Is a $40,000 Salary Good?

Is a $40,000 Salary Good?

To answer whether a $40,000 salary is good, you need to consider your perspective. For a recent grad in a small town where the cost of living is low, that might be an annual income that pays the bills. But a $40,000 salary is not typically enough for a household to live comfortably in most parts of the United States. To put it another way, a single person can live more comfortably on a $40,000 salary, but a family — with or without children — may find it more difficult.

Rising inflation has made it more challenging to get by on $40,000 in 2022, but this salary is still far above the United States Census Bureau’s poverty threshold for families of up to six people. The $40,000 figure represents earning more than the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour).

So is $40,000 a good salary? Well, it depends.

Key Points

•   A $40,000 salary may be sufficient for an individual in a low-cost area, but it may not be enough for a family to live comfortably in most parts of the US.

•   Rising inflation has made it more challenging to live on a $40,000 salary, but it still exceeds the poverty threshold for families.

•   Compared to the median household income in the US, a $40,000 salary falls short, but it can contribute to the median household income when combined with a second income.

•   A $40,000 salary translates to a monthly income of $3,333.33, a biweekly paycheck of $1,538.46, and a weekly income of $769.23.

•   Living on a $40,000 budget requires careful expense tracking, budgeting, debt management, and saving strategies. Location plays a significant role in how far the salary can stretch.

How Does a $40,000 Salary Compare to the American Median Income?

Here’s a look at how earning a $40,000 annual income compares to that of your fellow Americans.

•   According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in 2020 (when data was gathered) just surpassed $67,500.

•   More recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that the median weekly income of a full-time worker (salary or hourly) was $1,037, or nearly $54,000 a year.

While a $40,000 salary falls short of recent BLS definitions of the median personal income, it could successfully contribute to the Census Bureau’s picture of the median household income, when combined with a second income from a domestic partner.

Could this salary be considered good? Consider the following:

•   As an individual, you may find that $40,000 is a good entry-level salary.

•   Couples living the DINK lifestyle (which stands for dual income, no kids) and who each make $40,000 would be well above the median household income. Plus, they would have the additional costs of raising children as part of their budget.

$40,000 Salary Breakdown

It can be helpful to know what a $40,000 salary translates to as a monthly budget, weekly paycheck, or even hourly rate. This may help you compare career options and budget wisely, not to mention answer that question, “Is $40K a good salary?”

Here’s how it breaks down:

•   Monthly income: $3,333.33

•   Biweekly paycheck: $1,538.46

•   Weekly income: $769.23

•   Daily income: $153.85*

•   Hourly income: $19.23**

*Based on 260 working days a year
**Based on 2,080 working hours a year

And remember: That’s before taxes. If you are single and make $40,000 a year, your federal tax bracket is at 12%, but you may also owe state, city, and even school district taxes as well. It’s important to keep that in mind as you plan and assess how to pay bills and save with this salary.

Recommended: What to Do When You Get a Pay Raise: 12 Tips

Can You Live Individually on a $40,000 Income?

It is possible to live individually on a $40,000 income. In fact, you may be able to afford the average monthly expenses for a single person and work on your saving and investing goals.

Your location will have the largest impact on how far your dollars will stretch. Areas with a lower cost of living will likely be easier to afford for an individual on a $40,000 income.

As an individual, you can help your salary go further by looking for ways to save money, like:

•   Having a roommate or renting out a room in your house if you own one

•   Cooking at home instead of eating out

•   Buying a used car or, depending on where you live, relying on public transportation

•   Finding a higher-yield savings account, ideally over 1.00% APY

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

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


Best Places to Live on a $40,000 Salary

If you can afford moving expenses and aren’t tied to a specific location for work, you can make your dollars go further more easily in certain locations in the United States. These are places with a lower cost of living. Here are the five cheapest cities to live in the U.S. this year, according to U.S. News:

•   Hickory, North Carolina

•   Green Bay, Wisconsin

•   Huntsville, Alabama

•   Quad Cities (Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline-Rock Island, Illinois)

•   Fort Wayne, Indiana

However, there’s more to moving than just the expenses and the job. Before packing up a rental truck, consider whether you are comfortable leaving behind friends, family, and familiar places.

Recommended: Financial Moves to Make During a Job Transition

Worst Places to Live on a $40,000 Salary

A $40,000 salary might not go far enough in a city with a high cost of living. U.S. News research indicates these are the most expensive cities to live in:

•   Los Angeles, California

•   Miami, Florida

•   San Diego, California

•   Salinas, California

•   Santa Barbara, California

And if you were expecting to see New York City on this list, don’t worry: It’s not far behind, at number nine.

Tips for Living on a $40,000 Budget

So how can you (and possibly your family) live on a $40,000 budget? It’s important to cut costs, look for deals, pay down your debt, and build up savings for an emergency.

But living on a small salary doesn’t mean you have to completely give up entertainment. Remember that it’s OK to treat yourself to the nice things in life from time to time, as long as they are within reason. Everyone needs some fun in their life.

