What Is the Student Aid Index (SAI)?

What Is the Student Aid Index (SAI)?

If you’ve applied for federal student loans in the past, chances are you’re familiar with the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC—a number used by colleges to figure out how much financial aid students are eligible for.

Starting for the 2024-2025 school year the EFC will be replaced by the Student Aid Index or SAI. It fulfills the same basic purpose but works a little differently, which we’ll discuss in-depth below.

This change was part of the larger FAFSA® Simplification Act, which itself was part of the larger Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in December 2020. The idea is to simplify the federal aid application process by making it more straightforward for students and their families, particularly for lower-income earners. But all changes come with a bit of a learning curve, even if simplicity is the goal. Here’s some helpful information about the Student Aid Index.

Key Points

•   The Student Aid Index (SAI) replaces the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) starting from the 2024-2025 school year, aiming to simplify the federal aid application process.

•   Unlike the EFC, the SAI can have a negative value, potentially increasing the amount of aid for which students are eligible.

•   The SAI calculation considers a family’s financial assets and income to determine a student’s financial need, influencing eligibility for Pell Grants and other federal aid.

•   Changes include a simplified FAFSA form with fewer questions and adjustments to financial aid eligibility criteria.

•   The SAI also allows financial aid administrators more flexibility to adjust aid amounts based on a student’s or family’s unique circumstances.

Student Aid Index vs the Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

While both of these calculations perform a similar function, there are important differences in how they work—and important ramifications on how students receive financial aid.

How the EFC Currently Works

Despite its name, the Expected Family Contribution is not actually the amount of money a student’s family is expected to contribute—a point of confusion Student Aid Index is meant to clarify. (Most families end up paying significantly more than the calculated EFC when funding a college education, especially when you factor in loan interest.)

Rather, the EFC assesses the student’s family’s available financial assets, including income, savings, investments, benefits, and more, in order to determine the student’s financial need, which in turn is used to help qualify students for certain forms of student aid, including Pell Grants, Direct Subsidized Loans, and Federal Work-Study.

A very simplified version of the calculation looks like this:

Cost of college attendance – EFC = financial need

However, a college is not obligated to meet your full financial need, and they may include interest-bearing loans, which require repayment, as part of a student’s financial aid package.

Still, the EFC plays an important role in determining how much financial aid you’re eligible for and which types.

How Will the Student Aid Index Work?

The Student Aid Index will work in much the same way: the figure will be subtracted from the cost of attendance to determine how much need-based financial aid a student is eligible for. However, there are some important updates that come along the rebranding:

Pell Grant Eligibility

Pell Grant eligibility will now be determined before the FAFSA is submitted if their adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than a certain threshold determined by the poverty line. Pell Grants may still be offered to students after an application is submitted, using the SAI, if they don’t immediately qualify based on income alone.

A Wider Range of Financial Need

The SAI offers a greater range of financial need than the EFC, whose lowest amount is $0 (meaning a student demonstrably needs the full cost of college covered by aid). The lowest possible SAI, on the other hand, is -$1,500, which creates a cushion to help the lowest-income students cover adjacent college expenses that aren’t bundled into the school’s calculated cost of attendance figure.

New Rules

The SAI comes along with new rules that allow financial aid administrators to make case-by-case adjustments to students’ financial aid calculations under special circumstances, such as a major recent change in income. The bill also reduces the number of questions on the FAFSA down to a maximum of 36 (formerly 108), removes questions about drug-related convictions (which can now disqualify applicants from receiving federal aid), and more.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

How Will the Student Aid Index Be Calculated?

The Student Aid Index will be calculated much the same as the Expected Family Contribution is calculated today, though the bill does include some updates to make the process easier.

For one thing, the bill works together with the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act to import income directly into a student’s FAFSA, simplifying the application process.

The new FAFSA will also automatically calculate whether or not a student’s assets need to be factored into the eligibility calculation, shortening the overall application and offering more students the opportunity to apply without having their assets considered.

The bill also removes the requirement that students register for the Selective Service in order to be eligible to receive need-based federal student aid.

Recommended: Getting Financial Aid When Your Parents Make Too Much

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What Is a Good Student Aid Index Score?

The Student Aid Index isn’t like a test or a report card—there aren’t really “good” or “bad” scores, or “scores” at all. It just depends on your personal financial landscape.

But just like the EFC, the lower the SAI, the more need-based aid a student may be qualified for. Since need-based aid includes grants, which don’t need to be repaid, and subsidized loans, whose interest is covered by Uncle Sam while you’re attending school, a lower SAI may translate into a lower overall college price tag.

How Will the Student Aid Index Be Used?

