What Are Underlying Assets? Types & Examples

What are Underlying Assets?

In financial circles, assets make the world go round. The goal is to accumulate the most valuable assets to create and sustain long-term wealth.

That lifelong process starts with education, and that, in turn, begins with a key tenet of wealth building: knowing all about underlying assets and what role they play in portfolio management.

What is an Underlying Asset?

An underlying asset is the foundational security, or investment vehicle, on which derivatives operate. Underlying assets can be individual securities (like stocks or bonds) or groups of securities (like in an index fund).

A derivative represents a financial contract between two or more parties based on the current or future value of an underlying asset. Derivatives can take many forms, with trading in widely used markets like futures, equity options, swaps, and warrants. These are high-risk, high-reward vehicles where investors bet on the future value of an underlying asset, and they are often used as hedges against other investments (which seeks to reduce investment risk) or as speculative instruments that pay off down the road (which can heighten investment risk.)

That’s where underlying assets come into play. To make the most optimal derivative bets, investors aim to either hedge risk or enhance it, by making speculative moves in higher-risk areas like options and futures. The underlying assets that enable those bets are critical to the derivatives investment process.


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

How Underlying Assets Work

To illustrate how underlying assets work in the derivatives market, let’s use options trading as an example.

An option is a financial derivative that gives the contract owner the right to buy or sell an underlying security at a specific time and at a specific price. When an option is exercised by the contract holder, that simply means the holder has exercised the rights to buy or sell an underlying asset and now owns (or sells out of) the underlying asset.

Options come in two specific categories: puts and calls.

Put options allow the options owner to sell an underlying asset (like a stock or commodity) at a certain price and by a certain date (known as the expiration date.)

Call options enable the owner to buy an underlying asset (like a stock or a commodity) at a certain price and at a certain date.

The underlying asset comes into play when that options contract is initiated.

Example of an Underlying Asset in Play

Let’s say for example that an investor opts to buy Microsoft (MSFT) at an options strike price (the price you can buy the shares) of $275 per share. The stock is currently trading at $325 per share. The contract is struck on September 1 and the options contract expiration date is November 30.

Now that the contract is up and running, the performance of the underlying asset (Microsoft stock) will define the success or failure of the options investment.

In this scenario, the options owner now has the “option” (hence the name) to buy 100 shares of Microsoft at $275 per share on or before November 30. If the underlying stock, which is now trading at $300, remains above the $275 strike price, the options owner can exercise the contract and make a profit on the investment.

If, for example, MSFT slides to $280 per share in the options contract timeframe, the call options owner can exercise the purchase of Microsoft at $275 per share, $5 below the current value of the stock (i.e., the underlying asset.) With each contract representing 100 shares of stock, the profits can add up on the call option investment.

If on the other hand, Microsoft stock falls below the $275 per share level, and the November 30 deadline has come and gone, the options owner loses money, as the underlying asset is valued at less than $275, although that’s the price the options owner has to pay for the stock by the expiration date.

That scenario represents the power of the underlying asset. The derivatives investment depends entirely on the performance of the underlying asset, with abundant risk for derivative speculators who’ve bet on the underlying asset moving in a certain direction over a certain period of time.


đź’ˇ Quick Tip: Options can be a cost-efficient way to place certain trades, because you typically purchase options contracts, not the underlying security. That said, options trading can be risky, and best done by those who are not entirely new to investing.

5 Different Types of Underlying Assets

Underlying assets come in myriad forms in the derivatives trading market, with certain assets being more equal than others.

Here’s a snapshot.

1. Stocks

One of the most widely used underlying assets are stocks, which is only natural given the pervasiveness of stocks in the investment world.

Derivatives traders rely on common and preferred stocks as benchmark assets when making market moves. Since stocks are so widely traded, it gives derivatives investors more options to speculate, hedge, and generally leverage stocks as an underlying asset.

2. Bonds and Fixed Income Instruments

Bonds, typified by Treasury, municipal, and corporate bonds among others, are also used as derivative instruments. Since bond prices do fluctuate on general economic and market conditions, derivative investors may try to leverage bonds as an underlying asset as both bond interest rates and price fluctuate.

3. Index Funds

Derivative traders also use funds as underlying assets, especially exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which are widely traded in intra-day trading sessions. Besides being highly liquid and fairly easy to trade, exchange-traded funds are tradeable on major global exchanges at any point during the trading day.

That’s not the case with mutual funds, which can only be traded after the day’s trading session comes to a close. The distinction is important to derivative traders, who have more opportunities for market movement with ETFs than they might with mutual funds.

ETFs also cover a wide variety of investment market sectors, like stocks, bonds, commodities, international and emerging markets, and business sector funds (such as manufacturing, health care, finance, and more recently, cryptocurrencies). That availability gives derivatives investors even more flexibility, which is a characteristic investors typically seek with underlying assets.

