Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Explained

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is a type of self-regulation that a business uses to enhance the well-being of communities and society through ethical, environmental, and social measures.

By investing in companies that practice CSR, investors have the opportunity to use their own wealth-building strategies to make a positive impact on the world.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to a company’s dedication to establishing business decisions that positively impact society. Usually, these business decisions support socially responsible movements, like environmental sustainability, ethical labor practices, and social justice initiatives.

Ideally, CSR strategies work in tandem with the traditional business objectives of hitting revenue and profit goals, and other metrics investors may find on a financial statement.

There is no codified set of standards that explain corporate social responsibility. Companies choose to enact CSR policies on their own initiative. It can take many forms depending on a company or an industry, but generally, CSR policies promote economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

However, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) released guidelines for corporate social responsibility in 2010. Known as ISO 26000:2010 , these guidelines are suggestions, not requirements, that can help put companies on track to further CSR principles.

Why CSR Is Important

Corporate social responsibility is important because companies can use their financial position and operations to build more ethical business models and a better world. When the companies enact socially responsible policies prosper, those practices become more commonplace and widespread.

Additionally, investors increasingly focus on more than traditional business valuation methods when making investment decisions. Investors want to put money into companies that support socially responsible movements, so they may be attracted to companies with CSR policies.

In other words, investing in companies that practice corporate social responsibility gives investors the chance to vote with their wallets on how they want the companies around them to behave.

Recommended: What is ESG Investing?

4 Types of Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is an umbrella term that captures a wide array of policies that a company can enact. CSR-focused companies may target their efforts on one or more specific social, economic, or environmental areas of concern. The following are some of the most common areas of CSR:

1. Environmental Sustainability

Companies are increasingly focusing on environmental sustainability when making business decisions. With climate change threatening to cause severe impacts worldwide, companies are committing to creating sustainable production methods, distribution, and overall business practices to reduce carbon footprints.

For investors, sustainable investing could mean seeking out companies that promise to hold to sustainable business practices—and doing the research to ensure they’re keeping that promise in real life. Additionally, it could mean focusing on companies that are specifically involved in creating the products that allow for environmental sustainability in the long term, such as renewable energy, biofuels, or hybrid cars.

Recommended: How to Invest in EV Stocks

2. Philanthropy

One of the ways large companies might align themselves with CSR values is by supporting philanthropic efforts. By donating money, products, or services to nonprofit organizations and social causes, a company can show the public what it values and how its furthering causes.

Recommended: How to Make End-of-Year Donations

3. Ethical Labor Practices

Corporations that commit to ethical labor practices, such as focusing on diversity and inclusion or having a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment, may garner more favor among investors looking to support a socially responsible company.

Recommended: How to Combine Financial Well-Being and Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

4. Volunteering

Another way almost any business can get in on CSR might be to support local volunteering efforts by sending out their representatives or fundraising for other volunteering organizations and movements.

Companies might also support volunteerism by offering their employees paid time off specifically for that activity. Some companies provide employees several days off per year, which they can use to participate in any volunteering effort they choose.

Recommended: 34 Charities To Support This Year

Examples of CSR

Many companies have enacted corporate social responsibility initiatives, and the trend is growing. According to one study, 92% of companies in the S&P 500 published sustainability in 2020, up from 20% in 2011. Here are a few examples of CSR policies at large corporations:

•   Starbucks (SBUX): The coffee giant has committed to hiring a diversified workforce, including hiring thousands of veterans, refugees, and disadvantaged youth.

•   Levi Strauss (LEVI): The apparel maker launched the Levi’s® Music Project, an initiative that looks to provide young people with music education and community resources.

•   Ford Motor Company (F): The carmaker is pushing to have 50% of its global sales be electric vehicles (EV) by 2030 to help address climate change.

•   Salesforce (CRM): The software company says it has given about $240 million in grants, 3.5 million hours of community service, and provided donations to more than 39,000 nonprofits and education institutions.

•   The Coca-Cola Company (KO): The beverage company is focusing on water conservation, saying it will push to responsibly use water in its production process and advocate for smart water policies.

Benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility

There are many reasons for a company to adopt and execute corporate social responsibility policies. First and foremost, CSR practices help promote a relatively better society and environment. By following socially responsible protocols, companies could have the opportunity to make significant social, economic, and ecological changes. As noted above, investors are increasingly looking to put money into companies that adhere to CSR.

Beyond these direct positives, CSR policies can also boost a company’s competitiveness by benefiting the firm in the following ways:

•   Stronger brand image: Corporate social responsibility policies can help create a positive image for a company, attracting consumers, employees, and other stakeholders.

•   Employee retention: Talented employees may stay with a company longer when they feel they are working for a business that has strong CSR policies. Additionally, this reputation can help attract new employees.

•   Reduced regulatory burden: A comprehensive CSR policy can help a company navigate relationships with regulatory bodies, especially as governments establish more rules around sustainability.

The Takeaway

Corporate social responsibility is one of several business models companies are using to navigate a changing world. By investing in companies that support those practices, investors could have the opportunity to positively impact the world while also potentially building their nest eggs.

However, it can take a lot of work for investors to determine what companies have the best CSR policies and what companies are truly adhering to their initiatives. So if you want to invest in companies that support CSR policies, it may be best to start small rather than build a whole portfolio around CSR stocks.

SoFi Invest® allows you to start investing today and build a portfolio with whatever strategy you desire. With active investing, you can trade stocks of brands you know and believe in and discover new opportunities based on your interests along the way.

Get started today with SoFi Invest.


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 . 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) Cryptocurrency is offered 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, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
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.

SOIN20077

Source: sofi.com

What Is Bond Valuation?

Bond valuation is a way of determining the fair value of a bond. Bond valuation involves calculating the present value of the bond’s future coupon payments, its cash flow, and the bond’s value at maturity (or par value), to determine its current fair value or price. The price of a bond is what investors are willing to pay for it on the secondary market.

When an investor buys a bond from the issuing company or institution, they typically buy it at its face value. But when an investor purchases a bond on the open market, they need to know its current value. Because a bond’s face value and interest payments are fixed, the valuation process helps investors decide what rate of return would make that bond worth the cost.

Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how bond valuation works, and why it’s important for investors to understand.

How Bond Valuation Works

First, it’s important to remember that bonds are generally long-term investments, where the par value or face value is fixed and so are the coupon payments (the bond’s rate of return over time) — but interest rates are not, and that impacts the present or fair value of a bond at any given moment.

To determine the present or fair value of a bond, the investor must calculate the current value of the bond’s future payments using a discount rate, as well as the bond’s value at maturity to make sure the bond you’re buying is worth it.

Some terms to know when calculating bond valuation:

•   Coupon rate/Cash flow: The coupon rate refers to the interest payments the investor receives; usually it’s a fixed percentage of the bond’s face value and typically investors get annual or semi-annual payments. For example, a $1,000 bond with a 10-year term and a 3% annual coupon would pay the investor $30 per year for 10 years ($1,000 x 0.03 = $30 per year).

•   Maturity: This is when the bond’s principal is scheduled to be repaid to the bondholder (i.e. in one year, five years, 10 years, and so on). When a bond reaches maturity, the corporation or government that issued the bond must repay the full amount of the face value (in this example, $1,000).

•   Current price: The current price is different from the bond’s face value or par value, which is fixed: i.e. a $1,000 bond is a $1,000 bond. The current price is what people mean when they talk about bond valuation: What is the bond currently worth, today?

The face value is not necessarily the amount you pay to purchase the bond, since you might buy a bond at a price above or below par value. A bond that trades at a price below its face value is called a discount bond. A bond price above par value is called a premium bond.

