What’s Your Strategy for Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits?

Deciding when to take social security is a bit like playing chess. You’ll need to strategize and think a few moves ahead to maximize your benefit because age and timing matter. Applying at the youngest age possible, 62, reduces a monthly benefit 25% to 30% for the rest of your life than if you had waited until full retirement age. Delay until the latest age possible, 70, and that monthly benefit increases 8% each year you wait past your full retirement age, a bonus of 24% to 32% depending on your birth year.

Your birth year matters because the full retirement age is rising — from 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954, to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. If your birth year falls between 1955 and 1959, the full retirement age rises two months every year.

The retirement age isn’t the only thing that’s changing. The rules for claiming Social Security are different for those born after Jan. 1, 1954. This includes the majority of people filing for benefits today, and the changes especially affect married, two-earner couples.

First, the basics: Individuals pay into Social Security their entire working life in order to receive a steady stream of income in the form of a monthly benefit once they retire. The benefits are based on the person’s 35 highest years of earnings. If you don’t have 35 years of earnings, then zeroes are entered for the remaining years, reducing the monthly benefit.

As pensions disappear and life expectancies rise, a guaranteed lifelong income that isn’t tied to the stock market has tremendous value. “Social Security is the best deal out there,” says Diane M. Wilson, a claiming strategist and founding partner of My Social Security Analyst in Shawnee, Kan. “It’s an annuity that lasts a lifetime, and it’s indexed to inflation.”

Maximizing that benefit has produced a cottage industry of claiming strategists to help retirees determine the best time to start taking benefits, but it’s not a simple calculus. “In the end, it’s a longevity decision,” says Kurt Czarnowski, who counsels clients about Social Security at Czarnowski Consulting in Norfolk, Mass. “If you knew when you were going to die, all this would be a snap.” Instead, people should understand their choices and make an informed decision, he says.

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The Differences Between Restricted Filing and Deemed Filing

A stack of Social Security cardsA stack of Social Security cards

For married couples, that decision involves accounting for two people’s earnings and benefits, as well as the likelihood of one spouse outliving the other. Spouses are not only entitled to the benefit based on their own work history, but they also may be eligible for additional money when the spousal benefit is factored in, what Wilson calls “add-ons.” The spousal benefit equals 50% of the higher-earning spouse’s benefit if the lower-earning spouse takes it at full retirement age. The amount is reduced when taken early, and you can’t claim the spousal benefit until your spouse begins taking Social Security. To be clear, you do not get to take two benefits, but rather Social Security increases your benefit to equal half of your spouse’s if the one based on your own work history is smaller.

People born on or before Jan 1, 1954, can maximize benefits while still receiving some Social Security. By taking whichever benefit is lower — their own or a spouse’s — when they first apply, they let the larger benefit grow before switching to it at a later age. That option, known as “restricted filing,” isn’t available for people born after Jan. 1, 1954. For them, there’s no choice. Social Security simply bestows their own benefit and any add-ons the person is eligible for when they file for benefits, a practice known as “deemed filing.”

Let’s say the higher-earning spouse is the husband and the lower-earning spouse is the wife. Under deemed filing, when the wife applies for Social Security at her full retirement age, she is given the highest amount she is eligible for, which in this instance is 50% of her husband’s benefit, assuming he started taking it. If he hasn’t, she will be given only the benefit based on her own work history. Once her husband applies for his benefits, Social Security will increase hers so that it equals half of his. If the wife was the higher earner and her benefit was more than 50% of his, she won’t get any additional money when he starts claiming Social Security. She will simply continue collecting her own higher work benefit.

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Maximizing Social Security Benefits for Married Couples

A couple looks at a laptop. A couple looks at a laptop.

Deemed filers may have fewer options, but there are other strategies to consider, such as when to start claiming and which spouse should file for Social Security first. Those decisions can change cumulative lifetime benefits substantially, sometimes by as much as six figures, says Wilson. When she advises couples affected by the new rules, she generally recommends the higher earner to delay as long as possible, ideally until age 70, while the lower earner can file, giving the retired couple some income.

The couple’s age difference matters, particularly if the younger spouse is also the lower earner, says Jim Blair, co-owner of Premier Social Security Consulting in Cincinnati. In that case, “if they’re five years or more apart in age, you want the younger person filing as early as possible, at 62, and the older person delaying as long as possible,” he says. “Odds are the younger person is going to receive a survivor benefit before they reach their breakeven point, which is about 12 years past retirement age.” The breakeven point is the age when the total value of cumulative benefits, whether taken early or later, is roughly the same.

If the situation is reversed and the younger spouse is the higher earner, “we’ll look at what the younger individual will need in retirement,” Blair says. “If taking that benefit early at age 62 means a 25% reduction, they’re going to have to live with that for the rest of their life.” There will need to be other income to compensate for the reduction, he adds.

Couples who straddle the 1954 birth year, with one spouse falling under the old rules and the other under the new, have more ways to move the pieces on the Social Security chess board. For instance, if the wife is the younger, lower earner, she may want to apply early, taking her own reduced benefit. That would allow the husband, who was born before the 1954 cutoff date, to use a restricted application and request only a spousal benefit. Meanwhile, his benefit based on his own work history continues to grow 8% per year from his full retirement age until he turns 70. He can switch to his own higher benefit later, whether at 70 or sooner.

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Understanding Social Security Survivor Benefits

A man sits alone on a swing. A man sits alone on a swing.

Couples should try to postpone taking whichever spouse’s benefit is higher to ensure a larger survivor benefit. This is particularly important when the lower earning spouse is younger and likely to outlive the higher earner by many years. “You want that higher benefit to take care of the survivor,” says Wilson, who warns clients of expenses, like home health aides, that someone living alone will almost certainly have.

A spousal benefit turns into a survivor benefit when a spouse dies, but the benefits are not the same. A surviving spouse who is at least full retirement age can receive 100% of the deceased spouse’s benefit, as opposed to 50% for a spousal benefit. The amount is reduced if the surviving spouse claims the benefit before full retirement age. You can claim a survivor benefit as early as age 60 (50 if you are disabled). But you don’t have to take it early, and you may not want to if you’re still working.

Social Security imposes an annual earnings limit for anyone younger than full retirement age who collects benefits, a rule that also applies to surviving spouses. For every $2 earned above the limit, which is currently $18,960, Social Security will deduct $1 in benefits, with the money restored later in the form of a higher benefit when you reach full retirement age. The earnings rule is more generous the year you reach full retirement age with Social Security deducting $1 for every $3 in earnings above $50,520. There’s no limit on earnings once you are full retirement age.

A widow who is, say, 60 when her husband passes away could hold off and take the survivor benefit when she reaches her full retirement age and stops working. There’s no reason to wait beyond that age because the survivor benefit won’t increase.

A survivor benefit is also not subject to the deemed filing rule. Someone born after the 1954 cutoff date can choose to take either their own or the survivor benefit when applying for Social Security. That opens a whole new avenue of claiming strategies. A widower, for example, could take the survivor benefit first if he needs the income and let his own larger benefit continue accruing delayed retirement credits before switching to it at age 70. If his own benefit is smaller, he could take that early and switch to the larger survivor benefit when he reaches full retirement age. The survivor benefit won’t be reduced because he took his own benefit early. The survivor benefit is only reduced if he takes it before his full retirement age.

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How Death, Divorce and Remarriage Affect Social Security Benefits

picture of wedding photo cut in halfpicture of wedding photo cut in half

A divorced spouse is also eligible for benefits based on a former spouse’s earnings history. If your ex is still alive and both of you are at least age 62, you can collect a spousal benefit even if your ex hasn’t started collecting, provided that the marriage lasted at least 10 continuous years, the divorce was two or more years ago, and you haven’t remarried. Your ex won’t know you’re taking the benefit. A divorced spouse who is full retirement age can get 50% of the former spouse’s benefit; it’s reduced if taken early. Deemed filing rules still apply if you were born after New Year’s Day 1954, with only the highest benefit amount given to you.

If your ex has passed away, you can collect a survivor benefit as early as age 60, but the other requirements — a marriage that lasted at least 10 years and a divorce that was finalized two years ago — remain. You also can’t have remarried before age 60.

If you remarry after age 60, you are allowed to keep the survivor benefit from a former spouse whether you were divorced or not, but timing is everything. Wilson had a client, a widower, who was two months away from turning 60 and collecting a survivor benefit. He was also about to remarry. “I told him about the rule, and he said, ‘I can’t reschedule this now.'” He went ahead with the wedding as planned, sacrificing the survivor benefit at the altar. Wilson points out that her client could collect a survivor benefit from his first marriage if the second one ends for any reason.

