What Is Compliance Testing for 401k?

What Is Compliance Testing for 401k?

To maintain the tax-advantages of a 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plan, employers must follow the rules established by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974, including nondiscrimination testing.

Compliance testing ensures that companies administer their 401(k) plans in a fair and equal manner that benefits all employees, rather than just executives and owners. In other words, a 401(k) plan can’t favor one group of employees over another.

Companies must test their plans yearly and address any compliance flaws surfaced by the tests. Often a third-party plan administrator or recordkeeper helps plan sponsors carry out the tests.

Understanding nondiscrimination tests for retirement plans is important both as an employer and as an employee.

401(k) Compliance Testing Explained

Compliance testing is a process that determines whether a company is fairly administering its 401(k) plan under ERISA rules. ERISA mandates nondiscrimination testing for retirement plans to demonstrate that they don’t favor highly compensated employees or key employees, such as company owners. Compliance testing for 401(k) plans is the responsibility of the company that offers the plan.

How 401(k) Compliance Testing Works

Companies apply three different compliance tests to the plan each year. These tests look at how much income employees defer into the plan, how much the employer 401(k) match adds up to, and what percentage of assets in the plan belong to key employees and highly compensated employees versus what belongs to non-highly compensated employees.

There are three nondiscrimination testing standards employers must apply to qualified retirement plans.

•   The Actual Deferral Percentage (ADP) Test: Analyzes how much income employees defer into the plan

•   The Actual Contribution Percentage (ACP): Analyzes employers contributions to the plan on behalf of employees

•   Top-Heavy Test: Anayzes how participation by key employees compares to participation by other employees

The Actual Deferral Percentage (ADP) Test

The Actual Deferral Percentage (ADP) test counts elective deferrals of highly compensated employees and non-highly compensated employees. This includes both pre-tax and Roth deferrals but not catch-up contributions made to the plan. This 401(k) compliance test measures engagement in the plan based on how much of their salary each group defers into it on a yearly basis.

To run the test, employers average the deferral percentages of both highly compensated employees and non-highly compensated employees to determine the ADP for each group. Then the employer divides each plan participant’s elective deferrals by their compensation to get their Actual Deferral Ratio (ADR). The average ADR for all eligible employees of each group represents the ADP for that group.

A company passes the Actual Deferral Percentage test if the ADP for the eligible highly compensated employees doesn’t exceed the greater of:

•   125% of the ADP for the group of non-highly compensated employees Or

•   The lesser of 200% of the ADP for the group of non-highly compensated employees or the ADP for those employees plus 2%

The Actual Contribution Percentage (ACP) Test

Plans that make matching contributions to their employees’ 401(k) must also administer the Actual Contribution Percentage (ACP) test. Companies calculate this the same way as the ADP test but they substitute each participant’s matching and after-tax contributions for elective deferrals when doing the math.

This test reveals how much the employer contributes to each participant’s plan as a percentage, based on their W-2 income. Companies pass the Actual Contribution Percentage test if the ACP for the eligible highly compensated employees doesn’t exceed the greater of:

•   125% of the ACP for the group of non-highly compensated employees OR

•   The lesser of 200% of the ACP for the group of non-highly compensated employees or the ACP for those employees plus 2%

Companies may run both the ADP and ACP tests using prior year or current-year contributions.

Top-Heavy Test

The Top-Heavy test targets key employees within an organization who contribute to qualified retirement plans. The IRS defines a key employee as any current, former or deceased employee who at any time during the plan year was:

•   An officer making over $200,000 for 2022 ($185,000 for 2021 and 2020)

•   A 5% owner of the business OR

•   An employee owning more than 1% of the business and making over $150,000 for the plan year

Anyone who doesn’t fit these standards is a non-key employee. Top-heavy ensures that lower-paid employees receive a minimum benefit if the plan is too top-heavy.

Under IRS rules, a plan is top heavy if on the last day of the prior plan year the total value of plan accounts for key employees is more than 60% of the total value of plan assets. If the plan is top heavy the employer must contribute up to 3% of compensation for all non-key employees still employed on the last day of the plan year. This is designed to bring plan assets back into a fair balance.

Why 401(k) Compliance Testing Is Necessary

Compliance testing in 401(k)s ensures that investing for retirement is as fair as possible for all participants in the plan, and that the plan continues to receive favorable tax treatment from the IRS. The compliance testing rules prevent employers from favoring highly compensated employees or key employees over non-highly compensated employees and non-key employees.

If a company fails a 401(k) compliance test, then they have to remedy that under IRS rules or risk the plan losing its tax-advantaged status. This is a strong incentive to fix any issues with non-compliant plans as it can cost employers valuable tax benefits.

Nondiscrimination testing can help employers determine participation across different groups of their workers. It can also shed light on what employees are deferring each year, in accordance with annual 401k plan contribution limits.

