Using a Personal Cash Flow Statement

If you’re often surprised when you open up your credit card and bank statements and see how much money you spent, or you worry that your cash outflow may be exceeding your cash inflow, there could be a simple solution: A personal cash flow statement.

Creating a personal cash flow statement can give you a clear picture of your monthly cash inflow (money you earn) and your monthly cash outflow (money you spend) to determine if you have a positive or negative net cash flow.

And while it may sound intimidating, creating a personal cash flow statement is relatively simple. All you need to get started is to gather up your bank statements and bills for one month (or more). Then, it’s a matter of some basic calculations.

Once you have your personal financial statement, you’ll know where you currently stand. You’ll also be able to use your personal financial statement to help you create a budget and goals for increasing your net worth.

Here’s how to start getting your financial life back into balance.

What Is a Personal Cash Flow Statement?

“Cash flow” is a term commonly used by businesses to detail the amount of money flowing in and out of a company.

Companies can use cash flow statements to determine how well the company is generating cash to pay its debts and operating expenses.

Just like the ones used by companies, tracking your own cash flow can provide you with a snapshot of your financial condition.

You might learn, for example, that you have less leftover at the end of each month than you thought, or that you are indeed going backwards.

Once you have the numbers down in black and white, you can then make any needed changes, such as reducing costs and expenditures, increasing income, and making sure that your spending is in line with your goals.

So, how do you set up a personal finance cash flow statement?

It might seem overwhelming to get started, but these steps can simplify the process.

Listing all Your Sources of Income

A good first step when creating a personal cash flow statement is to get out all of your pay stubs, bank statements, credit card statements, and bills.

Next, you’ll want to start listing any and all sources of income–the inflow.

Cash inflows generally include: salaries, anything you make from side hustles, interest from savings accounts, income from a rental property, dividends from investments, and capital gains from the sale of financial securities like stocks and bonds.

Since a cash flow statement is designed to give a snapshot into the overall flow of where your money is coming from and where it is going, you might want to avoid listing money in accounts that aren’t available for spending.

For example, you may not want to list dividends and capital gains from investment accounts if they are being automatically reinvested, or are part of a retirement account from which you aren’t actively taking withdrawals.

Since income can vary from one month to the next, you might choose to tally inflow for the last three or six in order to come up with an average.

Once you’ve collected and listed all of your income for the month, you can then calculate the total inflow.

Listing all of Your Expenses

Now that you know how much money is coming in each month, you’ll want to use those same statements and bills, as well as any statements for any debts (such as mortgage, auto loan, or student loans) to list how much was spent during the month.

Again, if your spending tends to fluctuate quite a bit from month to month you may want to track it for several months and come up with an average.

To create a complete picture of how much of your money is flowing out each month, you’ll want to include necessities like food and gas, and also discretionary expenses, such as trips to the nail salon or your monthly streaming services.

Small expenses can add up quickly, so it’s wise to be precise.

Once you’ve compiled all of your expenses, you can calculate the total and come up with your total outflow for the month.

Determining Your Net Cash Flow

To calculate your net cash flow, all you need to do is subtract your monthly outflow from your monthly inflow. The result is your net cash flow.

A positive number means you have a surplus, while a negative means you have a deficit in your budget.

A positive cash flow is desirable, of course, since it can provide more flexibility, and can allow you to decide how to best use the surplus.

There are a variety of options. You could choose to save for an upcoming expense, make additional contributions to your retirement fund, create or add to an emergency fund, or, if your savings are in good shape, consider a splurging on something fun.

A negative cash flow can signal that you are living a more expensive life than your income can support. In the future, maintaining this habit could lead to additional debt.

It’s also possible to have net neutral cash flow (all money coming in and going out is fairly equal).

In that case, you may still want to jigger things around if you are not already putting the annual maximum into your retirement fund and/or you don’t have a comfortable emergency cushion.

The Difference Between a Personal Cash Flow Statement and a Budget

A personal cash flow statement provides a comprehensive look at what is currently coming in and going out of your bank accounts each month.

A cash flow statement tells you where you are.

A personal budget, on the other hand, helps you to get where you want to go by giving you a spending plan that is based on your income.

A budget can provide you with some general spending guidelines, such as how much you should spend on groceries, entertainment and clothing each month so that you don’t exceed your income–and end up with a negative net flow.

Creating a budget can also be a good opportunity to check in with your financial goals.

For example, are you on track for saving for retirement? Do you want to amp up your emergency fund?

Are you interested in tackling the credit card debt that has been spiraling due to high interest rates?

Perhaps you want to work toward paying off your student loans.

Whatever your goal, a well-crafted budget could serve as a roadmap to help you get there.

Using Your Personal Financial Statement to Create a Simple Budget

Because a cash flow statement provides a comprehensive look at your overall spending habits, it can be a great jumping off point to set up a simple budget.

When you’re ready to create a budget, there are a variety of resources online, from apps, like SoFi Relay®, to spreadsheet templates and printable worksheets .

A good first step in creating a budget is to organize all of your monthly expenses into categories.

Spending categories typically include necessities, such as rent or mortgage, transportation (like car expenses or public transportation costs), food, cell phone, healthcare/insurance, life insurance, childcare, and any debts (credit cards/ loans).

You’ll also need to list nonessential spending, such as cable television, streaming services, concert and movie tickets, restaurants, clothing, etc.

You may also want to include monthly contributions to a retirement plan and personal savings into the expense category as well.

And, if you don’t have emergency savings in place that could cover at least three to six months of living expenses, consider putting that on the spending list as well, so you can start putting some money towards it each month.