4. Currencies

Global currencies like the dollar or yen, among many others, are also frequently deployed by derivative investors as underlying assets. A primary reason is the typically fast-moving foreign currency (FX) market, where prices can change rapidly based on geopolitical, economic, and market conditions.

Currencies usually trade fast and often, which may make for a volatile market — and derivative investors tend to steer cash toward underlying assets that demonstrate volatility, as quick market movements allow for quick money-making opportunities. Given that they move so quickly, currencies can also move in the wrong direction quickly, which is why investment experts generally advise individual investors to shy away from markets where investment risk is abundant.

5. Commodities

Common global commodities like gold, silver, platinum, and oil and gas, are also underlying assets that are widely used by derivatives investors.

Historically, commodities are one of the most volatile and fast-moving investment markets. Like currencies, commodities are often highly desirable for derivative traders, but high volatility may lead to significant investment losses in the derivatives market if the investor lacks the experience and acumen needed to trade against underlying assets.

The Takeaway

Underlying assets used in derivative deals can come with high risk — and trading against those assets require a comprehensive knowledge of trading, leverage, hedging and speculation.

Those attributes are typically aligned with high-end investment firms, hedge firms, and other institutional investors. They’re not typically associated with regular people looking to save for retirement and build household wealth. Regular investors will likely be looking to balance risk and return to help save for the future.

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Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

A credit card can serve as a fantastic financial tool and offer a number of perks, from the opportunity to build your credit to the chance to rake in lucrative rewards. However, using a credit card responsibly is key to reaping those benefits. Otherwise, a credit card is more likely to harm your financial well-being than help it.

Using a credit card responsibly involves sticking to basic rules like making on-time payments and avoiding practices such as spending more with your card than you can afford to pay off. By learning some tips for how to use a credit card responsibly, you’ll be well on your way toward making the most out of this financial tool.

Key Points

•   A credit card can be a valuable financial tool, offering perks like credit building and rewards.

•   Responsible use requires adhering to rules such as timely payments and spending within one’s means.

•   Understanding how credit cards work, including interest accrual and statement details, is crucial.

•   Various strategies, including the snowball and avalanche methods, can optimize debt repayment.

•   Regular statement checks are essential to spot any discrepancies or fraudulent transactions.

How Do Credit Cards Work?

A credit card is a payment card that offers access to a revolving line of credit. You can tap into this credit line for a variety of purposes, including making purchases, completing balance transfers, and taking out a cash advance. Cardholders can borrow up to their credit limit, which is largely determined based on their creditworthiness and represents the maximum amount they can borrow.

It’s necessary to make at least a minimum payment by the due date each month in order to avoid a late fee. However, to avoid paying interest entirely, cardholders must pay off their balance in full each month; interest accrues on any balance that rolls over from month to month.

Many credit card companies charge compounding interest, which means that not only will you owe interest on any outstanding balance, you’ll also end up paying interest on the interest. That’s because this interest is calculated continually, then added to your balance, and it may be compounded daily. You may be shocked to see how much credit card interest you’ll pay if you only make the minimum payment each month.

Understanding Your Statement

A crucial component of knowing how credit cards work is understanding your monthly credit card statement. Your statement contains a number of important pieces of information about your credit card account, including:

•   Your account information

•   Your account summary, including your payment due date

•   All purchases made with the card

•   Your total credit card balance

•   The minimum payment due

•   When the credit card payment is due

•   Your available credit

•   Interest charges

•   Rewards summary

Many of these details are key to know in order to ensure you’re using a credit card wisely. For instance, knowing your payment due date will ensure you make your payment on time, avoiding any late fees and a ding to your credit score.

Checking on your available credit can help you ensure you’re not using too much of your credit, which can drive up your credit utilization rate and subsequently drag down your score.

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10 Tips For Using a Credit Card Responsibly

To make the most of your credit card, here are several credit card rules to keep in mind — as well as some guidance on what credit card behavior to avoid.

1. Avoid Making Too Many Impulse Purchases

To use a credit card responsibly, you want to avoid overspending with it. How many is “too many” purchases depends upon how much your impulse buys cost and how easily they fit into your budget. If you know you can pay off your credit card balances and otherwise meet your monthly expenses and savings and other financial goals, then that’s an entirely different situation from one in which your impulse purchases are too costly to promptly pay off and/or prevent you from meeting other financial responsibilities or goals.

If you enjoy making spontaneous buys, you may consider including this as a line item in your monthly budget and then sticking to it. This could add enjoyment to your life without causing financial problems down the road.

2. Use the Right Credit Card

There are a variety of different types of credit cards, and depending on how you plan to use your credit card, one option may make more sense than another. Some credit cards are there to help you build your credit, while others pay out generous rewards.