Here are some important tips for living on a $40,000 budget:

Carefully Tracking Your Expenses

First things first, get an understanding of your current spending habits. Your bank may offer tools that make this easy to analyze or you can download apps or check websites that make this easier.

Consider what bills you have every month, whether they are on auto pay, and, if so, when do they process? (This will help you schedule your bills and avoid getting hit with late fees.) Make a list of all your recurring expenses (mortgage or rent, student loans, car payment, phone, insurance, and utilities), and then analyze how much on average you’re spending on more variable expenses like groceries, gas, clothing, and entertainment.

What can you cut? What bills can you negotiate down? Where can you reallocate money toward savings?

Recommended: 20 Commonly Forgotten Monthly Expenses

Getting on a Budget

Now that you have an idea of what you’re currently spending, it’s time to design a budget around what you should be spending.

Start by plugging in necessary monthly expenses; these are things you must pay for each month, like your home, insurance, and food. Only once you can see that these basic needs are met should you begin to budget for things like dining out or new clothes, also known as wants vs. needs.

Not sure where to start? Do some online research on how to make a budget. There are different techniques including a line item budget and the 50/30/20 budget rule.

Getting Out of Debt

As you consider how to manage daily life on a $40,000 salary, it’s wise to pay attention to the role that debt plays in your personal finances. Mortgage and student loan debt are structured to be paid off over decades, and can be considered by some to be good debt, as the interest rates are often relatively low and timely payments build your credit history. The rates on credit card debt, however, can be high (currently over 20% on new offers and 16% on existing accounts) and therefore more detrimental to your finances (and mental health). If you have serious credit card debt, it is wise to cut back expenses as much as you can so you can focus on paying off your debt.

You can tackle your debt using the snowball method or the avalanche method. You may also consider a balance-transfer credit card or a debt consolidation program, depending on your situation. A debt counselor who works for a nonprofit, like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC ), can be helpful as well.

Saving Your Money

If you are debt-free (house, car, and student loan payments aside) and still have wiggle room in your budget after accounting for necessary expenses and a little bit of fun money, you can allocate some of your $40,000 salary toward your saving goals. These might include vacations, a house down payment, renovations, or a wedding. An emergency savings fund is often a good place to start.

Recommended: How to Save Money from Your Salary

Investing Your Money

After you have gotten a handle on your expenses, designed a budget, and opened a savings account, you might consider if there is enough leftover from your $40,000 salary for investing. This may not be possible if you live in a city or state with a high cost of living.

How can you start investing? If your employer offers a 401(k) match, consider taking advantage of that. It’s basically free money, so contribute enough to snag it.

You can also look for automated investing opportunities so you don’t have to worry about building a portfolio from scratch.

Managing Finances With SoFi

If your $40,000 salary is paid via direct deposit, think about opening a high interest online savings account. With direct deposit, you can get an array of perks from our SoFi Checking and Savings account. You’ll spend and save in one convenient place, plus you’ll earn a competitive APY and pay no fees, which can help your money grow faster. What’s more, qualifying accounts can get paycheck access up to two days early.

Make the most of your money with SoFi.

FAQ

Can you live comfortably on $40,000 a year?

Individuals can often live comfortably on $40,000 a year. Families, however, may struggle with this salary, especially in areas with a higher cost of living.

What can I afford making $40K a year?

If you are an individual living on $40,000 a year in an area with a low to moderate cost of living, you can afford typical monthly expenses like food, housing, and utilities and still have enough for some fun expenditures, like entertainment. If you are frugal and build a budget, you may also be able to pay down debt, build your savings, and even invest a little.

Is $40,000 a year considered middle class?

According to Pew Research, a middle-class family of three makes between $56,000 and $156,000. Families of that size who bring in $40,000 a year would not be considered middle class. However, an individual making $40,000 a year would likely qualify as middle class.


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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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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19 Budgeting Categories For Your Budget

Building a budget can pay off quite literally: It provides guidelines for your money and helps you wrangle your spending and saving to achieve financial health. With smart planning, you can make your cash work harder for you and grow.

Many people think that a budget is all about deprivation, but it’s really about organization. A key step in developing a good budget is knowing how to categorize both your spending and saving. That can help you get a handle on where your money is going and how to make the most of it.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to divide your expenses into three main categories (namely, needs, wants, and savings), and then further separate things into smaller groups. This can help you truly understand your spending habits and optimize your finances.

Whether you’re just starting out on your independent financial life or if you’re looking to tweak your existing budget, this advice can help you better manage your budget categories and direct your spending goals.

Key Points

•   Personal budget categories help organize and track expenses for better financial management.

•   Common budget categories include housing, transportation, food, utilities, healthcare, debt payments, savings, entertainment, and personal care.

•   It’s important to customize budget categories based on individual needs and priorities.

•   Tracking expenses within each category helps identify areas for potential savings and adjustments.

•   Regularly reviewing and adjusting budget categories can help maintain financial balance and achieve financial goals.