Highly Compensated Employees

The IRS defines highly compensated employees for the purposes of ADP and ACP nondiscrimination tests. Someone is a highly compensated employee if they:

•   Owned more than 5% of the interest in the business at any time during the year or the preceding year, regardless of how much compensation they earned or received, OR

•   Received compensation from the business of more than $130,000 (if the preceding year is 2021 or 2020) or $135,000 (if the preceding is 2022) and, if the employer so chooses, was in the top 20% of employees when ranked by compensation

If an employee doesn’t meet at least one of these conditions, they’re considered non-highly compensated. This distinction is important when compliance testing 401(k) plans, as the categorization into can impact ADP and ACP testing outcomes.

Non-Highly Compensated Employees

Non-highly compensated employees are any employees who don’t meet the compensation or ownership tests, as established by the IRS for designated highly compensated employees. So in other words, a non-highly compensated employee would own less than 5% of the interest in the company or have compensation below the guidelines outlined above.

Again, it’s important to understand who is a non-highly compensated employee when applying nondiscrimination tests. Employers who misidentify their employees run the risk of falling out of 401(k) compliance. Likewise, as an employee, it’s important to understand which category you fall into and how that might affect the amount you’re able to contribute and/or receive in matching contributions each year.

How to Fix a Non-Compliant 401(k)

The IRS offers solutions for employers who determine that their 401(k) is not compliant, based on the results of the ADP, ACP or Top-Heavy tests. When a plan fails the ADP or ACP test, the IRS recommends the following:

•   Refunding contributions made by highly compensated employees in order to bring average contribution rates in alignment with testing standards

•   Making qualified nonelective contributions on behalf of non-highly compensated employees in order to bring their average contributions up in order to pass test

Employers can also choose to do a combination of both to pass both the ADP and ACP tests. In the case of the Top-Heavy test, the employer must make qualified nonelective contributions of up to 3% of compensation for non-highly compensated employees.

Companies can also avoid future noncompliance issues by opting to make safe harbor contributions. Safe harbor plans do not have to conduct ADP and ACP testing, and they can also be exempt from the Top-Heavy test if they’re not profit sharing plans. Under safe harbor rules, employers can do one of the following:

•   Match each eligible employee’s contribution on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to 3% of the employee’s compensation and 50 cents on the dollar for contributions that exceed 3% but not 5% of their compensation.

•   Make a nonelective contribution equal to 3% of compensation to each eligible employee’s account.

Safe harbor rules can relieve some of the burden of yearly 401(k) testing while offering tax benefits to both employers and employees.

The Takeaway

A 401(k) represents one of the most valuable links in the chain when planning retirement goals. Part of the value of a 401(k) is its tax-preferred status, so it’s important for employers to conduct IRS-mandated compliance testing in order to maintain that tax treatment. However, the 401(k) is not the only way to save for retirement in a tax-favored way.

If you don’t have a 401(k) at work, however, or you’re hoping to supplement your 401(k) savings you may consider opening your first Individual Retirement Account (IRA) instead. Since IRAs are not employer-sponsored, they’re not subject to 401(k) compliance testing, though they do have to follow IRS rules regarding annual contribution limits and distributions. An easy way to open an IRA online is by creating an investment account on the SoFi Invest app.


What is top-heavy testing for 401(k)?

Top-heavy testing for 401(k) plans determine what percentage of plan assets are held by key employees versus non-key employees. If an employer’s plan fails the top-heavy test, they must make qualified, nonelective contributions on behalf of non-key employees in order to bring the plan into compliance.

What happens if you fail 401(k) testing?

If an employer-sponsored plan fails 401(k) compliance testing, the IRS requires the plan to make adjustments in order to become compliant. This can involve refunding contributions made by highly-compensated employees, making qualified nonelective contributions on behalf of non-highly compensated employees or a combination of the two.

What is a highly compensated employee for 401(k) purposes?

The IRS defines a highly compensated employee using two tests based on compensation and company ownership. An employee is highly compensated if they have a 5% or more ownership interest in the business or their income exceeds a specific limit for the preceding year. Income limits are set by the IRS and updated periodically.

Photo credit: iStock/tumsasedgars

SoFi Invest®
SoFi Invest refers to the two investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
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, including state licensure of SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, 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. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.


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How to Invest in CDs: A Beginner’s Guide

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.

CDs can be used as a part of a portfolio’s cash allocation — and 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 mitigate your risk exposure in other areas.

If you’re wondering about how to invest in CDs, it’s important to know how they work and where they might fit in your investment plan.

Recommended: What is considered a good return on investment?

Are CDs a Smart Investment? 4 Things to Know

Investing in CDs can be a smart way to go, if they suit your goals. 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.

1. A fixed deposit for a set time period

First, you 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.

As of December 2021, the average rate for a 1-year CD was about 0.51%; the average rate for a 5-year CD was 0.86%. But the interest rate can vary considerably, depending on the institution.

The money in a CD is protected by the same federal insurance 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, 90 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.

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.

Types of CDs: 6 Other Options

The details above describe 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

Let’s say you don’t have the specific amount required to open a CD. Another option is 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. This 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 U.S. 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.

CDs in an Investment Plan

Wondering how to invest in CDs? 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. (Note: Some investors use a similar strategy with bond ladders.)