Selecting which card is right for you requires a look at your financial habits and current situation. For example, if you know that you often end up needing to carry a balance, then it may make sense to find a card that prioritizes low interest rates. Or, let’s say you’re a frequent vacationer — in that case, you might benefit from a travel rewards card.

3. Take Advantage of Benefits Offered

Interested in another way to use your credit card responsibly? Signing up for eligible rewards programs can help cardholders make the most of their card. Each type of credit card may have slightly different reward programs. See what the full range perks offered by your card are — and if you’re not sure, check the card’s website or ask the credit card company for specifics. For example, you might need help understanding what unlimited cash back really means in terms of how you might benefit.

Once you know what perks are available, you can use them strategically. You may discover that the card(s) you have don’t provide the best benefits for you. For example, maybe your card offers one of its highest rewards rates for gas purchases, but you don’t do much driving. In that case, you might be better served by a rewards card that offers a flat rewards rate or that prioritizes a category in which you’re a frequent spender.

Finally, if you’re earning rewards points, it’s also important to consider the best way to use them. Sometimes it’s possible to get a bigger bang for your buck if, say, you use your rewards points at an approved store rather than opting for cash back.

4. Sign Up for Automatic Payments

To avoid missing payments or making them late, consider signing up for automatic payments or autopay. By enrolling in autopay, you’ll regularly have money transferred from a linked account each month in order to cover the amount due (or at least the minimum payment required).

Another option is to sign up for automatic reminders about payment due dates (by text, for example, or by email). You can do this through the credit card company or via a calendar app.

What’s most important is coming up with a plan that works best for you to ensure you make your payments on time. Otherwise, you could face late fees and adverse effects to your credit score.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

5. Regularly Check Your Statements

Mistakes do happen on credit card statements and, unfortunately, fraudulent activities could impact your account. Check your statement every month to ensure that you made all the charges that appear, and that any payments you’ve made are accurately reflected.

If something is missing, review the statement dates to see if the transaction may have happened right after the statement cut-off date, for instance. If something seems off, contact your credit card company for clarification. In the case of any potentially fraudulent activity, it’s important to report credit card fraud to your credit card company immediately.

6. Pay More Than the Minimum

You’ve just read about how credit card interest works, so you’ll remember that only making the minimum payment doesn’t get you out of paying interest. To avoid credit card interest charges, you’ll need to pay off your monthly statement balance in full.

Understandably, this isn’t always possible, but even then, it still helps to pay as much above the minimum as you can afford to. This will at least cut down on the outstanding balance that accrues interest.

7. Don’t Close Out Old Cards

While it might seem logical to close out an older credit card you’re no longer using, you’ll want to think twice before you cancel a credit card. That’s because doing so can have adverse implications for your credit.

For starters, canceling a credit card will lower your credit utilization rate, which compares your total outstanding balance to your overall available credit limit. Closing out a card will cause you to lose that card’s credit limit, thus lowering the amount of credit you have available.

Closing an old card could also have an impact if the card in question is one of your older accounts. Another factor that contributes to your credit score is the age of your credit. By closing out an old account, you’ll lose that boost in age.

That being said, there are scenarios where it might make sense to close a card, such as if it charges a high annual fee. Just be mindful of the potential effects it will have on your credit before moving forward.



💡 Quick Tip: Aim to keep your credit utilization — the percentage of your total available credit that you’re using at any given time — below 30% (or lower). This could help you to maintain a strong credit score.

8. Maintain a Low Credit Utilization Rate

Another key tip for responsible credit card usage is to avoid maxing out your cards. Instead, aim to keep a lower credit utilization rate — ideally below 30%. The lower you can keep this utilization rate, the better it is for your credit score.

9. Avoid Unnecessary Fees

Another part of using a credit card responsibly is being aware of all of the fees you could face, and then taking steps to steer clear of those costs. Your credit card terms and conditions will spell out all of the fees associated with your card, as well as the card’s APR (or annual percentage rate) and the rules of its rewards program.

Many credit card fees are pretty easy to avoid. For instance, if you’ll incur a fee to send money with a credit card, simply avoid doing that and look for an alternative route. Similarly, you can avoid late payment fees by making on-time payments, and over-the-limit fees by not maxing out your credit card.

10. Avoid Applying for Too Many Cards

As you get into the swing of things with using your credit card, you may feel tempted to keep acquiring new cards, whether to keep on earning rewards or to capitalize on enticing welcome bonuses. But proceed with caution when it comes to applying for credit cards.

Applying for credit cards too frequently can raise a red flag for lenders, as it may suggest that you’re overextending yourself and desperate for funding. Plus, each time you submit an application for a credit card, this will trigger a hard inquiry, which can ding your credit score temporarily. Consider waiting at least six months between credit card applications.