Getting Started With the 50/20/30 Rule of Budgeting

The 50/20/30 rule for budgeting (made popular by Sen. Elizabeth Warren in her 2006 book, “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan”) can be a helpful guideline to use when you are first setting up your budget.

The plan recommends making a budget by breaking your after-tax (or take-home) income into needs, wants and savings. Here’s how these categories are allocated:

•   50% of your earnings to needs

•   30% to wants

•   20% to savings

To see how your spending lines up with these guidelines, you’ll want to get out the past three or more months of bank and credit card statements and receipts. Then, simply start listing all of your expenses for each month and grouping them into categories.

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9 Budget Categories for Needs

Of course, you probably are wondering what actually constitutes budgeting categories. First, focus on the needs of life.

This category, which represents the largest chunk, includes expenses that you must pay in order to live and work. You might think of these as things you actually need to survive — they’re sort of like the air, water, and food of your budget.

So, for instance, a fancy dinner out or a caramel latte are definitely food, but they wouldn’t necessarily go in this category. Groceries would though.

A good rule of thumb is to have this category take up about 50% of your after tax income. Housing and utilities are likely to take up the biggest chunk, but ideally no more than 30% of income.

The percentages, however, are just guidelines. Because the cost of living in different states varies across the country, you may need to adjust your budget according to where you live.

1. Housing

Whether you pay rent or have a home mortgage, paying to keep a roof over your head is definitely a need. In addition, you may have property taxes to pay if you are a homeowner, and home maintenance costs can be part of this category for renters and owners alike.

2. Utilities

Depending on your living situation, you might pay for electricity, WiFi, heating fuel, telephone service, water, sanitation services, and other necessities.

3. Insurance

Having car, health, life, homeowners or renters insurance and possibly pet insurance can be important. You don’t want to wing it with this kind of protection (and auto insurance is required).

4. Groceries and Personal Care Items

Of course, you need food and toiletries as part of daily living. So the food you purchase to make meals and items like toothpaste go into your budget as “needs.” However, buying that $7 pack of cookies or $40 hair conditioner? Those might be better deemed “wants.”

5. Transportation

Car ownership expenses, public transportation, and the occasional Uber to get to urgent care can all be considered necessities.

6. Clothing

Yes, you need a warm winter coat if you live in the climates that get chilly, plus boots. And you need basic garments to wear to work and on your off-hours. However, if you buy a cool jacket because you love it or yet another pair of cute shoes since they are on sale, those are not vital to your survival and should go in the “wants” category.

7. Debt

Minimum payments on outstanding debts like credit cards, student loans, auto loans, or personal loans would also go into the 50% needs portion.

8. Parenting Expenses

Child care, as well as child support or alimony payments, go into the “must” bucket of your budget. Those are not discretionary expenses.

9. Healthcare

Depending on your insurance coverage, you may have expenses related to staying well, such as copays, prescription costs, and the like. Treating yourself to a massage that isn’t medically required? That’s not a “need” but a “want.”

Recommended: Budgeting for Beginners

6 Spending Categories for Wants

These are expenses that don’t qualify as needs and don’t include your savings and payments towards debt. Though it can sometimes be tricky to separate needs from wants, if you can live and earn your income without it, then it’s probably a want.

If you can live and earn your income without it, then it’s probably a want.

This is where you could put spending on clothing outside of what you need on a day-to-day basis, dinner and drinks out with friends, going to the movies, gym memberships, personal care, and miscellaneous spending.

As a general guideline, this category shouldn’t take up more than 30% of your spending. While you may need to give and take depending on your situation, seeing how much you are spending on wants in black and white may cause you to start thinking more carefully about these expenditures.

1. Clothing and Personal Care

Treated yourself to a new but unnecessary shirt as part of a little retail therapy? Took yourself to the spa for a day? Or bought yourself a fancy watch since you got a promotion? Those are all wants. They aren’t necessarily bad things, but be clear that they are not vital to your survival.

2. Dining Out and Drinking

It’s part of life to meet friends and loved ones for happy hour or a nice meal, or to get a bubble tea while running errands on the weekend. Or maybe you don’t feel inspired to cook so you order some Pad Thai for pickup or delivery. These are all discretionary food expenses vs. those that are vital to your survival.

3. Entertainment

While entertainment can definitely enrich your life, it goes into the “wants” category. This includes things like concert, play, and movie tickets; books and magazines; cable and streaming services; downloading music; and attending festivals and fairs.

4. Gym Memberships, Self-care, and Grooming

You could just workout for free at home while watching a Youtube video, so health club memberships, yoga or Pilates classes are “wants.” Same goes with self-care and grooming: Facials, manicures, and the like are considered discretionary. That $50 hair conditioner you can’t live without? That isn’t a “need” either.

5. Travel Expenses

If you are traveling for business purposes to pitch a new account, that’s more of a “need,” but otherwise, a getaway is a “want.” So tally up any airfare, rental car costs, hotel or Airbnb, food, and tour/attraction tickets, and consider them “wants.”