Hypothetically, let’s 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.

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 1 year), 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.

Bullet CDs

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 when they are purchased through an FDIC-insured bank or an NCUA-insured credit union. If the CD-issuing bank failed, your deposits would be covered up to $250,000.


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, as discussed above (e.g. bump-up CDs and add-on CDs). But, as always, be sure to check the terms.

Drawbacks of Investing in CDs

Of course, like any other investment CDs come with their share of potential risks and problems.


One of the main drawbacks of a CD is that most of them are relatively illiquid. 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.


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.

Is Investing in CDs a Good Fit for Me?

Investing in CDs may be a good fit for you if you’re looking for a relatively low-risk way to invest cash for a modest but predictable return.

Investing in CDs does require that you be able to tolerate certain constraints:

•  Your money is typically not available until the CD matures (or you could incur a penalty).

•  The interest rate is guaranteed, in most cases, but you may forfeit the option to invest at a higher rate.

•  The opportunity cost of CDs is important to weigh: When your money is locked up in a CD it can’t be invested elsewhere for a potentially higher return. But if you invested in securities that might provide a higher return, these would likely come with additional risk exposure.

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.

While investing in a CD means your cash is off limits until the CD matures, the money also grows at a predictable rate, making it easy to fit CDs into your financial plan. It’s also possible to combine CDs using different strategies like a CD ladder to create an income stream or maximize different interest rates over time.

When you think of CDs as part of your overall portfolio, they can offer some diversification that may help offset risk factors in other areas. Thinking of investing in more than just CDs? You can open an online investing account with SoFi Invest®, and start investing in stocks and ETFs. And as a SoFi Member, you would also have access to complimentary financial advice from professionals who can answer more of your questions.

Opening an account with SoFi Invest is fast and easy.

SoFi Invest®
SoFi Invest refers to the two investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
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, including state licensure of SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, 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. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.


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Roth 401(k) vs Traditional 401(k): Which Is Best for You?

A traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k) are tax-advantaged retirement plans that can help you save for retirement. While both types of accounts follow similar rules — they have the same contribution limits, for example — the impact of a Roth vs. traditional 401(k) on your tax situation, now and in the future, may be quite different.

In brief: The contributions you make to a traditional 401(k) are deducted from your gross income, and thus may help lower your tax bill. But you’ll owe taxes on the money you withdraw later for retirement.

Conversely, you contribute after-tax funds to a Roth 401(k) and can withdraw the money tax free in retirement — but you don’t get a tax break now.

To help choose between a Roth 401(k) vs. a traditional 401(k) — or whether it might make sense to invest in both, if your employer offers that option — it helps to know what these accounts are all about.

Traditional 401(k) vs Roth 401(k): 5 Key Differences

Before deciding on a Roth or traditional 401(k), it’s important to understand the similarities and differences between each account, and to consider the tax benefits of each in light of your own financial plan. The timing of the tax advantages of each type of account is also important to weigh.

Traditional 401(k)

Roth 401(k)

Funded with pre-tax dollars. Funded with after-tax dollars.
Contributions are deducted from gross income and may lower your tax bill. Contributions are not deductible.
All withdrawals taxed as income. Withdrawals of contributions + earnings are tax free after 59 ½, if you’ve had the account for at least 5 years. (Employer match + earnings are taxed as income, however.)
Early withdrawals before age 59 ½ are taxed as income and are typically subject to a 10% penalty, with some exceptions. Early withdrawals of contributions are not taxed, but earnings may be taxed and subject to a 10% penalty.
Account subject to RMD rules starting at age 72. Also subject to RMD rules starting at 72, but it’s possible to rollover Roth 401(k) funds to a Roth IRA, to avoid RMDs.

1. How Each Account is Funded

•   A traditional 401(k) allows individuals to make pre-tax contributions only. These contributions are typically made through elective salary deferrals that come directly from an employee’s paycheck and are deducted from their gross income.

•   Employees contribute to a Roth 401(k) also via elective salary deferrals, but they are saving after-tax dollars. So the money the employee contributes to a Roth 401(k) cannot be deducted from their current income.

2. Tax Treatment of Contributions

•   The contributions to a traditional 401(k) are tax-deductible, which means they can reduce your taxable income now, and they grow tax-deferred (but you’ll owe taxes later).

•   By contrast, since you’ve already paid taxes on the money you contribute to a Roth 401(k), the money you contribute isn’t deductible from your gross income, and withdrawals are generally tax free (some exceptions below).

3. Withdrawal Rules

•   You can begin taking qualified withdrawals from a traditional 401(k) starting at age 59 ½, and the money you withdraw is taxed at ordinary income rates.

•   To withdraw contributions + earnings tax free from a Roth 401(k) you must be 59 ½ and have held the account for at least five years (often called the 5-year rule). If you open a Roth 401(k) when you’re 57, you cannot take tax-free withdrawals at 59 ½, as you would with a traditional 401(k). You’d have to wait until five years had passed, and start tax-free withdrawals at age 62.

