ll be able to handle the typical ups and downs of the markets.

Plus, the sooner you start saving, the more time you’ll be able to benefit from compound returns, as noted.

Start by setting a goal: At what age would you like to retire? Based on current life expectancy, how many years do you expect to be retired? What do you imagine your retirement lifestyle will look like, and what might that cost?

Then, create a budget, if you haven’t already. Document your income, expenses, and debt. Once you do that, determine how much you can save for retirement, and start saving that amount right now.

💡 Learn more: Savings for Retirement in Your 20s

Starting in Your 30s

If your 20s have come and gone and you haven’t started investing in your retirement, your 30s is the next-best time to start. While there may be other expenses competing for your budget right now — saving for a house, planning for kids or their college educations — the truth remains that the sooner you start retirement savings, the more time they’ll have to grow.

If you’re employed full-time, one easy way to start is to open an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, like a 401(k). We’ll get into details on that below, but one benefit to note is that your savings will come out of your paycheck each month before you get taxed on that money. Not only does this automate retirement savings, but it means after a while you won’t even miss that part of your paycheck that you never really “had” to begin with. (And yes, Future You will thank you.)

💡 Learn more: Savings for Retirement in Your 30s

Starting in Your 40s

When it comes to how much you should have saved for retirement by 40, one general guideline is to have the equivalent of your two to three times your annual salary saved in retirement money.

Once you have high-interest debt (like debt from credit cards) paid off, and have a good chunk of emergency savings set aside, take a good look at your monthly budget and figure out how to reallocate some money to start building a retirement savings fund.

Not only will regular contributions get you on a good path to savings, but one-off sources of money (from a bonus, an inheritance, or the sale of a car or other big-ticket item) are another way to help catch up on retirement savings faster.

Starting in Your 50s

In your 50s, a good ballpark goal is to have six times your annual salary in your retirement savings by the end of the decade. But don’t panic if you’re not there yet — there are a few ways you can catch up.

Specifically, the government allows individuals over age 50 to make “catch-up contributions” to 401(k), traditional IRA, and Roth IRA plans. That’s an additional $7,500 in 401(k) savings, and an additional $1,000 in IRA savings for 2024 and 2023.

The opportunity is there, but only you can manage your budget to make it happen. Once you’ve earmarked regular contributions to a retirement savings account, make sure to review your asset allocation on your own or with a professional. A general rule of thumb is, the closer you get to retirement age, the larger the ratio of less risky investments (like bonds or bond funds) to more volatile ones (like stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs) you should have.

Starting in Your 60s

It’s never too late to start investing, especially if you’re still working and can contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan that may have matching contributions. If you’re contributing to a 401(k), or a Roth or traditional IRA, don’t forget about catch-up contributions (see the information above).

In general, when you’re this close to retirement it makes sense for your investments to be largely made up of bonds, cash, or cash equivalents. Having more fixed-income securities in your portfolio helps lower the odds of suffering losses as you get closer to your target retirement date.

💡 Learn more: Savings for Retirement in Your 60s

The Takeaway

Investing in retirement and wealth accounts is a great way to jump-start saving and investing for your golden years, whether you invest $10,000 or just $100 to get started.

The first step is to open an account or use the one that’s already open. You could also increase your contribution. If you’re opening an account, you may want to consider one without fees, to help maximize your bottom line.

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

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Is 20 years enough to save for retirement?

It’s never too late to start investing for retirement. If you’re just starting in your 40s, consider contributing to an employer-sponsored plan if you can, so that you can take advantage of any employer matching contributions. In addition to regular bi-weekly or monthly contributions, make every effort to deposit any “windfall” lump sums (like a bonus, inheritance, or proceeds from the sale of a car or house) into a retirement savings vehicle in an effort to catch up faster.

Is 25 too late to start saving for retirement?

It’s not too late to start saving for retirement at 25. Take a look at your budget and determine the max you can contribute on a regular basis — whether through an employer-sponsored plan, an IRA, or a combination of them. Then start making contributions, and consider them as non-negotiable as rent, mortgage, or a utility bill.

Is 30 too old to start investing?

No age is too old to start investing for retirement, because the best time to start is today. The sooner you start investing, the more advantage you can take of compound returns, and potentially employer matching contributions if you open an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Should I prioritize paying off debt over saving for retirement?

Whether you should prioritize paying off debt over saving for retirement depends on your personal situation and the type of debt you have. If your debt is the high-interest kind, such as credit card debt, for instance, it could make sense to pay off that debt first because the high interest is costing you extra money. The less you owe, the more you’ll be able to put into retirement savings.

And consider this: You may be able to pay off your debt and save simultaneously. For instance, if your employer offers a 401(k) with a match, enroll in the plan and contribute enough so that the employer match kicks in. Otherwise, you are essentially forfeiting free money. At the same time, put a dedicated amount each week or month to repaying your debt so that you continue to chip away at it. That way you will be reducing your debt and working toward saving for your retirement.


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.

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

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

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SoFi Invest may waive all, or part of any of these fees, permanently or for a period of time, at its sole discretion for any reason. Fees are subject to change at any time. The current fee schedule will always be available in your Account Documents section of SoFi Invest.