As with any survivor benefit, there’s no deemed filing. A divorced spouse has the option of choosing which benefit to take first — their own or the survivor benefit — and let whichever is larger continue to grow before switching to it later on.

Remarriage brings other claiming strategies, such as applying for a spousal benefit based on the new spouse’s work record, but there is a waiting period. To collect a spousal benefit, you generally need to be married one year, Czarnowski says. An exception is made for someone who is already collecting a Social Security benefit and remarries. Then the waiting period is waived, he says. For example, a widow over age 60 who is collecting a survivor benefit and remarries is “immediately eligible to collect 50% of the new husband’s benefit, assuming he is collecting his benefit,” Czarnowski says. You will need to choose which benefit you want — the survivor benefit from an earlier marriage or the new spousal benefit.

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When Singles Should File for Social Security Benefits

A man works on a computer. A man works on a computer.

For single people who never married, there’s no survivor to consider so the decision of when to claim is based on the need for income and how much they’ll get at any given age between 62 and 70. “It’s really which point along this continuum makes sense,” Czarnowski says. You can get an idea of how much your benefit will be at different ages based on your current earnings by using Social Security’s quick calculator. You can also enter your earnings history for a more precise figure.

Most of Wilson’s single clients start claiming at full retirement age so that their benefits aren’t reduced. Should they wait until age 70 to get the highest possible benefit? “They may want to if they’re still working and they don’t need Social Security,” Blair says. “The flip side is when they pass away, the benefits end. If they pass away at 72, they didn’t collect very long.”

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You Can Pause Your Social Security Benefits

Someone pushes a red button that is labeled "No!"Someone pushes a red button that is labeled "No!"

Social Security also gives people who regret taking a benefit early the chance to reverse that decision. If you change your mind within the first 12 months of claiming your benefit, you can withdraw the application. All the benefits you received will need to be repaid, including any spousal benefits based on your work record, but you’ll get a higher monthly benefit when you restart later on.

The second way is to suspend your benefit, which you can only do once you reach full retirement age. You won’t need to repay the benefits you’ve received, and you earn delayed retirement credits of 8% per year until age 70, enabling you to reverse some of the damage from claiming early. Keep in mind, however, that when you suspend a benefit, you also suspend any other benefits based on your work record, such as a spousal benefit. If your spouse was getting $1,500 per month and $500 was based on your work record, she’ll only get her own $1,000 benefit when you suspend.

Source: kiplinger.com

How to Refinance Your Home Mortgage – Step-by-Step Guide

Deciding to refinance your mortgage is only the beginning of the process. You’re far more likely to accomplish what you set out to achieve with your refinance — and to get a good deal in the meantime — when you understand what a mortgage refinance entails.

From decision to closing, mortgage refinancing applicants pass through four key stages on their journey to a new mortgage loan.

How to Refinance a Mortgage on Your Home

Getting a home loan of any kind is a highly involved and consequential process.

On the front end, it requires careful consideration on your part. In this case, that means weighing the pros and cons of refinancing in general and the purpose of your loan in particular.

For example, are you refinancing to get a lower rate loan (reducing borrowing costs relative to your current loan) or do you need a cash-out refinance to finance a home improvement project, which could actually entail a higher rate?

Next, you’ll need to gather all the documents and details you’ll need to apply for your loan, evaluate your loan options and calculate what your new home mortgage will cost, and then begin the process of actually shopping for and applying for your new loan — the longest step in the process.

Expect the whole endeavor to take several weeks.

1. Determining Your Loan’s Purpose & Objectives

The decision to refinance a mortgage is not one to make lightly. If you’ve decided to go through with it, you probably have a goal in mind already.

Still, before getting any deeper into the process, it’s worth reviewing your longer-term objectives and determining what you hope to get out of your refinance. You might uncover a secondary or tertiary goal or benefit that alters your approach to the process before it’s too late to change course.

Refinancing advances a whole host of goals, some of which are complementary. For example:

  • Accelerating Payoff. A shorter loan term means fewer monthly payments and quicker payoff. It also means lower borrowing costs over the life of the loan. The principal downside: Shortening a loan’s remaining term from, say, 25 years to 15 years is likely to raise the monthly payment, even as it cuts down total interest charges.
  • Lowering the Monthly Payment. A lower monthly payment means a more affordable loan from month to month — a key benefit for borrowers struggling to live within their means. If you plan to stay in your home for at least three to five years, accepting a prepayment penalty (which is usually a bad idea) can further reduce your interest rate and your monthly payment along with it. The most significant downsides here are the possibility of higher overall borrowing costs and taking longer to pay it off if, as is often the case, you reduce your monthly payment by lengthening your loan term.
  • Lowering the Interest Rate. Even with an identical term, a lower interest rate reduces total borrowing costs and lowers the monthly payment. That’s why refinancing activity spikes when interest rates are low. Choose a shorter term and you’ll see a more drastic reduction.
  • Avoiding the Downsides of Adjustable Rates. Life is good for borrowers during the first five to seven years of the typical adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) term when the 30-year loan rate is likely to be lower than prevailing rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. The bill comes due, literally, when the time comes for the rate to adjust. If rates have risen since the loan’s origination, which is common, the monthly payment spikes. Borrowers can avoid this unwelcome development by refinancing to a fixed-rate mortgage ahead of the jump.
  • Getting Rid of FHA Mortgage Insurance. With relaxed approval standards and low down payment requirements, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage loans help lower-income, lower-asset first-time buyers afford starter homes. But they have some significant drawbacks, including pricey mortgage insurance that lasts for the life of the loan. Borrowers with sufficient equity (typically 20% or more) can put that behind them, reduce their monthly payment in the process by refinancing to a conventional mortgage, and avoid less expensive but still unwelcome private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  • Tapping Home Equity. Use a cash-out refinance loan to extract equity from your home. This type of loan allows you to borrow cash against the value of your home to fund things like home improvement projects or debt consolidation. Depending on the lender and jurisdiction, you can borrow up to 85% of your home equity (between rolled-over principal and cash proceeds) with this type of loan. But mind your other equity-tapping options: a home equity loan or home equity line of credit.

Confirming what you hope to get out of your refinance is an essential prerequisite to calculating its likely cost and choosing the optimal offer.


2. Confirm the Timing & Gather Everything You Need

With your loan’s purpose and your long-term financial objectives set, it’s time to confirm you’re ready to refinance. If yes, you must gather everything you need to apply, or at least begin thinking about how to do that.

Assessing Your Timing & Determining Whether to Wait

The purpose of your loan plays a substantial role in dictating the timing of your refinance.

For example, if your primary goal is to tap the equity in your home to finance a major home improvement project, such as a kitchen remodel or basement finish, wait until your loan-to-value ratio is low enough to produce the requisite windfall. That time might not arrive until you’ve been in your home for a decade or longer, depending on the property’s value (and change in value over time).

As a simplified example, if you accumulate an average of $5,000 in equity per year during your first decade of homeownership by making regular payments on your mortgage, you must pay your 30-year mortgage on time for 10 consecutive years to build the $50,000 needed for a major kitchen remodel (without accounting for a potential increase in equity due to a rise in market value).

By contrast, if your primary goal is to avoid a spike in your ARM payment, it’s in your interest to refinance before that happens — most often five or seven years into your original mortgage term.