Like the EFC before it, the SAI will be used to help colleges determine a student’s financial need based on their financial demographics. Although the school itself may have its own grant programs and other types of aid, certain forms of federal student aid such as Pell Grants and Direct Subsidized Loans are offered based on demonstrable financial need, and the SAI is a key part of the calculation used to determine that need.

In short: the SAI will be used to determine how much financial aid a student is eligible to receive.

When Will the SAI Go Into Effect?

The SAI will be implemented in the 2024-2025 academic year. In the meantime, students will still use the same, extended FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid, and will still receive an EFC.

The Takeaway

The Student Aid Index is essentially the same number as the Expected Family Contribution, but it’s been renamed as part of the FAFSA Simplification Act in order to clarify to families what exactly the number means. This act also bundles in some other important changes that will hopefully simplify the overall student loan application process and increase access to education for the lowest-income students and their families.

Submitting the FAFSA and exhausting need-based federal student loan options, which tend to be the most generous to borrowers or grantees, is an important first step when it comes to funding a college education. But there are other tools in a student’s college-funding toolbox, as well.

Students can also apply for Direct Unsubsidized Loans from the government, which often have competitive interest rates and may offer more flexibility to postpone, lower, or forgive the repayment. Additionally, federal loans for undergraduate students don’t require a credit check to qualify, while private student loans usually do.

For those pursuing private student loan funding, SoFi offers no-fee student loan options for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents with competitive interest rates—not to mention the 0.25% discount for borrowers who set up autopay.

Could a SoFi student loan help fund your bright future? Learn more about options for undergraduates, graduate students, parents, and professionals.

Photo credit: iStock/SDI Productions

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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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


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How to Win a Bidding War

In housing markets teeming with buyer demand, it’s not uncommon to put an offer on a home only to be outdone by a competing offer. If two or more potential buyers want a property badly enough, they may find themselves locked in a bidding war.

The tea leaves indicate that 2023 will throw cold water on many bidding wars, but certain markets in the country could remain competitive.

Here’s how to increase your chances of winning a bidding war so you don’t have to bid adieu to a home you really want.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

1. Know How a Bidding War Works

Bidding wars usually take place in a seller’s market, when demand outpaces housing inventory. They also typically occur when there are multiple interested parties and when there is some sort of constraint, like timing.

When a seller’s agent receives offers for a property that has attracted a lot of buzz, the agent may set a date by which would-be buyers should make their “highest and best” offer. Sellers can accept the best offer, counter one offer while putting the others to the side while awaiting a decision, or counter one offer and reject the others.

This brings up a salient point: It’s true that you can buy a house without a Realtor® or real estate agent, but an experienced agent can guide you through offers and counteroffers, contingency snags, and more.

2. Line Up Your Financing

One of the best things you can do to be prepared for a potential bidding war — or really any time — is to get your finances, and financing, in order.

Be sure to know how much house you can afford, including a down payment and monthly payments.

Determine if you qualify for a mortgage and familiarize yourself with the types of home loans that are available: government-backed loan or conventional loan, fixed rate or adjustable rate.

Getting preapproved for a mortgage will give you a specific amount that a lender is tentatively willing to let you borrow.

And a preapproval letter shows sellers that you are a serious candidate to buy a home. Many experts recommend getting at least three preapproval letters from three lenders.

3. Lessen or Drop Contingencies

Contingencies are certain conditions that must be met before a real estate deal becomes binding. Potential buyers can back out of a deal without penalty if the contingencies aren’t met.

A clean offer, one with as few contingencies as possible, is attractive to sellers in a competitive market.

In a typical real estate market, a common contingency is the mortgage contingency, or financing contingency, which allows homebuyers to exit the deal and have their earnest money returned if they cannot secure financing by the agreed-upon deadline.

Another is the inspection contingency. Based on the findings of a professional inspection, the buyer may be able to negotiate repairs or the price, which are known as seller concessions if the sellers are agreeable, or cancel the contract.

Waiving contingencies shows your eagerness to triumph, but it comes with risk. The biggest is losing your earnest money deposit if you hit a snag.

4. Be Quick About These Contingencies

Sellers want to avoid spending a lot of time with a potential buyer only to have the deal fall through. If you’re including appraisal and inspection contingencies, do what you can to expedite them.

The real estate purchase contract includes any contingencies, the sales price, the closing date, and the date of the title transfer and possession. The contract is considered a working document until both parties agree on the terms.

5. Use an Escalation Clause

Unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to win a bidding war is by offering more money.

You may want to include an escalation clause in the contract if you assume there will be multiple offers.

The clause asserts that if another buyer makes a competing offer, your bid will automatically increase by a certain amount, up to a limit, to exceed the offer.