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 Trademarks: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design), and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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

Guide to IRA Accounts With Limited Margin

An IRA account with limited margin is a retirement account that allows investors to trade securities with unsettled cash. It’s a more lenient structure versus a cash account, where you must wait for trades to settle before using the money for further trading. But an IRA account with limited margin isn’t a true margin account in that you can’t use leverage.

Nonetheless, an IRA account with limited margin offers a few advantages, including the ability to defer or avoid short-term capital gains tax, and you’re protected against good faith violations. That said, there are still restrictions, so before setting one up, it may be beneficial to learn more about how these accounts work.

What Is an IRA Account With Limited Margin?

An IRA account that may have limited margin — often called simply a limited margin IRA — presents a more flexible option to invest for retirement than a traditional IRA. These types of IRAs may allow you to trade with unsettled funds, meaning that if you close a position you don’t have to wait the standard two days after you trade, you can use those funds right away.

There may also be tax benefits. In a traditional IRA margin account, capital gains taxes are deferred until funds are withdrawn. This is similar to a regular IRA, where you don’t pay taxes on contributions or gains until you withdraw your money.

You may also be able to use limited margin in a Roth IRA, and there may be even more tax benefits when using limited margin in a Roth IRA. You don’t pay any capital gains because Roth accounts are tax-free, since Roth contributions are made with after-tax money.

As noted, an IRA account with limited margin may allow investors to trade with unsettled cash. However, a limited margin IRA is just that — limited. It is not a true margin account, and does not allow you to short stocks or use leverage by borrowing money to trade with margin debits. In that sense, it is different from margin trading in a taxable brokerage account.

You may be able to use limited margin in several IRA types. In addition to having margin IRAs with traditional and Roth accounts, rollover IRAs, SEP IRAs, and even small business SIMPLE IRAs are eligible for the margin feature. While mutual funds are often owned inside an IRA, you cannot buy mutual funds on margin.

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

How Does Limited Margin Work?

Limited margin works by allowing investors to trade securities without having to wait for funds to settle. You can think of it like an advance payment from positions recently sold.

The first step is to open an IRA account and request that the IRA margin feature be added. Once approved, you might have to request that your broker move positions from cash to margin within the IRA. This operational task will also set future trades to the margin type.

IRAs with limited margin will state your intraday buying power — you should use this balance when day trading stocks and options in the IRA.

An advantage to trading in limited margin IRAs is that you can avoid or defer capital gains tax. Assuming you earn profits from trading, that can be a major annual savings versus day trading in a taxable brokerage account. If you trade within a pre-tax account, such as a traditional or rollover IRA, then you simply pay income tax upon the withdrawal of funds. When using Roth IRA margin, your account can grow tax-free forever in some cases.

The drawback with an IRA with limited margin versus day trading in a taxable account is you are unable to borrow money from your broker to create margin debits. You are also unable to sell securities short with an IRA with limited margin account. So while it is a margin account, you do not have all the bells and whistles of a full margin account that is not an IRA.

Increase your buying power with a margin loan from SoFi.

Borrow against your current investments at just 11%* and start margin trading.


*For full margin details, see terms.

Who Is Eligible for an IRA With Limited Margin?

Some brokerage firms have strict eligibility requirements such as a minimum equity threshold (similar to the minimum balances required in full margin accounts). When signing up, you might also be required to indicate that your investment objective is the “most aggressive.” That gives the broker a clue that you will use the account for active trading purposes.

Another restriction is that you might not be able to choose an FDIC-insured cash position. That’s not a major issue for most investors since you can elect a safe money market fund instead.

IRA Margin Calls

An advantage to having margin in an IRA is that you can more easily avoid margin calls by not having to wait for cash from the proceeds of a sale to settle, but margin calls can still happen. If the IRA margin equity amount drops below a certain amount (often $25,000, but it can vary by broker), then a day trade minimum equity call is issued. Until you meet the call, you are limited to closing positions only.

To meet the IRA margin call, you just have to deposit more cash or marginable securities. Since it is an IRA, there are annual contribution limits that you cannot exceed, so adding funds might be tricky.

💡 Quick Tip: One of the advantages of using a margin account, if you qualify, is that a margin loan gives you the ability to buy more securities. Be sure to understand the terms of the margin account, though, as buying on margin includes the risk of bigger losses.

Avoiding Good Faith Violations

A good faith violation happens when you purchase a security in a cash account then sell before paying for the purchase with settled cash. You must wait for the funds to settle — the standard is trade date plus two days (T+2 settlement) for equity securities. Only cash and funds from sale proceeds are considered “settled funds.” Cash accounts and margin accounts have different rules to know about.

A good faith violation can happen in an IRA account without margin. For example, if you buy a stock in the morning, sell it in the afternoon, then use those proceeds to do another round-trip trade before the funds settle, that second sale can trigger a good faith violation. Having margin in an IRA prevents good faith violations in that instance since an IRA with limited margin allows you to trade with unsettled funds.