Once you have a sense of your monthly earnings and spending, you may want to see how your numbers line up with general budgeting guidelines. Financial counselors sometimes recommend the 50/30/20 model, which looks like this:

•  50% of money goes towards necessities such as a home, car, cell phone, or utility bills.
•  30% goes towards your wants, such as entertainment and dining out.
•  20% goes towards your savings goals, such as a retirement plan, a downpayment on a home, emergency fund, or investments.

Improving Your Net Cash Flow

If your net cash flow is not where you want it or, worse, dipping into negative territory, a budget can help bring these numbers into balance.

The key is to look closely at each one of your spending categories and see if you can find some ways to trim back.

The easiest way to change your spending habits is to trim some of your nonessential expenditures. If you’re paying for cable but mostly watch streaming services, for example, you could score some real savings by getting rid of that cable bill.

Not taking as many trips to the mall or cooking (instead of getting takeout) more often could start adding up to a big difference.

Living on a budget may also require looking at the bigger picture and finding places for more significant savings.

For example, maybe rent eats up 50% of your income and it’d be better to move to a less costly apartment. Or, you might want to consider trading in an expensive car lease for a less pricey or pre-owned model.

There may also be opportunities to lower some of your recurring expenses by finding a better deal or negotiating with your service providers.

You may also want to look into any ways you might be able to change the other side of the equation–the inflow.

Some options might include asking for a raise, or finding an additional income stream through some sort of side hustle.

The Takeaway

One of the most important steps towards achieving financial wellness is cash flow management–i.e., making sure that your cash outflow is not exceeding your cash inflow.

Creating a simple cash flow statement for yourself can be an extremely useful tool.

For one reason, it can show you exactly where you stand. For another, a personal cash flow statement can help you create a budget that can bring the inflow and outflow of money into a healthier balance.

Creating–and sticking with–a budget that creates a positive net cash flow, and also allows for monthly saving (for retirement, a future purchase, or a rainy day) can help you build financial security and future wealth.

If you need help with tracking your spending, a SoFi Money® cash management account may be a good option for you.

With SoFi Money, you can see your weekly spending on your dashboard, which can help you stay on top of your spending and make sure you are on track with your budget.

Check out everything a SoFi Money cash management account has to offer today!



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Guide to Zcash Cryptocurrency

Zcash is a potentially private cryptocurrency that offers unique “shielded” features. The set-up allows for addresses and amounts in a Zcash transaction to be encrypted on the blockchain. Here’s a guide to its privacy features, price performance, technology and history.

What Is Zcash?

Zcash crypto falls under the category of cryptocurrencies known as “privacy coins,” or different types of cryptocurrency that make it hard for outside observers to detect details of the coins’ movements.

Zcash is basically a bitcoin clone with one key difference – the ability for shielded transactions, as mentioned. Zcash relies on a technology known as zk-SNARKS to hide the particulars of Zcash wallet activity.

Zcash transactions are not private by default. For users seeking privacy, the “shielded” feature must be turned on to prevent the transaction from appearing on the public Zcash blockchain.

Zcash Price and Performance

Zcash has soared more than 400% since the end of 2019 to $146.38 in mid-February. Its market cap is $1.62 billion, making it the 47th biggest cryptocurrency market, according to data from CoinMarketCap. Zcash has the third-largest market cap of any privacy coin (with Monero being #1 and DASH being #2).

Zcash Privacy

Zcash was created in response to Bitcoin‘s lack of anonymity. Activity on the Bitcoin blockchain and most other blockchains is transparent. Anyone can see everything that has ever happened on a public blockchain. The details of each transaction, including the parties sending and receiving coins, the time of the exchange, and the amount of value exchanged, are all public knowledge.

Zcash functions differently than Bitcoin in the sense that Zcash activity can be “shielded,” or hidden from the public, so users can transact privately. But if no one can see the details of a transaction, how can they be sure that it even happened? That’s where the privacy tech behind Zcash known as zk-SNARKS comes in.

Zcash is the first large-scale, real-world implementation of a privacy technology called zk-SNARKS. This tech allows for shielded Zcash transactions to be fully encrypted (private) while at the same time being validated under the network’s consensus rules (so everyone knows they really happened).

How “Shielding” Works

Zk-SNARK stands for “Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge.” This is a way of sharing data that allows one party to prove to another that they have specific information without revealing what that information is, and without requiring any interaction between the parties.

The exact details of how zk-SNARKs work and how they are applied to the Zcash blockchain are quite technical. Interested readers can reference the Zcash website for all of the intricate workings of this type of encryption technology.

While some people believe this tech offers the best, most comprehensive solution to the issue of private crypto transactions, others have criticized the security of a coin like Zcash.

The fact that the encryption technology used is so new and that the coin was launched using an unorthodox “ceremony” (more on this later) are key points of contention for some crypto observers. On top of that, most Zcash isn’t even private.

As mentioned earlier, transactions made on the Zcash blockchain are not private by default. For the currency to be used privately, a transaction must be “shielded.”

The vast majority of Zcash transactions are not shielded (as of April 2020, only 6% of the Zcash network had been using fully shielded transactions). This could be due to the fact that most wallets and exchanges use public Zcash addresses by default, something many users might not be aware of.

Types of Zcash Transactions

There are four different types of transactions that can be made on the Zcash blockchain. They are:

•  Private
•  Deshielding
•  Shielding
•  Public

Zcash addresses begin with either a Z or a T. Those beginning with a Z are private addresses, and those beginning with a T are transparent. Using different combinations of these two types of addresses allows for the four specific types of transactions.