But other factors can also influence the timing of your refinance or give you second thoughts about going through with it at all:

  • Your Credit Score. Because mortgage refinance loans are secured by the value of the properties they cover, their interest rates tend to be lower than riskier forms of unsecured debt, such as personal loans and credit cards. But borrower credit still plays a vital role in setting their rates. Borrowers with credit scores above 760 get the best rates, and borrowers with scores much below 680 can expect significantly higher rates. That’s not to say refinancing never makes sense for someone whose FICO score is in the mid-600s or below, only that those with the luxury to wait out the credit rebuilding or credit improvement process might want to consider it. If you’re unsure of your credit score, you can check it for free through Credit Karma.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio. Mortgage lenders prefer borrowers with low debt-to-income ratios. Under 36% is ideal, and over 43% is likely a deal breaker for most lenders. If your debt-to-income ratio is uncomfortably high, consider putting off your refinance for six months to a year and using the time to pay down debt.
  • Work History. Fairly or not, lenders tend to be leery of borrowers who’ve recently changed jobs. If you’ve been with your current employer for two years or less, you must demonstrate that your income has been steady for longer and still might fail to qualify for the rate you expected. However, if you expect interest rates to rise in the near term, waiting out your new job could cancel out any benefits due to the higher future prevailing rates.
  • Prevailing Interest Rates. Given the considerable sums of money involved, even an incremental change to your refinance loan’s interest rate could translate to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars saved over the life of the loan. If you expect interest rates to fall in the near term, put off your refinance application. Conversely, if you believe rates will rise, don’t delay. And if the difference between your original mortgage rate and the rate you expect to receive on your refinance loan isn’t at least 1.5 percentage points, think twice about going ahead with the refinance at all. Under those circumstances, it takes longer to recoup your refinance loan’s closing costs.
  • Anticipated Time in the Home. It rarely makes sense to refinance your original mortgage if you plan to sell the home or pay off the mortgage within two years. Depending on your expected interest savings on the refinance, it can take much longer than that (upward of five years) to break even. Think carefully about how much effort you want to devote to refinancing a loan you’re going to pay off in a few years anyway.

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Gathering Information & Application Materials

If and when you’re ready to go through with your refinance, you need a great deal of information and documentation before and during the application and closing processes, including:

  • Proof of Income. Depending on your employment status and sources of income, the lender will ask you to supply recent pay stubs, tax returns, or bank statements.
  • A Recent Home Appraisal. Your refinance lender will order a home appraisal before closing, so you don’t need to arrange one on your own. However, to avoid surprises, you can use open-source comparable local sales data to get an idea of your home’s likely market value.
  • Property Insurance Information. Your lender (and later, mortgage servicer) needs your homeowners insurance information to bundle your escrow payment. If it has been more than a year since you reviewed your property insurance policy, now’s the time to shop around for a better deal.

Be prepared to provide additional documentation if requested by your lender before closing. Any missing information or delays in producing documents can jeopardize the close.

Home Appraisal Blackboard Chalk Hand


3. Calculate Your Approximate Refinancing Costs

Next, use a free mortgage refinance calculator like Bank of America’s to calculate your approximate refinancing costs.

Above all else, this calculation must confirm you can afford the monthly mortgage payment on your refinance loan. If one of your aims in refinancing is to reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of your loan, this calculation can also confirm your chosen loan term and structure will achieve that.

For it to be worth it, you must at least break even on the loan after accounting for closing costs.

Calculating Your Breakeven Cost

Breakeven is a simple concept. When the total amount of interest you must pay over the life of your refinance loan matches the loan’s closing costs, you break even on the loan.

The point in time at which you reach parity is the breakeven point. Any interest saved after the breakeven point is effectively a bonus — money you would have forfeited had you chosen not to refinance.

Two factors determine if and when the breakeven point arrives. First, a longer loan term increases the likelihood you’ll break even at some point. More important still is the magnitude of change in your loan’s interest rate. The further your refinance rate falls from your original loan’s rate, the more you save each month and the faster you can recoup your closing costs.

A good mortgage refinance calculator should automatically calculate your breakeven point. Otherwise, calculate your breakeven point by dividing your refinance loan’s closing costs by the monthly savings relative to the original loan and round the result up to the next whole number.

Because you won’t have exact figures for your loan’s closing costs or monthly savings until you’ve applied and received loan disclosures, you’re calculating an estimated breakeven range at this point.

Refinance loan closing costs typically range from 2% to 6% of the refinanced loan’s principal, depending on the origination fee and other big-ticket expenses, so run one optimistic scenario (closing costs at 2% and a short time to breakeven) and one pessimistic scenario (closing costs at 6% and a long time to breakeven). The actual outcome will likely fall somewhere in the middle.

Note that the breakeven point is why it rarely makes sense to bother refinancing if you plan to sell or pay off the loan within two years or can’t reduce your interest rate by more than 1.5 to 2 percentage points.


4. Shop, Apply, & Close

You’re now in the home stretch — ready to shop, apply, and close the deal on your refinance loan.

Follow each of these steps in order, beginning with a multipronged effort to source accurate refinance quotes, continuing through an application and evaluation marathon, and finishing up with a closing that should seem breezier than your first.

Use a Quote Finder (Online Broker) to Get Multiple Quotes Quickly

Start by using an online broker like Credible* to source multiple refinance quotes from banks and mortgage lenders without contacting each party directly. Be prepared to provide basic information about your property and objectives, such as:

  • Property type, such as single-family home or townhouse
  • Property purpose, such as primary home or vacation home
  • Loan purpose, such as lowering the monthly payment
  • Property zip code
  • Estimated property value and remaining first mortgage loan balance
  • Cash-out needs, if any
  • Basic personal information, such as estimated credit score and date of birth

If your credit is decent or better, expect to receive multiple conditional refinance offers — with some coming immediately and others trickling in by email or phone in the subsequent hours and days. You’re under no obligation to act on any, sales pressure notwithstanding, but do make note of the most appealing.

Approach Banks & Lenders You’ve Worked With Before

Next, investigate whether any financial institutions with which you have a preexisting relationship offer refinance loans, including your current mortgage lender.

Most banks and credit unions do offer refinance loans. Though their rates tend to be less competitive at a baseline than direct lenders without expensive branch offices, many offer special pricing for longtime or high-asset customers. It’s certainly worth taking the time to make a few calls or website visits.

Apply for Multiple Loans Within 14 Days

You won’t know the exact cost of any refinance offer until you officially apply and receive the formal loan disclosure all lenders must provide to every prospective borrower.

But you can’t formally apply for a refinance loan without consenting to a hard credit pull, which can temporarily depress your credit score. And you definitely shouldn’t go through with your refinance until you’ve entertained multiple offers to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Fortunately, the major consumer credit-reporting bureaus count all applications for a specific loan type (such as mortgage refinance loans) made within a two-week period as a single application, regardless of the final application count.

In other words, get in all the refinance applications you plan to make within two weeks, and your credit report will show just a single inquiry.

Evaluate Each Offer

Evaluate the loan disclosure for each accepted application with your objectives and general financial goals in mind. If your primary goal is reducing your monthly payment, look for the loan with the lowest monthly cost.

If your primary goal is reducing your lifetime homeownership costs, look for the loan offering the most substantial interest savings (the lowest mortgage interest rate).

Regardless of your loan’s purpose, make sure you understand what (if anything) you’re obligated to pay out of pocket for your loan. Many refinance loans simply roll closing costs into the principal, raising the monthly payment and increasing lifetime interest costs.

If your goal is to get the lowest possible monthly payment and you can afford to, try paying the closing costs out of pocket.

Choose an Offer & Consider Locking Your Rate

Choose the best offer from the pack — the one that best suits your objectives. If you expect rates to move up before closing, consider the lender’s offer (if extended) to lock your rate for a predetermined period, usually 45 to 90 days.

There’s likely a fee associated with this option, but the amount saved by even marginally reducing your final interest rate will probably offset it. Assuming everything goes smoothly during closing, you shouldn’t need more than 45 days — and certainly not more than 90 days — to finish the deal.

Proceed to Closing

Once you’ve closed on the loan, that’s it — you’ve refinanced your mortgage. Your refinance lender pays off your first mortgage and originates your new loan.

Moving forward, you send payments to your refinance lender, their servicer, or another company that purchases the loan.


Final Word

If you own a home, refinancing your mortgage loan is likely the easiest route to capitalize on low interest rates. It’s probably the most profitable too.

But low prevailing interest rates aren’t the only reason to refinance your mortgage loan. Other common refinancing goals include avoiding the first upward adjustment on an ARM, reducing the monthly payment to a level that doesn’t strain your growing family’s budget, tapping the equity you’ve built in your home, and banishing FHA mortgage insurance.

And a refinance loan doesn’t need to achieve only one goal. Some of these objectives are complementary, such as reducing your monthly payment while lowering your interest rate (and lifetime borrowing costs).

Provided you make out on the deal, whether by reducing your total homeownership costs or taking your monthly payment down a peg, it’s likely worth the effort.

*Advertisement from Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS 1681276.Address: 320 Blackwell St. Ste 200, Durham, NC, 27701

Source: moneycrashers.com

What Does Buying the Dip Mean?

A down stock market could create an opportunity for investors to buy the dip. In simple terms, this strategy involves making an investment when stock prices are low.