Pros and Cons of Limited Margin Trading in an IRA

Can IRA accounts have margin? Yes. Can you use margin in a Roth IRA? Yes. Should your IRA have the limited margin feature added? It depends on your preferences. Below are the pros and cons to consider with IRAs with limited margin.

Pros

Cons

You are permitted to trade with unsettled cash. You cannot trade using actual margin (i.e. leverage).
You can avoid good faith violations. You cannot engage in short selling or have naked options positions.
You take on more risk with your retirement money.

The Takeaway

An IRA account with limited margin allows people investing in individual retirement accounts to trade securities a bit more freely versus a cash account. The main benefit to having an IRA with limited margin is that you can buy and sell stocks and options without waiting for lengthy settlement periods associated with a non-margin account.

But remember: Unlike a normal margin account, this type doesn’t allow you to use leverage. That means a margin-equipped IRA doesn’t permit margin trading that creates margin debit balances. You are also not allowed to have naked options positions or engage in selling shares short.

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).

Get one of the most competitive margin loan rates with SoFi, 11%*

FAQ

Is an IRA a cash or a margin account?

An IRA can either be a cash account or a limited margin account. While a cash account only lets you buy and sell securities with a traditional settlement period, a limited margin IRA might offer same-day settlement of trades. You are not allowed to borrow funds or short sell, however.

Is day trading possible in an IRA?

Yes. You can day trade in your IRA, and it can actually be a tax-savvy practice. Short-term capital gains can add up when you day trade in a taxable brokerage account. That tax liability can eat into your profits. With a limited margin IRA that offers same-day settlement, however, you can buy and sell stocks and options without the many tax consequences of a non-IRA. The downside is that, in the case of losses, you cannot take advantage of the $3,000 capital loss tax deduction because an IRA is a tax-sheltered account. Another feature that is limited when day trading an IRA is that you cannot borrow funds to control more capital. A final drawback is that you are limited to going long shares, not short.

Can a 401(k) be a margin account?

Most 401(k) plans do not allow participants to have the margin feature. An emerging type of small business 401(k) plan — the solo brokerage 401(k) — allows participants to have a margin feature. Not all providers allow it, though. Also, just because the account has the margin feature, it does not mean you can borrow money from the broker to buy securities.


Photo credit: iStock/Drazen_

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.

*Borrow at 10%. Utilizing a margin loan is generally considered more appropriate for experienced investors as there are additional costs and risks associated. It is possible to lose more than your initial investment when using margin. Please see SoFi.com/wealth/assets/documents/brokerage-margin-disclosure-statement.pdf for detailed disclosure information.
Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

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What Is a Self Directed IRA (SDIRA)?

Guide to Self-Directed IRAs (SDIRA)

Individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, typically allow for a lot of flexibility in the kinds of investments you can make, from stocks and bonds to mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

However, most IRAs don’t allow certain alternative investments like precious metals and real estate. If you want to hold assets like these in your retirement account, you’ll need a self directed IRA (SDIRA), a specific type of Roth or traditional IRA.

What Is a Self-Directed IRA (SDIRA)?

Self directed IRAs and self directed Roth IRAs allow account holders to buy and sell a wider variety of investments than regular traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Experienced investors, familiar with sophisticated or risky investments, often use these.

While a custodian or a trustee administers the SDIRA, the account holder typically manages the allocation themselves, taking on responsibility for researching investments and due diligence. These accounts may also come with higher fees than regular IRAs, which can cut into the size of your retirement nest egg over time.

What Assets Can You Put in a Self-Directed IRA or a Self-Directed Roth IRA?

Individuals can hold a number of unique alternative investments in their SDIRA, including but not limited to:

•   Real estate and land

•   Cryptocurrency

•   Precious metals

•   Mineral, oil, and gas rights

•   Water rights

•   LLC membership interest

•   Tax liens

•   Foreign currency

•   Startups through crowdfunding platforms

Recommended: Types of Alternative Investments

Types of SDIRAs

There are specific kinds of SDIRAs customized to investors looking for certain types of investments. The different types include:

Self-directed SEP IRAs

Simplified Employee Pension IRAs (SEP IRAs) are for small business owners or those who are self-employed so that they can make contributions that are tax deductible for themselves and any eligible employees they might have. This type of retirement account gives them the flexibility to invest in alternative investments.

Self-directed SIMPLE IRAs

A Savings Incentive Match Plan IRA (SIMPLE IRA) is a tax-deferred retirement plan for employers and employees of small businesses. Both the employer and the employees can make contributions to this plan. It allows for some alternative kinds of investments.

Recommended: SIMPLE IRA vs Traditional

Self-directed Precious Metal IRAs

Similarly, there are self-directed IRAs for those who would like to invest in precious metals like gold. However, be aware that some precious metal IRAs may charge higher fees than the market price for precious metals.

How Do Self-Directed IRAs Work?

Now that you know the answer to the question, what is a self directed IRA?, it’s important to understand how these accounts work and the self directed IRA rules. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the guidelines regarding opening an IRA if you have a 401(k).

Aside from their ability to hold otherwise off-limits alternative investments, SDIRAs work much like their traditional counterparts. SDIRAs are tax-advantaged retirement accounts, and they can come in two flavors: traditional SDIRAs and Roth SDIRAs.