4. Early Withdrawal rules

•   Early withdrawals from a 401(k) before age 59 ½ are subject to tax and a 10% penalty in most cases, but there are some exceptions where early withdrawals are not penalized, including certain medical expenses; a down payment on a first home; qualified education expenses.

   You may also be able to take a hardship withdrawal penalty-free, but you need to meet the criteria, and you would still owe taxes on the money you withdrew.

•   Early withdrawals from a Roth 401(k) are more complicated. You can withdraw your contributions at any time, but you’ll owe tax proportional to your earnings, which are taxable when you withdraw before age 59 ½.

   For example: If you have $100,000 in a Roth 401(k), including $90,000 in contributions and $10,000 in taxable gains, the gains represent a 10% of the account. Therefore, if you took a $20,000 early withdrawal, you’d owe taxes on 10% to account for the gains, or $2,000.

Bear in mind that a traditional 401(k) and Roth 401(k) also share many features in common:

•   The annual contribution limits are the same for a 401(k) and a Roth 401(k). For 2022, the total amount you can contribute to these employer-sponsored accounts is $20,500; if you’re 50 and older you can save an additional $6,500 for a total of $27,000. This is an increase of $1,000 over the 2021 limit, which was capped at $19,500.

•   For both accounts, employers may contribute matching funds up to a certain percentage of an employee’s salary. And for both accounts matching funds are tax-deferred until retirement when they are taxed as income.

•   In 2022, total contributions from employer and employee cannot exceed the lesser of a) the employee’s salary or b) $61,000 ($67,500 for those 50 and up).

•   Employees may take out a loan from either type of account, subject to IRS restrictions and plan rules.

Because there are certain overlaps between the two accounts, as well as many points of contrast, it’s wise to consult with a professional when making a tax-related plan.

💡 Recommended: Different Types of Retirement Plans, Explained

How to Choose Between a Roth and a Traditional 401(k)

In some cases it might make sense to contribute to both types of accounts (more on that below), but in other cases you may want to choose either a traditional 401(k) or a Roth 401(k) to maximize the specific advantages of one account over another. Here are some considerations.

When to Pay Taxes

Traditional 401(k)s withdrawals are taxed at an individual’s ordinary income tax rate, typically in retirement. As a result these plans can be most tax efficient for those who will have a lower marginal rate after they retire than they did while they were working.

In other words, a traditional 401(k) may help you save on taxes now, if you’re in a higher tax bracket — and then pay lower taxes in retirement, when you’re ideally in a lower tax bracket.

On the other hand, an investor might look into the Roth 401(k) option if they feel that they pay lower taxes now than they will in retirement. In that case, you’d potentially pay lower taxes on your contributions now, and none on your withdrawals in retirement.

Your Age

Often, younger taxpayers may be in a lower tax bracket. If that’s the case, contributing to a Roth 401(k) may make more sense for the same reason above: because you’ll pay a lower rate on your contributions now, but then they’re completely tax free in retirement.

If you’re older, perhaps mid-career, and in a higher tax bracket, a traditional 401(k) might help lower your tax burden now (and if your tax rate is lower when you retire, even better, as you’d pay taxes on withdrawals but at a lower rate).

Where You Live

The tax rates where you live, or where you plan to live when you retire, are also a big factor to consider. Of course your location some years from now, or decades from now, can be difficult to predict (to say the least). But if you expect that you might be living in an area with lower taxes than you are now, e.g. a state with no state taxes, it might make sense to contribute to a traditional 401(k) and take the tax break now, since your withdrawals may be taxed at a lower rate.

The Benefits of Investing in Both a Roth 401(k) and Traditional 401(k)

If an employer offers both a traditional and Roth 401(k) options, employees might have the option of contributing to both, thus taking advantage of the pros of each type of account. In many respects, this could be a wise choice.

Divvying up contributions between both types of accounts allows for greater flexibility in tax planning down the road. Upon retirement, an individual can choose whether to withdraw money from their tax-free 401(k) account or the traditional, taxable 401(k) account each year, to help manage their taxable income.

It is important to note that the $20,500 contribution limit ($27,000 for those 50 and older) is a total limit on both accounts.

So, for instance, you might choose to save $12,000 in a traditional 401(k) and $8,500 in a Roth 401(k) for the year. You are not permitted to save $20,500 in each (or $27,000 if you’re over 50).

The Takeaway

Employer-sponsored Roth and traditional 401(k) plans offer investors many options when it comes to their financial goals. Because a traditional 401(k) can help lower your tax bill now, and a Roth 401(k) offers a tax-free income stream later — it’s important for investors to consider the tax advantages of both, the timing of those tax benefits, and whether these accounts have to be mutually exclusive.

When it comes to retirement plans, investors don’t necessarily have to decide between a Roth or traditional 401(k). Some might choose one of these investment accounts, while others might find a combination of plans suits their goals. After all, it can be difficult to predict your financial circumstances with complete accuracy — especially when it comes to tax planning — so it may be best to hedge your bets and contribute to both types of accounts, if your employer offers that option.