6. Home Decor

If your mattress bites the dust and you replace it, that is a “need,” but deciding to buy a new couch because your home could use a spruce-up is a “want.”

💡 Quick Tip: Want a simple way to save more everyday? When you turn on Roundups, all of your debit card purchases are automatically rounded up to the next dollar and deposited into your online savings account.

Categorizing Your Savings

Under the 50/20/30 rule, it’s suggested that savings take up 20% of your post-tax income. This is the money you’re putting toward your retirement, emergency fund, and other savings. You can also put payments against debt above minimums here since this can ultimately save money on interest, it’s considered savings.

Here are specifics.

1. Emergency Fund

Financial experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses socked away in case of emergency. This could mean job loss or receiving an unexpected and major medical or car repair bill. You don’t want to have to resort to using your credit card for such things.

2. Retirement Savings

If you aren’t offered a 401(k) or something similar at work, you can still contribute to retirement savings. You might be able to find a low-fee, or no-fee, individual retirement account (IRA).

3. Other Short- and Long-Term Savings

You’ll also probably want to fund non-retirement savings goals, such as saving for a summer vacation or the down payment on a house. It can be a good idea to open a separate savings account, ideally where you can earn higher interest than a standard savings account, such as a money market fund, online savings account, or a checking and savings account.

To make sure saving happens each month, you may also want to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into this account on the same day every month, perhaps after your paycheck gets deposited.

4. Additional Debt Payments

If you can pay more than the minimum on your credit card bill or make extra payments on your loans, that can decrease what you are spending on interest. That in turn can help increase your overall financial health and wealth.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

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


Why Categorizing Your Budget Is Important

Categorizing your budget is important because it can give you a much better sense of where your money goes versus just paying whatever bills turn up.

•   When you see how much cash goes towards the different kinds of “needs,” “wants,” and savings, you can better manage your cash. Tracking your spending can bring greater financial insight.

•   Also, as you categorize and tally your spending, you may see that much more than 30% of your take-home pay is going to ”wants.” That could convince you to recalibrate and cut back.

•   Or you might notice that you are spending way more than 50% on “needs.” This can happen when you are just starting out in your career or if you live somewhere with a high cost of living. Again, you might look to lower costs.

Finalizing Your Budget Categories and Getting Started

Now that you have an idea of how to allocate your income based on standard budgeting categories, you may want to start building out your budgeting plan.

If you find that your monthly expenses (including savings) are higher than your monthly take-home income, you’ll likely want to make some adjustments. One of the easiest places to do this is within the “wants” bucket.

Here, you can scout for unnecessary expenses you may be able to do without. For instance, maybe you would be fine saving on streaming services by dropping one or two platforms, cooking at home a few more times per week, or cutting back on clothing purchases.

If your “musts” are eating up more than 50%, perhaps you want to consider moving to a less expensive home or taking in a roommate. Another option could be to start a side hustle to bring in more income or train up for a higher-paying line of work.

It can help to keep in mind that the 50/30/20 guideline is just that, a guideline. Everyone’s situation is different and your numbers may vary depending on many different factors, including where you live, your income, how much debt you have, and your savings and investment goals. (There are also other budgeting methods to try, if you like.)

The Takeaway

Putting expenses into categories and coming up with a spending plan can bring significant benefits. These include being able to pay off debt, saving up for short-term goals (such as an emergency fund, a vacation, or a down payment on a home), and funding your retirement.

The 50/20/30 rule can give you an general idea of how to allocate your income based on standard budgeting categories and help you start building out your budgeting plan.

Need some help keeping track of spending? Many financial institutions offer tools that can help you see where your money is going and make the most of your savings.

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


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

FAQ

What are the 4 main categories in a budget?

There are different ways to categorize a budget, but commonly, people focus on their take-home pay, their spending on their “wants,” their “needs,” and how much they save.

What categories should you have in a budget?

When building a budget, it’s important to know how much income you have after taxes, what are the expenses that are necessary for your survival, what is your usual discretionary spending (which some people call the “fun stuff” in life), and how much are you saving. Within the last three buckets, you can subdivide into more specific categories.

How do you organize a budget?

One good budgeting technique is the 50/30/20 budget rule. This principle says that 50% of your take-home pay should go towards necessities, 30% to discretionary spending, and the remaining 20% should be saved.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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man and woman couple bills laptop kitchen mobile

What Is Disposable Income?

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

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

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

Key Points

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

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

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

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

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

What Is Disposable Income?

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

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

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

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

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Why Disposable Income Is Important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disposable Income vs. Discretionary Income

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

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

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

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

Similarities

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

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

Differences

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

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Calculating Disposable Income

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

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

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

How to calculate disposable income

Some of the finer points to note:

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

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

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

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

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

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Disposable Income Budgeting

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

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

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

Tracking Spending

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

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

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

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

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

Setting Goals And Spending Targets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Uses for Your Disposable Income

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

Basic Living Expenses

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

•  Housing

•  Utilities

•  Food

•  Healthcare

•  Transportation

•  Insurance

•  Minimum debt payments.