Traditional IRA Contributions and Withdrawal Rules

IRA contributions to traditional accounts goes in before taxes, which reduces investors’ taxable income, lowering their income tax bill in the year they make the contribution. For 2024, individuals can contribute up to $7,000 in total across accounts. Those age 50 and up can make an extra $1,000 catch-up contribution for a total of $8,000. Investments inside the account grow tax-deferred.

It’s important to pay close attention to self directed IRA rules, particularly rules for IRA withdrawals. Once individuals begin to make withdrawals at age 59 ½, they are taxed at normal income tax rates. Account holders who make withdrawals before that age may owe taxes and a possible 10% early withdrawal penalty. Traditional SDIRA account holders must begin making required minimum distributions (RMDs) after age 73.

Roth IRA Contributions and Withdrawal Rules

Roth SDIRAs have the same contribution limits as traditional SDIRAs. However, retirement savers contribute to Roths with after-tax dollars. Investments inside the account grow tax-free, and withdrawals after age 59 ½ aren’t subject to income tax.

Roths are also not subject to RMD rules. As long as an individual has had the account for at least five years (as defined by the IRS), they can withdraw Roth contributions at any time without penalty, though earnings may be subject to tax if withdrawn before age 59 ½.

There are also rules restricting who can contribute to a Roth IRA, based on their income. In 2024, Roth eligibility begins phasing out at $146,000 for single people, and $230,000 for people who are married and file their taxes jointly.

Individuals can maintain both traditional and Roth IRA accounts, however, contribution limits are cumulative across accounts, and cannot exceed $7,000, or $8,000 for those 50 and over.

Traditional vs Roth SDIRA

There are some differences between a self-directed traditional IRA and a self-directed Roth IRA.

With a traditional SDIRA, you save pre-tax money for your retirement, just like you do with a traditional IRA plan. You pay taxes on the money when you withdraw it, which you can do without penalty starting at age 59 ½. However, a self-directed traditional IRA gives you the flexibility to invest in alternative assets, like real estate or precious metals.

With a self-directed Roth IRA, just like a regular Roth IRA, you make after-tax contributions to the plan. The withdrawals you make starting at age 59 ½ are tax-free, as long as you have had the account for at least five years, according to the five-year rule. With this type of self-directed IRA, you can invest in alternative investments, such as private equity, real estate, and precious metals.

💡 Quick Tip: Investment fees are assessed in different ways, including trading costs, account management fees, and possibly broker commissions. When you set up an investment account, be sure to get the exact breakdown of your “all-in costs” so you know what you’re paying.

Pros and Cons of Self-Directed IRAs

Self-directed IRAs offer unique perks for the right investor. However, those interested must weigh those benefits against potential drawbacks.

Benefits of Self-Directed IRAs

An SDIRA allows investors to branch out into different types of investments to which they might otherwise not have access. This allows investors to seek out potentially higher returns and diversify their portfolios beyond the offerings in traditional IRAs.

Alternative investments have the potential to offer higher returns than investors might achieve with stock market investments. However, investors beware: These opportunities for higher rewards come at the price of higher risk.

Also, investors’ ability to hold a broader spectrum of investments that can help them diversify their portfolio and potentially manage risks, such as inflation risk or longevity risk, the chance an investor will run out of money before they die. For example, some SDIRAs allow investors to hold gold, a traditional hedge against inflation.

Drawbacks of Self-Directed IRAs

While there are some very real advantages to using SDIRAs, these must be weighed against their disadvantages.

For starters, investments like stocks and shares of ETFs are highly liquid. Investors who need their money quickly can sell them in a relatively short period of time, usually a matter of days.

However, some of the investments available in SDIRAs are not liquid. For example, real estate and physical commodities like precious metals may take quite a bit of time to sell if you need to access your money. Individuals who need to sell these assets quickly may find themselves in a situation in which they must accept less than they believe the asset is worth.

SDIRAs may also carry higher fees. Individuals who hold regular IRA accounts may not have to pay management or investment fees. However, SDIRA holders may have to pay fees associated with holding the account and with the purchase and maintenance of certain assets.

Finally, SDIRAs place a lot of responsibility in the hands of their account holders. Investors must research investments themselves and perform due diligence to make sure that whatever they’re buying is legitimate and matches their risk tolerance.

What’s more, investors must make sure the assets they hold meet IRS rules. Running afoul of these rules can be costly, in some cases causing investors to pay taxes and penalties.
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of SDIRAs at a glance:

Pros

Cons

Tax-advantaged growth. Contributions to traditional accounts are tax deductible. Investments grow tax-deferred in traditional accounts and tax-free in Roth accounts. Not liquid. Selling alternative investments may be slow and difficult.
Same contribution limits as regular IRAs. In 2024, individuals can contribute up to $7,000 a year, or $8,000 for those aged 50 and up. Higher fees. Individuals may be on the hook for account fees and fees associated with alternative investments.
Higher returns. Alternative investments may offer higher returns than those available in the stock market. Increased responsibility. Investors must research investments carefully themselves and ensure they stay within rules for approved IRA investments.
Diversification. SDIRAs offer investors the ability to invest in assets beyond the stock and bond markets. Higher risk. Alternative investments tend to be riskier than more traditional investments.

