By Janet Aschkenasy
Once upon a time, young professionals and college grads who took out personal loans were thought to be financially troubled in a big way.
But after the financial crisis sent more and more college graduates back to school to gain additional degrees and more credibility with employers, consolidating student loans has actually become the norm after graduation, said Dave Hardin, president of Hardin Financial Group in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
“If I had taken out a personal loan back in the ’60s, anyone that knew about it would have thought that I was desperate,” said Hardin. But “college graduates and student loan debt have created a new scenario where debt consolidation into a fixed-rate personal loan makes sense.
“Today, it’s not unusual for a college student to come away with perhaps $100,000 worth of student debt,” he said. “Once you’ve gotten loans for four, five or six years, it makes sense to consolidate them with a personal loan.”
WHY PERSONAL LOANS HAVE GROWN IN POPULARITY
Consumers have increasingly tapped personal loans in recent years in part because interest rates are low, enticing borrowers to consolidate credit card debt that often carries high interest rates, said Kirk Jewell, founder of Global Financial Services in Flint, Mich.
He also said that consumers prefer the terms that come with a personal loan versus a credit card. Monthly payments, length of term and interest rate are stated at the beginning of the loan and typically won’t change over time, making it easier to budget and forecast future cash flows, said Jewell. Moreover, they’re not secured by borrower assets.
The Great Recession hurt all lending activity, especially personal loans, he noted. However, lending conditions have since eased considerably.
WHY YOU SHOULD, OR SHOULDN’T, BUY INTO THE HYPE
According to the National Credit Union Administration, unsecured personal loans increased to $31.1 billion in 2014, from $25.5 billion four years earlier.