How to Calculate Bond Valuation

Bond valuation can seem like a daunting task to new investors, but it is not that onerous once you break it down into steps. This process helps investors know how to calculate bond valuation.

Bond Valuation Formula

The bond valuation formula uses a discounting process for all future cash flows to determine the present fair value of the bond, sometimes called the theoretical fair value of the bond (since it’s calculated using certain assumptions).

The following steps explain each part of the formula and how to calculate a bond’s price.

Step 1: Determine the cash flow and remaining payments.

A bond’s cash flow is determined by calculating the coupon rate multiplied by the face value. A $1,000 corporate bond with a 3.0% coupon has an annual cash flow of $30. If it’s a 10-year bond that has five years left until maturity, there would be five coupon payments remaining.

Payment 1 = $30; Payment 2 = $30; and so on.

The final payment would include the face value: $1,000 + $30 = $1,030.

This is important because the closer the bond is to maturity, the higher its value may be.

Step 2: Determine a realistic discount rate.

The coupon payments are based on future values and thus the bond’s cash flow must be discounted back to the present (thanks to the time value of money theory, a future dollar is worth less than a dollar in the present).

To determine a discount rate, you can check the current rates for 10-year corporate bonds. For this example, let’s go with 2.5% (or 0.025 as a decimal).

Step 3: Calculate the present value of the remaining payments.

Calculate the present value of future cash flows including the principal repayment at maturity. In other words, divide the yearly coupon payment by (1 + r)t, where r equals the discount rate and t is the remaining payment number.

$30 / (1 + .025)1 = $29.26

$30 / (1 + .025)2 = 28.55

$30 / (1 + .025)3 = 27.85

$30 / (1 + .025)4 = 27.17

$1030 / (1 + .025)5 = 1,004.87

Step 4: Sum all future cash flows.

Sum all future cash flows to arrive at the present market value of the bond : $1,117.70

Understanding Bond Pricing

In this example, the price of the bond is $1,117.70, or $117.70 above par. A bond’s face or par value will often differ from its market value — and in this case its current fair value (market value) is higher. There are a number of factors that come into play, including the company’s credit rating, the time to maturity (the closer the bond is to maturity the closer the price comes to its face value), and of course changes to interest rates.

Remember that a bond’s price tends to move in the opposite direction of interest rates. If prevailing interest rates are higher than when the bond was issued, its price will generally fall. That’s because, as interest rates rise, new bonds are likely to be issued with higher coupon rates, making the new bonds more attractive. So bonds with lower coupon payments would be less attractive, and likely sell for a lower price. So, higher rates generally mean lower prices for existing bonds.

The same logic applies when interest rates are lower; the price of existing bonds tends to increase, because their higher coupons are now more attractive and investors may be willing to pay a premium for bonds with those higher interest payments.

Is Investing in Bonds Right for You?

Investing in bonds can help diversify a stock portfolio since stocks and bonds trade differently. In general, bonds are seen as less risky than equities since they often provide a predictable stream of income. All investors should at least consider bonds as an investment, and those with a lower risk tolerance might be better served with a portfolio weighted highly in bonds.

Performing proper bond valuation can be part of a solid research and due diligence process when attempting to find securities for your portfolio. Moreover, different bonds have different risk and return profiles. Some bonds — such as junk bonds and fixed-income securities offered in emerging markets — feature higher potential rates of return with greater risk. “Junk” is a term used to describe high-yield bonds. You can take on higher risk with long-duration bonds and convertible bonds. Some of the safest bonds are short-term Treasury securities.

You can also purchase bond exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and bond mutual funds that own a diversified basket of fixed-income securities.

The Takeaway

Bond valuation is the process of determining the fair value of a bond after it’s been issued. In order to price a bond, you must calculate the present value of a bond’s future interest payments using a reasonable discount rate. By adding the discounted coupon payments, and the bond’s face value, you can arrive at the theoretical fair value of the bond. A bond can be priced at a discount to its par value or at a premium depending on market conditions and how traders view the issuing company’s prospects.

Owning bonds can help add diversification to your portfolio. Many investors also find bonds appealing because of their steady payments (one reason that bonds are considered fixed-income assets). When you open an online brokerage account with SoFi Invest, you can build a diversified portfolio of individual stocks as well as exchange-traded bond funds (bond ETFs). You can also invest in a range of other securities, including fractional shares, IPOs, crypto, and more. Also, SoFi members have access to complimentary professional advice. Get started today!


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 . 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) Cryptocurrency is offered 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, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.

Photo credit: iStock/Tempura
SOIN0221045

Source: sofi.com

15 Technical Indicators for Stock Trading

Using technical analysis to research stocks is a common strategy to profit from short-term movements in security prices. While some stock analysis tools are fundamental in nature, technical stock indicators typically seek patterns in past price and volume data to give investors and traders insights about how a stock might move in the future.

Naturally, every stock indicator has its pros and cons. Technical indicators can be used by traders to analyze supply and demand forces on stock price, to help investors to understand market psychology, or to manage risk. But while stock indicators and trading tools can help with buy and sell points, false signals can also occur.

For that reason, although technical indicators can assist with trend identification, it’s best to combine different indicators when conducting your stock analysis.

Learn more about the pros and cons of using the following 15 trading tools in your strategy.

Table of Contents

How Do Stock Technical Indicators Work?

Technical analysis uses various sets of data and indicators, such as price and volume, to identify patterns and trends. It does not use fundamental analysis to look at the underlying companies, their industries, or any macroeconomic trends that might drive their success or failure.

Rather, technical analysis solely analyzes a stock’s performance. Technical indicators are often rendered as a pattern that can overlay a stock’s price chart to predict the market trend, and whether the stock would be considered “overbought” or “oversold.”

One of the basic tenets of technical analysis is that history tends to repeat itself. By examining certain patterns in light of past outcomes, analysts can make an educated guess about where stock prices might be headed. That said, past performance is never a guarantee of future stock price movements, so traders must bear this in mind.

Knowing many of the most popular trading tools might benefit your investing strategy with easier to spot buy and sell signals. You don’t have to know every single technical indicator, and there are many ways to analyze stocks, but using multiple stock indicators may improve trading results. You can also use these stock indicators to help you manage risk when you are actively trading.

Trend indicators are some of the most important technical trading tools since identifying a security price’s trend is often a first step to forming a strategy. Long positions are often initiated during uptrends, while short sale ideas can occur when prices are in an established downtrend.

Volume technical indicators are also helpful to gauge the power or conviction of an asset’s price move. Some believe that the higher the stock volume on a bullish breakout or bearish breakdown, the more confident the move is. Higher volume could signal a lengthier trend continuation.

Two Types of Technical Indicators

Technical indicators generally come in two flavors: overlay indicators and oscillators.

Overlay Indicators

An overlay indicator typically overlays one trend onto another on a stock chart, often using different colors to distinguish between the lines.

Oscillator Indicators

On a technical analysis chart, an oscillator tracks the distance between two points in order to gauge momentum. The moving average is a common oscillator; it’s considered a lagging indicator as it measures specific intervals in the past.

An oscillator indicator can help traders determine support and resistance in certain price trends, so they can decide whether to sell or buy.

Oscillator indicators can be leading or lagging:

•   A leading indicator tracks current market movements to anticipate where the trend is headed next.

•   A lagging indicator is based on recent history and seeks patterns that will indicate potential price movements.

Top 15 Stock Indicators for Technical Analysis

It’s important to remember that these trading tools were developed based on the belief that mathematically derived patterns may be valuable as predictors of stock movements. Past performance, however, is not a guarantee of future results. So while it can be useful to employ stock technical indicators, they are best used in combination before deciding on a potential trade.

Also, many of these trading tools are lagging indicators, which can lead to an inaccurate reflection of current and future market conditions.