The Takeaway

When used responsibly, credit cards can be helpful for a whole slew of things, from making online purchases to building your credit. The key phrase to keep in mind is “when used responsibly.” To stay on top of your credit cards, tips like signing up for automatic payments, making the most of the rewards programming, and using the right type of credit card for your needs are all important.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


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.

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

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Can You Remove Student Loans from Your Credit Report?

Editor's Note: For the latest developments regarding federal student loan debt repayment, check out our student debt guide.

Paying student loans on time can have a positive effect on your credit score and help build a good credit history. On the flip side, when you have a late or missed student loan payment, that can be reflected on your credit report as well. Delinquent payments can lower your credit score and have financial repercussions, such as impacting your ability to qualify for a new credit card, car loan, or mortgage.

If you’re wondering how to remove student loans from a credit report, the answer is that it’s only an option if there’s inaccurate information on the report. Student loans are eventually removed from a credit report, however, after they’re paid off or seven years after they’ve been in default. Here’s what to know about student loans on a credit report, what happens when you default on a loan, and how to remove student loans from a credit report if there’s inaccurate information.

Key Points

•   Accurate student loan information is crucial for credit reports; incorrect details can be disputed to ensure accuracy.

•   Defaulted student loans appear on credit reports for seven years from the original delinquency date.

•   Student loans paid in full can remain on credit reports for up to ten years, potentially boosting credit scores.

•   Removing student loans from a credit report is only possible if the reported information is inaccurate.

•   Regularly reviewing credit reports allows individuals to verify that student loans are reported correctly.

What Is a Credit Report?

Before considering the impact of student loans on your credit report, it’s helpful to review what a credit report is. It’s a statement that includes details about your current and prior credit activity, such as your history of loan payments or the status of your credit card accounts.

These statements are compiled by credit reporting companies who collect financial data about you from a range of sources, such as lenders or credit card companies. Lenders use credit reports to make decisions about whether to offer you a loan or what interest rate they will give you. Other companies use credit reports to make decisions about you as well – for example, when you rent an apartment, secure an insurance policy, or sign up for internet service.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

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Defaulting on Student Loans

It’s also worth reviewing what happens when a student loan goes into default. One in ten people in the United States has defaulted on a student loan, and 5% of total student loan debt is in default, according to the Education Data Initiative.

The point when a loan is considered to be in default depends on the type of student loan you have. For a loan made under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program or the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, you’re considered to be in default if you don’t make your scheduled student loan payments for a period of at least 270 days (about nine months).

For a loan made under the Federal Perkins Loan Program, the holder of the loan may declare the loan to be in default if you don’t make any scheduled payment by its due date. The consequences of defaulting on student loans can be severe, including:

•   The entire unpaid balance of your student loans, including interest, could be due in full immediately.

•   The government can garnish your wages by up to 15%, meaning your employer is required to withhold a portion of your pay and send it directly to your loan holder.

•   Your tax return and federal benefits payments may be withheld and applied to cover the costs of your defaulted loan.

•   You could lose eligibility for any further federal student aid.

And you don’t have to default on your student loans to experience the consequences of nonpayment. Even if your payment is only a day late, your loan can be considered delinquent and you can be charged a penalty fee.

Temporary Relief for Borrowers Behind on Payments

The pandemic-era pause on federal student loan payments that was established in March 2020 finally came to an end in the fall of 2023. After more than three years of having this financial responsibility off their plates, federal student loan borrowers must now fit payments back into their budgets. However, in order to protect financially vulnerable borrowers from facing the steep consequences of missing payments during this transition, the Biden Administration established a 12-month “on-ramp” program to help them adjust.

From Oct. 1, 2023, to Sept. 30, 2024, borrowers who don’t pay their federal student loans will be free of the usual repercussions. Specifically, this means that:

•   Loans will not be considered delinquent or in default.

•   Missed payments will not be reported to the credit bureaus.

•   Missed payments will not be referred to debt collection agencies.

•   Unpaid student loan interest will not capitalize (be rolled into the principal balance) once the on-ramp period ends.

However, payments missed during this period will be due once it ends. Additionally, any missed payments will not count toward forgiveness under income-driven repayment or Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

How Long Do Student Loans Remain on a Credit Report?

If you are delinquent on your student loans or go into default, that activity is reported to the credit bureaus. It will remain on your credit report for up to seven years from the original delinquency date.

The good news is that the more time that passes since your missed payment, the less impact it has on your credit score.

The exception to this is a Federal Perkins Loan, which is a low-interest federal student loan for undergraduate and graduate students who have exceptional financial need. This type of loan will remain on your credit report until you pay it off in full or consolidate it.

On the other hand, if you made timely payments on your loan and paid it off in full, it may appear on your credit report for up to 10 years as evidence of your positive payment history and can boost your credit score.

How Do I Dispute a Student Loan on My Credit Report?