In a private transaction (Z-to-Z) will be visible on the public blockchain. There’s proof that it occurred and the necessary network fees were paid. The specific details like the transaction amount and addresses involved, however, are encrypted and can’t be seen by the public.

A public transaction (T-to-T) works in the same way that a typical Bitcoin transaction works – everything can be seen on the public blockchain, including the sender, receiver, and amount transacted.

The Zcash website notes that most exchanges and wallets today use T-addresses by default, although more are allegedly moving to shielded addresses over time.

The other two types of transactions involve sending funds between T and Z addresses. In other words, either sending funds from a private address to a public one (Z-to-T, or Deshielding), or sending funds from a public address to a private one (T-to-Z, or Shielding).

Zcash History

Zcash cryptocurrency launched in 2016. The coin was forked from the original Bitcoin code, so both are minable proof-of-work cryptocurrencies that have a hard supply cap of 21 million. The block reward for Zcash also gets cut in half every four years or so to keep the currency deflationary by limiting supply, just like bitcoin.

Zcash has its roots in a 2013 publication called the Zerocoin white paper, which was written by professors Eli Ben-Sasson and Matthew Green. They saw the design of Bitcoin as being a threat to user privacy, and offered their own solutions in response.

But Zerocoin was designed for Bitcoin, meaning Bitcoin developers would have had to implement a lot of complex changes to the Bitcoin blockchain technology to make Zerocoin work. This led to the project being shelved for a time.

Then, in 2015, a cryptographer named Zooko Wilcox created a startup to discover ways that the Zerocoin concept might be successfully implemented in a new cryptocurrency. In 2016, Zcash was announced, and the coin launched in October of that year.

Launch of Zcash

The launch of Zcash is a focal point of many criticisms against the privacy coin. To make its new type of cryptography workable, the Zcash blockchain had to be created using something known as the “Zcash ceremony.”

This “ceremony” involved people from around the world collaborating to create what amounts to a master public key for the blockchain using pieces of a private key. Those involved were instructed to destroy the data they used so that it couldn’t be taken advantage of by someone else in the future, who could potentially use it to compromise Zcash.

Of course, no one has any way to verify that those involved actually destroyed the data they used in this ceremony, and no one can verify that Zcash was created in the way it claims to have been created.

Today, Zcash is operated by the Electric Coin Company with Zooko Wilcox as its CEO. The company employs a team of cryptographers to continue developing the Zcash blockchain. There is also a non-profit organization known as the Zcash Foundation that helps support this work. Both groups are funded in part by the issuance of new Zcash (ZEC) tokens.

Is Zcash a Good Investment?

Privacy coins in particular have a very uncertain future. Coins like Monero, Zcash, and DASH were delisted from the Bittrex exchange at the start of 2021. Because many people associate them with illicit activity, privacy coins could see their use restricted in various ways.

Exchanges could continue to delist coins with privacy features or regulatory authorities could seek to punish anyone who deals with them through new crypto regulations, perhaps claiming that people use privacy coins to avoid paying taxes on crypto, for example.

Many altcoins have gone to zero over the years, so that possibility also can’t be ruled out.

How to Buy Zcash

Some U.S. exchanges offer Zcash on their platform. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to buy and trade it:

1. Sign up for an account with a cryptocurrency exchange that offers Zcash.
2. Verify your account. This may involve providing documents that confirm your identity and address.
3. Deposit fiat currency or digital money into your account.
4. Buy Zcash with the deposited funds.
5. Withdraw Zcash into your hot or cold wallet.

The Takeaway

Zcash is a privacy coin that allows for completely private or “shielded” transactions. It is the first practical implementation of the zk-SNARK encryption technology. The vast majority of transactions made on the Zcash blockchain are not private and function in the same way as Bitcoin transactions because Zcash was forked from the original Bitcoin code.

SoFi Invest gives investors the tools they need to trade cryptocurrency, stocks, and ETFs. Learn the basics of investing in crypto firsthand by opening an Invest account today.

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The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
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What to Bring to College—The Ultimate Packing List

After the stress of submitting college applications and waiting for the results, an exciting task for preparing for college comes next: packing.

Of course, figuring out what to bring to college can cause some angst, but it’s also a liberating beginning to a brand-new chapter. Preparing for this new experience doesn’t have to be a struggle.

Here is a breakdown of things that college freshmen should plan on bringing with them.

School Supplies

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the only necessary supplies are a laptop and phone. Additional supplies can help students manage their college courses.

Writing information down can help you remember it better , and it can be less distracting having school information in a physical planner, away from all those social media apps.

When it comes to taking notes, some professors don’t want everyone on their computers during class, and some don’t mind. It’s a good idea to have a notebook for each class just in case, along with pens, pencils, and highlighters.

Check the specific course requirements as well. The syllabus for each class should be available early enough to read through and see if the professor lists any required materials. If you’re taking a math class, for example, a specific type of calculator may be required.

Depending on how many books students have to lug around campus, they may want to invest in a nice backpack or messenger-style bag. The most suitable bag will also depend on students’ schedule, how long they’re on campus, and how many classes they have in a row.

It might be good to wait to choose this item after you’ve selected your courses and can see what each day is going to require.

Shower Supplies

Students who choose to live in the dorms will need to bring shower supplies with them. Sharing a bathroom is going to be another adjustment in starting college. There are a few must-haves for a comfortable experience.

Shower shoes are one of these musts. A cheap pair of flip-flops will do the trick. These are shoes that are worn only while taking a shower. What’s the deal? They help to prevent athlete’s foot, a fungal infection that can result from public showers. Just make sure to rinse and dry off the shoes after each use.