4 Steps to Opening a Self-Directed IRA

Investors who want to open an SDIRA will need to take the following steps:

1. Find a custodian or trustee.

This can be a bank, trust company, or another IRS-approved entity. You’ll need to follow their requirements for opening an IRA account. Some SDIRAs specialize in certain asset classes, so look for a custodian that allows you to invest in the asset classes in which you’re interested.

2. Choose investments.

Decide which alternatives you want to hold in your SDIRA. Perform necessary research and due diligence.

3. Complete the transaction.

Find a reputable dealer from which your custodian can purchase the assets, and ask them to complete the sale.

4. Plan withdrawals carefully.

Because alternative assets have less liquidity than other types of investments, you may need to plan sales well in advance of needing retirement income or meeting any required minimum distributions.

Investing in Your Retirement With SoFi

If you’re opening your first IRA account, you’re likely best served with a traditional or Roth IRA. Because of the complications involved in using an SDIRA, only sophisticated investors should consider it.

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


Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Are self-directed IRAs a good idea?

There are advantages and disadvantages to self-directed IRAs. Benefits include the fact that you can make alternative types of investments you might not otherwise be able to. That could help you diversify your portfolio and potentially increase your returns.

However, there are drawbacks to SDIRAs, including higher risk because alternative investments tend to be riskier, and potentially higher fees for maintenance of investments in the plan and account fees. In addition, investors need to research the investments themselves and follow the IRS rules carefully to make sure they comply. Finally, many alternative investments are not liquid, which means they could take longer and be more difficult to sell.

Can you set up a self-directed IRA yourself?

To set up a self-directed IRA, find a custodian or trustee such as a bank or trust company to open an account, research and choose your investments, find a reputable dealer for the investments you’d like to make, and have your custodian complete the transactions.

How much money can you put in a self-directed IRA?

In 2024, you can contribute up to $7,000 to a traditional or Roth self-directed IRA, plus an additional $1,000 if you’re 50 or older.


Photo credit: iStock/Andres Victorero


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

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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A Beginner’s Guide to Investing in CDs

A certificate of deposit (or CD) has many of the same low-risk benefits as a savings account, but a CD holds your money for a fixed time period in exchange for a higher rate of interest than the standard savings account.

You may be familiar with CDs as part of your savings strategy (say, keeping money secure and earning interest until you are ready to buy a house), but they can also be used as a part of a portfolio’s cash allocation. CDs generally pay a higher interest rate than you can get with other cash accounts. Owing to their lower risk profile and modest but steady returns, allocating part of your portfolio to CDs can offer diversification that may help lower your risk exposure in other areas.

Here’s a closer look at the ins and outs of investing in CDs.

Key Points

•   Certificates of deposit (CDs) offer higher interest rates than regular savings accounts by locking funds for a fixed period.

•   CDs are available through banks, credit unions, and brokerages, with varying terms and minimum deposits.

•   Early withdrawal from a CD incurs penalties, typically costing several months’ interest.

•   Investment strategies like CD laddering, barbells, and bullets help manage liquidity and returns.

•   CDs are insured up to $250,000, providing a safe investment option with predictable returns.

How to Buy CDs

Investors can buy CDs at many, if not most financial institutions, such as banks, credit unions, or brokerages. Not all institutions might offer CDs, and others may have limited options, but generally, if you’re looking to buy CDs, you might want to start at your bank, where you might hold a savings account.

Again, a certificate of deposit is similar to a savings account in that you can stash your money for a long period of time, but CDs possess some distinct features you need to understand in order to gauge whether they’re a good fit with your plan. Here are some aspects of CDs to keep in mind.

1. A Fixed Deposit for a Set Time Period

Investors purchase a CD for a fixed amount of money: e.g., $1,000, $5,000, or more. Some banks have a required minimum deposit; others don’t. Generally, you cannot increase the amount of your savings (although you can always buy another CD). Some banks offer jumbo CDs, which might require a minimum $100,000 deposit.

Unlike a savings account, which is open-ended (and allows you to access your cash at any time), you typically purchase a CD for a set period of time during which you can’t withdraw the funds without a penalty. Typical CD terms can vary from one month to five years, so check with the institution that issues the CD.

2. Guaranteed Interest Rates and Insurance

Because investing in CDs is less liquid than a savings account, the interest rate tends to be higher. CD rates are quoted as an annual percentage yield (APY). The APY is how much the account will earn in one year, including compound interest. Banks generally compound interest daily or monthly.

When the period is up, also known as the CD maturity date, the CD holder can receive the original investment, plus any interest earned. The interest rate can vary considerably, depending on the institution. Also, longer-term CDs tend to offer higher rates than shorter-term ones.

The money in a CD is protected by the same federal insurance (FDIC) that covers all deposit products, whether at a bank, credit union, or other institution.

3. Early Withdrawal Penalties

CDs can offer higher yields because customers are promising the bank that they will deposit their money for a set period of time. As a result, investing in CDs means the money is usually locked up until it reaches its maturity date. Withdrawing the money before the CD matures may trigger a penalty, which could effectively eliminate any interest rate gains.