Discretionary Spending

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

•  Eating out

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

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

•  Electronics, like the latest mobile phone

•  Travel

•  Gifts.

Saving and Investing

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

•  Your emergency fund

•  The down payment for a house

•  A college fund for children

•  Money to start your own business

•  A new car

•  Retirement.

Opening a Savings Account With SoFi

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

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


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FAQ

What does disposable income mean?

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

What is an example of disposable income?

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

What is the difference between disposable income and discretionary income?

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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The Facts About Getting Audited: Woman writing in notebook

What Happens When You Get Audited?

What is it about the words “tax audit” that so many people find so anxiety-provoking? The idea that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could be poring over your tax return can be downright nerve-racking, not to mention the possibility of mistakes found and penalties incurred.

But take a deep, calming breath: Over the last decade, the IRS audit rate has been declining. In 2022 (the most recent data available), the odds of an audit were 3.8 out of every 1,000 returns filed (0.38%), a slight decline from tax year 2021, when the odds of audit were 4.1 out of every 1,000 returns filed (0.41%).

But even so, you likely want to do your best to avoid going through that process. This is an informative, high-level overview of IRS audit triggers, and it should not be considered tax advice. It’s always worth consulting a tax professional for any questions or concerns because taxes are complicated and highly personal.

Read on to learn:

•   What is an audit?

•   What are reasons why someone may get audited?

•   What should you do if you get audited by the IRS?

What Is a Tax Audit?

A tax audit is a process by which the IRS reviews an individual’s or organization’s accounts as well as their financial details to make sure that the information submitted has been reported correctly and in keeping with the prevailing tax laws.

The IRS usually sends a letter when it reaches out to ask for more information, and the letter should let you know specifically what the agency is looking for.

You shouldn’t ever receive a text, email, or phone call from the IRS asking for personal or financial information. If you do, the IRS website offers several steps for checking out and reporting any suspicious contact .

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Reasons Why Someone May Get Audited by the IRS

Here’s a closer look at some of the typical IRS audit triggers. Knowing them can help you understand and possibly avoid the process as you work your way through tax season.

•   You’re a high earner. In 2022, the odds that a millionaire was audited by the IRS was 1.1 percent — higher than the average audit rate. If you are a high earner, it may be worthwhile to work with an experienced CPA to ensure you file precisely. You may also want to investigate ways to lower taxable income for high earners.

•   You claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, is a provision that helps lower- and moderate-income workers and their families receive a tax credit. This can reduce the taxes owed or possibly increase a refund. However, research indicates that those who claim the credit are audited at a higher rate than average, perhaps because the IRS wants to be sure the credit is being used appropriately.

•   You failed to report all your income. When you are issued a W-2 form or 1099 form showing your earnings, the IRS receives a copy too. If your return doesn’t reflect the same figures that they have when they perform a cross-check, you could wind up being audited.

•   You didn’t report all of your stock trades. When you sell stock shares, the funds you receive are taxable unless the investments happen to be a retirement account that is tax-deferred. Both you and the IRS will be sent a particular kind of 1099, a Form 1099-B, reflecting activity, and you will have to report your capital gains and losses when you do your tax return. The tax rate will depend on how long you have held the investment, but it’s important that these transactions be reported and paid up when you file your return.

•   You claim large charitable contributions. If you claim tax deductions for charitable donations of cash or items, it’s important to keep records and receipts. For a donation of cash or goods worth more than $250, the IRS requires you to get a written letter of acknowledgment from the charity by the date you file your taxes. If you’ll deduct at least $500 in donated items, you need to fill out Form 8283. For any items worth more than $5,000, you must attach an appraisal of the item to the form. Large and unsubstantiated contributions can be problematic.

Recommended: Tax-Deductible or Not? Your Guide to End-of-Year Donations

•   You claim a home office. If you are self-employed, you may deduct a percent of your rent, phone bills, and other work-related costs on Schedule C of your return. Another option is to deduct $5 per square foot of space used for business, up to $1,500. However, the IRS has over the years been successful in minimizing this home office deduction on returns, especially since the home office must be for the exclusive purpose of work; it can’t double as, say, a guest room. This means it can be an audit risk to take this on your return.

•   You claim that your car is only used for business. This is another audit red flag. If you are self-employed and depreciate a car on Form 4562 and claim that it’s used for business 100% of the time, you may well be stretching the boundaries of believability. Because it’s unusual that a vehicle wouldn’t also be used for personal transportation, you may trigger an audit with this 100% figure. It can be important that tax deductions for freelancers aren’t too large versus income.

•   You accept cash transactions. If you work in the kind of business where you often get paid in cash, especially large amounts, your return may receive extra scrutiny. The IRS requires individuals and businesses to report cash transactions over the sum of $10,000. Banks must also report potentially suspicious transactions involving cash (for instance, if someone deposits $9,500 in cash one day and $700 the next, thereby skirting the $10,000 reporting threshold).