Following are 15 of the most common technical stock indicators, along with their advantages and disadvantages.

1. Moving Averages (MA)

A moving average (MA) is the average value of a security over a given time. The MA can be Simple Moving Average (SMA), Exponential Moving Average (EMA), and Weighted Moving Average (WMA).

A moving average smooths price volatility and is taken as an indicator of the direction a price may be headed. If the price is above the moving average, it’s considered an uptrend versus when the price moves below the MA, which can signal a downtrend. Moving averages are typically used in combination with each other, or other stock indicators, to identify trends.

Pros

•   Using moving averages can filter out the noise that comes from price fluctuations and focus on the overall trend.

•   Moving average crossovers are commonly used to pinpoint trend changes.

•   You can customize moving average periods: common time frames include 20-day, 30-day, 50-day, 100-day, 200-day.

Cons

•   A simple moving average may not help some traders as much as an exponential moving average (EMA), which puts more weight on recent price changes.

•   Market turbulence can make the MA less informative.

•   Moving averages can be simple, exponential, or weighted, which might be confusing to new traders.

2. Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD)

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) also helps investors gauge whether a security’s movement is bullish or bearish, but it uses two different MAs to do so. Often, a 26-period exponential moving average is subtracted from a 12-period EMA to spot trading signals. Then a signal line, based on a shorter period EMA, is plotted on top of the MACD to help reveal buy and sell entry points.

Traders use the convergence or divergence of these lines to identify when bullish or bearish momentum is high.

Pros

•   The MACD, used in combination with the relative strength index (below) can help identify overbought or oversold conditions.

•   The MACD can be used to indicate a trend and also momentum.

•   Can help spot reversals.

Cons

•   May provide false reversal signals.

•   Responds mainly to the speed of price movements; less accurate in gauging the direction of a trend.

3. Relative Strength Index (RSI)

RSI is a tool that identifies bullish vs. bearish price momentum. The relative strength index is an oscillator — a tool that builds a trend indicator based on the price movement between two extreme values. It ranges from 0 to 100. Generally, above 70 is considered overbought and under 30 is thought to be oversold.

Pros

•   Can help investors spot buy or sell signals.

•   May also help detect bull market or bear market trends.

•   Can be combined with moving average indicators to spot breakout trends or reversals.

Cons

•   The RSI can move without exhibiting a clear trend.

•   The RSI can remain at an overbought or oversold level for a long time, making this tool less useful.

•   It does not give clues as to volume trends.

4. Stochastic Oscillator

The stochastic oscillator has two moving lines, or stochastics, that oscillate between and around two horizontal lines: The primary “fast” moving line is called the %K, while the other “slow” line is a three-period moving average of the %K line.

A signal is generated when the “fast” %K line diverges above the “slow” line or vice versa. The stochastic oscillator uses a 0 to 100 value range.The two horizontal lines are often pre-set at 30 and 70, indicating oversold and overbought levels, respectively, but can be modified.

Pros

•   Since it’s plotted on a 0 to 100 scale, it’s possible to gauge overbought and oversold levels.

•   Traders can adjust time frame and range of prices to reduce market fluctuation sensitivity.

•   Can be used by day traders.

Cons

•   A security can remain overbought or oversold for long periods as the range of oscillations is not always proportionate to a security’s price action.

•   It can be useful for implementing an overall strategy, but not for gauging the overall market sentiment or trend direction.

5. Williams %R

Similar to the stochastic oscillator, above, the Williams %R (a.k.a. the Williams Percent Range) is also a momentum indicator — but in this case it moves between 0 and -100 to identify overbought and oversold levels and find entry and exit points in the market. The Williams %R compares a stock’s closing price to the high-low range over a specific period, typically 14 days.

Readings between 0 and -20, which are in the top 20% of price during the look-back period, are considered overbought. Readings between -80 and -100, which are in the lowest 20% of price during the look-back, are considered to be oversold.

Pros

•   You can combine different short and long time periods to compare trends.

•   Identifies overbought and oversold levels.

Cons

•   False signals can happen if price strength or weakness leads to a brief movement in the Williams %R above 70% or below 30%.

•   There is no volume analysis with the Williams %R.

6. Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands are a set of three lines that help measure the relative high or low of a security’s price in relation to previous trades. The center line is the Simple Moving Average (SMA) of the stock price. The other two trendlines are plotted two standard deviations away from the SMA (one positively, one negatively). These can be adjusted.

The upper and lower lines show the high and low boundaries of the security’s expected price movement (90% of the time). The middle line shows real-time price action moving between those bounds as it fluctuates day-to-day.

Pros

•   Helps traders identify volatility.

•   Can help point to trading opportunities.

Cons

•   Large losses are possible when volatility surges unexpectedly.

•   Does not identify cycle turns quickly enough at times.

7. On-Balance Volume (OBV)

OBV is a little different from the other indicators mentioned. It primarily uses volume flow to gauge future price action on a security or market. When there’s a new OBV peak, it generally indicates that buyers are strong, sellers are weak, and the price of the security will likely increase. Similarly, a new OBV low is taken to mean that sellers are strong and buyers are weak, and the price is trending down.

The numerical value of the OBV isn’t important — it’s the direction that matters. Declining volume tends to indicate declining momentum and price weakness, while increasing volume tends to indicate rising momentum and price strength.

Pros

•   Volume-based indicator gauges market sentiment to predict a bullish or bearish outcome.

•   OBV can be used to confirm price action and identify divergences.

Cons

•   Hard to find definitive buy and sell price levels.

•   False signals can happen when divergences and confirmations fail.

•   Volume surges can distort the indicator for short-term traders.

8. Accumulation / Distribution Line (ADL)

The ADL is a momentum indicator that traders use to detect tops and bottoms and thus predict reversales. It does this by using volume versus price data to identify divergences and thereby show how strong a trend might be. For example: If the price rises but the ADL indicator is falling, then the accumulation volume may not actually support a true price increase and a decline could follow.

Pros

•   Traders can use the AD Line to spot divergences in price compared with volume that can confirm price trends or signal reversals.

•   The ADL can be used as an indicator of the flow of cash in the market.

Cons

•   Doesn’t capture trading gaps or factor in their impact.

•   Smaller changes in volume are hard to detect.

9. Average Directional Index (ADX)

The Average Directional Index (ADX) also helps investors spot asset price trends and to quantify the strength of those trends. ADX shows an average of price range values that indicate expansion or contraction of prices over time — typically 14 days, but it may be calculated for shorter or longer periods. Shorter periods may respond quicker to pricing movements but may also have more false signals. Longer periods tend to generate fewer false signals but may cause the indicator to lag the market.

The ADX uses positive and negative Directional Movement Indicators (DMI+ and DMI-). ADX is calculated as the sum of the differences between DMI+ and DMI- over time. These three indicators are often charted together.

Pros

•   Can help identify when price breakouts reflect a solid trend.

•   Can send signals to traders to watch the price and manage risk (e.g. thru divergences).

Cons

•   Can generate false signals if used to analyze shorter periods.

•   Can’t be used as a standalone indicator.

10. Price Relative / Relative Strength

Relative Strength should not be confused with the Relative Strength Index (above). Relative Strength is more of an investment strategy than a specific indicator. It involves comparing one asset to another or the broader market and helps traders find securities that are trending on a relative, not absolute, basis.

Pros

•   A stock indicator that helps compare one security’s price to another to find which is outperforming.

•   Can plot one stock versus a competitor or market benchmark.

Cons

•   Does not provide exact buy and sell levels.

•   False breakouts and breakdowns can happen.

•   Mean reversion can lead to losses for momentum traders.