The penalty for an early withdrawal on a CD is often stated in terms of interest: e.g. you would owe 60 days’ worth of interest, 150 days’ worth of interest, and so on. The penalty is usually charged according to the simple interest rate on your account, not the compound interest you might have earned over time.

Before purchasing a CD, it’s best to look at its disclosure statement, which should tell you the interest rate, how often interest is paid, the maturity date of the CD, and any early withdrawal penalties.

Note: There are penalty-free or no penalty CDs. These allow you to withdraw funds before the maturity date without a fee, but they typically have lower interest rates than other CDs.

4. Terms Vary Widely

It’s important to shop around for the best CD rates and terms. Brick-and-mortar banks may pay lower rates, while online banks and credit unions may pay higher rates. Because the interest rates on CDs are based on the federal funds rate, similar to mortgages and other financial products, it’s also a good idea to see whether the Federal Reserve is about to raise or lower interest rates before deciding whether it’s a good time to invest in CDs.

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CD Investing Strategies

CDs can be incorporated as part of your financial plan in various ways. They can act as short-term savings vehicles — a way to secure your money for a down payment or a large purchase within five years, say. Or they can be part of a longer-term strategy. Here are some examples.

CD Ladder

A CD ladder uses a combination of shorter-term and longer-term CDs to maximize different rates of return and deliver several years of steady income.

Hypothetically, say you want to invest $10,000 over a 10-year period. You could create a CD ladder by purchasing five CDs of different maturities all at once, and reinvesting them as follows:

•   Deposit $2,000 in a 1-year CD. When that CD matures, roll over the money plus interest into a 5-year CD.

•   Deposit $2,000 in a 2-year CD. When that CD matures, again roll over those funds into another 5-year CD.

•   Do the same for a 3-year, 4-year, and 5-year CD. As each one matures, you roll over the funds, plus any accumulated interest, into a 5-year CD.

The result will be five different CDs that mature one year apart, allowing you to withdraw your funds plus interest. This strategy ensures some diversification of interest rates, so your money isn’t locked into a flat rate for the full 10 years. It can be reassuring to know that, if you need access to cash, you can expect one of the CDs to be on the verge of maturing at regular intervals.

CD Barbell

The CD barbell is like a CD ladder, but without buying any mid-length CDs: Here you invest a certain amount in a short-term CD (say, a 1-year CD), and the rest in a 5-year CD as a way to hedge your bets.

The barbell strategy allows you to take advantage of both short- and long-term rates. When the short-term CD matures, you can either reinvest at the short-term rate, if that makes sense, or shift the money over to a longer-term CD.

CD Bullet

Instead of buying a few CDs of different maturities at the same time, the bullet strategy allows you to invest different amounts at different times, as a way of saving for a specific goal like a down payment.

This strategy could allow you to invest one amount in a CD to start, save up more for a year or two and buy another CD that matures at the same time as the first, and so on. Then you have, say, three CDs that mature at the same time, with interest, allowing you to withdraw the lump sum from each one for your goal.

For example:

•   You could invest $5,000 in a 5-year CD today.

•   Then, in two years, invest $3,000 in a 3-year CD.

•   Last, save up money for another two years and buy a $2,000 1-year CD.

•   All three CDs mature at the same time, and you can withdraw all the money, plus compound interest.

Benefits of Investing in CDs

Investing in CDs can offer some investors specific benefits.

Peace of Mind

CDs are generally considered one of the safer options for investors. Like traditional savings accounts or high-yield savings accounts, CDs are insured for up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership category, per insured institution, when they are purchased through an FDIC-insured bank or an NCUA-insured credit union. In the very rare instance of the CD-issuing bank failing, your deposits would be covered up to $250,000.

Predictability

CD interest rates are usually fixed and will deliver a predictable yield at the end of their term. The same is not necessarily true of traditional savings accounts, which may lower the amount they pay if interest rates drop. The ability to calculate exactly how much you’ll be paid at the end of the CD’s term makes it easier to know how that CD will fit into a financial plan.

A Variety of Options

Thousands of banks and credit unions across the country offer a diverse selection of CDs, which come with many interest rate options and with maturity lengths from a month to a decade.

There also may be different styles of CDs to choose from (you’ll learn about bump-up and add-on CDs in a moment). But, as always, be sure to check the terms.

Drawbacks of Investing in CDs

Of course, like any other investment, CDs can come with their share of potential downsides.

Illiquidity

One of the main drawbacks of a CD is that most of them are relatively illiquid, meaning you can’t access the funds whenever you like. An investor’s money is tied up until the maturity date, and early withdrawals may trigger penalties in the form of lost interest payments or, in some cases, lost principal.

Though there are some CDs that offer penalty-free withdrawals, investors must often accept lower interest rates in trade.

When choosing a CD, it’s best to carefully consider a maturity date you know you will be able to meet. An emergency fund can help you avoid the temptation to tap CD investments when the unexpected happens.