This is a way to capitalize on bargain pricing and potentially benefit from price increases down the line. But like any other investing strategy, buying the dip involves some risk—as it’s often a matter of market timing.

Knowing when to buy the dip (or when not to) matters for building a solid portfolio while managing risk.

What Does It Mean to Buy the Dip?

To buy the dip is to invest when the stock market is down with the potential to go back up. A dip occurs when stock prices drop below where they’ve normally been trading, but there’s an indication that they’ll begin to rise again at some point. This second part is crucial; if there’s no expectation that the stock’s price will bounce back down the line then there’s little incentive to buy in.

Why Do Stock Dips Happen?

Dips can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, general stock market volatility can cause stock prices to tumble temporarily on a broad scale. A recent example of a dip would be the lows the market experienced in the spring of 2020 connected to economic fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, followed by a gradual rise in stock pricing.

Stock pricing dips can also be connected directly to a particular company, rather than overall market trends. If a company announces a merger or posts a quarterly earnings report that falls below expectations, for instance, those could trigger a short-term drop in its share price.

What’s the Benefit of Buying the Dip?

If you’re wondering, “why buy the dip?” or “should I buy the dip?” it helps to understand the upsides of this strategy.

Buying the dip is a way to cash in on the “buy low, sell high” mantra that’s so often repeated in investment circles. When you buy into a stock below it’s normal price, there is a potential (but not a guarantee) to reap significant profits by selling it later if prices rebound.

Example of Buying the Dip

Say, for example, you’ve been tracking a stock that’s been trading at $50 a share. Then the company’s CEO abruptly announces they’re resigning—which sends the stock price tumbling to $30 per share as overall investor confidence wavers. So you decide to buy 100 shares at the $30 price.

Six months later, a new CEO has been installed who’s managed to slash costs while boosting profits. Now that same stock is trading at $70 per share. Because you bought the dip when prices were low, you now stand to pick up a profit of $40 per share if you sell. The potential to earn big gains is what makes buying the dip a popular investment strategy for some people.

Risks of Buying the Dip

For any investor, it’s important to understand what kind of risk you’re taking when buying the dip. Timing the market is something even the most advanced investors may struggle with—as it’s impossible to perfectly predict which way stocks will move on any given day. Understanding trend indicators and what they can tell you about the market may help, but it isn’t foolproof.

For these reasons, knowing when to buy the dip is an inexact science. If you buy into a stock low and then are able to sell it high later, then your play has paid off. On the other hand, you could lose money if you mistime the dip or you mistake a stock that’s in freefall for one that’s experiencing a dip.

In the former scenario, it’s possible that a stock’s price could drop even further before it starts to rebound. If you buy in before the dip hits bottom, that can shrink the amount of profits you’re able to realize when you sell.
In the latter case, you may think a stock has the potential to recover but be disappointed when it doesn’t. You’ve purchased the stock at a bargain but the profit you’re able to walk away with, if anything, may be much smaller than you anticipated.

How to Manage Risk When Buying the Dip

For investors who are interested in buying the dip, there are a few things to keep in mind that may help with managing risk.

Understand Market Volatility

First, it’s important to understand how market volatility may impact some sectors or industries over others.

For example, take consumer staples versus consumer discretionary. Staples represent the things most people spend money on to maintain a basic standard of living, like food or personal hygiene products. Consumer discretionary refers to the “wants” people spend money on, like furniture or electronics.

Recommended: How to Handle Stock Market Volatility

In the midst of a recession, people spend more on staples than discretionary expenses—so consumer staples stocks tend to fare better. But that may create a buying opportunity for discretionary stocks if they’ve taken a hit. That’s because as a recession begins to give way to a new cycle of economic growth, those stocks may start to pick back up again.

Consider the Reason for the Dip

Next, consider the reasons behind a dip and a company’s fundamentals. If you’ve got your eye on a particular stock and you notice the price is beginning to slide, ask yourself why that may be happening. When it’s specific to the company, rather than something general happening across the market, it’s important to analyze the stock and try to understand the underlying reasons for the dip—as well as how likely the stock’s price is to make a comeback later.

Buy the Dip vs. Dollar-Cost Averaging

Buying the dip is more of a hands-on trading strategy, since it requires an investor to actively monitor the markets and read stock charts to evaluate when to buy the dip or when to sell. If an investor prefers to take a more passive approach or has a lower tolerance for risk, they might consider dollar-cost averaging instead.

Dollar-cost averaging is generally an investing rule worth keeping in mind. With dollar-cost averaging, an individual continues making new investments on a regular basis, regardless of what’s happening with stock prices. The idea here is that by investing consistently over time, one can generate returns in a way that smooths out the ups and downs of the market.

Example of Dollar-Cost Averaging

For example, you might invest $200 every month into an index mutual fund that tracks the performance of the S&P 500. As time goes by and the S&P experiences good years and bad years, you keep investing that same $200 a month into the fund.

Recommended: What to Know About Dollar Cost Averaging

You’ll buy shares during the dips and during the high points as well but you don’t have to actively track what’s happening with stock prices. This may be a preferable strategy if you lean toward a buy and hold investing approach versus active trading or you’re a beginner learning the basics.

The Takeaway

Knowing when to buy the dip can be tricky, but there are times when it may pay off for some investors. A few things that can help: knowing when to buy in and understanding how likely it is that a stock or the market as a whole will rebound.

You can buy the dip with individual stocks or use exchange-traded funds instead to manage risk. Both strategies are options with SoFi Invest® online trading, where investors can start trading with as little as $1.

Find out how to get started 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.

SOIN21121

Source: sofi.com

American Express Increases Credit Card Limit To 5

In May 2020 it was announced that American Express was limiting consumers to 4 credit cards, previously the limit was 5 (in February 2021 the Green card was considered a credit card as well). That limit has been relaxed again to 5 credit cards, this will need manual approval until Monday when the system will update.

I suspect given the timing this might have been pandemic related in regards to reducing risk, although limiting credit limits would have made more sense if that was the case. Still great news to see this being relaxed. You can see the limit for other card issuers by clicking here.

Hat tip to Walter Credit Cards

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Does refinancing a mortgage hurt your credit?

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Adding anything new to your credit profile can alter your score a bit, though many of these changes are temporary in nature. Refinancing your mortgage can temporarily lower your score, but how much and for how long depends on a variety of factors. Find out more below about whether refinancing your mortgage will hurt your credit and what you can do to protect your score.

What Is Refinancing?

Refinancing means taking out a new loan to pay off your old one. For example, if you owe $200,000 on a $300,000 home and your credit is good enough, you can get a different mortgage to pay off that $200,000. You then start paying the new mortgage.

Why would someone refinance a mortgage? Reasons can include:

  • To get a better interest rate if their credit or the market is more favorable
  • To get different loan terms that better match their financial goals—for example, they might refinance a 15-year mortgage to a 30-year mortgage to reduce the amount they owe each month
  • To benefit from cash-out equity—if you owe $200,000 on a home valued at $300,000, you could get a loan for more than the $200,000 you owe and get the difference back in cash to help cover a large expense

While refinancing can be beneficial, it’s not something to do lightly. It comes with expenses, such as closing costs, and does have an impact on your credit. Avoid being a serial refinancer, which is someone who is constantly turning over their mortgage into a new one.

How a Mortgage Refinance Can Damage Your Credit

The impact of a mortgage refinance (“refi”) on your credit depends on your situation and where you stand financially. Here are two specific ways refinancing your mortgage can hurt your credit.

Credit Checks

Hard inquiries can occur when someone pulls your credit report for the purpose of evaluating you for a loan. These can drop your score by a bit. The more hard inquiries on your credit report, the more your score drops, especially if the inquiries are spaced out over the course of many weeks.

Plus, a lot of inquiries on your report can make you look like a desperate borrower, which doesn’t endear you to future potential lenders.

Hard inquiries usually stay on your credit report for two years. However, they only impact your credit score for the first 12 months.

Closing a Loan Account

When you pay off your existing mortgage with a refinance, that account is closed. Eventually, it will age off of your credit report.

One of the factors that’s used to determine your credit score is the overall age of your credit. That means the total amount of time you’ve personally had any credit history, as well as the average age of your open accounts. If you refinance a mortgage, you could be losing an account with a good amount of age on it, and that can temporarily drop your score a bit.

Handle Your Refinance Like a Pro

If refinancing is the right choice for you financially, you can’t avoid the impact of closing an account and opening a new one. But there are some things you can do to help reduce the impact on your credit score.