11. Relative Volume (RVOL)

RVOL relays to traders how near-term volume compares to historical volume. The higher RVOL is, the more other traders might be paying attention to and trading the asset. Think of it as the stock being “in play.” Stocks that have a lot of volume have more liquidity and tend to trade better than stocks with low relative volume. The RVOL is displayed as a ratio.

So if it is showing 2.5 relative volume, that means it is trading at 3.5 times its normal volume for that time period.

Pros

•   Can offer clues to identify unusually powerful price moves.

•   High and low volume is easily detected by use of being above or below a value of one (1).

Cons

•   While volume is important, it does not give exact buy and sell price levels.

•   Volume surges can be fickle — like around an earnings date.

12. Rate of Change (ROC) and Momentum

ROC is just what it sounds like — the speed at which a stock is moving compared to its trend. The indicator measures a stock’s percentage price change compared to how it moved in recent periods. Like many of the tools mentioned, it can be used to spot divergences.

Pros

•   Works better in trending markets.

•   When used with other trading tools can help traders spot strong momentum.

•   A technical trading tool that can identify overbought and oversold levels.

•   Ideal for spotting divergences.

Cons

•   False signals can happen when the indicator suggests a price trend reversal will take place.

•   Does not give higher weight to more recent price action.

13. Standard Deviation

An asset’s standard deviation is a fundamental statistical tool to get a sense of volatility. It uses historical volatility to arrive at a percentage that is used to reflect how much a security moves. While volatility can indicate potential risk, it can also signal the potential for opportunity.

Pros

•   Mathematically captures the volatility of a stock’s movements, i.e. how far the prices moves from the mean.

•   Provides technicians with an estimate for expected price movements.

•   Can be used to measure expected risk and return.

Cons

•   Does not provide precise buy and sell signals.

•   Must be used in conjunction with other indicators.

14. Ichimoku Cloud

Ichimoku clouds are used to show support and resistance areas on a price chart in an extra-illustrative manner. An Ichimoku Cloud is comprised of five separate calculations that examine multiple averages, and uses the difference between two of the lines to create a shaded area (the cloud) that aims to predict support and resistance levels. It is also employed to identify momentum and trend. It is thought to provide more data than a simple candlestick chart.

Pros

•   A leading indicator of price.

•   Indicates support and resistance areas.

•   Useful for gauging the direction and intensity of a price trend.

Cons

•   Can give many false signals in trendless markets.

•   Can be confusing to traders given its complexity.

15. Fibonacci Retracements

Fibonacci Retracements are based on the golden ratio discovered by mathematician Leonardo Pisano in the 13th century. At its core, a Fibonacci retracement is a mathematical measurement of a particular pattern. The Fibonacci sequence and ratio are used to form support and resistance lines on a price chart.

Pros

•   Offers clues about where a stock might find support and resistance.

•   Helps define exit and entry levels.

•   Can be used to place stop-loss orders.

Cons

•   The use is subjective.

•   Some say Fibonacci Retracements are simply a self-fulfilling prophecy: if many traders are using these ratios, then outcomes will reflect this.

•   No logical proof of why it should work.

The Takeaway

Technical analysts use past price and volume data to help traders identify price trends and make buy and sell decisions. It’s important to know that technical analysis does not use fundamentals to assess the underlying companies, their industries, or any macroeconomic trends that might drive their success or failure. Rather, technical analysis solely analyzes a stock’s performance.

Technical indicators are often rendered as a pattern that can overlay a stock’s price chart to predict the market trend, and whether the stock would be considered “overbought” or “oversold.” There are countless stock technical indicators in existence, and it can quickly become overwhelming to learn them all. It might be more useful to focus on a handful of the most popular trading tools so you can execute a strategy that works for you.

To start trading stocks and gain a hands-on understanding of how technical indicators work, you can open a brokerage account online with SoFi Invest®. You can trade stocks, fractional shares, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), IPO shares, and cryptocurrencies right from your laptop or phone. As a SoFi member, you will have access to many online resources — including financial professionals who can guide you in your financial journey. Get started now!


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 . 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) Cryptocurrency is offered 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, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.

Photo credit: iStock/staticnak1983
SOIN0221050

Source: sofi.com

Why Are Bitcoin and Other Cryptos So Volatile?

Bitcoin’s most defining feature might well be that its price always seems to be rising.

In reality, however, the price of Bitcoin doesn’t always go up. To get these screaming vertical price increases, there needs to be some death-defying falls as well. Bitcoin’s very volatility makes this popular crypto a tempting investment for some, and a quite dangerous one for others. Trading in cryptocurrencies might not be for all investors — especially those with a low tolerance for risk.

Bitcoin Price Volatility

There’s no denying that cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, are volatile. For instance, in the first half of 2021, Bitcoin doubled in value, reaching a record-breaking high price of $64,000. But it tumbled back to less than $30,000 during the summer months. Then in November, Bitcoin’s price soared again; this time to $68,000 (for another all-time high) only to slip to below $35,000 in January 2022.

And this is just one example. Since its launch in 2009, Bitcoin has posted an impressive price history, and experienced more than a few conspicuous crashes.

Volatility is essentially a given across all types of cryptocurrencies, given the general air of legal, political, institutional, and technological uncertainty that floats around them. But it’s more noticeable with Bitcoin. Bitcoin was the very first cryptocurrency created. Not only is it the most expensive crypto, but likely the most visible, and has become a flagship for the entire crypto/blockchain space. Arguably, Bitcoin could be the coin that led the government, the public, and traditional financial services companies to take cryptocurrencies seriously. Increasingly, millions of ordinary people view Bitcoin as a vehicle for investing, trading, and saving. But before investing in cryptocurrency, an investor would want to consider its volatility seriously.

Why Does Cryptocurrency Volatility Matter?

There’s a reason that nearly anyone who’s well-versed in cryptocurrency would caution novice investors to invest no more than you’re willing to lose. With a highly volatile asset like cryptocurrency, an investor’s overall portfolio value could suddenly shoot much higher or much lower than they would expect, or are prepared for, based on big changes in its price.

Bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency to experience big price swings that can lead to large gains or losses for investors. Volatility does not play favorites, and most crypto coins, even more familiar assets, like plain vanilla stocks, can experience the phenomenon of volatility. From the second-largest crypto, Ethereum — and popular established coins like Dogecoin, Uniswap, and Filecoin — to crypto projects you might not know, all have experienced price volatility.

Is Bitcoin Particularly Volatile?

There are at least a few reasons why Bitcoin’s price is so unstable.

Liquidity

In financial markets, liquidity is a concept that relates how much a given purchase or sale of an asset will move its overall price. Liquidity, in general, supports overall asset values. Say you have an item that costs $500 but when you go to sell it, there’s no one to buy it; In that case, the $500 price tag is not very meaningful. Low liquidity may be rendering the price of Bitcoin unstable.

A particular concern with Bitcoin is that a huge portion of all the Bitcoin circulating in the world — at this writing, more than 18.5 million bitcoin — will never be bought or sold by anyone. This could be because the coin is stranded in wallets for which the private keys have been forgotten or because they’re held by investors who will never sell, no matter the price. Moreover, Bitcoin’s existence is finite; no more than 21 bitcoin will ever be mined.

By shrinking the amount of Bitcoin in circulation beyond the limits built into the system, Bitcoin’s liquidity could dry up. This means that movements to buy or sell could quickly influence its price, driving it up or down violently.

Speculation

One of the biggest debates surrounding cryptocurrencies is, what’s it for, exactly? Why are people buying it? For individuals who live in countries with unstable or despotic governments, Bitcoin can be a lifeline of stable value. But for many, it is not an especially convenient payment mechanism compared to the fiat currency of existing banking systems.