•   Your business regularly shows losses. Of course, not all businesses are always profitable. But if you’ve started an enterprise and it keeps showing losses, year after year, it might be what triggers an IRS audit. It could look as if you have established this endeavor simply as a way to benefit from some tax deductions. The same can hold true if your business is barely break-even.

Recommended: Tax Loss Carryforward

•   You claim lots of travel and entertainment deductions. What else can trigger a tax audit? Here’s another one for self-employed workers: If you claim a lot of restaurant dinners, travel, and shows as business expenses, you may raise eyebrows at the IRS. This is especially true if the meals and hotels seem more lavish than your business might otherwise qualify for. Save all your receipts and documentation, and know that a high level of these expenses being claimed on Schedule C may get some attention and even an audit.

•   You make errors on your tax return. As you prepare for tax season, you may feel overwhelmed or be in a rush. Or perhaps you’re just not the most detail-oriented person on the planet. But if you make math mistakes on your return or, say, round up numbers to the nearest $10 or $100 because you can’t be bothered with change, heads-up: You may put yourself in line for an audit. Precision and specificity do count.

Quick Money Tip: Direct deposit is the fastest way to get an IRS tax refund. More than 9 out of 10 refunds are issued in less than 21 days using this free service, plus you can track the payment and even split the funds into different bank accounts.

A Few Facts About Tax Audits

Here are a few points to be aware of on the topic of IRS tax audits. They may clarify some concerns that are on your mind.

A Compliance Contact Isn’t Always an Audit

A compliance check is a review done by the IRS to ensure that a taxpayer is adhering to the requirements for recordkeeping and information reporting. It does not relate directly to whether or not a person owes taxes.

There Are Different Types of Audits

Just as there are different kinds of taxes, so too are there different kinds of audits. If you are being audited by the IRS, there are a couple of ways this may happen. Mail audits are fairly common; in these, you mail in documents in response to specific inquiries. Office and field audits are more serious, and the IRS asks for proof of credits and deductions, and may look at your financial records more carefully to see if your tax return is correct. The IRS may be looking for tax evasion on these kinds of audits. The third kind of audit is what’s known as a CP2000 notice. Technically, this isn’t an audit but an underreporter inquiry, and is likely about a discrepancy between your return and the tax documents that were filed with them for the tax year in question.

Some Groups Face Higher Audit Rates than Others

While audit rates have dropped for all income levels, those with incomes below $25,000 and above $500,000 are audited at higher rates than the average.

Good Record Keeping May Offer Protection

If you are audited, it can be very helpful if your records are in good order. That way you can explain the amounts you reported and easily answer questions the IRS may have. This can serve as a good incentive for you to keep your records diligently going forward.

Ignoring the IRS Could Be Costly

What happens when you get audited can of course vary. But one possibility if you are audited is that you may be liable for back taxes not paid and penalties. These penalties typically accrue over time, so the longer you go without paying them, the higher they can be. That’s why it’s a good reason to respond promptly if you do get audited.

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What to Do if You Get Audited

What if you are one of those few people who is told that your returns are being reviewed? This is what to expect and what to do if you get audited by the IRS:

•   Typically, you will get a letter from the IRS in the mail that will identify an issue (such as your reporting less income than their records show you earned) and requesting a response.

•   It’s wise to gather your documents so you can make your case. It can be smart to send your reply as a clear, concise statement of what your documentation shows and share those records to help prove your point.

•   One important thing to do when you get audited is to reply in a timely manner and make sure your reply gets where it’s going. It can be a wise move to use additional mail services to ensure you have proof of delivery.

•   If you worked with a CPA or an enrolled agent on your return, they can likely advise you. If you used tax-return software, they may also offer help.

•   Your response to the mail inquiry may be enough to resolve the situation. Or the IRS may have additional questions for or requirements of documentation for you. If things escalate to a face-to-face meeting, you may want to have a tax professional work with you and accompany you for guidance and support.

•   Whether it’s a correspondence exam or an in-person audit, you’ll get a printed list of specific records the IRS wants to see. If your audit is being managed by mail, you may be able to send the documents electronically or by mail. (Be sure to get a receipt for delivery.) Note the IRS will generally accept copies and they caution against mailing original documents in. If it isn’t possible to send the documents, you can request an in-person meeting.

•   If you need more time to respond to a correspondence exam, you can fax or email a request for an extension using the contact information in your IRS letter. Or, if you’re being asked to comply with an in-person exam, you can contact the auditor assigned to your case to request an extension.

•   Also worth noting: If the IRS finds discrepancies in your return, it may review returns from up to the last six years to better assess what the situation is.

The Takeaway

No one can guarantee a return won’t be audited by the IRS — even if you aren’t doing any of the things most experts say might put you at higher risk. But if you’re honest about your income and your deductions, keep organized and complete records, take care to enter all information accurately, and double-check your work, you may be able to avoid major problems should you get audited.

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

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

FAQ

Are audits always negative?

While IRS audits make most people sweaty-palmed, they can be as simple as answering some questions by mail. They are not necessarily as scary as you may think.