It’s a good habit to periodically check your credit report. You can request a free report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—by visiting annualcreditreport.com. The bureaus are required by law to give you a free report every 12 months. However, through the end of 2023, you may request your report weekly at no cost.

There are three reasons your student loan might have been wrongly placed in default and reported to the credit bureaus by mistake. Here’s how to begin the process to correct these errors:

1. If You Are Still in School

If you believe your loan was wrongly placed in default and you are attending school, contact your school’s registrar and ask for a record of your school attendance. Then call your loan servicer to ask about your record regarding school attendance.

If they have the incorrect information on file, provide your loan servicer with your records and request that your student loans be accurately reported to the credit bureaus.

2. If You Were Approved for Deferment or Forbearance

If you believe your loan was wrongly placed in default, but you were approved for (and were supposed to be in) a deferment or forbearance, there is a chance your loan servicer’s files aren’t up to date. You can contact the loan servicer and ask them to confirm the start and end dates of any deferments or forbearances that were applied to your account.

If the loan servicer doesn’t have the correct dates, provide documentation with the correct information and ask that your student loans be accurately reported to the credit bureaus. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a borrower may appeal the accuracy and validity of the information reported to the credit bureau and reflected on their credit report.

Recommended: Student Loan Deferment vs Forbearance: What’s the Difference?

3. Inaccurate Reporting of Payments

If your loan has been reported as delinquent or in default to the credit bureaus, but you believe your payments are current, you can request a statement from your loan servicer that shows all the payments made on your student loan account, which you can compare against your bank records.

If some of your payments are missing from the statement provided by your loan servicer, you can provide proof of payment and request that your account be accurately reported to the credit reporting agencies.

Recommended: How to Build Credit Over Time

In all three cases, if you believe there is any type of error related to your student loan on your credit report, it’s best practice to also send a written copy of your dispute to the credit bureaus so they are aware that you have reported an error.

Why Your Student Loans Should Stay on Your Credit Report

You generally can’t have negative, but accurate, information removed from your credit report. However, you can dispute the student loans on your credit report if they are being reported incorrectly.

On the bright side, if you’re paying your student loans on time each month, that looks good on your credit report. It shows lenders that you are responsible and likely to pay loans back diligently.


đź’ˇ Quick Tip: When refinancing a student loan, you may shorten or extend the loan term. Shortening your loan term may result in higher monthly payments but significantly less total interest paid. A longer loan term typically results in lower monthly payments but more total interest paid.

When You’re Having Problems Paying Your Student Loans

If you’re having difficulty making regular payments on your federal or private student loans, there are steps you can take before the consequences of defaulting kick in.

One option is to apply for student loan deferment, which allows you to reduce or pause your federal student loan payments for up to three years. During this time, interest on subsidized loans does not accrue. Or you could pursue student loan forbearance, which allows you to reduce or pause payments for up to a year if you’re facing a temporary financial hardship.

You can also contact your loan servicer to discuss adjusting your repayment plans.

Additionally, if you’re having trouble paying your student loans on time, you may be able to make your loans more affordable through a federal income-based repayment plan. These plans, including the new Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan, cap your payments at a small percentage of your discretionary income and extend the repayment term out to 20-25 years. Once the repayment period is up, any remaining balance is forgiven (though you may be subject to income taxes on the canceled amount).

Refinancing your student loans may also be an option—if you extend your term length, you may qualify for a lower monthly payment. Note that while these options provide short-term relief, they generally will result in paying more over the life of the loan.

When you start making your payments by the due date each month, you may see that your student loans can become a more positive part of your credit report. Again, while these options provide short-term relief, they generally will result in paying more over the life of the loan.

The Takeaway

While you generally can’t remove student loans from a credit report unless there are errors, it isn’t a bad thing if you make payments on time. If a loan is delinquent, it will be removed from your credit report after seven years, though you will still be responsible for paying back the loan.

If you’re having trouble making loan payments, there are ways to make repayment easier. Borrowers with federal student loans can look into forgiveness, an income-driven repayment plan, or a change to the loan’s terms.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Is it illegal to remove student loans from a credit report?

There’s no legal way to remove student loans from a credit report unless the information is incorrect. If you think there’s an error on your credit report, you can contact your loan servicer with documentation and ask them to provide accurate information to the credit reporting agencies. It’s also a good idea to send a copy of the dispute to the credit bureaus as well.

How do I get a student loan removed from my credit report?

If you paid your student loan off in full, it may still appear on your credit report for up to 10 years as evidence of your positive payment history. It takes seven years to have a defaulted student loan removed from a credit report. Keep in mind you are still responsible for paying off the defaulted loan and you won’t be able to secure another type of federal loan until you do.

How can I get rid of student loans legally?