Inflation Risk

Despite the fact that CDs tend to offer higher returns than traditional savings accounts, they can still be subject to the same inflation risk. When inflation is high, CD returns may be unable to outpace it. That means the money sitting in the CD may lose purchasing power before reaching maturity.

Taxes

When investors withdraw money from CDs after the maturity date, they pay no taxes on the principal withdrawn, but the money earned is taxable on state and federal levels as interest income.

The taxes will reduce the amount of money a CD investor will actually get to take home. It’s a good idea to carefully consider taxes when shopping for a CD and deciding on an APY.

Opportunity Cost

Money that’s tied up in a CD can’t be put to work anywhere else — a problem known as opportunity cost. CD interest rates may be higher than some other bank products, but stocks, bonds, and other investments may offer much higher returns. That said, higher returns are often associated with higher risk.

CD investors may be opting to avoid risk or using the accounts to diversify a portfolio that already holds a mix of stocks and bonds.

Types of CDs to Invest In

Above, you learned about the basic structure of a traditional CD, but there are a few other types that may offer features that are more desirable. In some cases, these may come with tradeoffs or additional risk factors, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons and terms of each.

1. Liquid CDs

If you’d prefer a CD that allows you to access your savings before the maturity date without paying a penalty, a liquid CD may offer a solution. These CDs don’t charge a penalty for early withdrawals, but they may offer lower interest rates as a result.

2. Bump-up CDs

Some investors dislike the idea of locking up their cash at a fixed rate, when in theory rates could rise, and you’d lose out on the higher rate of return. A bump-up CD may help address that concern by allowing you a chance to “bump up” to a higher rate.

3. Add-on CDs

If you don’t have the specific amount required to open a CD, another option could be to open an add-on CD, which allows you to make additional deposits.

4. Variable Rate CDs

Like a variable rate loan, a variable rate CD doesn’t pay a fixed interest rate. Having a variable rate may give you higher or lower rates at some points, but the point is that the rate isn’t guaranteed, so you have to be willing to take your chances.

5. Uninsured CDs

If you’re willing to forgo federal insurance on your deposits, you might be able to get a higher interest rate.

In all cases, be sure to check the terms of the CD you’re about to buy, in case there are restrictions or caveats that might make a certain CD less desirable. For example, there are some CDs offered by foreign banks, but denominated in US dollars, which may offer competitive rates but they are not federally insured.

6. Brokered CDs

A brokered CD is a lot like a traditional CD but is purchased through a broker, typically using a brokerage account. This setup can provide access to a wide range of CDs from different financial institutions.

It is also possible to trade brokered CDs on the secondary market. Finding a buyer may be difficult, however, which could mean accepting a lower price for the sale. Brokered CDs may come with additional fees.

The Takeaway

Although CDs are sometimes dismissed as simple savings vehicles, in fact investing in CDs can offer a steady if modest rate of return, and some peace of mind — factors that may appeal to some investors, especially over time. It’s also possible to use different strategies like a CD ladder to create an income stream or maximize different interest rates over time.

If, however, the idea of locking up your money for a set period of time doesn’t suit your needs, you might consider a high-yield checking and savings account instead.

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


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Where do you go to invest in CDs?

Investors can purchase CDs at many financial institutions, such as banks, credit unions, or brokerages, although not all institutions will offer them.

How much does a $10,000 CD make in a year?

The ultimate yield on a $10,000 CD in a year will depend on the associated interest rate and compounding frequency, which can vary. But assuming the interest rate is 3.00%, an investor could earn $300 after one year if compounded annually.

Are CDs considered low-risk?

CDs are generally considered to be lower-risk investments, especially compared to assets like stocks.

How much money do you need to invest in a CD?

There are minimums to purchase a CD, which vary, but a ballpark figure is around $500, depending on where you buy them.


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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit 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, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, 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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How Often Should You Monitor Your Checking Account?

Many people find that monitoring their checking account once or twice a week is a good cadence, but there’s no frequency that’s right or wrong. It’s a personal decision: Your checking account is likely to be the hub of your financial life, and so you may want to peek at your balance often or see what transactions have been conducted. At a minimum, it is recommended that individuals check their account monthly.

Key Points

•   Monitoring your checking account regularly is crucial for managing finances effectively.

•   Checking your account monthly at a minimum can help spot fraud and manage fees.

•   Many people prefer checking their accounts daily or weekly.

•   Regular monitoring helps detect unauthorized transactions and keep track of spending.

•   Setting calendar alerts can aid in remembering to check account activities regularly.

How Often Should You Check Your Bank Statement and Bank Account?

There is no exact science when it comes to how often you should monitor your checking account. How often you should check your bank account is a very personal decision.

At the very bare minimum, it can be important to check it at least once per month to look for signs of fraud and fees that were charged to the account, as well as to see how your money is being spent. Doing so can be an important part of better money management.

However, for most people, once per month is not enough. One benchmark study found that 36% of Americans check their bank account every day, while 30% check it once a week.

Should You Check Your Bank Account Every Day?

There are many reasons why you might want to monitor your bank activity as often as once per day. Doing so can help you take control of your finances in such situations as:

•   You have a tight budget and worry about your balance slipping too low when you pay bills.

•   You are a freelancer and want to see if a paycheck you deposited has cleared.