Say you put a $400,000 offer on a home, with an escalation amount of $10,000 and a ceiling of $430,000. If someone else bids $410,000, you will automatically bid $420,000, up to your ceiling.

6. Stay Flexible

A willingness to be flexible can give you a leg up in the eyes of a seller.

For example, a seller might be moving across the country for work and need to close by a specific date. So if you can get the appraisal and inspection done swiftly, that could be a huge plus.

Alternatively, sellers may need to stay in the house for a while. Working with them on their specific needs could give you an edge.

7. Pay With Cash

If you are able to do it, buying a house with cash can be very attractive to sellers. The process is typically much faster than going through a lender, and sellers don’t want to worry about financing issues that might hold up the deal or cause it to fall through.

It’s even possible that a seller would choose a cash offer over a slightly higher offer backed by a mortgage.

8. Increase Your Deposit

There are timeless standards for how to make an offer on a house. One is determining the size of your earnest money deposit.

The deposit, held in escrow by the title company, secures the real estate contract. It tells the seller that you are serious about buying the house.

Earnest money is typically 1% to 3% of the purchase price but can be more in a competitive market. If you close on the home, the deposit will be applied to your closing costs.

9. Write a Personal Letter

When sellers are choosing a buyer during a bidding war, they’re often just looking at numbers on a page. Consider writing a real estate offer letter, aka love letter, to humanize the transaction.

You might want to make a case for why you’re the ideal candidate to buy the home, and note commonalities: You’re a ceramicist and noticed an artist’s studio in the backyard. You have dogs; they have a dog. That big elm reminds you of the one at your childhood home.

Be complimentary about the things you like about the house and how it has been maintained. And be concise.

The Takeaway

Whether you’re buying in a time of burgeoning bidding wars or not, it’s good to know how they work. The tactics help homebuyers understand the lay of the real estate land: contingencies, earnest money, escalation clauses, love letters.

If you’re gearing up for a bidding war or a peaceful purchase, see what SoFi Mortgages are all about. The rates are competitive. A number of repayment terms are offered. And qualifying first-time homebuyers can put as little as 3% down.

Getting prequalified is the first step.

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

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


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Crypto Tax Guide 2023: How to Report Crypto on Your Taxes

Make no mistake: You need to report your crypto activity on your tax return. Cryptocurrency has become very popular in recent years, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the IRS. If you were active in the crypto markets over the past year, you’ll need to report it on your tax return, or risk being penalized.

Because of this, it’s important that investors know the basics regarding filing and paying taxes on their cryptocurrency investments, which includes reporting their trading activity and income.

How Cryptocurrency Taxes Work

One of the most important things investors need to know before investing in cryptocurrency is how crypto taxes work. Additionally, investors should be aware that classification of cryptocurrencies varies depending on the federal government agency overseeing the investment activity.

The IRS defines cryptocurrencies as digital assets, and that includes non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and stablecoins, too. Despite the fact that crypto is often thought of as a currency, they are not considered currency for federal tax purposes.

Instead, transactions of cryptocurrencies are treated as property, like stocks, bonds, and other capital assets. So, when someone uses, sells, or is paid in a cryptocurrency, they are generally required to pay taxes on their realized gains.

Note, though, that even as the IRS treats cryptocurrencies as property for tax purposes, this categorization is not consistent across all federal government agencies.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), for example, classifies cryptocurrencies as a commodity when regulating a variety of crypto-related trading markets. The CFTC oversees cryptocurrencies when they are “used in a derivatives contract, or if there is fraud or manipulation involving a virtual currency traded in interstate commerce.”

In contrast, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) attempts to regulate different cryptocurrencies as securities and investors can be subject to securities laws.

In all, there’s something of a turf war happening in Washington D.C. over crypto regulation. But for taxpayers, the most important thing to know is that crypto is considered “property” by the IRS, and investors will need to report it as such on their tax returns.

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Crypto?

Investors are required to pay capital gain taxes on cryptocurrency when selling, trading, or disposing of their holdings. Additionally, cryptocurrencies can be taxed as income if an individual receives the crypto as a gift, from mining, or for services rendered. There are different types of income, and crypto income is among them.

So, there are two types of taxes potentially at play.

However, not all crypto transactions result in a tax liability. These nontaxable events include buying crypto with cash and holding it, donating it to a qualified charity or non-profit, or transferring crypto to yourself between wallets or accounts. In effect, investors need to realize a gain or loss.

Situations When You’ll Need to Pay Taxes on Crypto

•   Cryptocurrency is sold for cash: When an investor sells cryptocurrency for government-backed currency (fiat currency) and makes a profit, the investor will have to pay capital gains taxes on the proceeds, just as they would on the sale of a share of stock.