If you have federal student loans, options such as federal forgiveness programs or income-driven repayment plans can help decrease the amount of your student loan that you need to pay back. If you have private or federal student loans, refinancing can help lower monthly payments by securing a lower interest rate and/or extending your loan term. If you refinance a federal loan, however, you will no longer have access to federal protections and benefits. And you may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.



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


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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.

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

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What is the Capital Asset Pricing Model?

What is the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM)?

The Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) is an investment assessment formula that shines a light on the relationship between the systematic risk in a security and its estimated return. Investors use the CAPM to determine whether an investment’s expected return is the same as its risk-free return, and to determine an asset’s expected returns.

CAPM Defined

The Capital Asset Pricing Model makes the process of measuring investment return and risk more efficient, to determine whether a particular asset offers an acceptable rate of return.

CAPM is especially helpful when an investor faces significant investment risk, such as when trading equity options. The formula helps the investor determine whether the transaction has an acceptable measure of risk. By using CAPM, the investor is able to accurately assess if the potential investment return on a security is worth taking on.

Evaluating the fair value of a security is an ongoing endeavor, as investment risk factors and other variables change all the time. When those risks shift (think interest rate changes, company management changes, or a geopolitical crisis erupts, among other potential threats), investors can still use the capital asset pricing model to weigh an investment against constant risk and return variables.

Investors can factor market impactors, like interest rate flows, currency valuations, and stock market cycles, among other issues, into their CAPM analysis to better weigh risk versus return. Basically, the bigger the chance of risk, the more important CAPM becomes to investors weighing that risk against potential returns.


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What Is the CAPM Formula?

CAPM can help evaluate an investment’s viability in a time of significant market angst, by measuring three important barometers in an investment equation – risk-free return, the market risk premium, and the investment beta.

Let’s take a look at how CAPM is calculated with all three factors included.

The (capital asset pricing model) CAPM formula is represented as below:

Expected Rate of Return = Risk-Free Premium + Beta * (Market Risk Premium) Ra = Rrf + βa * (Rm – Rrf)

The calculation reflects a series of financial metrics, which taken together can offer a balanced look at a potential investment’s risk and return, with the aforementioned metrics front and center.

Risk-Free Return (Rrf)

This metric represents the value given to an investment (like a stock or commodity trading, for example) that provides return with no risk. U.S. Treasury bond, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government, are a good example of risk-free return in action.

Since the U.S. government guarantees the bonds, and there is virtually zero chance of the U.S. defaulting on its debt obligations, Treasuries are considered among the safest investments available. That’s a big reason why risk-free return value reflects the yield delivered by a 10-year U.S. government bond.

The Market Risk Premium (Rm-Rrf)

This financial metric represents the return an investor earns – or anticipates earning – from owning a more risk-abundant portfolio. The MPA is an important component of CAPM, as it enables an investor to assess risk and decide if the market premium rate is superior to an investment in a risk-free investment like U.S. bonds.

The Beta (Ba)

Wall Street analysts rely on beta to weigh the volatility of a given security against a broader market.

For instance, an investor looking to buy 100 shares of an emerging biotech company can use beta to evaluate that investment and see how it may perform if the broader stock market turns volatile. In that scenario, that biotech stock’s beta may be 13%, which means it would trigger a 130% variation from any significant (based on the exact calculation) of any shift in the broader stock market. Beta is always equal to 1 in any market evaluation equation, meaning it’s parallel to any potential shifts in a broader market

CAPM Formula Explained

Factoring in each component to the CAPM equation, the resulting formula looks like this:

Expected return = Risk-free rate + (beta x market risk premium).

The risk-free component focuses on the time value of money, or the concept that a cash amount in present form is potentially higher than the same amount of cash down the road, primarily because of money’s current earnings potential. A CAPM formula may also factor in excess risks taken on by an investor.

Next, beta is assessed to figure out just how much risk is on the table relative to the broader market. For instance, if ABC stock offers more risk than the broader market, its beta is higher than 1 (one). A beta that is lower than 1 assumes the investment will curb portfolio risk, which may make a security more palatable to risk-averse investors.

With the beta calculated, beta is multiplied by the market risk premium, and the result (value) is added into the investment’s risk-free rate to provide the security’s estimated rate of return.

In conducting a CAPM exercise, the investor must acknowledge some level of risk in any investment, primarily in two ways.

•   Loss is always possible, as common market securities like stocks, commodities, funds, or currencies may lose money, making them a depreciation risk.

•   The higher level of risk in a specific security often correlates to a higher potential investment return, as history shows that specific investments carry more risks and more rewards than others (stock options and future.

Advantages to Capital Asset Pricing Model

The chief advantages to the capital asset pricing model are that it’s relatively simple and easy to use, it takes systemic risk into consideration, it has a wide range of potential uses (when other models may not do the trick, for instance), and for that reason, is often seen as a superior model to others, such as the WACC formula.