A shower caddy is another essential. Most students will likely be walking from the dorm room to the shower, so they’ll have to bring all shower supplies with them. A portable container makes this much easier.

The caddy will have room for your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and so on, and some of them also come with hangers, so they could potentially be hung up in the shower. In choosing a shower caddy, look for one that is waterproof and has holes in it so it doesn’t fill up with water.

Last, don’t forget the towels. At home, there’s always a stack of clean towels ready to be used. This won’t be the case in the dorms.

In addition to towels, it might be handy to have a robe that can be thrown on while walking from the dorm room to the bathroom and back.

Wardrobe

Hopefully, students already have a solid array of clothes to choose from. If they’re moving out of state for college, they definitely should check what the weather will be like all year in their new home. If students are used to living in a place where the weather doesn’t change much, they’ll have to add clothing to their wardrobe that’s appropriate for each season.

Dressing for college is more fun than high school for many because there isn’t a dress code. This is a great time for students to explore how they like to express themselves through clothing.

Some college students opt to be comfortable, rocking sweatpants to lectures. Others who are looking to make a good impression on professors—or romantic interests—may dress accordingly.

Don’t Forget Shoes

College campuses are much bigger than most high schools, so investing in a good pair of walking shoes is important. Classes may end up being a solid 15- to 20-minute walk away from each other.

It’ll take a toll on a student’s mood and physical comfort if they try to handle that walk in heels, unsupported sandals, or ill-fitting shoes.

Shoes take up a lot of space while packing, so trying to bring just the necessary pairs is wise. If your college is in a state that will experience cold or snowy winters, make sure to invest in some warm boots.

Bedding and Room Necessities

What else do students need to bring to a college dorm? Most dorm rooms will come with a bed but not sheets. Pack a couple of sets of sheets and a nice comforter. Some college students also recommend bringing a mattress pad and backrest pillow because you may spend more time in that bed than expected.

here’s a dorm room essentials list to figure out what else to bring. It’s vital to look into the school’s list of restricted items so you know what you should not bring to college. The college may also list the furnishings that come with the room. Check out your school’s website first so you don’t buy something that’s already there.

It can also be helpful for students to contact their roommates ahead of time and see if they’re planning to bring anything that could be shared.

It’s not a bad idea to pack on the light side. Most things you need can be ordered online anyway, so that way students won’t waste money.

Planning how to make the most of the small space provided in a college dorm is going to be great practice for when students are ready to move into apartments.

The Takeaway

The packing list has been made and the shopping trip planned, so what’s next? Paying for everything. There are a lot of options for financing the entire college experience, and students can try to get help from more than one avenue if they need to.

Students seeking financial aid should look into scholarships and grants and then federal aid. If federal student loans do not cover the full need, or if a student is not eligible for federal aid, private loans may be an option.

Private loans are issued by private financial institutions. A co-signer is often necessary. Look for loans that don’t have origination fees and offer extra services like co-signer release and hardship deferment.

To learn more, here is a guide to private student loans. Be aware that all the aid given cannot add up to more than the cost of attendance.

Families that decide that a private loan could be useful can see what SoFi has to offer. SoFi private student loans come with competitive rates, flexible repayment options, and no origination fees, no late fees, and no insufficient-funds fees.

Interested in a SoFi Private Student Loan? Check your rate with ease.



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What Is a Clearinghouse?

A clearinghouse is a financial institution that acts as a middleman between buyers and sellers in a market, ensuring that transactions take place even if one side defaults.

If one side of a deal fails, a clearinghouse can step in to fill the gap, thus reducing the risk that a failure will ripple across financial markets. In order to do this, clearinghouses ask their members for “margin”–collateral that is held to keep them safe from their own actions and the actions of other members.

While often described as the “plumbing” behind financial transactions, clearinghouses became high profile after the 2008 financial crisis, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. exposed the need for steady intermediaries in many markets.

Regulations introduced by the Dodd-Frank Act demanded greater clearing requirements, turning the handful of clearinghouses in the country into some of the most systemically important entities in today’s financial system.

Here’s a closer look at them.

How Clearinghouses Work

Clearinghouses handle the clearing and settlement for member trades. Clearing is the handling of trades after they’re agreed upon, while settlement is the actual transfer of ownership–delivering an asset to its buyer and the funds to its seller.

Other responsibilities include recording trade data and collecting margin payments. The margin requirements are usually based on formulas that take into account factors like market volatility, the balance of buy-versus-sell orders, as well as value-at-risk, or the risk of losses from investments.

Because they handle investing risk from both parties in a trade, clearinghouses typically have a “waterfall” of potential actions in case a member defaults. Here are the layers of protection a clearinghouse has for such events:

1. Margin requirements by the member itself. If market volatility spikes or trades start to head south, clearinghouses can put in a margin call and demand more money from a member. In most cases, this response tends to cover any losses.
2. The next buffer would be the clearinghouse’s own operator capital.
3. If these aren’t enough to staunch the losses, the clearinghouse could dip into the mutual default fund made up from contributions by members. Such an action however could, in turn, cause the clearinghouse to ask members for more money, in order to replenish the collective fund.
4. Lastly, a resolution could be to try to find more capital from the clearinghouse itself again–such as from a parent company.

Are Clearinghouses Too Big to Fail?

Some industry observers have argued that regulations have made clearinghouses too systemically important, turning them into big concentrations of financial risk themselves.

These critics argue that because of their membership structure, the risk of default in a clearinghouse is spread across a group of market participants. And one weak member could be bad news for everyone, especially if a clearinghouse has to ask for additional money to refill the mutual default fund. Such a move could trigger a cascade of selling across markets as members try to meet the call.