•   Cryptocurrency is used to purchase a good or service: If an individual uses their cryptocurrency to buy a new car or pay for a haircut, they will likely owe capital gains taxes on the purchase. To the IRS, using crypto to buy something is the same as selling it for cash, because the crypto needs to be sold for dollars before it can be used to exchange for a good or service. This creates a “realized” gain.

•   Exchanging cryptocurrencies: Converting or exchanging one crypto for another is comparable to selling the one to purchase the other. As a result, the investor may have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of the first crypto, if it was sold for a profit.

•   Being paid in cryptocurrency: If an individual decides to be paid in cryptocurrency, they will need to pay income taxes on that income (just as if they were being paid in dollars) which will depend on their individual tax bracket.

•   Mining cryptocurrency: The proceeds from mining Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are typically taxed as income. It’s also possible for the proceeds of some miners to be taxed as business income.

•   Crypto is acquired via an “airdrop” or “hard fork”: In the event of a crypto airdrop or hard fork that results in new coins, those new coins are taxed as income.

Is Crypto Investing Taxed as Income?

Crypto investing is taxed more or less the same way that investing in stocks, ETFs, or other securities is taxed. That is, tax liabilities are generated when an investor disposes of their holdings by selling or exchanging them. Only then do they have both a purchase price (cost basis) and a disposal price, which can be positive or negative ( a gain or a loss).

From there, capital gains taxes can be calculated, similar to how things work with traditional investment tax rules.

Crypto is taxed as income under a few select circumstances, as discussed. So, no, crypto investing itself isn’t taxed as income, but that doesn’t mean that crypto itself is never taxed as income.

How Much Do I Owe in Crypto Taxes?

The amount of crypto taxes owed varies depending on an investor’s income, tax filing status, and the length of time that an investor owned a crypto asset before selling it. Additionally, the type of crypto transaction affects what tax rate an individual will be charged. As mentioned above, some situations result in a capital gains tax liability, and others an income tax liability.

Long-Term Capital Gains Crypto Tax Rates for 2023

If an investor owned a cryptocurrency for more than 365 days before selling or using it, the proceeds of the transaction are taxed at the long-term capital gains tax rate. Here are the cryptocurrency capital gains rates on long-term gains for the 2022 tax year (taxes filed in 2023):

Long-Term Capital Gains Tax Rates for 2022

Tax Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
0% $0-$41,675 $0-$83,350 $0-$41,675 $0-$55,800
15% $41,675-$459,750 $83,350-$517,200 $41,675-$258,600 $54,101-$488,500
20% >$459,750 >$517,200 >$258,600 >$488,500

Source: Internal Revenue Service

Short-Term Capital Gains Crypto Tax Rates for 2023

If an investor owned a cryptocurrency for less than a year before selling it or using it, the gains are taxed as ordinary income. Additionally, if an individual was paid in crypto, mined crypto, or received crypto via an airdrop, they are taxed as ordinary income. Here are the income tax brackets for the 2022 tax year (taxes filed in 2023):

Short-Term Capital Gains and Income Tax Rates for 2022

Tax Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
10% $0-$10,275 $0-$20,550 $0-$10,275 $0-$14,650
12% $10,275-$41,775 $20,550-$83,550 $10,275-$41,775 $14,650-$55,900
22% $41,775-$89,075 $83,550-$178,150 $41,775-$89,075 $55,900-$89,050
24% $89,075-$170,050 $178,150-$340,100 $89,075-$170,050 $89,050-$170,050
32% $170,050-$215,950 $340,100-$431,900 $170,050-$215,950 $170,050-$215,950
35% $215,950-$539,900 $431,900-$647,850 $215,950-$539,900 $215,950-$539,900
37% >$539,900 >$647,850 >$539,900 >$539,900

Source: Internal Revenue Service

How to File Taxes on Cryptocurrencies

The most important thing for investors to understand is that they are required to report crypto holdings, gains, and losses to the IRS when filing their tax returns. If a cryptocurrency return is generated — positive or negative — or some type of income is realized from holdings, your crypto activity will need to be reported to the IRS. This is why it’s important to keep track of any and all crypto transactions.

Here are the basic steps to take when filing taxes on cryptocurrencies.

•   Determine what, if anything, is owed. If an investor completed a crypto transaction (selling, exchanging, or using to purchase a good or service), it is likely that it generated a tax liability.

•   Record and report transactions. All cryptocurrency transactions will need to be reported on your tax return. Like with stocks and other investments, the IRS requires a paper trail to ensure an individual reports their full tax liability. In some cases, crypto exchange will provide the transaction history for the investor via a 1099 form, or something similar.