Problems with the CAPM

While the CAPM is an extremely useful tool for investors, it does have some drawbacks. One such drawback is the reliance on the risk-free rate and the beta. As such, CAPM must be constantly recalculated in order to remain useful. It also does not account for transaction costs such as taxes and fees, which could make a potential investment less favorable than the model shows.

Efficient Frontiers and the Capital Asset Pricing Model

In theory, if an investor adhered perfectly to CAPM all of their investments would exist on the efficient frontier, meaning that all returns justify the risks taken. The efficient frontier is the optimal baseline for a portfolio, Since every investment comes with some risk, it’s important to make sure that the returns correspond to the level of risk.

CAPM and the Security Market Line (SML)

The security market line, or SML, is a graphical representation of the CAPM formula, and shows expected returns for a security. Specifically, it shows the relationship between beta and expected return. When used in conjunction with the CAPM formula, investors can use the SML to try and get a sense of whether a prospective investment offers a good enough expected return when all risks are taken into account.

Practical Value of the CAPM

Many investors probably wonder if, when it comes down to it, CAPM has much practical value. While that will ultimately depend on the individual investor, it may be fair to say that the CAPM has value in that it’s widely used, and can give investors a broad or general idea of the risks and potential returns involved with a single investment. Again, it’s not the only model or formula that does that – but can be yet another tool that an investor can have in their analytical tool box.

The Takeaway

CAPM can help investors understand how the risk and return of a given investment relate to each other. Having the answer to that question can help investors make more knowledgeable portfolio decisions on an ongoing basis.

CAPM is also a fairly high-level investing concept, and one that many investors may never use or encounter. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its uses – but if you feel that it’s over your head or too advanced, you can always consult with a financial professional for guidance.

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

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.

FAQ

What are some of the assumptions built into the CAPM model?

A few assumptions built into the CAPM model are that all investors are naturally risk-averse, that investors are evaluating investments within the same time period, and that investors have unlimited capital to borrow at a relatively risk-free rate of return.

What are alternatives to the CAPM?

Some alternatives to the CAPM include arbitrage pricing theory, or APT, and the Fama-French Model. There are others out there, too, which may or may not be perfect substitutes or alternatives to the CAPM.

What is the International Capital Asset Pricing Model (ICAPM)?

The International Capital Asset Pricing Model, or ICAPM, is more or less an extension of the CAPM, and incorporates or includes international investments.

Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages


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Can You Refinance a Personal Loan?

Consolidating credit card debt is a common use of personal loans. And it makes sense, given that personal loans typically have lower interest rates than credit cards (which currently average 24.58%).

But what about saving money on an existing personal loan? Can you refinance a personal loan, ultimately saving money on interest or lowering your monthly payment? The answer is, yes. However, it may not make sense for every person or every type of personal loan.

Read on to learn why you might refinance a personal loan, how the process works, plus the pros and cons of a personal loan refinance.

Key Points

•   Refinancing a personal loan can lead to savings on interest or lower monthly payments, depending on the terms of the new loan.

•   Lowering the overall interest rate and reducing monthly payments are common reasons for refinancing personal loans.

•   Potential advantages of refinancing include paying less interest over time and consolidating multiple debts into one payment.

•   Disadvantages may include paying more in interest due to a longer repayment term and possible fees such as origination or prepayment penalties.

•   The process involves checking credit scores, shopping around for the best loan options, and applying for a new loan to pay off the existing one.

Why Refinance a Personal Loan?

While there may be a variety of reasons to refinance a loan, it mainly comes down to two.

1.    To lower the overall interest rate and total interest paid.

2.    To lower the monthly payment.

These two might seem like the same thing, but they’re not.

When you refinance any type of loan, you are essentially replacing your old loan with a new loan that has a different rate and/or repayment term. If the new loan has a lower annual percentage rate (APR), you can save money on interest. If the APR is the same but the repayment term is longer, you can lower your monthly payments, making them easier to manage, but won’t save any money. (In fact, a longer repayment term generally means paying more in interest over the life of the loan.)

Another reason why you might consider refinancing a personal loan is to consolidate your debts (so you just have one payment) or to add or remove a cosigner.

Possible Advantages of Refinancing a Personal Loan

Here’s a look at some of the benefits of refinancing a personal loan.

Pay Less in Interest

If you are able to qualify for a personal loan with a lower APR, it may be possible to save a significant amount of money over time, provided you don’t extend your loan term. You can also save on interest by shortening your existing loan term, since this allows you to pay off the loan sooner.

Lower Your Monthly Payment

Refinancing to a lower APR and/or extending the length of the loan can lower your monthly payment. A lower monthly bill could help you get back on track, especially if you’ve been struggling to make your monthly payments.