How do I know that I am being audited?

If you are being audited, you will be notified, most likely by mail, by the IRS.

What happens after an audit is conducted?

After an audit is conducted, you will be told the outcome. You may be told you owe taxes and penalties or not. If you are assessed additional taxes and fees, you can complete paperwork and pay them if you agree with the findings. If you don’t, you can contact the auditor to discuss and request a review of the findings. If necessary, the matter can be escalated to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) or you can file an appeal with the IRS Appeals Office.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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.

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The Fastest Ways to Get Your Tax Refund

Learning that you are eligible for a tax refund can be a welcome surprise. Or maybe it’s something you’ve been hoping (or even waiting for) for months.

If you have any pressing expenses — maybe you’re behind on a few bills or have been putting off going to the dentist because of the cost — you may be wondering how you might be able to get that money into your hands ASAP.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things any taxpayer can do to help ensure that their refund comes quickly.

This includes e-filing with the IRS (rather than physically mailing in your return) and setting up direct deposit, so there’s no waiting for that refund check to come through the mail.

Read on to learn more about getting your tax refund sooner, including:

•   How to plan your tax return filing

•   How to file electronically

•   How to set up direct deposit

•   How to track your refund

Quickest Ways to Get Your Tax Refund

Here are some key steps you may want to take as tax season gets underway, starting well before Tax Day in April. They’ll help ensure that you get your refund ASAP.

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

1. Start Planning Your Tax Return Filing in January

In general, the fastest way to get your tax refund is to file your taxes early, and you certainly don’t want to miss that tax-filing deadline.

This means that, starting in January, you may want to begin collecting all the necessary information for filling out your tax forms, such as your W-2 and any 1099s. You’ll also likely need to decide whether you are going to file on your own (perhaps using tax software) or hire a tax preparation service or accountant to help.

2. Get Your Return in ASAP

The further into tax season that you file, the more likely the IRS is to be inundated with returns. That can slow processing times, which can delay your refund.

If you followed Step 1, above, then you’ll have your documentation organized. All of the forms you need should be issued by January 31.

If you prefer working with a professional tax preparer, it’s wise to book them in advance, since they’ll likely be very busy with other clients. If you plan to use tax software, buy it early and learn how to use it. You’ll be ready to be one of the first filers out of the starting gate.

3. File Your Tax Return Electronically

One of the fastest ways to get your refund can be to choose electronic filing instead of sending your return by mail.

That way, your refund can begin moving through the system immediately, rather than having to wind its way through snail mail and hands-on processing.

A paper tax return can take about six to eight weeks to process, but with electronic filing, or e-filing, taxpayers can typically expect to receive their refund within 21 days. Your tax preparer will usually offer ways for you to file electronically.

Taxpayers can also use tax preparation software such as TurboTax, TaxSlayer, TaxAct, or H&R Block. You can use these programs to file your taxes yourself, or you might go to a professional who knows how to use this type of software. Either way, electronic filing is probably an option.

4. Get Help Filing Your Return Quickly

But what if you don’t have funds for tax help and are feeling overwhelmed by the process and therefore don’t file right away? Fortunately, help is available. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers a few options for
e-filing
which can help you get this task completed.

If taxpayers make an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $79,000 or less per year, then they can use IRS Free
File
to turn in their tax forms.

For taxpayers whose AGI is greater than $79,000, they can use the IRS’s Free File Fillable Forms service, which lets you simply input your data onto your tax forms so you can e-file (if you choose this option, you’ll need to know how to prepare your own tax return).

The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs also provide help and e-file for taxpayers who qualify.

Most states also offer free e-filing options for state returns.

The IRS has a helpful tool on their website where taxpayers can find an authorized IRS e-file Provider
Locator
. All taxpayers have to do is input their zip code and choose what kind of provider they need.

5. Set Up Direct Deposit

How else to get your refund fast? The speediest way to get your tax refund is to have it electronically deposited into your financial account. This is known as direct deposit, and the service is free. It’s also possible to break up your refund and have it deposited into one, two, or even three accounts.

You can set up direct deposit simply by selecting it as your refund method through your tax software and then inputting your account number and routing number (which you can find on your personal checks or through your financial institution).

Or, you can tell your tax preparer that you want direct deposit.

It’s also possible to select direct deposit if you’re filing by paper and sending your return through the mail (you may want to double check to make sure you didn’t make any errors inputting your financial account information). But remember, paper returns tend to move through processing more slowly.

💡 Quick Tip: As opposed to a physical check that can take time to clear, you don’t have to wait days to access a direct deposit. Usually, you can use the money the day it is sent. What’s more, you don’t have to remember to go to the bank or use your app to deposit your check.

6. Open a Bank Account If You Don’t Have One

If you just read the step above and thought you can’t use direct deposit because you don’t have a bank account, this could be the moment to set one up. Perhaps you haven’t gotten around to opening a checking or savings account. Now is a great moment to open one. Many online banks can guide you through the application and opening process online, from your home, in a minimal amount of time. This can be an excellent move as you prepare for tax season.