Other critics have said the margin requirements and default funds at clearinghouses are too shallow, raising the risk that clearinghouses burn through their buffers and need to be bailed out by a government entity or go bankrupt–a series of events that could meanwhile throw financial markets into disarray.

Clearinghouses in Stock Trading

Stock investors have already probably learned the difference between a trade versus settlement date. Trades in the stock market aren’t immediate. Known as “T+2,” settlement happens two days after the trade happens, so the money and shares actually change hands two days later.

In the U.S., the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. handles the majority of clearing and settling in equity trades. Owned by a financial consortium, the DTCC clears on average more than $1 trillion in stock trades each day.

Clearinghouses in Derivatives Trading

Clearinghouses play a much more central and pivotal role in the derivatives market, since with derivatives products are typically leveraged, so money is borrowed in order to make bigger bets. With leverage, the risk among counterparties in trading becomes magnified, increasing the need for an intermediary between buyers and sellers.

Prior to Dodd-Frank, the vast majority of derivatives were traded over the counter. The Act required that the world of derivatives needed to be made safer and required that most contracts be centrally cleared. With U.S. stock options trades, the Options Clearing Corp. is the biggest clearinghouse, while CME Clearing and ICE Clear U.S. are the two largest in other derivatives markets.

The Takeaway

Clearinghouses are financial intermediaries that handle the mechanics behind trades, helping to back and finalize transactions by members.

But since the 2008 financial crisis, the ultimate goal of clearinghouses has been to be a stabilizing force in the marketplace. They sit in between buyers and sellers since it’s hard for one party to know exactly the risk profile and creditworthiness of the other.

For beginner investors, it can be helpful to understand this “plumbing” that allows trades to take place and helps ensure financial markets stay stable.

Want to start investing but don’t know where to start? SoFi Invest® has financial planners ready to answer any questions. Investors can also choose between the Active Investing or Automated Investing platforms, depending on how hands-on or hands-off they want to be.

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The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

In our efforts to bring you the latest updates on things that might impact your financial life, we may occasionally enter the political fray, covering candidates, bills, laws and more.
Please note: SoFi does not endorse or take official positions on any candidates and the bills they may be sponsoring or proposing. We may occasionally support legislation that we believe would be beneficial to our members, and will make sure to call it out when we do. Our reporting otherwise is for informational purposes only, and shouldn’t be construed as an endorsement.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products 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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Source: sofi.com

How Long Will My Savings Last?

If only we had access to a reliable crystal ball, how simple saving for retirement could be. Instead, the process can feel more like a Magic 8 Ball® inquiry, finding fresh and fleeting new answers to the familiar question “How long will my savings last?”

Telling you to concentrate and ask again, that it is uncertain or better not to tell you are a few ways to answer common queries of this childhood toy, but signs point to yes for a breakdown of the many factors that can impact how long your retirement savings have to go.

What Factors Affect My Retirement Savings?

While it isn’t always easy to save money in your 20s, when many workers might still be paying off student loan debt, starting to save for retirement sooner than later could mean hundreds of thousands more in accumulated investments when it’s time to retire.

There are a few other variables that can come into play when deciding how long retirement savings might last:

Retirement Plan Type

Whether it’s a defined benefit plan like a pension, or a defined contribution plan like an employer-sponsored 401(k), 403(b), or 457, the kind of account you contribute to will likely have an impact on how much and what method you use to save for retirement:

Pension Plan

With a pension plan, retirement income is usually based on an employee’s longevity with the company, how much was earned, and their age at the time of retirement. Pensions can be a reliable retirement savings option because they reward long-term employees with a regular payment, typically once per month. One potential downside, however, is that pension plans can be terminated if a company is acquired, goes out of business, or decides to update or suspend its employee benefits offerings.

401(k) Plan

With a 401(k) plan, participants can contribute either a percentage of or a predetermined amount from each paycheck, and it might be matched by their employer up to a certain amount. Unlike a pension plan, the amount of retirement funds the participant saves is based on how much they personally contributed, whether they received an employer match, the rate of return on their investments, and how long they’ve had the plan.

IRA or Roth IRA

An Individual Retirement Account (or sometimes Arrangement), or IRA, is a retirement account that’s not sponsored by an employer. There are no income limits for a Traditional IRA (outside of tax deductible contributions), so it can be an appealing savings option for people who haven’t quite crystallized how high their earnings could go. A Roth IRA, on the other hand, has limits on contributions based on filing status and income level.

Less Common Plans

Other types of retirement plans like Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) and Profit Sharing Plans are less common and have their own unique benefits, drawbacks, and details.

Social Security

Social Security is a federally run program used to pay people aged 65 or older a continuing income. If eligible for the funds, they could be used to supplement or sustain savings in retirement.

Expected Rate of Return On Investments

If a person puts money into a defined contribution plan or makes investments in stocks, bonds, real estate, or other assets, there are a number of return outcomes that could affect their retirement savings.

An investment’s performance is about more than just appreciation over time. Learning how to calculate the expected rate of return on the investment can help you get a clearer picture of what the payoff will look like when it’s time to retire.

Unexpected Expenses

One never really knows what retired life might bring. Lots of unexpected expenses could arise.

An extensive home repair or renovation or maybe even a costly relocation to another state or country might make an unforeseen dent in retirement funds.

A major medical incident or the factoring in of long-term care can be another unexpected expense, as are caregiver costs if you or a family member need help.