•   File the correct forms with your tax return. The IRS requires specific forms depending on the activity an individual has conducted with their crypto. That could include making calculations on Form 8949 , and then reporting the results on Schedule D of Form 1040 , which outlines and summarizes capital gains or losses

Filing Crypto Taxes on Your Own

It is possible to figure out your crypto tax liabilities, and file on your own. But know that many experts may recommend against this, especially if you’re a particularly active crypto investor or trader. That’s because there can simply be so much information that needs to be reported, that it can be overwhelming for the typical person, and thus, hard to keep track of.

There are services that can help you keep track of your transactions, but if you’re using multiple exchanges or brokerages, and even some decentralized exchanges, you may miss a portion of your activity that needs to be reported.

If you only have a handful of crypto transactions to account for, you may be able to file your crypto taxes yourself. But it may be best to reach out to professionals for help.

How to Lower Crypto Tax Liability

If an investor is looking to lower their crypto tax liability (who isn’t looking for ways to reduce income taxes, and other taxes?), there are several options. Many of the same strategies that are used for traditional investments, like stocks, apply to crypto holdings. Here are a few examples:

Buy and Hold

The buy-and-hold strategy can help investors take advantage of the long-term capital gains tax rate, which is lower than the short-term capital gains tax rate as noted above. When an investor holds on to their crypto for at least one year, their tax rate for the crypto will be lower than if they sold within the first year.

Tax-Loss Harvesting

If a loss is realized on a crypto transaction, it can be used to offset the gains made on other holdings. This is called “tax-loss harvesting,” and is a common tactic used to lower tax liabilities on other investments. However, if an investor’s crypto is somehow stolen or lost, they are out of luck and won’t be able to apply the loss against their gains to lower their liability.

Investors can use tax-loss harvesting for their crypto holdings to offset as much as $3,000 in non-investment income. If they’ve incurred losses beyond that limit, they can carry forward those losses to use in future years.

Also, investors who are concerned about triggering wash sale rules in regards to their crypto sales have no reason to fear. Under current rules, wash sales do not apply to cryptocurrencies. (Though it’s generally expected that this will change at some point in the future.)

Charitable Donations

The IRS classifies crypto as property, and property donations are tax-deductible, and not subject to capital gains taxes.

Here’s how this might work in an investor’s favor: If an investor bought a Bitcoin for $10,000 more than a year ago, and it now has a value of $35,000, they would owe capital gains taxes on that $25,000 gain if they cashed out. But by donating it, they can avoid those capital gains taxes and also take a deduction “generally equal to the fair market value of the virtual currency at the time of the donation if you have held the virtual currency for more than one year,” according to the IRS .

Buy and Sell Cryptocurrency in 401(k) or IRA

Some tax-advantaged retirement accounts like a 401(k) or an IRA allow investors to add cryptocurrencies into their portfolios. In these accounts, no annual taxes are assessed on the transactions, since they enjoy tax-free growth. Investors can therefore take advantage of these benefits to trade within the accounts and not be taxed on every transaction.

However, depending on the type of account used, an investor may face taxes upon withdrawal. For instance, if you were to withdraw money from an IRA account prior to reaching age 59.5, you’d be subject to a 10% penalty.

Recommended: Guide to Bitcoin IRA: Pros, Cons, and What to Know

The Takeaway

Investors need to report their crypto activity to the IRS, and pay applicable tax liabilities. Most crypto activity is subject to capital gains taxes, but depending on the circumstances outlined above, cryptocurrency transactions and investments may be taxed as property, like stocks, or as income.

Investors should keep this in mind, remembering that cryptocurrency tax situations are nuanced and complicated. For that reason, it may be best to reach out to a tax professional for help when filing your taxes. But by keeping track of your crypto holdings and transactions, managing your cryptocurrency tax liabilities shouldn’t be too difficult.


How much are crypto taxes?

The amount an investor owes in crypto taxes depends on several factors, including how much trading they did, and how much they profited from those trades. Income taxes may also be applicable, too.

When do your taxes for crypto investments need to be filed?

Investors need to report and pay applicable crypto taxes at the same time that they file their tax return. Generally, that’s due by mid-April, on Tax Day. Investors can ask for an extension, or even sign up for an installment plan if they can’t afford to pay their crypto taxes.

What happens if you don’t pay your crypto taxes?

If you don’t pay your crypto taxes (or fail to report your crypto activity to the IRS), you could incur financial penalties, or even jail time. If caught, you could be facing audits of several years’ of tax returns, and even face serious charges, such as tax evasion.

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Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.

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.