Be Smart About the Timing

Limit how many hard inquiries are reported by timing your mortgage applications appropriately. The credit scoring models understand that consumers need to shop around for rates and terms, so they group certain types of inquiries as one event as long as they take place within a certain amount of time.

For example, mortgage applications within the same two-week time frame typically count as one inquiry for any scoring model.

You might also want to try a refinance when you haven’t recently applied for other types of credit, such as a personal loan or credit card. Disparate types of applications are listed as different hard inquiries even if you apply for them all around the same time.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

In many cases, a refinance is a negligible and temporary hit to your credit score, so if you’re going to get a good benefit from the action, you might choose to go forward. Just do your research. Use a mortgage calculator to ensure you’ll save money with a refinance before you commit to a new loan.

Don’t Forget About Refinancing Fees

You may need to pay closing costs or other fees when you refinance, so don’t forget to account for those when you’re weighing the benefits. If a refinance saves you $5,000 over the course of the loan and you’re paying $7,000 in closing costs, it’s likely not a good move.

Continue to Make Payments

Remember that your intent to refinance or even an application for a new mortgage doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for payments on your old mortgage. Don’t stop making timely payments until you’re sure the old loan has been paid off and closed.

Sometimes people don’t make a payment they owe this month because a refi is pending on the current total amount owned. But if you pay late, that can mean your payment is reported late to the credit bureaus, which can be a nasty hit to your credit score.

Don’t worry about overpaying and wasting any money on your old mortgage—if there’s a difference between your payments and the refi amount you overpay, the old mortgage company must refund that difference to you.

Once you’re set up with the new mortgage, ensure you make timely payments on that loan. Payment history is the largest factor in your credit score, so paying your bills on time and consistently is the best way to erase any temporary damage a refinance might have done to your credit score.

Check Your Credit Before and After

Being in the know about your credit score is one of the best ways to protect it, regardless of what financial actions you’re taking. Check your score before you refinance a mortgage to ensure everything’s in order and help you understand what types of mortgage might be right for you.

Check it afterward to keep an eye on things as your credit recovers from any temporary blip that might occur. If you find anything on your credit report that’s wrong or you’re surprised by a lower-than-expected credit score, you might need to do some credit repair work.

Find out more about how Lexington Law can help you address inaccurate negative items on your credit report and work toward a generally more positive credit future.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

How Do Employee Stock Options Work?

Perhaps you’ve been offered a job package with a combination of salary, benefits, and employee stock options. In order to make an informed decision, it helps to know how employee stock options (ESOs) work. Knowing the basics can be especially important if you’re considering taking a lower salary offer in exchange for ESOs.

Or maybe your current employer has already given you employee stock options, but you’re still not clear on how to exercise them. This is an incentive that could be valuable—so you probably don’t want to ignore it.

Employee stock options have the potential to make an employee some extra money, depending on the market, which may be a nice perk. Stock options can also give employees a sense of ownership (and, to a degree, actual ownership) in the company they work for.

Here is everything you need to know about ESOs—from how they work to the different types, and all the details in between.

What Are Employee Stock Options?

Employee stock options give an employee the chance to purchase a set number of shares in the company at a set price—often called the exercise price—over a set amount of time. Typically, the exercise price is a way to lock in a lower price for the stock.

This gives an employee the chance to exercise their ESOs at a point when the exercise price is lower than the market price—with the potential to make a profit on the shares.

Sometimes, an employer may offer both ESOs and restricted stock units (RSUs)—RSUs are different in that they are basically a promise of stock at a later date.

Employee Stock Option Basics

When talking about stock options, there are some essential terms to know in order to understand how options work. For investors who know their way around options trading, some of these terms may be familiar.

•  Exercise price/grant price/strike price: This is the given set price at which employees can purchase the stock options.
•  Market price: This is the current price of the stock on the market (which may be lower or higher than the exercise price). Typically an employee would only choose to exercise and purchase the options if the market price is higher than the grant price.
•  Issue date: This is the date on which you’re given the options.
•  Vesting date: This is the date after which you can exercise your options per the original terms
•  Exercise date: This is the date you actually choose to exercise your options.
•  Expiration date: This is the date on which your ability to exercise your options expires.

How Do Employee Stock Options Work?

When you’re given employee stock options, that means you have the option, or right, to buy stock in the company at the established grant price. You don’t have to exercise options, but you can if it makes sense to you.

Exercising your ESOs means choosing to actually purchase the stock at the given grant price, after a predetermined waiting period. If you don’t purchase the stock, then the option will eventually expire.

ESO Vesting Periods

Typically, employee stock options come with a vesting period, which is basically a waiting period after which you can exercise them. This means you must stay at the company a certain amount of time before you can cash out.

The stock options you’re offered may be fully vested on a certain date or just partially vested over multiple years, meaning some of the options can be exercised at one date and some more at a later date.

ESO Example

For example, imagine you were issued employee stock options on Jan. 1 of this year with the option of buying 100 shares of the company at $10/share. You can exercise this option starting on Jan. 1, 2021 (the vesting date) for 10 years, until Jan. 1, 2031 (the expiration date).

If you choose not to exercise these options by Jan. 1, 2031, they would expire and you would no longer have the option to buy stock at $10/share.

Now, let’s say the market price of shares in the company goes up to $20 at some point after they’ve vested on Jan. 1, 2021, and you decide to exercise your options.

This means you decide to buy 100 shares at $10/share for $1,000 total—while the market value of those shares is actually $2,000.

Exercising Employee Stock Options

You don’t have to exercise your options unless it makes sense for you. That may depend on your financial situation, the forecasted value of the company, and what you expect to do with the shares after you purchase them.

If you do plan to exercise your ESOs, there are a few different ways to do so. It’s worth noting that some companies have specifications about when the shares can be sold, because they don’t want you to just exercise your options and then sell off all your stock in the company immediately.

Buy and Hold

Once you own shares in the company, you can choose to hold onto them. To continue the example above, you could just buy the 100 shares with $1,000 cash and you would then own that amount of stock in the company—until you decide to sell your shares (if you do).

Cashless Exercise

Another way to exercise your ESOs is with a cashless exercise, which means you sell off enough of the shares at the market price to pay for the total purchase.

For example, you would sell off 50 of your purchased shares at $20/share to cover the $1,000 that exercising the options cost you. You would be left with 50 shares.) Most brokerages will do this buying and selling simultaneously.

Stock Swap

A third way to exercise options works if you already own shares. A stock swap allows you to swap in existing shares of the company at the market price of those shares and trade for shares at the exercise price.

For example, you might trade in 50 shares that you already own, worth $1,000 at the market price, and then purchase 100 shares at $10/share.

When the market price is higher than the exercise price—often referred to as options being “in the money”—you may be able to gain value for those shares because they’re worth more than you pay for them.

Why Do Companies Offer Stock Options?

The idea is simple: If employees are financially invested in the success of the company, then they’re more likely to be emotionally invested in its success as well and it can increase employee productivity.

From an employee’s point of view, stock options offer a way to share in the financial benefit of their own hard work. In theory, if the company is successful, then the market stock price will rise and your stock options will be worth more.

A stock is simply a fractional share of ownership in a company, which can be bought or sold or traded on a market.

The financial prospects of the company influence whether people want to buy or sell shares in that company, but there are a number of factors that can determine stock price, including investor behavior, company news, world events, and primary and secondary markets.

Tax Implications of Employee Stock Options

There are two main kinds of employee stock options: qualified and non-qualified, each of which has different tax implications. These are also known as incentive stock options (ISOs) and non-qualified stock options (NSOs or NQSOs).

Incentive Stock Options (ISO)

When you buy shares in a company below the market price, you could be taxed on the difference between what you pay and what the market price is. ISOs are “qualified” for preferential tax treatment, meaning no taxes are due at the time you exercise your options—unless you’re subject to an alternative minimum tax.

Instead, taxes are due at the time you sell the stock and make a profit. If you sell the stock more than one year after you exercise the option and two years after they were granted, then you will likely only be subject to capital gains tax.

If you sell the shares prior to meeting that holding period, you will likely pay additional taxes on the difference between the price you paid and the market price as if your company had just given you that amount outright. For this reason, it is often financially beneficial to hold onto ESO shares for at least one year after exercising and two years after your exercise date.

Non-qualified Stock Options (NSOs or NQSOs)

NSOs do not qualify for preferential tax treatment. That means that exercising stock options subjects them to ordinary income tax on the difference between the exercise price and the market price at the time you purchase the stock. Unlike ISOs, NSOs will always be taxed as ordinary income.