Some seniors are surprised to learn that health care can get costly in retirement and Medicare may not always be free. Many of the services they might need could require out-of-pocket payments that eat into savings
As much as we might not want to imagine such scenarios, there could be the chance of a divorce during retirement, which could cause a redraft of the savings plan.

Creating a budget to estimate expenses is a great way to get ahead of any surprising financial setbacks that could sneak up down the line.

Inflation

Inflation can take a hefty toll on retirement savings. Even average rates of inflation might have a significant impact on how much retirement funds will actually be worth when they’re withdrawn. For example, $1,500 in January 2000 had the same buying power as $2,293.68 in March of 2020.

Understanding how inflation can affect your retirement savings might ensure you have enough funds padded out to support you for the long haul.

Market Volatility and Investment Losses

Regardless of financial situation or age, checking in on retirement accounts and the climate on Wall Street could help clarify how market swings might affect your retirement savings.

Retirees with defined contribution plans might suffer financial losses if they withdraw invested funds during a volatile market. Not panicking and having enough emergency funds to cover 3-6 months of living expenses can help you weather the storm. Talking to an investment advisor about rebalancing a portfolio to reduce risk is another option for getting ahead of this unexpected savings speedbump.

Ways to Calculate How Much You Might Need to Retire

Are you on track for retirement? That’s something that can be calculated in many ways, which vary in efficacy depending on who you ask.

Here are a few formulas and calculations you can use to consider how much to save for retirement:

The Four Percent Rule

The Four Percent Rule, first used by financial planner William Bengen in 1994, assesses how different withdrawal rates can affect a person’s portfolio to ensure they won’t outlive the funds. According to the rule , “assuming a minimum requirement of 30 years of portfolio longevity, a first-year withdrawal of 4 percent, followed by inflation-adjusted withdrawals in subsequent years, should be safe [for retirement].” Bengen has since adjusted the rule to 4.5% for the first year’s withdrawal.

The jury is out on whether 4% is a safe withdrawal rate in retirement, but many people have used it to weather poorly performing stock markets.

Fidelity also recommends withdrawing 4% to 5% from retirement savings yearly, with adjustments for inflation.

The Multiply by 25 Rule

This one can get a little controversial, but the Multiply by 25 rule, which expanded upon Bengen’s 4% Rule with the 1998 Trinity Study , involves taking a “hoped for” annual retirement income and multiplying it by 25 to determine how much money would be needed to retire.

For example, if you’d like to bring in $75,000 annually without working, multiply that number by 25, and you’ll find you need $1,875,000 to retire. That figure might seem scary, but it doesn’t factor in alternate sources of income like Social Security, investments, etc.

This rule has been banked on by many retirees. However, it’s based on a 30-year retirement period. For those hoping to retire before the age of 65, this could mean insufficient funds in the later years of life.

The Replacement Ratio

The Replacement Ratio helps estimate what percentage of someone’s pre-retirement income they’ll need to keep up with their current lifestyle during retirement.

The typical target in many studies shows 70-85% as the suggested range, but variables like income level, marital status, homeownership, health, and other demographic differences all affect a person’s desired replacement ratio, as do the types of retirement accounts they hold.

Also, the Replacement Ratio is based on how much a person was making pre-retirement, so while an 85% ratio might make sense for a household bringing in $100,000 to $150,000 per year, a household with higher earnings—say $250,000—might not actually need $212,000 each year during retirement. A way to supplement this calculation could be to estimate how much of your current spending will stay the same during retirement.

Social Security Benefits Calculator

By entering the date of birth and highest annual work income, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Social Security Calculator can determine how much money you might receive in estimated Social Security benefits during retirement.

Other Factors To Calculate

Expected Rate of Returns

Determining the rate of return on investments in retirement can help clarify how long your savings could last. An investment’s expected rate of returns can be calculated by taking the potential return outcomes, multiplying them by the likelihood that they’ll occur, and totaling the results.

Here’s an example: If an investment has a 50% chance of gaining 30% and a 50% chance of losing 20%, the expected rate of returns would be 50% ⨉ 30% + 50% ⨉ 20%, which is an estimated 25% return on the investment.

Home Improvement Costs

If a renovation is looking like it will be necessary down the line, you might calculate how much that home repair project could cost and factor it into your retirement planning.
Inflation

You might also consider using an inflation calculator to uncover what your buying power will really be worth when you retire.

Making Retirement Savings Last Longer

If you’re still wondering how long your savings will last or seeking potential ways to make it last longer, a few of these strategies could help:

Lower Fixed Expenses

Unexpected expenses are likely to creep up regardless of how much you save, but by lowering fixed expenses like mortgage and rent payments, food, insurance, and transportation costs, you might be able to slow the spending of your savings over time. Setting a budget is a solid way to see this in black and white.

Maximize Social Security

While opting into Social Security benefits immediately upon eligibility at 62 might sound appealing, it could significantly reduce the benefit over time. With smaller cost of living adjustments later in life, a lengthy retirement (people are living longer than ever before) could mean less money when you need it the most.

Stay Healthy

Unexpected medical expenses might still occur, but by safeguarding health and wellbeing earlier in life, you could avoid costly chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.

Keep Earning

Whether it’s staying in the full-time workforce for a couple more years or starting a ride-share side hustle during retirement, continuing to bring in money can help you stretch your savings out a little longer.

Get Good Advice

Financial planning can get even more complicated during retirement. Finding someone who’s smart, qualified, and reliable for advice on the available options is one way to help stay on course with retirement goals and make your retirement savings last as long as possible.

When it comes to planning for retirement, your future doesn’t have to be quite so uncertain. By talking to a real, human advisor about the many factors that impact how long your savings will last, you might settle on exactly what you need to set aside to get you there.