2Terms and conditions apply. Earn a bonus (as described below) when you open a new SoFi Digital Assets LLC account and buy at least $50 worth of any cryptocurrency within 7 days. The offer only applies to new crypto accounts, is limited to one per person, and expires on December 31, 2023. Once conditions are met and the account is opened, you will receive your bonus within 7 days. SoFi reserves the right to change or terminate the offer at any time without notice.

First Trade Amount Bonus Payout
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$100 $499.99 $15
$500 $4,999.99 $50
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What Is an Equal-Weighted Index? How to Calculate It

An equal-weight index gives each constituent the same weight in the index, versus a market-cap-weighted or price-weighted index, where bigger companies (or those trading at higher prices) hold a larger share of the index.

Equal weighting strives to equalize the impact of each company’s performance on the overall index. Traditional market-cap weighting tends to give bigger companies more influence over outcomes.

Equal-weight investing is a smart beta strategy that may appeal to certain types of investors more than others. This article will delve deep into equal-weight investing, including:

•   What Is an Equal Weighted Index?

•   How to Calculate an Equal Weighted Index.

•   Advantages of Using an Equally Weighted Index.

•   Disadvantages of Using an Equally Weighted Index.

What Is an Equal-Weighted Index?

A stock market index tracks the performance of a specific group of stocks or a particular sector of the market. For example, the S&P 500 Composite Stock Price Index tracks the movements of 500 companies that are recognized as leaders within their respective industries.

Stock market indices are often price-weighted or capitalization-weighted.

•   In a price-weighted index, the stocks that have the highest share price carry the most weight. In a capitalization-weighted index, the stocks with the highest market capitalization carry the most weight.

•   Market capitalization represents the value of a company as measured by multiplying the current share price by the total number of outstanding shares.

While some investors may wish to invest in stocks, others may be interested in mutual funds or index funds, which are like a container holding many stocks.

How Equal Weighting Works

An equal-weighted index is a stock market index that gives equal value to all the stocks that are included in it. In other words, each stock in the index has the same importance when determining the index’s value, regardless of whether the company is large or small, or how much shares are trading for.

An equally weighted index essentially puts all of the stocks included in the index on a level playing field when determining the value of the index. With a price-weighted or capitalization-weighted index, on the other hand, higher-priced stocks and larger companies tend to dominate the index’s makeup — and thereby dictate or influence the overall performance of that index.

This in turn influences the performance of corresponding index funds, which track that particular index. Because index funds mirror a benchmark index, they are considered a form of passive investing.

Most exchange traded funds (ETFs) are passive funds that also track an index. Now there are a growing number of actively managed ETFs. While equal-weight ETFs are considered a smart beta strategy, they aren’t fully passive or active in the traditional sense. These funds do track an index, but some active management is required to rebalance the fund and keep the constituents equally weighted.

Examples of Equal-Weight Funds

Equal-weight exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have grown more common as an increasing number of investors show interest in equal-weight funds. Equal weight falls under the umbrella of smart-beta strategies, which refers to any non-market-capitalization strategy.

The term “smart beta” doesn’t mean a particular strategy is better or more effective than others.

Equal-weight funds, for example, are designed to shift the weight of an index and its corresponding funds away from big cap players, which can unduly influence the performance of the index/fund. And while an equal-weight strategy may have improved fund performance in some instances, the results are inconsistent.

Here is a list of the top five equal-weight ETFs by assets under management (AUM), according to ETF.com.

1.    Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (RSP )

2.    SPDR S&P Biotech (XBI )

3.    SPDR S&P Oil and Gas Exploration and Production (XOP )

4.    SPDR S&P Global Natural Resources ETF (GNR )

5.    First Trust Cloud Computing ETF (SKYY )

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How to Calculate Equal-Weighted Index

To calculate equal weighted index, you need to know two things:

•   The share price of each stock that’s included in the index

•   Total number of stocks included in the index

If you’re calculating an equally weighted index value for an index that has five stocks in it, each one would be weighted 20%, regardless of its stock price or market capitalization. To find an equal-weighted index value, you would simply add the share price of each stock together, then multiply it by the weight.

So for example, say an index has five stocks priced at $100, $50, $75, $90 and $85. Each one would be weighted at 20%.

Following the formula, you would add each stock’s price together for a total of $400. You’d then multiply that by the 20% weighting to arrive at an equal-weighted value of 80.

As fund turnover occurs and new assets are exchanged for old ones, or as share prices fluctuate, the equally weighted index value must be recalculated.

The equally weighted index formula can be used to determine the value of a particular index. You may want to do this when determining which index ETF to invest in or whether it makes sense to keep a particular index mutual fund in your portfolio.

