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Through the course of life, there are times you may need additional money beyond your expected monthly take-home pay. The reality is – life costs money. Even the best planners can find themselves in a position where they need extra funds. Whether you’re trying to cover an unexpected expense, planning to consolidate debt, or preparing for a major purchase – a personal loan might be a good solution for you. Before you apply for a personal loan, here are eight questions to consider:
1. What is a Personal Loan?
A personal loan is money borrowed for personal reasons. Personal loans are often used to consolidate debt, fund home improvement projects, cover medical expenses, or simply pay for a major purchase or vacation. Personal loans are often borrowed from a consumer finance organization, and provided in a lump sum payment. This personal loan is typically repaid at a fixed interest rate over a set period of time.
2. Are there different types of Personal Loans?
Yes. Personal loans can be either “secured or unsecured” and vary depending on your ability to meet specific credit criteria. Secured debt is a loan that is guaranteed by collateral, and collateral is an asset that the lender an take if the borrower defaults. Collateral can include personal vehicles, jewelry, or other personal property. Unsecured debt is a loan guaranteed without an asset serving as collateral. To break it down even further, it depends on your annual income, credit score, existing debt, and the availability of credit (among other factors).
3. How are my Finances?
Before making a financial decision, many people check in with their current financial health. If you know your full financial story, it allows you and a potential lender to put together the right plan for your finances – and figure out the amount of money you may need for a loan. Take a close look at your overall annual income and expenses. You’ll also want to know your overall debt, because this will also be considered when applying for a loan.
4. What is my Credit Score?
A credit score is used by lenders (and other financial institutions) to determine whether or not to offer you a loan. A higher number is a better number and is calculated on a range of 300 – 850. Before securing a loan, there are many resources available that provide a free annual credit report. There are three major reporting groups that often offer free credit reporting: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. Not only can you receive your score, but you will then have a better understanding of what factors are impacting your score.
5. What is an Interest Rate?
An interest rate is the amount charged, as a percentage of the loan principal, by the lender to the borrower for use of the asset. This is basically a rental charge (interest rate) to the borrower for the use the of the money (personal loan). If you take out a personal loan, you will most likely pay both the principal and interest back to the lender, in addition to any other fees that might be associated with the loan. A lender will often charge a lower interest rate for lower-risk borrowers, and a higher interest rate for higher-risk borrowers – which can be determined by your annual income, credit score, existing debt, and the availability of credit (among other factors).
6. Will a Personal Loan Help My Credit Score?
It depends on the lender, and whether or not they are reporting to a major credit reporting bureau. (Please note, customers who choose 1st Franklin Financial Corporation will have their information reported to a major credit reporting bureau.) If the lender is reporting to a credit bureau, and you pay off your loan according to the provided terms, you will definitely have a chance to boost your score with on-time payments throughout the life of the loan. It’s important to note that this can have the reverse effect to your score if you don’t pay on-time, which is usually within 30 days of your monthly due date. If you happen to be swapping credit card debt for a personal loan, this can reduce your credit utilization, (which measures the amount of your credit limit that’s being used) which in turn could boost your overall credit score as well.
7. How much should I borrow?
The minimum and maximum borrowing limits are set by each lender and the amount of your personal loan limit depends on your creditworthiness. (This goes back to our questions above for “How are my Finances” and “What is My Credit Score?”) When you work with a lender it’s important to secure an amount you feel absolutely confident you can repay – so you limit the risk of overextending yourself.
8. How long will it take to pay off my loan?
Before taking out a personal loan, you’ll want to know the term of your loan. The term is defined as the amount of time or how long your loan will last with successful, regular payments. Loans are either “short-term or long-term,” from as little as one year, or as long as 30 years. The repayment of the principal and interest are due at the end of this time-frame. The “loan term” is important because it plays a part in determining your monthly payment and interest costs associated with your loan.
These are the 8 questions that should assist you in beginning your personal loan journey. As a reminder, be sure to get a full look at your current financial situation so you can make the best possible decision for your financial future. In the end, a personal loan has the incredible potential to build your overall credit worthiness and most importantly – secure the funds you need when you need them most.