SoFi Invest® gives members free access to financial advisors available to talk about your big picture financial goals—like saving up for retirement or the path that leads you there.

Learn how SoFi Invest® can help you save for retirement.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
Disclaimer: The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.
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Source: sofi.com

The Ultimate Guide to Studying in College

College is a place for learning new things, preparing for a career, expanding one’s point of view, making new friends, and, odds are, partying. But putting more emphasis on a good time than on academics can lead to bad grades and worse.

One way that students can ensure they thrive in school is a no-brainer: to study.

Self-discipline is the key, and self-awareness is a first step in improving self-control. You can try to recognize and avoid temptation, either by steering clear of it or distracting yourself from it.

For students who could use some help, here are study tips for college they can try.

Get Enough Sleep

fatty fish that contain omega 3s , dark chocolate, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, nuts, eggs, oranges, and green tea, according to Healthline.

Drinking water and tea instead of soda and sugary fruit juices is also a good idea.

Get a Study Partner

A good study partner can hold you accountable as well as keep you focused.

If students have a tough time sitting down and reading from a book or computer all night, learning with a study partner may be easier and ensure that the information actually sticks.

Find a Quiet Space

Many people are unable to concentrate when they’re in a noisy environment. Unfortunately, a college dorm room can be loud because it’s where social gatherings often take place. Plus, there are so many students crammed into one area, nobody has any personal space. That’s why the hunt for a quiet study space is advised.

Quiet spaces on campus could include a library, where students might be able to reserve a private room; a secluded place outside; the campus cafe when it’s not busy; or an empty classroom.

If students have a car, they can drive off campus to a park, uncrowded eatery, or public library.

Put on Some Focus Music

Listening to music is one of the best study tips for college students. As long as the music isn’t distracting, students can log on to Spotify, Pandora, or YouTube and find focus music for free.

According to research cited by Business Insider, the best types of focus music include nature sounds, songs without lyrics, songs played at medium volume, and songs with a specific tempo.

Students can also listen to their favorite upbeat bands that make them excited, as it may help them study and get their work done faster.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Practitioners of the fine art of procrastination often pay a price.

Procrastination may lead to bad grades , higher levels of stress, and negative feelings, Psych Central notes. Procrastinators are likely to not have a great study session because they are rushed.

To stop postponing the inevitable, students can put reminders on their phones and notepads that tell them when to study and how to minimize stress before a test.

A study partner can help put feet to the fire. If students procrastinate over and over again, perhaps it’s a sign that they are not interested in their studies and may want to pursue a different major.

Procrastinating may also be a sign of ADHD, so students could make an appointment with their doctor to see if that’s the case and if there is treatment available.

Get Organized

If students’ papers are scattered everywhere, they don’t know where their important books or files are, or they forget when their tests are scheduled, they could use a few simple tips to get everything in order.

They can set up a Google Calendar and put every test, class, and appointment in there. They can set reminders that will show up on their computer or phone when they need to study.

They could also clean their room at least once a week, filing papers in folders, putting books in a neat pile, and storing backpacks, clothes, and other items in closets. Students could also purchase storage systems from places like IKEA and the Container Store so they have a place for everything.

They can also create ongoing to-do lists and check off each task as they complete it. The night before they go to class or in for a test, they can organize their backpack and put everything they need into it instead of rushing the morning of the test.

Shut Out Distractions

The noise in a dorm room or on a college campus can be distracting. Social media, text messages, and emails also take focus away from studying.

To buckle down, students could log out of social media and email and put their phones on do not disturb, only allowing emergency contacts to reach them.

If they are addicted to their phones or social media, they can install apps like SPACE, QualityTime, and Flipd that turn off distractions and track how much time they’re spending on their phones.

Put Together a Study Schedule

Studying isn’t just going to happen. That’s why one of the most important study tips is to put together a study schedule that is realistic.

For instance, if students like to go to bed at 2 a.m., they can’t plan to study at 6 a.m. the day they have a test because they’ll be exhausted. Instead, they can plan to study the evening before the test.

They should also schedule a time when they can find a quiet place to study or when their dorm room is going to be less noisy. They will likely not be able to concentrate on a Friday or Saturday night in their dorm because of surrounding shenanigans. They could block out time on a calendar when the dorm is quieter and make sure they stick to it.

Take Breaks

Studying for hours without a break could learn to burnout. Instead, pause to walk around, get some fresh air, or grab a glass of water or a healthy snack.

The most productive people focus on intense work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break, a Reader’s Digest article notes.

getting good grades—a stepping stone to a fulfilling career.

Students focusing on their studies are better off not adding worries about paying all of the costs associated with college. After exhausting federal aid, a private student loan from SoFi can come in handy. There are no fees, which some other lenders charge.

Students can easily apply online, with or without a co-signer. Co-signing may help a student qualify for a lower rate and may help their chances of approval.

SoFi also offers private parent student loans. Parents with strong credit and income may find lower rates than they would with federal parent PLUS loans, which involve fees, though the federal loans come with generous deferment and forbearance availability.

Learn more about private student loans with SoFi today.



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

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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 or products 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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Source: sofi.com

Where to Cash a Check Without Paying a Fee

With the popularity of digital payment apps and credit cards, checks are being used less than ever. According to a Federal Reserve study , for the first time ever in 2018, check payments fell below the number of total ACH (automated clearing house) transfers.

secure form of payment, and they might be the only form of payment some people (like your landlord) accept.

While they might be less popular now, at the end of the day, they’re still money. Don’t make the mistake of cashing a check just anywhere, read further for a few suggestions for where you could be able to deposit a check, fee-free.

