In December 2015, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by a quarter of a percentage point. That was the first time the Fed had raised rates in nearly a decade. While federal funds rate changes don’t directly impact peer-to-peer (P2P) loan interest rates, lending platforms may begin increasing their rates. If you’re investing in peer-to-peer loans, it’s important to understand how that may impact your portfolio.
Check out our personal loans calculator.
Rising Rates May Mean Better Returns
Personal loan investors make money by claiming a share of the interest that’s paid on the loans, in proportion to the amount that’s invested. If the platform you’re using raises rates for their borrowers, that means you’ll likely see higher returns.
That’s especially true if you’re open to funding high-risk loans. Peer-to-peer platforms assign each of their borrowers a credit risk rating, based on their credit scores and credit history. The loans that get the lowest ratings are assigned the highest rates. For example, Lending Club’s “G” grade loans (the loans that go to the riskiest borrowers) have interest rates of 25.72%.
Assuming borrowers don’t default on their payments, these investments can be more lucrative than lower-risk loans. Using Lending Club as an example again, F and G grade loans historically have had annual returns of 9.05%, which is nearly double the 5.22% return that investors earn from low-risk “A” grade loans.
Related Article: Is Using a Personal Loan to Invest a Smart Move?
The Downsides of a Rate Increase
While rising interest rates may put more money in investors’ pockets, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. For one thing, it’s possible that as rates rise, borrowers could decide to explore other lending options. If that happens, there would be a smaller pool of loans for investors to choose from.
To compensate, peer-to-peer lenders may resort to issuing lower-quality loans as rates rise, but that could be problematic for investors who prefer to steer away from riskier borrowers. If the platform you use no longer offers the kinds of loan products you want to invest in, you’ll have to reallocate those assets elsewhere to keep your portfolio from becoming unbalanced.
Finally, rising interest rates could result in a higher default rate. Increased rates mean that borrowers have to pay a lot of money for taking out personal loans. If the personal loan payments become unmanageable, a borrower may end up defaulting on their loan altogether. Some platforms refund the fees that investors have paid, but they usually don’t refund their initial investments after borrowers default.
Try out our asset allocation calculator.
What Investors Ought to Consider
If you’re an active P2P investor or you’re thinking of adding P2P loans to your portfolio, you can’t afford to overlook the risk that’s involved. Financing the riskiest loans is a gamble, so it’s important to consider the consequences of putting money into those kinds of investments.
A good way to hedge your bets is to spread out your investments over a variety of loan grades. That way, if a high-risk borrower defaults you still have other loans to fall back on.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Ondine32, ©iStock.com/Tomwang112, ©iStock.com/xijian