Consolidate Multiple Debts

If you have a personal loan as well as other debts (such as credit card debt), you can use a new personal loan to consolidate those debts into one loan and a single monthly payment. If your new loan has a lower APR than the average of your combined debts, you may also be able to save money.

Possible Disadvantages of Refinancing a Personal Loan

Refinancing a personal loan might not be the right move for everybody. Here are some disadvantages to consider.

You May Pay More in Interest

If you refinance a personal loan using a loan that has a longer repayment term, you could end up paying much more in interest over the life of the loan.

You May Have to Pay an Origination Fee

Many personal loan lenders charge origination fees to cover the cost of processing and closing the loan. This is a one-time fee charged at the time the loan closes and, in some cases, can be as high as 10% of the loan. Since the fee is deducted before the loan is disbursed to you, it reduces the amount of money you actually get.

You Might Get Hit with a Prepayment Penalty

Some lenders charge a fee if you pay off the loan before the agreed-upon term, which is known as a prepayment penalty. If your original lender charges you a prepayment penalty, it could cut into your potential refinancing savings.

Refinancing a Personal Loan

If you are thinking about refinancing a personal loan, here are some steps you’ll want to take.

Check Your Credit Report and Score

To benefit from personal loan refinancing, you typically need to have better credit than you had when you got your original personal loan. With a stronger credit profile, you might qualify for a lower APR on the new personal loan.

You can access your credit report for free from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian — through Annualcreditreport.com. It’s a good idea to scan your reports for any errors and, if you find one, report it to the appropriate bureau.

You can typically access your credit score for free through your credit card company (it may be listed on your monthly statement or found by logging in to your online account).

Shop Around for Loans

Every bank has different parameters for determining who they’ll offer loans to and at what rate, so it’s always worth it to shop around. This could mean looking at traditional banks, credit unions, and online-only lenders.

Many lenders will give you a free quote through a prequalification process. This typically takes only a few minutes and does not result in a hard inquiry, which means it won’t impact your credit score. Prequalifying for a personal loan refinance can help compare rates and terms from different lenders and find the best deal.

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Applying for a Loan

Once you’ve decided on a lender who can help you refinance to a new loan, it’s time to formally apply. You’ll likely need to submit several documents, including pay stubs, recent tax returns, and a loan payoff statement from your original lender (which will show how much is still owed).

Paying Off the Old Loan

Once you have your new loan funds, you can pay off your original loan. You’ll want to contact your original lender to find out what the process is and follow their instructions. It’s also a good idea to ask your original lender for documentation showing the loan has been paid off.

Making Payments on the New Loan

Be sure to confirm your first payment due date and minimum payment amount with your new lender and make your first payment on time. You may want to enroll in autopay to ensure you never miss a payment. Some lenders even offer a discount on your rate if you sign up for autopay.

The Takeaway

Can you refinance a personal loan? Yes, and doing so may allow you to get a better rate and/or more affordable payments. However, you’ll want to factor in any fees (such as origination fee on the new loan and/or a prepayment penalty on the old loan) to make sure the refinance will save you money. Also keep in mind that extending the term of your loan can increase the cost of the loan over time.

If you’re interested in exploring your personal loan refinance options, SoFi could help. SoFi personal loans offer competitive, fixed rates and a variety of terms. Checking your rate won’t affect your credit score, and it takes just one minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

Can you refinance a personal loan?

Yes, it is possible to refinance a personal loan. Refinancing involves taking out a new loan to pay off the existing personal loan, ideally with more favorable rates and terms. However, whether you can refinance your personal loan will depend on factors such as your creditworthiness, the terms of the original loan, and the policies of the new lender.

Does refinancing a loan hurt your credit?

Refinancing a loan can have both positive and negative impacts on your credit. Initially, the process of refinancing may result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can cause a temporary decrease in your credit score. However, if you use the refinanced loan to pay off the existing loan and make timely payments on that loan, it can positively impact your credit over time.

Can I refinance a personal loan with another bank?

Yes, it is possible to refinance a personal loan with another bank. Many banks, credit unions, and online lenders offer loan refinancing options. This allows you to transfer your personal loan balance to a new loan with a new lender. However, eligibility criteria, terms, and interest rates will vary by lender. It’s a good idea to shop around, compare offers, and consider factors such as interest rates, fees, and repayment terms before deciding to refinance with another bank.

What are the pros and cons of refinancing a personal loan?

The pros of refinancing a personal loan include the potential to:

•   Secure a lower interest rate

•   Reduce monthly payments

•   Consolidate multiple debts into a single loan

•   Switch to a more favorable lender

This can result in savings on interest costs and improved cash flow. However, there are also potential downsides to consider, which include:

•   Paying an origination fee for the new loan

•   Getting hit with a prepayment fee from your original lender

•   Extending your loan term can increase the total cost of the loan

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before you pursue a personal loan refinance.


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Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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