And yet, many people are buying Bitcoin and willing to pay ever-higher prices for it. The main reason seems that they expect the price to get even higher in time. Some people think the price will go up because Bitcoin is protected against inflation because of its 21-million cap on coin. Some expect wider adoption of Bitcoin as a payment protocol. And some expect it to become widely used by financial services institutions as a store of value.

The FOMO Factor

Essentially, interest in Bitcoin is generated by the idea that other people are going to buy it in the future, at a higher price than it’s selling for today. This expectation is fed by regular headlines about a company or celebrity buying into Bitcoin and the massive profits people are generating from Bitcoin they bought years — or even weeks — ago. In the crypto community, this behavior is known as fear of missing out (FOMO). Speculative investing like this often leads to volatility, because the price can turn down as sharply as it turns up.

At this time, many analysts believe that the questions surrounding cryptocurrency, as well as FOMO, are precisely what are keeping Bitcoin’s prices high. An asset’s price likely would swing if a large portion of investors are trying to get in front of buyers who come in later. Those who buy a crypto immediately when it comes to market could dump the coin just as quickly. This could happen if an investor made a profit, or they no longer believe that more investors will buy into the crypto.

The Takeaway

Bitcoin’s volatility is based on at least two factors: its potentially low liquidity, and the plethora of unanswered questions about crypto, a still-new asset class. Investors and anyone who follows the news are aware of shocking highs and lows in Bitcoin’s value.

Interested in trading crypto? With SoFi Invest® crypto trading, members can buy and sell popular coins like Bitcoin, Filecoin, and Ethereum. With the convenient mobile app, you can trade crypto 24/7 – even on weekends, holidays, middle of the night.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest today.

FAQ

In general, are cryptocurrencies more volatile than stocks?

Yes. Investing in the stock market has been a mainstay of the U.S. economy since the late 1700s. Stocks are also regulated, subject to oversight by the SEC, and other government agencies. Cryptocurrencies as an asset class are quite new, not fully regulated, and do not yet have a proven track record in U.S. markets. As we discussed, crypto is considered a speculative investment. Complex assets — like high-yield bonds, options, mortgage-backed securities, and other derivatives, including crypto — are subject to greater volatility than are plain vanilla stocks.

Which cryptocurrency is the most volatile?

The answer: It changes every day. And, volatility is not selective. Popular coins, like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), take their turns at being “most-volatile” just as often as do the tiny cryptos you might not have heard of . Cryptocurrency’s volatility has spawned a number of reliable indexes that track and report its daily price fluctuations, including Yahoo Finance and Shufflup .

Is volatility a good thing for crypto?

Volatility is neither good nor bad. Rather, it’s a phenomenon that exists in all financial markets for a mix of reasons. Cryptocurrency skeptics might see crypto’s volatility as a danger sign, a reason to stay away. However, sometimes volatility can benefit a new fast-growing asset, like crypto.

This is happening currently, with profit-seeking traders and wealthy venture capitalists streaming toward crypto. Venture capital funding can help seed new start-ups and advance technical innovation. And new money flowing into a sector often brings heightened liquidity, which makes for healthy financial markets.

The FOMO factor, which we discussed above, and just plain curiosity also can have a positive effect on crypto. For example, some large traditional financial services (TradFi) institutions that were prior crypto-naysayers are now showing an interest in the crypto sector.


Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.
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.
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 . 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) Cryptocurrency is offered 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, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Stock Bits
Stock Bits is a brand name of the fractional trading program offered by SoFi Securities LLC. When making a fractional trade, you are granting SoFi Securities discretion to determine the time and price of the trade. Fractional trades will be executed in our next trading window, which may be several hours or days after placing an order. The execution price may be higher or lower than it was at the time the order was placed.

Photo credit: iStock/MixMedia
SOIN0322033

Source: sofi.com

How Much Should I Contribute to My 401k?

Once you set up your retirement plan at work, the next natural question is: How much should I put in my 401(k)? While there’s no ironclad answer for how much to save in your employer-sponsored plan, there are some important guidelines that can help you set aside the amount that’s right for you: e.g. the tax implications, your employer match (if there is one), your own retirement goals, and more.

Here’s what you need to think about when deciding how much to contribute to your 401k.

How Much Can You Contribute to a 401k?

There are several factors to consider when weighing how much to contribute to a 401k account, which are detailed in the sections below. The main thing to consider off the bat, however, are the IRS contribution limits themselves.

The IRS may change the contribution limits and other parameters of various retirement accounts from time to time, so it’s always a good idea to double check before you decide how much you want to contribute.

2022 vs 2021 401k Contribution Limits

Like most tax-advantaged retirement plans — e.g. 403bs, 457 plans, different types of IRAs — 401k plans come with caps on how much you can contribute. The IRS puts restrictions on the amount that you, the employee, can save in your 401k; plus there is a cap on total employee-plus-employer contributions.

For 2021 the contribution limit is $19,500, with an additional $6,500 catch-up provision for those 50 and older, for a total of $26,000. The combined employer-plus-employee contribution limit for 2021 is $58,000 ($64,500 with the catch-up amount).

For 2022, you can save up to $20,500 in your 401k — a $1,000 increase. The catch-up amount is unchanged at $6,500, for a total of $27,000 if you’re 50 and up. The employer-employee max is $61,000 for 2022; it’s $67,500 with the catch-up amount.

401k Contribution Limits 2021 vs 2022

2021 2022
Basic contribution $19,500 $20,500
Catch-up contribution $6,500 $6,500
Total + catch-up $26,000 $27,000
Employer + Employee maximum contribution $58,000 $61,000
Employer + employee max + catch-up $64,500 $67,500

How Much Should You Put Toward a 401k?

Next you may be wondering, Ok, those are the limits, but how much should I put in my 401k?

One rule-of-thumb is to save at least 10% of your annual income for retirement. So if you earn $100,000, you’d aim to set aside at least $10,000. But 10% is only a general guideline. In some cases, depending on your income and other factors, 10% may not be enough to get you on track for a secure retirement, and many experts suggest aiming for 15% or even 20% — to make sure your savings will last given the cost of living longer.

In addition, you may want to consider the following:

•   Are you the sole or primary household earner?

•   Are you saving for your retirement alone, or for your spouse’s/partner’s retirement as well?

•   When do you and your spouse/partner want to retire?

If you are the primary earner, and the amount you’re saving is meant to cover retirement for two, that’s a different equation than if you were covering just your own retirement. In this case, you might want to save more than 10%.

However, if you’re not the primary earner and/or your spouse also has a retirement account, setting aside 10% might be adequate. For example, if the two of you are each saving 10%, for a combined 20% of your gross income, that may be sufficient for your retirement needs.

All of this should be considered in light of when you hope to retire, as that deadline would also impact how much you might save as well as how much you might need to spend.

Here are some other factors that should be weighed carefully as you decide how much to save in a 401k.

Factors That May Impact Your Decision

Before you decide to go with the general rule-of-thumb above, it’s wise to think about taxes, your employer contribution, your own goals, and more.

The Tax Effect

The key fact to remember about 401k plans is that they are tax-deferred accounts, and they are considered qualified retirement plans under ERISA (Employment Retirement Income Security Act) rules.

That means: The money you set aside is typically deducted from your paycheck pre-tax, and it grows in the account tax free — but you pay taxes on any money you withdraw. (In most cases, you’ll withdraw the money for retirement expenses, but there are some cases where you might have to take an early withdrawal. In either case, you’ll owe taxes on those distributions, as they’re called.)

The tax implications are important here because the money you contribute effectively reduces your taxable income for that year, and potentially lowers your tax bill.

Let’s imagine that you’re earning $100,000 per year, and you’re able to save the full $20,500 allowed by the IRS for 2022. Your taxable income would be reduced from $100,000 to $79,500, thus putting you in a lower tax bracket.

