Made Money in Your Robinhood Account? Why You Shouldn't Be So Quick to Cash Out

Hijabi looks at investment documents in an office.

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Don't just take the money and run.

Key points

  • A lot of people have made money by investing in stocks and other assets.
  • Before you cash out your profits, consider the tax implications.

Any money you need for near-term goals or emergencies should be kept in a savings account. That way, you know your principal is protected.

But if you have money available that you don't have a near-term need for, it pays to invest it, whether in stocks, cryptocurrency, or another asset. The reason? Investing your money carries risk, but there's also the potential to generate strong returns.

If you invested in a brokerage account like Robinhood, you may have earned money in that account by virtue of your investments gaining value. And you may now be tempted to cash out your investments and use that money as you please, whether to go on vacation or meet another goal. But before you cash out your brokerage account, you'll need to understand the tax implications involved.

Your gains aren't all yours to keep

Whenever you sell an asset at a price that's more than what you paid for it, you're subject to capital gains taxes. The amount of those taxes will depend on how long you held the assets in question before selling them.

If you sell investments like stocks or cryptos before having held them for at least a year and a day, you'll be subject to short-term capital gains taxes on your profits. Short-term capital gains taxes are comparable to the taxes you pay on ordinary income, and they can eat into your profits substantially.

By contrast, if you hold your investments for at least a year and a day before selling them, you'll be bumped into the more favorable long-term capital gains tax category. That will result in less of a tax bill.

That's why if you're sitting on gains in your brokerage account, you shouldn't rush to cash them out. Rather, you should understand how they might impact your taxes.

As an example, say you're looking at $5,000 in short-term gains in your brokerage account and you're a single tax-filer earning $80,000 a year. In that case, your tax rate for your capital gains will be 22%, and your tax bill will be $1,100.

Now, let's say you're looking at $5,000 in long-term capital gains. In that case, your tax rate will be 15%, and your IRS bill will come to $750.

If you're a higher earner, it's especially important to try to hold onto investments for at least a year and a day before selling them. Long-term capital gains max out at 20% for higher earners. But short-term capital gain tax rates for higher earners can be as high as 37%.

Another reason not to sell

Cashing out investments too quickly could leave you with a whopping tax bill on your hands. Plus, cashing out prematurely could mean missing out on additional growth.

If you have a pressing need for money and don't have cash sitting in savings, then you may want or need to cash out investments in your brokerage account. But if that need doesn't exist, holding quality investments for many years could be a savvier financial move, since your portfolio could gain a lot of value over many decades.

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