•   Your debit card is lost, and you’re worried it fell into the wrong hands and someone is swiping away with it.

•   If there was a data breach of some kind? While usually the answer to “Are checking accounts safe?” can be yes, there can be issues. It may be a wise move to check your balance every day if you think you’ve been phished, scammed, or hacked. In this case, watching your account like a hawk in this situation can help you detect bank account fraud and report it.

However, for others, the answer to “How often should you check your bank account?” will be less frequent, perhaps weekly.

What Should You Monitor When You Have a Bank Account?

When you have a bank account, it’s wise to regularly check the following:

•   Your balance. Is it getting lower than you’d like?

•   Account alerts. Is anything flagged as needing your attention?

•   Transaction history. Are there any unauthorized or erroneous charges?

•   Fees and charges. Are you aware of what charges you may be incurring?

•   Spending trends. Has your occasional sushi lunch has become an almost daily debit card expense?

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The Benefits: Why You Should Monitor Your Checking Account

Whether you decide that the right cadence for checking your bank account is daily, weekly, or another frequency, here are some of the rewards of keeping tabs on your checking.

Spot Hidden Fees

By regularly checking your bank account, you can keep an eye on fees you may be paying. Some financial institutions are notorious for charging hidden and/or excessive fees.

You might be surprised to see such charges as monthly account fees, ATM charges, overdraft and NSF fees, and more. You might want to dispute charges that you feel should not have been assessed.

Or, if you see that these fees are eating away at your cash, you might want to switch to a new bank.

Monitor for Fraud or Scams

Unfortunately, hackers and scams are part of life. Even with protective measures in place, it is possible for your account to be compromised. By checking your account regularly, you can keep an eye on any suspicious activity, such as an automatic withdrawal you don’t recognize or a debit card charge that isn’t yours.

The sooner you spot such issues, the faster you can deal with them. This can help you be liable for no or lower losses.

•   You are only responsible for up to $50 if you notify your bank within two business days of unauthorized charges with your debit card.

•   That figure rises to $500 if you notify your bank after two days but before 60 days after the bank statement showing the unauthorized transactions was issued.

•   If you take longer than 60 days to notify your bank, you could be liable for the full amount drawn on your account.

Stay on Track with Your Budget

Here’s why tracking your expenses and balancing your checking account can be important: These actions can help you follow your budget. For instance, if you’ve created a line-item budget and have been successfully sticking to it, you may still encounter an unexpected expense, such as a big dental bill or pricey car repair.

By knowing where your bank balance stands, you can determine if you can afford to pay that bill from checking or whether this counts as a good reason for when to use your emergency fund.

How to Monitor Your Accounts

Thankfully, banks generally offer a variety of ways to keep tabs when managing your checking account.

•   You can use your bank’s website or app to click your way to your account details.

•   Another digital option is to use a third-party app or website, where account holders can connect all of their accounts and see a comprehensive display of their money.

•   Some financial institutions will offer banking alerts for checking accounts. For instance, if your bank account is low or goes into overdraft or there’s suspected fraud, you might receive a text message, email, and/or push notification as an alert. This can help you keep in touch with where your account stands.

•   You can often check your balance at an ATM.

•   If you bank with a traditional vs. online bank, you can go into a branch in person. You could ask a teller for help viewing your balance.

•   Banks may also offer services via phone, where customers can call in and request their balance.

When to Get in Touch With the Bank

When your monitor your bank account, you may encounter a few key times when it’s important to get in touch with your bank:

•   If you see a fraudulent charge on your account, contact the bank as soon as possible. Many banks offer 24/7 customer assistance so customers can get in touch any time of day.

•   If you are charged fees for an overdraft or a bounced check, contact your bank. You might be able to get those fees reversed. A bank may only do this in the first or second instance or take a part of the fee off, but it’s better than nothing.

•   Another reason to call a bank is to see if there are any promotions available. Customers might be able to open a new high-yield checking account, receive a bonus, or lower their monthly fees. Banks may be willing to give customers perks so that they can retain their business.

Recommended: What Does a Pending Transaction Mean?

The Takeaway

Regularly checking your bank accounts is a vital part of keeping your finances on track. The exact frequency with which you look at your accounts is a personal decision, but what’s important is that you stay on top of your checking account.

Consider setting a calendar alert or reminder if you are having trouble remembering to review your accounts. Many people find that checking their account daily or once or twice a week is the right cadence.

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


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Does it hurt to have too many checking accounts?

There may be times when you’d want to open up more than one checking account to keep, say, your income from your full-time job and your side hustle separate or to cover different kinds of expenses. However, you will likely need to keep an eye on all of your accounts and could potentially have to pay account fees and meet balance requirements for each.

What should you monitor when you have a checking account?

It can be important to monitor your checking account for a low balance or overdraft, for errors, for hidden fees, and for unauthorized transactions and other signs of fraudulent activity.

Do banks look at your checking account?

Banks may look at your accounts for a variety of reasons such as monitoring for fraud, gathering information on what services customers might need, and determining credit eligibility (say, if you have applied for a home loan).


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 recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit 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, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, 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.

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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