The Employer Match

Some employers offer a matching contribution, where they “match” part of the amount you’re saving and add that to your 401k account. A common employer match might be 50% up to the first 6% you save.

In that scenario, let’s say you save 10% of your $100,000 salary, or $10,000 per year. But your employer might match 50% of the first 6% ($6,000), which comes to $3,000. So the total would be $13,000.

If your employer does offer a match, you likely want to save at least up to the matching amount, so you get the full employer contribution. It’s free money, as they say.

Your Retirement Goals

What sort of retirement do you envision for yourself? Even if you’re years away from retirement, it’s a good idea to sit down and imagine what your later years might look like. These retirement dreams and goals can inform the amount you want to save.

Goals may include thoughts of travel, moving to another country, starting your own small business, offering financial help to your family, leaving a legacy, and more.

You may also want to consider health factors, as health costs and the need for long-term care can be a big expense as you age.

Do You Have Debt?

It can be hard to prioritize saving if you have debt. You may want to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, then turn your attention toward saving for the future.

The reality is, though, that debt and savings are both priorities and need to be balanced. It’s not ideal to put one above the other, but rather to find ways to keep saving even small amounts as you work to get out of debt.

Then, as you pay down the money you owe — whether from credit cards or student loans or another source — you can take the cash that frees up and add that to your savings.

Consider 401k Alternatives Like an IRA

You don’t have to limit your savings to your 401k. You may also be able to save in other retirement vehicles, like a traditional IRA or Roth IRA.

Can you contribute to 401k and IRA plans simultaneously? For example, if you’re already contributing to a 401k plan at work, you may be wondering if you can also save money in an IRA.

Or maybe you opened an IRA in college, but now you’re starting your career and have access to a 401k. Does it make sense to keep making contributions if you’ll soon be enrolled in your employer’s retirement plan?

Contributing to a Traditional IRA and a 401k

The short answer is yes, according to the IRS you can contribute to a 401k at work and a traditional IRA. But there are limits on the amount of IRA contributions you can deduct in this scenario. You can deduct the full amount of your IRA contributions if:

•   You file single or head of household and your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $68,000 or less.

•   You’re married filing jointly, or a qualifying widow(er), with a MAGI of $109,000 or less.

For incomes over these limits, the amount you can deduct phases out gradually.

Contributing to a Roth IRA and a 401k

Can you have a Roth IRA and a 401k? You fund a Roth IRA with after-tax dollars, meaning you don’t get the benefit of deducting the amount you contribute from your current year’s taxes. The upside of Roth accounts, though, is that qualified withdrawals in retirement are tax free.

But there’s a catch: Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is based on your income. So how much you earn — not necessarily whether you have a 401k at work — could be a deciding factor in answering the question, can you have a Roth IRA and 401k at the same time.

The rules for combining a 401k account with an IRA can be complicated. It’s best to consult a professional.

The Takeaway

Many people wonder: How much should I contribute to my 401k? There are a number of factors that will influence your decision. First, there are the contribution limits imposed by the IRS. In 2022, the maximum contribution you can make to your 401k is $20,500, plus an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution if you’re 50 and up.

While few people can start their 401k journey by saving quite that much, it’s also possible to follow the common guideline and save 10% of your income. From there, you can work up to saving the max. In fact, many plans offer an automatic savings increase that bumps up your savings rate by a small amount, like 1% per year.

In addition, you’ll want to consider whether your employer offers a matching contribution — and at least save that amount, to get the additional funds from your company.

Of course, the main determination of the amount you need to save is what your goals are for the future. This is where you should focus, because saving is never easy. But by contemplating what you want to spend money on now, and the quality of life you’d like when you’re older, you can make trade-offs.

If you’re ready to open an IRA or start investing for retirement on your own, it’s easy when you open a SoFi Invest® account. You can trade stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), fractional shares, even cryptocurrency. And SoFi members are entitled to complimentary financial advice from professionals who can help answer your questions.


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 . 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) Cryptocurrency is offered 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, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
SOIN0221058

Source: sofi.com

Stock Buyback: What It Means & Why It Happens

One of the most popular ways a company can use its cash is through a stock buyback. Over the past decade, companies in the S&P 500 index have repurchased $5 trillion worth of their own shares to boost shareholder value. Because of this significant activity, investors need to know the basics of stock buybacks and how they work to feel confident in making investment decisions.

What Is A Stock Buyback

A stock buyback, also known as a share repurchase, is when a company buys a portion of its previously issued stock, reducing the total number of outstanding shares on the market. Because there are fewer total shares on the market after the buyback, each share owned by investors represents a greater portion of company ownership.

How Do Companies Buy Back Stock?

Companies can repurchase stock from investors through the open market or a tender offer.

Open market

A company may buy back shares on the open market at the current market price, just like a regular investor would. These stock purchases are conducted with the company’s brokers.

Tender offers

A company may also buy back shares through a tender offer. One type of tender offer, the fixed-price offer, occurs when a company proposes buying back shares from investors at a fixed price on a specific date. This process usually values the shares at a higher price than the current price per share on the open market, providing an extra benefit to shareholders who agree to sell back the shares.

Another type of tender offer, the dutch auction offer, will specify to investors the number of shares the company hopes to repurchase and a price range. Shareholders can then counter with their own proposals, which would include the number of shares they’re willing to give up and the price they’re asking. When the company has all of the shareholders’ offers, it decides the right mix to buy to keep its costs as low as possible.

Why Do Companies Buy Back Stock

Stock buybacks are one of several things a company can do with the cash it has in its coffers, including paying the money out to shareholders as a dividend, reinvesting in business operations, acquiring another company, and paying off debt. There are several reasons why a company chooses to buy back its stock rather than some of these other options.

Increases Stock Value

One of the most common reasons a company might conduct a share buyback is to increase the value of the stock, especially if the company considers its shares undervalued. By reducing the supply of shares on the market, the stock price will theoretically go up as long as the demand for the stock remains the same. The rising stock price benefits existing shareholders.

Recommended: Understanding Capital Appreciation on Investments

Puts Money Into Shareholders’ Hands

A company’s stock buyback program can be used as an alternative to dividend payments to return cash to shareholders, specifically those investors who choose to sell back their shares to the company. With dividend payments, companies usually pay them regularly to all shareholders, so investors may not like it if a company reduces or suspends a dividend. Stock buybacks, in contrast, are conducted on a more flexible basis that may benefit the company because investors do not rely on the payments.

Takes advantage of tax benefits

Many investors prefer that companies use excess cash to repurchase stock rather than pay out dividends because buybacks have fewer direct tax implications. With dividends, investors must pay taxes on the payout. But with stock buybacks, investors benefit from rising share prices but do not have to pay a tax on this benefit until they sell the stocks. And even when they sell the stock, they usually pay a lower capital gains tax rate.

Offsets dilution from stock options

Companies will often offer stock options as a part of compensation packages to their employees. When these employees exercise their stock, the number of shares outstanding increases. To maintain an ideal number of outstanding shares after employees exercise their options, a company may buy back shares from the market.

Improves financial ratios

Another way stock buybacks attract more investors is by making the company’s financial ratios look much more attractive. Because the repurchases decrease assets on the balance sheet and reduce the number of outstanding shares, it can make financial ratios like earnings per share (EPS), the price-to-earnings ratio (PE Ratio), and return on equity (ROE) look more attractive to investors.

What Happens to Repurchased Stock?

When a company repurchases stock, the shares will either be listed as treasury stock or the shares will be retired.