If you were previously turned down for a bank account, you might want to look into what are known as second chance accounts. Offered by some banks and credit unions, these may not have all the features of conventional accounts, but they can give you a good landing pad for your tax refund via direct deposit.

Recommended: What Are the Different Types of Taxes?

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

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


When Can I Expect My Tax Refund?

As long as taxpayers have e-filed by the deadline and chosen direct deposit, then the refund should hit their account within three weeks. According to the IRS, nine out of 10 refunds arrive in less than 21 days. However, if you file a paper return, the timing will more likely be six to eight weeks.

And, remember, if you file later in the tax season, you might face processing delays. That’s because the volume of returns working their way through the IRS rises significantly. So being an early bird can be among the quickest ways to get your refund.

Recommended: What Is Income Tax Withholding?

Finding Out Where Your Refund Is

Once everything is filed, taxpayers can check their tax refund status on the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? page. This requires inputting your Social Security number or ITIN, filing status, and the exact amount of the refund, which can be found on the tax forms that were submitted.

Can I Track the Status of My Tax Refund?

Taxpayers can check “Where’s My Refund?” starting 24 hours after e-filing.

The site is updated daily, usually at night. The IRS cautions that you may experience delays in getting your refund if you file by mail, or you are responding to a notice from the IRS.

If it’s been more than 21 days and you still haven’t received your refund, you can call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 for help. You may also want to contact the IRS if “Where’s My Refund?” instructs you to do so.

Can You Get Your Tax Refund Back the Same Day?

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to get a tax refund back the same day. The speediest timing tends to be closer to eight days from e-filing to direct deposit of a refund.

However, if taxpayers are in a bind, some tax preparation services offer 0% interest tax-refund loans. Tax-refund loans, also called “refund advances,” allow you to access your refund early, but you may want to keep in mind that tax preparers typically charge fees for filing tax returns.

If you are paying a tax preparer just to get the advance, you’ll essentially be paying a company in order to access your refund. Consider these points:

•   Some providers may charge an additional fee for the advance service.

•   These short-term loans range from $200 to $4,000. In some cases, there may be a minimum amount your refund must meet in order to qualify for a refund advance (how much can vary from one company to another).

•   You may only get part of your expected refund in advance.

•   Some companies may offer to give you a prepaid card with the loan amount on it within 24 hours.

•   Once your tax refund is issued, the tax preparer will typically deduct the loan amount from your refund.

Also be aware that you may be offered this kind of quick cash from other non-bank lenders with significant fees. Proceed with caution.

If you’d rather not pay any fees, however, you may also want to look into other options.

•   If you have bills that are due, it may be worth calling up your providers or credit card companies to see if they can extend their due date while you are waiting for your refund.

•   You might open a 0% interest credit card, such as a balance transfer one, and charge an urgent expense on that card and then pay it off as soon as the refund comes in.

What’s the Best Way to Spend Your Tax Refund?

Finally! Your tax refund has arrived. You may wonder about the best way to use the funds. Yes, it can be tempting to splurge on a weekend away or those new boots you’ve had your eye on, but consider this financially-savvy advice first:

•   If you are carrying any high-interest debt, one smart move might be to put your tax refund towards minimizing the debt or, if possible, wiping it out all together. Doing this can help you avoid spending more money on interest charges. It may also help boost your credit score, which may help you qualify for loans and credit cards with lower interest rates in the future.

•   Or you might consider using your tax refund to jump-start one of your current savings goals, such as building up an emergency fund, a downpayment on a home, or buying a new car.

For an emergency fund or savings goals you hope to accomplish within the next few years, you may want to put your refund in a high-yield savings account. These options typically offer a higher return than a traditional savings account but allow you easy access to your money when you need it.

•   Your tax refund can also help you start saving for the longer term, such as retirement or paying for a child’s education. Using a tax refund to buy investments can help you create additional wealth over time to help fund these far-future goals.

The Takeaway

To get your tax refund as quickly as possible, it’s a good idea to file early, and, if possible, avoid the mail. That means filing electronically (using the IRS’s free service or tax software, or hiring a tax pro) and signing up for direct deposit when you file.

It’s also wise to keep track of your refund on the IRS site and reach out to the agency if you haven’t received your refund within three weeks.

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

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

FAQ

How can I receive my tax refund sooner?

To receive your tax refund as soon as possible (which typically means within three weeks of filing), file electronically and request that the refund be paid by direct deposit.

Is direct deposit faster than mail for tax refunds?

Direct deposit will typically save time versus a check sent by mail in terms of tax refunds. If you file your return electronically too, you’ll likely have the shortest possible time from finishing your return to receiving funds that are due to you.

When should you start planning to file your tax return?

Tax season begins in January, with the forms you need having to be sent by January 31. It’s wise to start getting organized as soon as possible in the New Year to get your return done. If you work with a professional tax preparer, you might want to book them even earlier since January through April will be their busy season.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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.

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