How to Cash a Check

Before running off to the bank or ATM around the corner, a person may want to ensure they have what they need to successfully deposit their check. Generally, in order to cash a check, the following information is required:

•  Bank account. You’ll generally need an account to deposit a check. Most banks will allow you to cash a check, but if you don’t have an account with them, they may charge a fee.
•  ID or debit card. Depending on the means used to deposit the check, a person might also need a form of ID or their debit card to successfully complete the transaction.
•  PIN number. Whether banking by ATM or teller, oftentimes a person will be required to enter their PIN number to confirm the transaction.
•  Completed deposit slip. Each bank has a variation in the deposit slip, but most ask for a person’s name, account numbers, and the amount of cash and check the customer is depositing. This typically needs to be completed for the transaction to go through.

Another thing to keep in mind is the timing of the deposit. Personal checks are valid up to six months after they’ve been issued, but it’s generally agreed that they should be deposited as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the issuer might forget about the check, and the person depositing the check could be doing so with insufficient funds in the issuer’s account—leading to high fees on both sides from a bounced check .

The only exception to the above rules is US Treasury checks, traveler’s checks, or USPS money orders. US Treasury checks are valid for a year after issuing. Traveler’s checks and money orders never expire.

Branch Bank

Perhaps the most old-school way to cash a check is going into a bank branch or credit union and depositing the check with a teller in-person. This can be faster because the amount being deposited is confirmed on-site—there’s less likely to be a delay in the funds hitting a person’s account.

To deposit a check at a bank branch, a person will need to complete a deposit slip, and endorse their check. To endorse a check for a teller, a person needs to sign the back of the check, where indicated.

With a deposit slip and endorsed check in hand, customer’s might also be asked for their bank’s corresponding debit card or a photo ID for verification. From there, the check is validated and funds will be available in the account once the check clears, which can take up to two days.

While depositing to a bank branch can be fast, people are limited by the branch’s hours and locality. If a person has an account with an online-only financial institution, visiting a brick and mortar location to deposit a check may not be an option.

Similarly, they might be in an area where there are no nearby retail locations. If that’s the case, there are other methods to cash a check.

ATMs

Depositing a check via ATM has its advantages and disadvantages. Unlike bank branches, many ATMs are open 24-hours and with smaller square footage, they can be more common than brick and mortar ATMs.

Depositing a check by ATM varies by the technology it uses. Older ATM models may ask a customer to fill out a deposit slip envelope before inserting the check into the machine. Other, more modern models simply use on-screen prompts and scanning to verify the deposit amount. Regardless, customers are generally required to endorse the check with their signature before depositing it in an ATM. Using an ATM also typically requires someone to enter their pin number before accessing the account. Reading the on-screen prompts can help clarify the steps at the specific ATM you are using.

On the downside, checks deposited via ATM may take longer to be available in the bank account. This is because ATMs are only serviced at specific times, and while people enter the amount they’re depositing, it often needs to be verified in person by a teller at the bank . Customers are also limited to depositing checks in the ATMs of banks that they are a member of.

Additionally, because the extra step of validation is required, there is a possibility of human error incorrectly validating the correct amount or losing the check altogether . Some ATMs now have scanning capabilities, allowing them to instantly read checks which can alleviate some errors. However, an individual might want to keep a close eye on their bank statements in the days following an ATM deposit.

Mobile Deposit

Using mobile deposit to cash a check is as simple as taking a photo. Some financial institutions, including SoFi, allow the mobile deposit of checks through their app. Customers take an image of the front of the check, then the back so the financial institution can create a “digital copy” of the check. Instead of endorsing the check with only a signature, customers may be required to write “For Mobile Deposit Only” or a similar message on the back of the check.

immediately become available in the customer’s account. However, depositors should keep the check on hand for up to two weeks, or until the amount is cleared. Otherwise, they could end up over-drafting in the event that the funds are pulled.

Mobile deposits come with many advantages. As long as a phone has charge, checks can be deposited. Additionally, money is almost immediately available in a checking account. However, most mobile deposits only allow for one deposit at a time, and some accounts may have daily or monthly deposit limits. And if the handwriting on the check is unclear, the app might not recognize it.

Mail-In

Another option a depositor might choose is to mail the check into their bank. This will likely take the most time to become available in a bank account, but most banks will offer this option.

To mail a check in for deposit, first, check with your bank to confirm its mailing address. Depending on the size of the bank, there may be multiple addresses where the check can be sent.

Before sending the check to the approved address, depositors should generally endorse the back of their check with their signature. Some financial institutions also recommend including a note that says “For deposit only” with the endorsement. Depositors may also be required to fill out a deposit slip to include with the check. Confirm the specific requirements with your bank or financial institution.

To be safe, people might want to take a picture of the check or make a photocopy of it for proof in case it goes missing in the mail. It may also be beneficial to use certified mail so tracking the check is an option. Mailing a check is a relatively safe manner to deposit a check, however, it will likely take longer than the above alternatives.

Fee-Free Deposit with SoFi

Whether it’s a refund, birthday gift, or payment for watching the neighbor’s cat, checks still fall into our hands every once in a while. While you may not get them frequently, there are numerous ways to deposit them, all with their own unique benefits and drawbacks.

SoFi Money® makes accessing your cash easy with fee-free access to 55,000+ ATMs worldwide and online mobile check depositing. SoFi Money makes it easy to manage your finances with a mobile-first experience where members can access their money anytime, anywhere.

Learn more about how SoFi Money® can simplify your money.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
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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Source: sofi.com