Treasury stocks are the shares repurchased by the issuing company, reducing the number of outstanding shares on the open market. The treasury stock remains on its balance sheet, though it reduces the total shareholder equity. Shares that are listed as treasury stock are no longer included in EPS calculations, do not receive dividends, and are not part of the shareholder voting process. However, the treasury stock is still considered issued and, therefore, can be reissued by the company through stock dividends, employee compensation, or capital raising.

In contrast, retired shares are canceled and cannot be reissued by the company.

The Pros and Cons of a Stock Buyback for Investors

When a company announces a stock buyback, investors may wonder what it means for their investment. Stock buybacks have pros and cons worth considering depending on the company’s underlying reasoning for the share repurchase and the investor’s goal.

Pros of a Stock Buyback

Tender offer premium

Investors who accept the company’s tender offer could mean an opportunity to sell the stock at a greater value than the market price.

Increased total return

Investors who hold onto the stock after a buyback will likely see a higher share price since fewer outstanding shares are on the market. Plus, each share now represents a more significant portion of company ownership, which may mean an investor will see higher dividend payments over time. A higher stock price and increased dividend boosts an investor’s total return on investment.

Tax benefits

As mentioned above, a stock buyback might also mean a lower overall tax burden for an investor, depending on how long the investor owned the stock. Money earned through a stock market buyback is taxed at the capital gains tax rate. If the company issued a dividend instead of buying back shares, the dividends would be taxed as regular income, typically at a higher rate.

Recommended: Investment Tax Rules Every Investor Should Know

Cons of a Stock Buyback

Cash could be spent elsewhere

As mentioned above, when companies have cash, they can either reinvest in business operations, acquire a company, pay down debt, pay out a dividend, or buy back stock. Engaging in a share repurchase can starve the business of money needed in other areas, such as research and development or investment into new products and facilities. This hurts investors by boosting share price in the short term at the expense of the company’s long-term prospects.

Poorly timed

Companies may sometimes perform a stock buyback when their stocks are overvalued. Like regular investors, companies want to buy the stock when the shares are valued at an attractive price. If the company buys at a high stock price, it could be a bad investment when the company could have spent the money elsewhere.

Benefits executives, not shareholders

Stock buybacks might also be a convenient tactic to benefit company executives, who are often compensated by way of stock options. Also, some executives earn bonuses for increasing key financial ratios like earnings per share, so buying back stock to improve those ratios benefits insiders and not all shareholders.

The Takeaway

Like almost everything else to do with the stock market, the benefits and drawbacks of stock buybacks aren’t exactly straightforward. Investors need to ask themselves a few questions when analyzing the share repurchases of a company, like “why is the company conducting the buyback?” and “does the company have a history of delivering good returns?” Answering these questions can help investors decide whether a stock buyback is the best thing for a company.

If you’re ready to benefit from stock buybacks and dividends to build wealth, the SoFi app can help. With SoFi Invest®, you can trade stocks and ETFs, invest in IPOs at IPO prices, or try automated investing for as little as $5.

Curious about how SoFi might help you invest in your future? Learn more about SoFi Invest®.


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 . 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) Cryptocurrency is offered 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, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
SOIN19150

Source: sofi.com

The Rule of 55 and Early Retirement

The rule of 55 is a provision in the Internal Revenue Code that allows workers to withdraw money from their employer-sponsored retirement plan without a penalty once they reach age 55. Distributions are still taxable as income but there’s no additional 10% early withdrawal penalty.

The IRS rule of 55 applies to 401(k) and 403(b) plans. If you have either of these types of retirement accounts through your employer, it’s important to understand how this rule works when taking retirement plan distributions.

What Is the Rule of 55?

The rule of 55 is an exception to standard IRS withdrawal rules for qualified workplace plans, including 401k and 403b plans. Under normal circumstances, you can’t withdraw money from these plans before age 59 ½ without paying a 10% early withdrawal penalty. This penalty is only waived for certain allowed exceptions, of which the rule of 55 is one.

Specifically, the rule of 55 applies to “distributions made to you after you separated from service with your employer if the separation occurred in or after the year you reached age 55,” per the IRS. It doesn’t matter whether you quit, get laid off or retired — you can still withdraw money from your plan penalty-free. If you’re a qualified public safety employee, this exception kicks in at age 50 instead of 55.

How Does the Rule of 55 Work?

The rule of 55 for 401k and 403b plans allows workers to access money in their retirement plans without a 10% early withdrawal penalty. This rule applies to current workplace retirement plans only. You can’t use it to take money from a 401k or 401b you had with a previous employer penalty-free unless you first roll over those account balances into your current plan before separating from service.

This rule doesn’t apply to individual retirement accounts (IRA) either. So, you can’t use the rule of 55 to tap into an IRA before age 59 ½ without a tax penalty. There are, however, some exclusions that might allow you to do so. For example, you could take money penalty-free from an IRA if you’re using it for the purchase of a first home.

Rule of 55 Requirements

To qualify for a rule of 55 401k or 403b withdrawal, you’ll need to:

•   Be age 55 or older

•   Separate from your employer at age 55 or older

•   Leave the money in your employer’s plan (rule of 55 benefits are lost if you roll funds over to an IRA)

You also need to have a 401k or 403b plan that allows for rule of 55 withdrawals. If your plan doesn’t permit early withdrawals before age 59 ½ , then you won’t be able to take advantage of this rule.

Also keep in mind that IRS rules require a 20% tax withholding on early withdrawals from a 401k or similar plan. This applies even if you plan to roll the money over later to another qualified plan or IRA. So you’ll need to consider how that withholding will affect what you receive from the plan and how much you may still owe in taxes on your 401k later when reporting the distribution on your return.

Should You Use the Rule of 55?

The IRS rule of 55 is designed to benefit people who may need or want to withdraw money from their retirement plan early for a variety of reasons. For example, you might consider using this rule if you:

•   Decide to retire early and need your 401k to close the income gap until you’re eligible for Social Security benefits

•   Are taking time away from work to act as a caregiver for a spouse or family member and need money from your retirement plan to cover basic living expenses

•   Want to take some of the money in your 401k early to help minimize required minimum distributions (RMDs) later

In those scenarios, it could make sense to apply the rule of 55 in order to access your retirement savings penalty-free. On the other hand, there are some situations where you may be better off letting the money in your employer’s plan continue to grow.

For instance, if your employer’s plan requires you to take a lump sum payment, this could push you into a substantially higher tax bracket. Having to pay taxes on all of the money at once could diminish your account balance more so than spreading out distributions — and the associated tax liability — over a longer period of time.

You may also reconsider taking money from your 401k early if you still plan to work in some capacity. If you have income from a new full-time job or part-time job, for instance, you may not need to withdraw funds from your 401k at all. But if you change your mind later and decide to return to work, you can continue to take withdrawals from the same retirement plan penalty-free.

Other Ways to Withdraw From a 401k Penalty-Free

Aside from the rule of 55, there are other exceptions that could allow you to take money from your 401k penalty-free. The IRS allows you to do so if you:

•   Reach age 59 ½

•   Pass away (for distributions made to your plan beneficiary)

•   Become totally and permanently disabled

•   Need the money to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses exceeding 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI)

•   Need the money to pay health insurance premiums while unemployed

•   Are a qualified reservist called to active duty

You can also avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty by taking a series of substantially equal periodic payments. This IRS rule allows you to sidestep the penalty if you agree to take a series of equal payments based on your life expectancy. You must separate from service with the employer that maintains your 401k in order to be eligible under this rule. Additionally, you must commit to taking the payment amount that’s required by the IRS for a minimum of five years or until you reach age 59 ½, whichever occurs first.

A 401k loan might be another option for withdrawing money from your retirement account without a tax penalty. You might consider this if you’re not planning to retire but need to take money from your retirement plan.