Another step to consider is a 401(k) rollover, where you move funds from an old 401(k) into an IRA. When you do a 401(k) rollover it can help you manage your retirement funds.

SoFi makes the rollover process seamless. You don’t have to worry about transferring funds yourself, or potentially incurring a penalty, and there are no rollover fees or taxes.

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

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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.
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For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, 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. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.

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 Much Auto Insurance Do I Really Need?

Figuring out just how much car insurance you really need can be a challenge.

At minimum, you’ll want to make sure you have enough car insurance to meet the requirements of your state or the lender who’s financing your car. Beyond that, there’s coverage you might want to add to those required amounts. These policies will help ensure that you’re adequately protecting yourself, your family, and your assets. And then there’s the coverage that actually fits within your budget.

We know it may not be a fun topic to think about what would happen if you were involved in a car accident, but given that well over five million drivers are involved in one every year, it’s a priority to get coverage. Finding a car insurance policy that checks all those boxes may take a bit of research — and possibly some compromise. Here are some of the most important factors to consider.

How Much Car Insurance Is Required by Your State?

A good launching pad for researching how much car insurance you need is to check what your state requires by law. Only two states do not require a car owner to carry some amount of insurance: New Hampshire and Virginia. If you live elsewhere, find out how much and what types of coverage a policyholder must have. Typically, there are options available. Once you’ve found this information, consider it the bare minimum to purchase.

Types of Car Insurance Coverage

As you dig into the topic, you’ll hear a lot of different terms used to describe the various kinds of coverage that are offered. Let’s take a closer look here:

Liability Coverage

Most states require drivers to carry auto liability insurance. What it does: It helps pay the cost of damages to others involved in an accident if it’s determined you were at fault. Let’s say you were to cause an accident, whether that means rear-ending a car or backing into your neighbor’s fence while pulling out of a shared driveway. Your insurance would pay for the other driver’s repairs, medical bills, lost wages, and other related costs. What it wouldn’t pay for: Your costs or the costs relating to passengers in your car.

Each state sets its own minimum requirements for this liability coverage. For example, in California, drivers must carry at least $15,000 in coverage for the injury/death of one person, $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person, and $5,000 for damage to property. The shorthand for this, in terms of shopping for car insurance, would be that you have 15/30/5 coverage.

But in Maryland, the amounts are much higher: $30,000 in bodily injury liability per person, $60,000 in bodily injury liability per accident (if there are multiple injuries), and $15,000 in property damage liability per accident. (That would be 30/60/15 coverage.)

And some may want to go beyond what the state requires. If you carry $15,000 worth of property damage liability coverage, for example, and you get in an accident that causes $25,000 worth of damage to someone else’s car, your insurance company will only pay the $15,000 policy limit. You’d be expected to come up with the remaining $10,000.

Generally, recommendations suggest you purchase as much as you could lose if a lawsuit were filed against you and you lost. In California, some say that you may want 250/500/100 in coverage – much more than the 15/30/5 mandated by law.

Recommended: What Does Liability Auto Insurance Typically Cover?

Collision Coverage

Collision insurance pays to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged in an accident with another car that was your fault. It will also help pay for repairs if, say, you hit an inanimate object, be it a fence, tree, guardrail, building, dumpster, pothole, or anything else.

If you have a car loan or lease, you’ll need collision coverage. If, however, your car is paid off or isn’t worth much, you may decide you don’t need collision coverage. For instance, if your car is old and its value is quite low, is it worth paying for this kind of premium, which can certainly add up over the years?

But if you depend on your vehicle and you can’t afford to replace it, or you can’t afford to pay out of pocket for damages, collision coverage may well be worth having. You also may want to keep your personal risk tolerance in mind when considering collision coverage. If the cost of even a minor fender bender makes you nervous, this kind of insurance could help you feel a lot more comfortable when you get behind the wheel.

Comprehensive Coverage

When you drive, you know that unexpected events happen. A pebble can hit your windshield as you drive on the highway and cause a crack. A tree branch can go flying in a storm and put a major dent in your car. Comprehensive insurance covers these events and more. It’s a policy that pays for physical damage to your car that doesn’t happen in a collision, including theft, vandalism, a broken window, weather damage, or even hitting a deer or some other animal.

If you finance or lease your car, your lender will probably require it. But even if you own your car outright, you may want to consider comprehensive coverage. The cost of including it in your policy could be relatively small compared to what it would take to repair or replace your car if it’s damaged or stolen.

Personal Injury Protection and Medical Payments Coverage

Several states require Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments coverage (MedPay for short). This is typically part of the state’s no-fault auto insurance laws, which say that if a policyholder is injured in a crash, that person’s insurance pays for their medical care, regardless of who caused the accident.

While these two types of medical coverage help pay for medical expenses that you and any passengers in your car sustain in an accident, there is a difference. MedPay pays for medical expenses only, and is often available only in small increments, up to $5,000. PIP may also cover loss of income, funeral expenses, and other costs. The amount required varies hugely depending on where you live. For instance, in Utah, it’s $3,000 per person coverage; in New York, it’s $50,000 per person.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Despite the fact that the vast majority of states require car insurance, there are lots of uninsured drivers out there. The number of them on the road can range from one in eight to one in five! In addition, there are people on the road who have the bare minimum of coverage, which may not be adequate when accidents occur.

