Key takeaways

  • Personal loans are generally free of spending restrictions, so you can potentially use the funds to invest.
  • However, some lenders disallow the use of loan proceeds to make certain investments.

  • If you decide to take out a loan to invest, it could be worthwhile if it enhances your career or financial standing.

  • Be sure to read the fine print if you decide to invest with a personal loan to avoid issues with the lender.

Whether you’re planning for a large purchase or paying for an emergency home repair, a personal loan is a helpful tool. Because funds from personal loans can be used for nearly any purpose, you might even be considering using one for investing. While it is an option, using personal loans for investing also carries serious risks.

Can I use personal loans for investing?

You can use a personal loan to invest, but it’s not without risk.

The short answer is yes — it is possible to use a personal loan for investing. When you take out a loan, the money is provided in a lump sum that can be used for nearly anything you would like. Before you apply, read the fine print carefully, as some lenders may prohibit using the proceeds for specific types of investments, such as purchasing stocks, mutual funds or similar investments.

Even in cases where you are allowed to use the proceeds for investing, it may not be wise to do so. Investing comes with risks, including the potential that you could lose the money entirely. This type of outcome could put you in a difficult situation if you intend to use investment proceeds to repay the loan.

When is it a good idea to take out a personal loan to invest?

Using a personal loan to make the right type of investments can help improve your financial well-being.

You’re pursuing career growth

In some professions, earning a promotion or getting a more lucrative job offer might require a special certification or professional license. Because traditional student loans generally don’t cover continuing education, a personal loan may be one of your only options in order to invest in career advancement.

Obtaining a personal loan for this type of investment in your future may make sense if it increases your chances of earning a competitive income. Check the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook to learn more about job growth projections and median salaries in your field to help determine whether making such an investment will pay off.

The downside of using personal loans to invest in continuing education is you’ll generally pay a higher interest rate than you would for a student loan. If you will be attending a continuing education program at least half time, it may be worth investigating Direct Unsubsidized Loans from the federal government, which offer lower interest rates.

You’re boosting your earnings

Many people boost their monthly income by turning their hobbies and passion projects into side hustles or small businesses. If you’re looking to launch your own side venture, a personal loan could offer the funding you need to get started

Using a personal loan to invest in a side hustle or increase your income can be a wise investment if you take the time to develop a sound business plan and ensure you have thought through how you will generate income and pay back the loan.

It may be easier to qualify for a personal loan to invest in a passion project than it would be to qualify for a business loan. Before taking this approach, review all of your funding options and find the choice that will be the most cost-effective. This should include finding the option that will charge the least interest and most favorable repayment terms for your financial needs.

You have excellent credit

Your credit score is one of the biggest factors that influence how much borrowing a personal loan will cost you. If you have an excellent credit score — for example, a FICO score of 800-plus — you have a better chance of qualifying for a lender’s lowest interest rate, and you might not lose as much of your investment.

When you qualify for the most competitive interest rates, you will pay less interest over the life of the loan — meaning borrowing the money will cost you far less and thus is less of a risk.

You can afford the monthly payment

Consider whether you feel financially comfortable making the loan’s monthly payment, regardless of how your investment performs.

Factor in any existing debt you’re repaying now and other goals you’re saving toward, such as saving for a down payment on a house. If after you’ve crunched the numbers and looked carefully at your budget, you still feel confident about your ability to repay the loan, this might be an option for you.

If you can easily afford the monthly payments, however, you might consider putting that money in a high-yield savings account until you can afford to pay for the investment yourself out of pocket. This eliminates any risk associated with taking out a personal loan, as well as interest fees.

Yet another alternative is fractional investing, through which you could use the money you would otherwise have put toward monthly personal loan payments to buy into investments gradually. This option also allows you to avoid the interest and risks associated with a personal loan.

When is it a bad idea to take out a personal loan to invest?

Unfortunately, risky investments, a lower credit score or a shorter window before retirement means taking out a personal loan could be costly to your finances.

The investment is risky

When an investment has a higher-than-average chance of underperforming or offers above-average returns in a short period, it’s considered a high-risk investment. Investing in the stock market, for example, is considered very risky. Adding debt to your investment portfolio makes your investment strategy more volatile overall.

Your credit score is average

If you don’t have excellent credit, you won’t qualify for a lender’s lowest advertised loan rate. With some personal loan rates as high as 35.99 percent APR, the cost of the loan might be more than your potential investment return. In addition, there will be fewer lenders who will likely be willing to give you a loan. It could be worth spending some time to improve your credit before applying for a loan if your credit score is fair so that you are offered better rates and lower fees.

You can’t afford a failed investment

If you need the investment to deliver on its suggested returns to afford your personal loan, this route is a bad idea. No investment can offer a 100 percent guarantee on returns, and you’ll need to start repaying your personal loan immediately — with interest.

There are also late payment fees if you fall behind on your monthly payments. A better idea is to explore options with less risk and volatility, like money market accounts.

You face steep fees

Before you commit to a personal loan, be sure you know all of the associated costs. Origination fees, which are upfront fees charged to process your loan application, can be as much as 10 percent of your loan amount.

These are not the only fees associated with personal loans. There may also be late fees and fees for paying off the loan early. All of these fees may ultimately eat away at any profit you stand to make from an investment. It could be more sensible to save up over time to invest rather than incur added costs.

You’re at or nearing retirement age

As you approach the end of your working years, you should aim to reduce your expenses. Adding debt like a personal loan just as your income decreases could put your retirement savings at risk.

You may also face more serious challenges if the investment doesn’t deliver and you default on the loan. Your credit score will be impacted and you may face lawsuits from lenders, which could eat into your retirement savings even more.

What to consider before borrowing to invest

Here are some factors to keep in mind to give yourself the best chance at making an informed decision.

Investment knowledge

Investing is a smart way to grow your money, but there are a number of ways to do it. Different approaches have different levels of risk and volatility. Before borrowing money to invest, make sure you’re fully aware of the different types of investments you can fund and their risk levels.

Bank deposit products, like money market accounts and savings accounts, are considered low-risk investments since they’re insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). These investment vehicles offer lower returns because they’re low risk.

Current loan rates

Financial institutions and lenders often set their interest rates based on the federal funds rate. When the economy is down, the Federal Reserve can lower the federal funds rate. Although lenders can charge what they want on a personal loan, a lower federal funds rate might reflect lower interest rates on consumer lending products overall.

Financial portfolio

Borrowing to invest is a move that requires a keen understanding of the market, the risks and returns of each investment vehicle and a solid grasp of your risk tolerance. Debt from a personal loan can complicate your investment strategy. Consult with an investing advisor to gauge if taking out a personal loan makes sense.

Your personal risk tolerance

Before you decide to use a personal loan for investing, it’s important to seriously consider your comfort level with potential losses. Think about your risk tolerance and whether a safer or more aggressive investment strategy suits your needs.

The bottom line

Using personal loans for investing isn’t for everyone. There’s always a danger that your investment might not yield the return you anticipated. Other events, like an unexpected layoff or a hospital bill, can also derail your monthly finances, making it difficult to repay the loan.

If you’re in a stable financial position, have spoken to an investment professional and feel that borrowing to invest is the right choice, make sure to compare different types of personal loan lenders. Whether you go through a traditional financial institution, online lender or peer-to-peer lender, each lender has different terms, rates and fees that you’ll want to assess.

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