Taxes may be specific to your individual circumstances and vary based on how the company has set up its employee stock option program, so it’s always a good idea to consult a tax advisor for specifics.

Should You Exercise Employee Stock Options?

While it’s impossible to know if the market price of the shares will go up or down in the future, there are a number of things to consider when deciding if you should exercise options:

•  the type of option—ISO or NSO—and related tax implications
•  the financial prospects of the company
•  your own portfolio and how these company shares would fit into your goals

You also might want to consider how many shares are being made available, to whom, and on what timeline—especially when weighing what stock options are worth to you as part of a job offer. For example, if you’re offered shares worth 1% of the company, but then the next year more shares are made available, you could find your ownership diluted and the stock would then be worth less.

The Takeaway

Employee stock options may be an enticing incentive that companies can offer their employees: the chance to invest in the company directly, and possibly profit from doing so. There are certain rules around ESOs, including timing of exercising the options, as well as different tax implications depending on the type of ESO a company offers its employees.

For some investors, owning shares in their employer company may be just one aspect of a diversified portfolio. With SoFi Invest®, members can participate in upcoming IPOs, trade stocks, ETFs, and crypto—or start automated investing—as a way to diversify their portfolios based on their personal goals, risk tolerance, and other preferences.

Find out how to get started 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.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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.
Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected] Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing. Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
SOIN19125

Source: sofi.com

7 Slick Oil Stocks to Buy Now

Oil stocks have been pretty slick in 2021, rising sharply in anticipation of a massive recovery in global economic activity as the COVID-19 pandemic fades.

Indeed, oil stocks have been one of the strongest recovery plays to be found – and analysts say the sector has plenty of room left to run.

The Dow Jones U.S. Oil & Gas Index, which measures the performance of nearly three dozen stocks across the industry, was up 27% for the year-to-date through April 19. That compares to a gain of just 10.8% for the broad-market S&P 500, and a rise of 11.3% for the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Of course, not all oil stocks are created equal, and the sector still faces plenty of headwinds. The economic recovery could stumble, for one thing. And even if it doesn’t, recovery-chasing increases in production are forecast to limit upside in crude oil prices from current levels.

Despite those challenges, Wall Street is decidedly bullish on oil stocks in general, and really has the hots for a short list of names in particular.

To find analysts’ favorite oil stocks to buy now, we screened the Russell 3000 for oil stocks with the highest analyst recommendations, per data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Here’s how the recommendation system works. S&P Global Market Intelligence surveys analysts’ stock recommendations and scores them on a five-point scale, where 1.0 equals a Strong Buy and 5.0 is a Strong Sell. Any score between 2.5 and 1.5 equals a Buy recommendation. Scores below 1.5 equate to recommendations of Strong Buy.

After limiting ourselves to oil stocks with only the highest conviction Buy or Strong Buy consensus recommendations, we dug into research, fundamental factors and analysts’ estimates to suss out the best oil stocks to buy.

With that, have a look at analysts’ absolute favorite oil stocks to buy now. 

Share prices are as of April 19, unless otherwise noted. Analysts’ consensus recommendations and other data are courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Stocks are listed by strength of analysts’ consensus recommendation, from lowest to highest. 

1 of 7

Phillips 66

Phillips 66 signPhillips 66 sign
  • Market value: $34.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 4.6%
  • Analysts’ average rating: 1.72 (Buy)

Analysts are increasingly bullish on oil stocks in the refinery sector as we approach summer, and one of the players they like best is Phillips 66 (PSX, $77.94).

The independent oil refiner gets a solid consensus Buy recommendation on Wall Street. Sweetening the deal, this oil stock sports a generous dividend yield to boot.

“Overall, we still see PSX as a best in class, diversified business model with a secure balance sheet that has weathered the storm,” writes Raymond James analyst Justin Jenkins, who rates the stock at Outperform (the equivalent of Buy). “We still view PSX as a long-term core holding in energy. PSX’s business should justify a premium valuation relative to the group.”

PSX is widely considered among the pros to be one of the best oil stocks to buy now. Of the 19 analysts covering Phillips 66 tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, eight rate it at Strong Buy, seven say Buy and three have it at Hold. One has no opinion on shares in the oil stock.

The Street expects the company to generate average annual earnings per share (EPS) growth of 7.8% over the next three to five years. Given that outlook, PSX’s valuation – trading at 11.7 times estimated earnings for 2022 – appears eminently reasonable. 

With an average target price of $91.71, analysts give the oil stock implied upside of about 18% over the next year or so.

2 of 7

Devon Energy

Silhouettes of oil derricksSilhouettes of oil derricks
  • Market value: $14.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.9%
  • Analysts’ average rating: 1.63 (Buy)

One way Devon Energy (DVN, $22.03) differentiates itself from other oil stocks in the exploration and production (E&P) sector is by way of management’s restraint and discipline.

“We have no intentions of adding any growth projects until demand fundamentals recover, inventory overhangs clear up, and OPEC plus curtailed volumes are effectively absorbed by the world markets,” said Devon CEO Rick Muncrief on a conference call with analysts in February. 

Sign up for Kiplinger’s FREE Investing Weekly e-letter for stock, ETF and mutual fund recommendations, and other investing advice.

Indeed, DVN has hunkered down through sales and divestitures to concentrate on just a handful of oil-rich U.S. basins. Devon’s $12 billion all-stock merger with WPX Energy, which closed in January, furthered its goal of strategic focus and cost control. 

Those moves and others have made Devon one of the most popular names in the industry with analysts.

“Devon has a highly productive portfolio of top-tier assets, mostly located in shale-rich basins with relatively low extraction costs,” writes Argus Research analyst William Selesky, who rates DVN at Buy. “This provides the company with a competitive advantage, especially with oil prices above $50 per barrel.”

Seventeen analysts covering DVN tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence call it one of the best oil stocks to buy now, at Strong Buy. Another 10 say Buy, and five call Devon a Hold. They expect the firm to deliver average annual EPS growth of 6% over the next three to five years. Meanwhile, shares trade at just 8.9 times their 2022 earnings estimate. 

With an average price target of $30.35, the Street gives this oil stock implied upside of about 38% in the next 12 months or so.

3 of 7

Pioneer Natural Resources

photo of oil fieldphoto of oil field
  • Market value: $32.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.5%
  • Analysts’ average rating: 1.62 (Buy)

Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD, $148.58) is another one of analysts’ favorite oil stocks in the independent E&P sector. 

The most recent boost to the bull case came in early April when Pioneer announced the acquisition of privately held Doublepoint Energy for $5.5 billion in cash and stock, along with the assumption of $900 million in debt.

Analysts note that the deal enhances PXD’s position in the Midland Basin, which has some of the strongest well economics in the greater Permian Basin.

“PXD is building a powerhouse of a Permian Basin play, with no federal land exposure,” writes CFRA Research analyst Stewart Glickman, who rates shares at Buy. “We are somewhat surprised by the timing of this deal, coming so soon after closing the Parsley acquisition [in January], but we think PXD is being opportunistic.”

CFRA’s Glickman is very much in the majority when it comes to his stance on the oil stock. Of the 34 analysts covering PXD tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, 19 rate it at Strong Buy, nine say Buy and six have it at Hold. Their average target price of $192.81 gives shares implied upside of about 30% over the next 12 months or so.

Like a number of oil stocks on this list, cautious sentiment appears to have kept PXD’s valuation in check. The Street projects the firm to generate average annual EPS growth of 8% over the next three to five years, and yet shares change hands at less than 11 times estimated earnings for 2022.

4 of 7

Diamondback Energy

oil rigoil rig
  • Market value: $14.0 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.0%
  • Analysts’ average rating: 1.58 (Buy)

Some recent dealmaking, a diversified business and comparatively low cost of supply has the Street stampeding into the bull camp for Diamondback Energy (FANG, $77.67).

As investors in oil stocks know all too well, the industry underwent an intense period of consolidation amid the pandemic-driven rout in energy prices. And FANG has been among the more active acquirers. 

In the past few months, Diamondback closed a $2.2 billion deal for QEP Resources and acquired assets of privately held Guidon Energy for nearly $1 billion.

The moves were met with approval by analysts who cover oil stocks. 