For these reasons, you may want to take out Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage Many states require these policies, which are designed to protect you if you’re in an accident with a motorist who has little or no insurance. In states that require this type of coverage, the minimums are generally set at about $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. But the exact amounts vary from state to state. And you may choose to carry this coverage even if it isn’t required in your state.

If you’re seriously injured in an accident caused by a driver who doesn’t carry liability car insurance, uninsured motorist coverage could help you and your passengers avoid paying some scary-high medical bills.

Let’s take a quick look at some terms you may see if you shop for this kind of coverage:

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UMBI)

This kind of policy covers your medical bills, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering after an accident when the other driver is not insured. Additionally, it provides coverage for those costs if any passengers were in your vehicle when the accident occurred.

Uninsured motorist property damage coverage (UMPD)

With this kind of policy, your insurer will pay for repairs to your car plus other property if someone who doesn’t carry insurance is responsible for an accident. Some policies in certain states may also provide coverage if you’re involved in a hit-and-run incident.

Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM)

Let’s say you and a passenger get into an accident that’s the other driver’s fault, and the medical bills total $20,000…but the person responsible is only insured for $15,000. A UIM policy would step in and pay the difference to help you out.

Recommended: How to Pay for Medical Bills You Can’t Afford

Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) Insurance

Here’s another kind of insurance to consider: GAP insurance, which recognizes that cars can quickly depreciate in value and helps you manage that. For example, if your car were stolen or totaled in an accident (though we hope that never happens), GAP coverage will pay the difference between what its actual value is (say, $5,000) and what you still owe on your auto loan or lease (for example, $10,000).

GAP insurance is optional and generally requires that you add it onto a full coverage auto insurance policy. In some instances, this coverage may be rolled in with an auto lease.

Non-Owner Coverage

You may think you don’t need car insurance if you don’t own a car. (Maybe you take public transportation or ride your bike most of the time.) But if you still plan to drive occasionally — when you travel and rent a car, for example, or you sometimes borrow a friend’s car — a non-owner policy can provide liability coverage for any bodily injury or property damage you cause.

The insurance policy on the car you’re driving will probably be considered the “primary” coverage, which means it will kick in first. Then your non-owner policy could be used for costs that are over the limits of the primary policy.

Rideshare Coverage?

If you drive for a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft, you may want to consider adding rideshare coverage to your personal automobile policy.

Rideshare companies are required by law in some states to provide commercial insurance for drivers who are using their personal cars — but that coverage could be limited. (For example, it may not cover the time when a driver is waiting for a ride request but hasn’t actually picked up a passenger.) This coverage could fill the gaps between your personal insurance policy and any insurance provided by the ridesharing service. Whether you are behind the wheel occasionally or full-time, it’s probably worth exploring.

Recommended: Which Insurance Types Do You Really Need?

Why You Need Car Insurance

Car insurance is an important layer of protection; it helps safeguard your financial wellbeing in the case of an accident. Given how much most Americans drive – around 14,000 miles or more a year – it’s likely a valuable investment.

What If You Don’t Have Car Insurance?

There can be serious penalties for driving a car without valid insurance. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios: If an officer pulls you over and you can’t prove you have the minimum coverage required in your state, you could get a ticket. Your license could be suspended. What’s more, the officer might have your car towed away from the scene.

That’s a relatively minor inconvenience. Consider that if you’re in a car accident, the penalties for driving without insurance could be far more significant. If you caused the incident, you may be held personally responsible for paying any damages to others involved; one recent report found the average bodily injury claim totaled more than $20,000. And even if you didn’t cause the accident, the amount you can recover from the at-fault driver may be restricted.

If that convinces you of the value of auto insurance (and we hope it does), you may see big discrepancies in the amounts of coverage. For example, there may be a tremendous difference between the amount you have to have, how much you think you should have to feel secure, and what you can afford.

That’s why it can help to know what your state and your lender might require as a starting point. Keep in mind that having car insurance isn’t just about getting your car — or someone else’s — fixed or replaced. (Although that — and the fact that it’s illegal to not have insurance — may be motivation enough to at least get basic car insurance coverage.)

Having the appropriate levels of coverage can also help you protect all your other assets — your home, business, savings, etc. — if you’re in a catastrophic accident and the other parties involved decide to sue you to pay their bills. And let us emphasize: Your state’s minimum liability requirements may not be enough to cover those costs — and you could end up paying the difference out of pocket, which could have a huge impact on your finances.

Discover real-time vehicle values with Auto Tracker.¹

Now you can instantly monitor vehicle prices in this unprecedented market—to help you make smart money moves.

Finding the Best Car Insurance for You

If you’re convinced of the value of getting car insurance, the next step is to decide on the right policy for you. Often, the question on people’s minds is, “How can I balance getting the right coverage at an affordable price?”