Advantages of Using an Equally Weighted Index

An index investing strategy might be preferable if you lean toward more conservative investments or you simply want exposure to a broad market index without concentrating on a handful of stocks. That’s something you’re less likely to get with mutual funds or ETFs that follow a price-weighted or capitalization-weighted index.

Here are some of the reasons to consider an equal-weighted index approach:

•   An equal-weight strategy can increase diversification in your portfolio while potentially minimizing exposure to risk.

•   It’s relatively easy to construct an equally weighted portfolio using index mutual funds and ETFs.

•   It may appeal to value investors, since there’s less room for overpriced stocks to be overweighted and undervalued stocks to be underweighted.

•   Equal-weighted indices may potentially generate better or more incremental returns over time compared to price-weighted or capitalization-weighted indices, but there are no guarantees.

Disadvantages of Using Equally Weighted Index

While there are some pros to using an equal weighted approach, it may not always be the best choice depending on your investment goals. In terms of potential drawbacks, there are two big considerations to keep in mind:

•   Equal-weighted index funds or ETFs that have a higher turnover rate may carry higher expenses for investors.

   There is typically a constant buying and selling of assets that goes on behind the scenes to keep an equal-weighted mutual fund or ETF in balance.

   Higher turnover ratios, i.e. how often assets in the fund are swapped in and out, can lead to higher expense ratios if a fund requires more active management. The expense ratio is the price you pay to own a mutual fund or ETF annually, expressed as a percentage of the fund’s assets. The higher the expense ratio, the more of your returns you hand back each year to cover the cost of owning a particular fund.

•   Equal-weighted indices can also be problematic in bear market environments, which are characterized by an overall 20% decline in stock prices. During a recession, cap-weighted funds may outperform equal-weighted funds if the fund is being carried by a few stable, larger companies.

◦   Conversely, an equal-weighted index or fund may miss out on some of the gains when markets are strong and bigger companies outperform.



Can increase diversification Will typically have higher costs
Constructing an equal-weight portfolio is straightforward May see outsize declines in bear markets
Equal-weight strategies may appeal to value investors May not realize full market gains
Equal-weight strategies may perform better than traditional strategies, but there are no guarantees

The Takeaway

In an equal-weight index, each stock counts equally toward the index’s value, regardless of whether the company is large or small, or what shares are currently trading for. The same is true of any corresponding fund.

There are advantages to investing in an equal-weight index fund over a capitalization-weighted index or price-weighted index. For example, equal-weighted indices may generate better or more consistent returns. Investing in an equal-weight index may be appealing to investors who prefer a value investing strategy or who want to diversify their portfolio to minimize risk.

With a SoFi Invest online trading account, you can begin building your portfolio using SoFi’s streamlined, secure investing app. You can follow a DIY path by choosing which stocks or ETFs to invest in, in addition to many other options including fractional shares, IPO shares, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge any commission, and members have access to complimentary financial advice from professionals.

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


How do equal-weight ETFs work?

Like an equal-weight index, an equal-weight ETF holds the same proportion of each of its constituents, which in theory may equalize the impact of different companies’ performance.

When should you buy equal-weighted ETFs?

If you’d like to invest in a certain sector, but you don’t want to be riding the coattails of the biggest companies in that sector because you see the value in other players, you may want to consider an equal-weight ETF.

What is the equally weighted index return?

The return of an equally weighted index would be captured by the performance of an investment in a corresponding index fund or ETF. So if you invest $100 in Equal Weight Fund A, which tracks an equal weight index, and the fund goes up or down by 5%, you would see a 5% gain or loss.

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


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What Is Mortgage Underwriting?

Underwriters are a bit like jurors: They soberly weigh the evidence and render a verdict. Unlike jurors, underwriters sometimes reach out to those they are, well, judging to add information, clarify a matter, or otherwise help the case for mortgage approval.

If it’s a “yes” to the address, underwriting has found that you’re fiscally fit enough to take on a mortgage and that it’s a manageable size.

By learning about underwriting, you’ll be prepared for the document-gathering and hurdles ahead.

What Does an Underwriter Do?

Underwriters protect a bank, credit union, or mortgage company by making sure that they only give loan approval to aspiring homeowners who have a good chance of paying the lender back.

Here are some of their tasks:

•   Verify documents and financial information and make sure that enough savings exist to supplement income or contribute toward the down payment.

•   Check an applicant’s credit score and history and note any bankruptcies, late payments, a lot of debt, or other red flags.

•   Calculate the debt-to-income ratio by adding up monthly debt payments and dividing that number by monthly pretax income.