“Diamondback Energy is well-positioned to outperform in a volatile commodity environment based on its strong cash margins, defensive attributes and synergies associated with the recent acquisitions of QEP and Guidon,” writes Stifel equity research analyst Derrick Whitfield, who rates shares at Buy.

“The company’s relatively low cost of supply, balance sheet, minerals and midstream ownership are a few of the reasons it is well-positioned to outperform as activity returns,” Whitfield adds.

On the whole, the pros see Diamondback as one of the best oil stocks you can buy now. Of the 33 analysts covering FANG tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, 20 rate it at Strong Buy, seven say Buy and six have it at Hold. Their average target price of $94.19 gives this oil stock implied upside of about 21% over the next year or so.

As for valuation, FANG changes hands at 7.9 times analysts’ 2022 earnings estimate. They expect the company to deliver average annual EPS growth of 3% over the next three to five years, per S&P Global Market Intelligence.

5 of 7

ConocoPhillips

oil rigoil rig
  • Market value: $68.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.4%
  • Analysts’ average rating: 1.50 (Strong Buy)

If it isn’t clear by now, the Street believes many of the best oil stocks to buy now are in the E&P industry, and few are more popular than ConocoPhillips (COP, $50.89). Indeed, COP, with a rating of 1.50, is the first of our oil stocks to get a consensus recommendation of Strong Buy.

The January completion of ConocoPhillips’ purchase of rival Concho Resources for $9.7 billion added to Wall Street’s ardor. 

“We also have a favorable view of Conoco’s recent acquisition of Concho Resources, which will provide an attractive portfolio of low-cost assets and expand the company’s resource base by more than 50%,” writes Argus Research’s Selesky, who rates the stock at Buy.

It also helps that COP,  the world’s largest independent E&P company, is well-suited to grapple with a prolonged period of flattish prices. Although benchmark U.S. crude oil prices are up about 32% for the year-to-date, Kiplinger’s Economic Outlook doesn’t expect them to move much from current levels.

“In this challenging energy environment, we believe that a company’s balance sheet strength and place on the cost curve are critical, and favor those E&P companies that are well positioned to manage a potentially long period of low oil prices,” Selesky writes in a note to clients. “COP is one of these companies, as it benefits from its size, scale and combination of major long-cycle and unconventional short-cycle projects.”

Of the 29 analysts covering the stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, 16 say it’s a Strong Buy, 10 say Buy and two have it at Hold. One analyst has no opinion. They also see a strong year ahead for COP’s shares. Their $65.10 average price target implies 28% upside in the next 12 months. 

Shares trades at 14.9 times estimated earnings for 2022. However, that’s not exactly a screaming buy in light of analysts’ 6% long-term EPS growth forecast.

6 of 7

PDC Energy

Oil rigsOil rigs
  • Market value: $3.5 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Analysts’ average rating: 1.31 (Strong Buy)

PDC Energy (PDCE, $35.42) is the second of our independent E&P oil stocks to score a Strong Buy consensus recommendation from Wall Street analysts. S&P Global Market Intelligence counts 12 Strong Buy calls, three Buys and one Hold rating on the stock. 

Analysts like this small-cap’s base of assets and its ability to punch well above its weight in generating free cash flow (FCF). 

“In our view, PDCE offers investors a compelling asset mix between the Delaware Basin and Niobrara Shale in the DJ Basin with a resilient asset base and a top-tier balance sheet,” writes Stifel analyst Michael Scialla, who rates the stock at Buy.

Goldman Sachs analyst Neil Mehta recommended that clients buy PDCE during the March pullback thanks to his expectation that the firm will produce $1.1 billion in free cash flow over the next two years. Note well that $1.1 billion in FCF would represent almost a third of PDCE’s entire market value. 

Lastly, the Street applauds the company’s debt-reduction efforts and its intention to return $120 million in cash to shareholders through a stock repurchase plan and a new dividend program set to launch later this year. 

Analysts’ average target price of $47.00 gives PDCE implied upside of about 33% over the next year or so. And even after a hot start to 2021, shares still look compellingly valued. 

PDCE trades at just 7.7 times estimated earnings for 2022 – even as analysts project average annual EPS growth of 7% over the next three to five years. 

7 of 7

Whiting Petroleum

A fracking well in a cornfieldA fracking well in a cornfield
  • Market value: $1.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Analysts’ average rating: 1.29 (Strong Buy)

Whiting Petroleum (WLL, $36.65) is by far the smallest among the seven best oil stocks to buy now, but it also easily sports the strongest Strong Buy consensus recommendation.

Keep in mind, however, that as a small-cap play, WLL doesn’t get nearly as much attention from analysts as the other oil stocks on this list. That can skew the ratings.

Indeed, S&P Global Market Intelligence tracks only eight analysts who cover the independent E&P company. Six of them call WLL stock a Strong Buy, one says Hold and one has no opinion. 

It’s also worth noting that Whiting was the first major oil-and-gas company to file for bankruptcy during the pandemic. The company entered restructuring on April 1, 2020, and emerged from bankruptcy protection in September. 

That said, Whiting’s Chapter 11 period was a salubrious experience. The company, under the direction of new CEO Lynn Peterson and a new CFO James Henderson, labors under a manageable long-term debt load of $360 million (down from $2.8 billion pre-bankruptcy) and has access to a $750 million reserve-based revolving credit facility.

The bottom line is that the Street is increasingly optimistic about WLL’s bottom line. 

“Estimates have been broadly trending upward for the stock, and the magnitude of these revisions looks promising,” notes Zacks Equity Research, which rates shares at Strong Buy. “We expect an above-average return from the stock in the next few months.”

With an average target price of $41.57, analysts give WLL implied upside of about 13% in the next 12 months or so. Shares trade at 8.2 times analysts’ estimated earnings for 2022, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The Street’s projected long-term EPS growth rate stands at 19% over the next three to five years.

Source: kiplinger.com

Backdoor Roth IRA – Definition & How to Make These Contributions

Saving for retirement is important for everyone. It’s difficult to live off Social Security benefits alone, so most people will need to supplement their retirement income with their own savings.

Many people have access to retirement plans like 401(k)s through their employers. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), or simply want to save more or have more control over your retirement savings, you might consider opening an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

An IRA is a special type of account that is designed for retirement savings. You can open IRAs at many banks and with most brokerage companies. If you put money in an IRA, you can receive tax benefits, but you also restrict your ability to withdraw that money.

One drawback of traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs is that they limit the amount that you can contribute and exclude some people from contributing based on their income. However, there are ways to get around these limits.

What Is a Roth IRA?

For Roth IRAs, you pay taxes as normal when you contribute money to the account. However, withdrawals from the account are completely tax-free. That means you don’t have to pay any tax on your investment gains or dividends you receive in the account.

This can save you a lot of money in taxes compared to investing in a taxable brokerage account.

For comparison, a traditional IRA lets you deduct your contributions from your income, reducing your income tax bill immediately. However, you have to pay income tax on all the money you withdraw, including earnings, meaning you are deferring your taxes to a later date.

Roth IRAs are designed for retirement savings, so there are rules about withdrawing from the account.

Because you’ve already paid taxes on the money you contribute to a Roth IRA, you can withdraw contributions without penalty or taxation. However, the earnings in the account — the gains from your investment activities — are subject to penalties if you withdraw them before you turn 59 ½.

If you’ve had the account open for fewer than five years, you have to pay a 10% penalty and income tax on any earnings you withdraw. If you’ve had the account open for at least five years, you may be able to avoid taxes but will have to pay the 10% penalty on early withdrawals.

In some situations, such as paying for a first-time home purchase or paying for medical expenses, you may be able to avoid these taxes and penalties.

Once you turn 59 ½, you can make withdrawals from the account freely as long as it has been open for at least five years.


Roth IRA Contribution and Income Limits

The government places limits on the amount of money that you can contribute to a Roth IRA each year. The limits are based on your age and your income.

In general, for 2020, you can contribute up to the lesser of your taxable income for the year or $6,000. If you are age 55 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000.

If you have a high enough income, the amount that you can contribute will begin to decrease until it reaches $0. The income maximum varies depending on your filing status.

Full Roth IRA Contribution Allowed Partial Roth IRA Contribution Allowed No Roth IRA Contribution Allowed
Single or Head of Household tax filing status Earned less than $124,000 Earned $124,000 to $138,999 Earned $139,000 or more
Married, filing separately tax filing status, did not live with spouse during the year Earned less than $124,000 Earned $124,000 to $138,999 Earned $139,000 or more
Married, filing separately tax filing status, did live with spouse during the year Earned less than $10,000 N/A Earned $10,000 or more
Married, filing jointly, or qualified widower tax filing statuses Earned less than $196,000 Earned $196,000 to $205,999 Earned $206,000 or more

These income limits use your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), which is your gross income minus certain deductions such as contributions to employer retirement plans and student loan interest.