What’s the Right Amount of Car Insurance Coverage for You?

To get a ballpark figure in mind, consider these numbers:

Type of Coverage



Liability Your state’s minimum •   $100,000/person for bodily injury liability

◦   $300,000/ accident for bodily injury liability

◦   $100,000 for property damage

•   $250,000/person for bodily injury liability

◦   $500,000/ accident for bodily injury liability

◦   $250,000 for property damage

Collision Not required Recommended Recommended
Comprehensive Not required Recommended Recommended
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Your state’s minimum $40,000 Your state’s maximum
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (UM, UIM) Coverage Your state’s minimum •   $100,000/person for bodily injury liability

◦   $300,000/ accident for bodily injury liability

•   $250,000/person for bodily injury liability

◦   $500,000/ accident for bodily injury liability

Here are some points to consider that will help you get the best policy for you.

Designing a Policy that Works for You

Your insurance company will probably offer several coverage options, and you may be able to build a policy around what you need based on your lifestyle. For example, if your car is paid off and worth only a few thousand dollars, you may choose to opt out of collision insurance in order to get more liability coverage.

Choosing a Deductible

Your deductible is the amount you might have to pay out personally before your insurance company begins paying any damages. Let’s say your car insurance policy has a $500 deductible, and you hit a guardrail on the highway when you swerve to avoid a collision. If the damage was $2,500, you would pay the $500 deductible and your insurer would pay for the other $2,000 in repairs. (Worth noting: You may have two different deductibles when you hold an auto insurance policy — one for comprehensive coverage and one for collision.)

Just as with your health insurance, your insurance company will likely offer you a lower premium if you choose to go with a higher deductible ($1,000 instead of $500, for example). Also, you typically pay this deductible every time you file a claim. It’s not like the situation with some health insurance policies, in which you satisfy a deductible once a year.

If you have savings or some other source of money you could use for repairs, you might be able to go with a higher deductible and save on your insurance payments. But if you aren’t sure where the money would come from in a pinch, it may make sense to opt for a lower deductible.

Recommended: Different Types of Insurance Deductibles

Checking the Costs of Added Coverage

As you assess how much coverage to get, here’s some good news: Buying twice as much liability coverage won’t necessarily double the price of your premium. You may be able to manage more coverage than you think. Before settling for a bare-bones policy, it can help to check on what it might cost to increase your coverage. This information is often easily available online, via calculator tools, rather than by spending time on the phone with a salesperson.

Finding Discounts that Could Help You Save

Some insurers (including SoFi Protect) reward safe drivers or “good drivers” with lower premiums. If you have a clean driving record, free of accidents and claims, you are a low risk for your insurer and they may extend you a discount.

Another way to save: Bundling car and home insurance is another way to cut costs. Look for any discounts or packages that would help you save.

The Takeaway

Buying car insurance is an important step in protecting yourself in case of an accident or theft. It’s not just about repairing or replacing your vehicle. It’s also about ensuring that medical fees and lost wages are protected – and securing your assets if there were ever a lawsuit filed against you. These are potentially life-altering situations, so it’s worth spending a bit of time on the few key steps that will help you get the right coverage at the right price. It begins with knowing what your state or your car-loan lender requires. Then, you’ll review the different kinds of policies and premiums available. Put these pieces together, and you’ll find the insurance that best suits your needs and budget.

A Simple Way to Get Great Car Insurance

Feeling uncertain about how much auto insurance you really need or what kind of premium you might have to pay to get what you want? Check out SoFi Online Auto Insurance. We partner with Experian to bring you quotes from up to 40 top insurance carriers. Match your current coverage to new policy offers with little to no data entry.

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.

¹SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. Vehicle Identification Number is confirmed by LexisNexis and car values are provided by J.D. Power. Auto Tracker is provided on an “as-is, as-available” basis with all faults and defects, with no warranty, express or implied. The values shown on this page are a rough estimate based on your car’s year, make, and model, but don’t take into account things such as your mileage, accident history, or car condition.

Insurance not available in all states.
Experian is a registered service mark of Experian Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
Social Finance, Inc. ("SoFi") is compensated by Experian for each customer who purchases a policy through Experian from the site.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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.


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What Is a Good GMAT Score?

If you’re applying to business school, you likely understand the importance of doing well on the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT™. Strong scores may help you get into your dream program. But qualifies as a good score? While there are a few rules of thumb, the answer largely depends on how competitive the program you’re applying to is.

In addition, (and complicating matters,) schools take a look at your unique background when evaluating your application to help them build a well-rounded student body. As a result, what qualifies as a strong score varies by school and by applicant.

How Is The GMAT Scored?

GMAT scores range from 200 to 800. On average, test takers score a 565, and two-thirds score between 400 and 600, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council™ (GMAC), which administers the exam.

Generally speaking, a good GMAT score is in the 700 to 800 range. A perfect score of 800 is difficult to achieve, but can potentially counteract other weak points in a student’s application.

After taking the GMAT, students will receive a score report, which will feature five different numbers: total score, quantitative score, verbal score, integrated reasoning score, and analytical writing assessment. Of those five the three that are most important are the total, quantitative, and verbal scores.