•   Request additional documents and ask questions if necessary. For example, if a homebuyer has had more than one job over the past year and their income is not consistent, an underwriter may want to see more assets.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

What Is the Underwriting Process?

The mortgage-seeking journey is a winding path that eventually arrives at the underwriter.

Automated underwriting may approve your loan application, though a human underwriter will verify your application and documentation. If the software refers your application to manual underwriting, that’s usually a slower process.

Here are common steps leading to underwriting:

1. Explore your budget. Prequalifying for a mortgage is a quick act that will provide a ballpark figure, based on self-reported financial info. And you can employ a home affordability calculator to get a feel for your top price.

Think, too, about lender questions you’ll have during the mortgage process.

2. Get preapproved for a loan. Shop around for the best deal, and best-fitting loan, with a mortgage broker or direct lender.

This is the time to submit documentation of your income, employment, assets, and debts and allow a hard pull of your credit scores. What credit score is needed to buy a house? Much depends on whether you plan to use a conventional or government-backed mortgage loan (an FHA loan is especially more lenient).

A mortgage preapproval letter, often good for 30 to 90 days, indicates the lender’s willingness to lend you a particular amount at a tentative or locked interest rate. A preapproval letter also allows a buyer to act quickly in a seller’s market.

3. Go house hunting. You find a home that meets your needs, and agree on a price.

4. Apply for the loan. You may choose one of the lenders you gained preapproval from, or another lender, to apply for the mortgage. You’ll receive a loan estimate within three business days from each lender you apply with.

If you go with one of the former, you submitted documents in order to get preapproved. Still, the lender will likely ask for further documentation now that you’re ready to act on a purchase, and will take another look at your credit.

5. Wait for the underwriting verdict. A loan processor will confirm your information, and then it’s time for the underwriter to review your credit scores and history, employment history, income, debts, assets, and mortgage amount.

The underwriter will order an appraisal of the chosen property and get a copy of the title insurance, which shows that there are no liens or judgments. Finally, the underwriter will consider your down payment.

Then comes the decision: approved, suspended (more documentation is needed), or denied.

Required Information for Underwriting

Lenders are going to request a lot of documents from mortgage loan applicants.

Income verification. The lender will want to see W-2s from the past two years, your two most recent bank statements, and two most recent pay stubs. Those who are self-employed will need to document stable work and payments and ideally have a business website. Applicants will typically need to show evidence of at least two years of self-employment income in the same field.

Any additional income. Pension, Social Security, alimony, dividends, and the like all count.

Proof of assets. This can include checking and savings accounts, real estate, retirement savings, and personal property. A lender might want to see that a down payment and closing costs have been in an applicant’s account for a while.

Debts. Your debt-to-income ratio matters greatly, so list all monthly debt payments, each creditor’s name and address, account numbers, loan balances, and minimum payment amounts.

Gift letter. If you’ve received money from a family member or another person to put toward the house, the lender will request a gift letter for the mortgage and proof of that funding in your account.

Rent payments. Renters will likely need to show evidence of payments for the past 12 months and give contact information for landlords for two years.

How Long Does Underwriting Take?

Underwriting may take a couple of days to more than a week. It all depends on how complicated someone’s finances are and how busy an underwriter is.

Thankfully, underwriters typically do everything online these days, so an applicant can upload documents to a website or simply email them.

How Can I Improve My Chance of Approval?

Before applicants try to get a mortgage, they can take a number of steps to improve their chances of getting approved.

Lighten the debt load. It’s critical to pay off as much debt as possible and to try to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30%, though some lenders like to see a ratio below 25%.

Applicants can pay off debt faster by making a budget, using cash instead of credit cards to make purchases, and negotiating interest rates with creditors.

Look at credit reports. Applicants should also scour their credit reports and fix any mistakes so that their score is as high as possible. Federal law guarantees the right to access credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus annually for free.

The reports show only credit history, not credit scores. There are ways to monitor your credit scores and track your money at no cost.

Attempt to boost income. Applicants may want to apply for higher-paying jobs or get to know the benefits of a side hustle so they can save more money.

Ask for a gift or loan partner. You could also ask a family member for a gift to put toward the down payment, or you could ask a relative with a stable credit history and income if they would apply for the loan as a co-borrower or cosigner.

With an underwriter extending a hand, a solution may be found that leads to approval.

The Takeaway

Ready to apply for a mortgage? Prepare for a probing look at your private life — the financial one — by an underwriter, who is gauging the risk of lending you a bundle of money. The underwriter looks at a homebuyer’s finances and history, the loan amount, and the chosen property and renders a verdict.

Mortgage shoppers should add SoFi home loans to their list. Why? Click on the link to see all the life-enhancing perks.

And then find your rate in just minutes.

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


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