What Is a Backdoor Roth?

A backdoor Roth is a strategy people use to get around the income limits on Roth IRA contributions by contributing to a traditional IRA and then converting the balance to a Roth IRA.

Imagine that you’re fortunate enough to have an income of $150,000 as a single person. You probably have a good amount of money to invest for retirement, but the government won’t let you contribute to a Roth IRA.

You can use a backdoor Roth to get funds into your Roth IRA without breaking the income maximum rules. Traditional IRA contributions, unlike Roth IRAs contributions, are not limited by your income.

That means that you can contribute money to a traditional IRA no matter how much you make, and then roll those funds into a Roth IRA.

Pro tip: Have you considered hiring a financial advisor but don’t want to pay the high fees? Enter Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. When you sign up, you’ll work closely with an advisor to create a custom investment plan that can help you meet your financial goals.


How to Make Backdoor Roth Contributions

Making a backdoor Roth contribution is relatively easy.

1. Contribute to a Traditional IRA

To start, contribute the amount that you want to put in your Roth IRA to a traditional IRA.

When you contribute money to a traditional IRA, you can usually deduct those contributions from your income when you file your tax return. However, like Roth IRAs, there are income maximums for deducting traditional IRA contributions.

If you make more than the maximum allowed, you can still contribute to a traditional IRA, but you cannot deduct that contribution from your income when filing your tax return.

Because you’re rolling your money into a Roth IRA anyway, you’ll have to pay taxes, meaning you don’t have to worry about making too much to take the deduction.

2. Roll Your Traditional IRA Into a Roth IRA

Once you’ve contributed to an IRA, you want to roll that money into a Roth IRA.

A rollover lets you convert some or all of your traditional IRA balance into a Roth IRA balance. In effect, you can completely dodge the income limit for Roth IRA contributions using this strategy. Your broker can typically help you with the rollover process, making it relatively easy.

When you roll your traditional IRA’s balance into a Roth IRA, you pay income taxes on the amount you roll over.

The Pro-Rata Rule

Before you make a backdoor Roth contribution, you need to keep in mind one rule surrounding traditional IRAs and rollovers: the pro-rata rule.

To understand the pro-rata rule, picture your traditional IRA as having two buckets. One bucket includes money you deducted from your income and thus haven’t paid taxes on yet. The other includes money you contributed that you could not deduct from your income, possibly because you made too much money that year.

You need to track the buckets separately because although you have to pay income tax on pre-tax contributions when you withdraw them, you don’t have to pay them on post-tax contributions. If you did, you’d be paying taxes on the same income twice.

The pro-rata rule states that you must roll a proportional amount of each bucket into a Roth IRA when performing a rollover, meaning you can’t choose which bucket of money to roll over. This can have significant tax implications depending on how much pre-tax money you already have invested.

Avoiding the Pro-Rata Rule

The only way to avoid the pro-rata rule is to roll over your entire traditional IRA balance. If you make too much to contribute to a Roth IRA in the first place, you’re in a high tax bracket, resulting in a large tax bill as part of the rollover if you already have funds in your traditional IRA.

Keep in mind, the pro-rata rule looks at all of your IRAs and other pre-tax accounts, even if you keep them at different brokerages. You can’t open accounts in different places to dodge the rule.

3. Pay the Taxes Owed

When you roll money from a traditional IRA, you have to pay income tax on the money you roll over, unless the rollover is entirely composed of nondeductible contributions. If you’re rolling a large amount, you’ll want to have some money set aside to cover this cost.

To keep costs low, it might be worth timing your rollover for a year where your income is low, which means you’ll be in a lower tax bracket when you owe the tax on the amount rolled from your traditional to your Roth IRA.

Ultimately, backdoor Roth IRA contributions work best if you have little or no money in your traditional IRA. Asking a tax professional or a financial planner is a good idea if you want help with the process.


Advantages of Backdoor Roth Contributions

There are a number of reasons to consider backdoor Roth contributions.

1. Avoid Income Limits

The obvious benefit of backdoor Roth contributions is that they let you get around the income limits imposed by the IRS.

If you make too much to contribute to a Roth IRA, you probably have some extra money to save for the future. A backdoor Roth lets you get all of the advantages of a Roth IRA despite the income limits.

2. Tax-Free Growth

Money in a Roth IRA grows tax-free. You don’t pay taxes when you take money out of the account and the money you earn from your investments isn’t taxed either.

If you’re planning to invest the money anyway, by putting it in a Roth IRA, you’re getting the benefit of tax-free growth and only losing the freedom to withdraw earnings before you turn 59 ½.


Disadvantages of Backdoor Roth Contributions

Before using a backdoor Roth, consider these drawbacks.

1. Complexity

Making backdoor Roth contributions involves a few steps. You have to put money into a traditional IRA, then initiate a rollover to a Roth IRA.

If you have your traditional and Roth IRAs at the same company, your brokerage can probably help with the process, but there are a few moving parts.

You also have to make sure you submit the correct forms when you file your taxes to indicate your contributions and rollovers.

2. Combining Pre- and Post-Tax Money Is Messy

The pro-rata rule for rollovers means that backdoor Roth contributions work best if you don’t have any money in a traditional IRA.

If you do have some funds in your traditional IRA and don’t want to move the full balance of the account to your Roth IRA, you’ll be rolling a combination of pre- and post-tax funds into your Roth and leaving a combination of both in your traditional IRA.

This means you have to be diligent with your recordkeeping to make sure you don’t pay taxes on your post-tax traditional IRA funds when you withdraw money from the account in retirement.

You also have to pay taxes on any money rolled from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA in the year you perform the rollover, which you need to plan for.


The Mega Backdoor Roth

Related to the backdoor Roth IRA is the mega backdoor Roth IRA. In rare cases, people can use a quirk of their 401(k) plan to get past the Roth IRA contribution limit, putting tens of thousands of dollars into their Roth IRAs each year.

401(k) Contribution Limits

A 401(k) is a retirement plan provided by employers as a benefit for their employees. One of the advantages of 401(k)s is their much higher contribution limits compared to IRAs.

For 2020, the individual limit for a 401(k) is $19,500 when it comes to deducting contributions from your taxes.

However, the true limit for 401(k)s is triple that number, $58,500. This limit includes all contributions made by the individual and their employer. Employees can deduct the first $19,500 they contribute and employers can contribute another $39,000 without the employee paying taxes on those employer contributions.

A small number of employers allow their employees to make post-tax, non-Roth contributions to their 401(k)s. This is like making nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA.

You put money into the 401(k) but still pay taxes on the contributions. If your employer allows these types of contributions, you can add your own post-tax money to the account up to the $58,500 limit.

Typically, when you leave an employer, you can roll the balance of your 401(k) into your IRA. Most employers don’t let you roll your 401(k) into an IRA or make withdrawals from the account while you’re still employed. However, a small number of employers do allow these in-service distributions.

Performing a Mega Backdoor Roth Rollover

If your employer lets you make both post-tax, non-Roth contributions and allows in-service distributions, you have access to the mega backdoor Roth IRA.

To make a mega backdoor Roth contribution, contribute post-tax, non-Roth funds to your 401(k), then perform an in-service rollover of that money from your 401(k) to your Roth IRA.

Using this strategy, you can put as much as $39,000 extra into your Roth IRA each year, increasing your tax-advantaged investments by a huge amount.

Unfortunately, 401(k) plans that allow both post-tax, non-Roth contributions, and in-service distributions are incredibly uncommon, meaning that most people won’t be able to use this strategy.

However, if you run your own business or are self-employed, there’s nothing stopping you from designing your retirement plan to offer these options.


Final Word

Roth IRAs are one of the best ways to save for retirement, but if you make too much money, the IRS won’t let you contribute to the account.

For those with incomes high enough that they can’t contribute to a Roth IRA but who want to save more toward retirement, a backdoor Roth IRA contribution can help get around the limits.

If you’d rather keep the money out of retirement accounts and easy to access, you can always consider opening a taxable brokerage account. If you’re a hands-off investor, you can also think about using a robo-advisor to manage your portfolio.

Source: moneycrashers.com