Here’s a breakdown of how each is calculated, according to The Princeton Review®:


Score Range

How the Score Is Calculated

Total 200 to 800 This score is reported in increments of 10 and is calculated based on performance in the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections.
Quantitative 0 to 60 Based on the number of questions you answered, how many you answered correctly, and how difficult the questions you got right are. Reported in increments of one.
Verbal 0 to 60 Based on the number of questions you answered, how many you answered correctly, and how difficult the questions you got right are. Reported in increments of one.
Integrated Reasoning 1 to 8 Based on the number of questions you answered correctly, and reported in increments of one.
Analytical Writing Assessment 0 to 6 Based on an average of two scores assigned by two readers, and reported in increments of 0.5 points.

How to Figure Out Your Range

Though a score of 700 or more puts you in more competitive standing, what functions as a good score is relative. In other words, a good score for you is the one that helps you get into the program of your choice and advance your career goals.

Students interested in attending a top B-school will generally need a high score. For example, 2019 incoming full-time MBA students at Stanford University had average GMAT scores of 734. However, if you’re interested in a less competitive program, you may only need a score in the 500 to 600 range.

Before taking the GMAT, do some goal setting. What type of program do you want to attend to achieve your business objectives? Does the MBA program’s affordability factor into your decision-making process?

For example, someone aiming to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company, may want to attend a top-rated school. But those planning to lead a smaller business might pursue a less competitive program.

Related: Is Getting an MBA Worth It?

To figure out just how competitive your scores need to be, research the programs you’re interested in. Some schools will post the average GMAT score of their students. It can also help to reach out to school admissions, alumni, and current students to find out what factors have a big impact on admissions.

Researching Average Scores

Schools are looking at a student’s complete application to determine whether they’ll be a good fit. However, you can certainly get a better idea of the types of students your target schools are admitting by researching average GMAT scores.

The easiest way to do this is to log on to the school’s MBA class profile web page, which may give you all sorts of information, from the average GMAT test score to the number of applicants versus the number of enrolled students to demographic information.

Be aware that total score isn’t the only thing that schools look at, and the weight given to each of the five scoring sections on the test may vary from school to school.

For example, an MBA program with a focus in data science might scrutinize your quantitative score more than other programs. Reach out to school admissions offices to find out if they give special weight to a particular score section.

Knowing the average scores of your target program can help you understand how competitive your score needs to be.

Recommended: Is Getting an MBA Worth It?

How to Prepare for the GMAT

As you prepare for the GMAT—and to achieve your target score—make sure that you a lot yourself enough study time. You may want to begin the process as much as six months in advance of taking the test. Common test prep advice suggests that it may take 100 to 120 hours or more of studying and taking practice tests to adequately prepare.

Setting a study schedule can be supremely helpful. Start by setting up a calendar on which you schedule study dates and times to take practice tests. Keep the dates with yourself and resist the urge to procrastinate.

Review the material for each section of the test at a time. You can access free practice tests online that give you an insight into the format and the types of questions you’ll be asked.

Practice tests can help you identify areas that may require extra studying. Be sure to practice pacing. The GMAT is a timed exam, and time management is critical to finishing.

Recommended: Should You Hire an MBA Application Consultant?

Unofficial Scores: To Accept or Cancel?

When you complete your test, you’ll be shown your unofficial score and given a chance to accept it or cancel. Prepare your answer before you sit down to take the text. You’ll only have two minutes to make the decision once you’re finished. You may, for example, cancel your score if you don’t meet a pre-set target.

It can also help to familiarize yourself with the application policy at your target(s) school. Some schools prefer to see every GMAT score, while others only request the top score.

Even if you accept your score, you still have 72 hours to cancel it online if you change your mind. The good news is, if you cancel your score, you can study areas where you were weak and retake the test after 16 days.

What Schools Look At In Addition To The GMAT

A GMAT score that is on par with a program’s enrolled students can help demonstrate you are prepared for the academic rigors of the program. That said, business schools look at other factors as well, including gender, demographics, and your past resume to build out their student body.

In particular, they may be looking for signals that students have what it takes to become good managers and business leaders, examining previous accomplishments, quantifiable achievements, and progression in a chosen career path.

The Takeaway

When applying to a business school, it’s critical to understand average GMAT scores, so you have a target to help you focus your studies and prepare for the test.

When you apply, you’ll also likely have a slew of other concerns from writing a resume that fully demonstrates your achievements to figuring out how you’ll pay for graduate school and your potential return on investment for getting an MBA.

As a result, the affordability of programs and whether you’ll need to take out student loans may be a big factor in deciding which schools you apply to.

After graduating, some students may refinance their student loans, which can help them secure a lower interest rate—and hopefully save them money over the life of the loan.

Refinancing federal loans means they’ll no longer qualify for federal benefits or protections, so it may not always make sense to refinance.

If you’ve taken out student loans, visit SoFi to learn more about whether refinancing your student loans can lower your interest rates.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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 Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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