With a 401k loan, you’ll have to pay the money back with interest. Your employer may stop you from making new contributions to the plan until the loan is repaid, generally over a five-year term. If you leave your job where you have your 401k before the loan is repaid, any remaining amount becomes payable in full. If you can’t pay the loan off, the whole amount is treated as a taxable distribution and the 10% early withdrawal penalty also may apply if you’re under age 59 ½.

The Takeaway

Early retirement may be one of your financial goals, and achieving it requires some planning. Maxing out your 401k or 403b can help you save the money you’ll need to retire early, and you may be able to access the funds early with the rule of 55.

You may also consider investing in an IRA or a taxable brokerage account to save for retirement. A brokerage account doesn’t have age restrictions, so there are no penalties for early withdrawals before age 59 ½. You’ll have to pay capital gains tax on any profits realized from selling investments, but you can allow the balances in your 401k or IRA to continue to grow on a tax-advantaged basis.

If you’re interested in opening a Traditional or Roth IRA, explore your options with SoFi Invest today.


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 . 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) Cryptocurrency is offered 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, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Photo credit: iStock/bagi1998
SOIN0221048

Source: sofi.com

Guide to Jade Lizards

A Jade Lizard is an advanced options strategy that requires taking three different positions. It is a slightly bullish strategy typically used by traders who want to profit from high levels of market volatility.

Traders who use the Jade Lizard strategy must monitor their position and have a plan for exit to avoid the potential for significant losses. The maximum profit for a Jade Lizard strategy is the initial premium received when opening the trade.

What Is a Jade Lizard Option Strategy?

With a Jade Lizard trade, you will enter into three different options positions on the same underlying stock through your brokerage account. The first two positions require selling a call spread, which involves selling a call option at one strike price and buying a call option with the same expiration at a higher strike price. The third and final option position is a put at an even lower strike price.

With a Jade Lizard, these options are usually at out-of-the-money strike prices. The strikes should be selected such that the total premium received from selling the call spread and selling the put option are greater than the width of the call spread. Don’t worry — if it’s not clear what that means, we’ll illustrate in the example that follows.

How Does a Jade Lizard Work?

A Jade Lizard option trade is a neutral to bullish options strategy, which means that you should anticipate the price of your underlying stock to stay the same or go up. With a Jade Lizard options strategy, you are hoping to capture the premium that comes with higher levels of implied volatility, so the ideal environment to execute the trade is one where volatility is elevated.

Setting Up a Jade Lizard

When you set up a Jade Lizard, you should initially be collecting premium from both the call spread and put that you are selling. The key concept of setting up a Jade Lizard is that you want the total amount of premium that you collect initially to be more than the width of your call spread.

As an example, say that stock ABC is trading around $60. You could sell a 58/62/63 Jade Lizard, at these hypothetical prices, on options expiring in 30 days:

•   Sell ABC 62 Call for 1.25

•   Buy ABC 63 Call for 0.90

•   Sell ABC 58 Put for 0.75

Your net credit is $1.10 ($1.25 minus $0.90 plus $0.75), so you collect $110 for each contract that you implement (since one contract typically controls 100 shares of the underlying stock). In our example, you have no risk should the stock move to the upside. To illustrate how, suppose the stock trades above 63 on expiration day. The put option expires worthless, and your maximum loss on the call spread is $100, which is less than the $110 you collected up front. On the other hand, you do have nearly unlimited downside risk if the underlying stock goes to 0. This is the main reason that the Jade Lizard options strategy only makes sense for stocks where you have a neutral to bullish outlook.

Maximum Profit

You will achieve your maximum profit if the options expire with the underlying stock having a price in between the strike price of your put option and the strike price of your lower call option. In our example above, if the stock closes between $58 and $62, then all three options expire worthless and your profit is the $1.10 in initial premium that you collected.

Maximum Loss

In a Jade Lizard strategy, you have nearly unlimited downside exposure, since you are selling a put option. A put option increases in value as the price of the underlying stock goes down. Since you are short the put option, as the stock price goes down you could be on the hook for the difference between the strike price of the put and the price of the underlying stock.

Breakeven Point

The breakeven point for a Jade Lizard on the downside is the difference between the strike price of the put option and the initial premium collected. In our earlier example, we collected $1.10 in net premium, so our breakeven point is $56.90 (the difference between $58.00 and $1.10).

There is also a potential breakeven point to the upside. Ideally with a Jade Lizard, you collect more in initial premium than the width of your call spread. In our example, we collected $1.10 in initial premium and our call spread is only $1 wide (between $62 and $63).

So if the stock closes anywhere above $63 when the options expire, your put will be worthless and your call spread will cost you $1 to close out, or $100 per set of contracts. That will leave you with a profit of $10 per set of contracts.

Exit Strategy

The exit strategy for a Jade Lizard involves purchasing back the options you sold using a buy to close order. When setting up the trade, it’s a good idea to set target profit at which you would buy back the options.

In our example, where we received $1.10 per share, you might look to close out the Jade Lizard when you could buy your options back for around $0.55 per share, 50% of the initial premium you received. The options may decline in value due to movement of the underlying stock, or time decay as the options get closer to their expiration.

Maintaining a Jade Lizard

A Jade Lizard is not a set-it-and-forget-it options strategy. Because of the unlimited downside risk, you’ll want to monitor your position, especially if the price of the underlying stock starts to go down. In that scenario, you may want to close out your position or roll down the strike prices of your short call spread.

Pros and Cons of the Jade Lizard Strategy

Here are some pros and cons of the Jade Lizard strategy:

Pros of the Jade Lizard strategy Cons of the Jade Lizard strategy
No risk of losses from upward price movement in the underlying Significant risk of downward price movement in the underlying
Immediate collection of the net premium Profits capped to the amount of premium initially received

Alternatives to Jade Lizards

One alternative to the Jade Lizard strategy is a strategy called the Big Lizard. With a Jade Lizard, you typically sell out-of-the-money options. With a Big Lizard strategy, the options that you sell are at-the-money, meaning that their strike price is close to the price of the underlying stock.

Investing With SoFi

The Jade Lizard strategy is an advanced strategy that options traders use when they have a bullish to neutral outlook on a stock. The strategy’s maximum upside is equal to the premium received when opening the trade, while the downside risk is essentially uncapped.

Learning about different options strategies can be a great way to further understand the stock market and how to invest. While SoFi does not currently offer options trading, it’s a great way to start investing. By opening a brokerage account on the Sofi Invest® investment app, you can put together a portfolio of stocks, exchange-traded funds, cryptocurrency, and initial public offerings right from your phone.

FAQ

How are Jade Lizards managed?

When opening a Jade Lizard options strategy, you want to make sure to keep an eye on the underlying stock until the options’ expiration date. Since a Jade Lizard comes with no upside risk, you should especially monitor negative moves in the stock price. In that case, you could close out your position or roll your call spread to a lower stock price, earning more premium.

How do reverse Jade Lizards differ from Jade Lizards?

In a reverse Jade Lizard, also known as a twisted sister option, you sell a put spread, being long the put option with the lower stock price. Additionally you sell a call with a higher strike price.

As the name suggests, a reverse Jade Lizard is the opposite of a regular Jade Lizard, and makes sense when you have a neutral to bearish outlook on a stock. You have risk of losses due to downard price movement and unlimited loss potential from upward price movement, due to the short call.

What is the maximum payoff of a Jade Lizard?

The maximum payoff or profit of a Jade Lizard is capped to the total initial premium that you receive when you open the position. This is equal to the amount you get for selling the put and short leg of the spread minus the amount of premium for the long leg of the call spread.


Photo credit: iStock/ipopba

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 . 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) Cryptocurrency is offered 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, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
SOIN0122049

Source: sofi.com