A loan is when you receive money from a friend, bank or financial institution in exchange for future repayment of the principal, plus interest. The principal is the amount you borrowed, and the interest is the amount charged for receiving the loan. Since lenders are taking a risk that you may not repay the loan, they have to offset that risk by charging a fee - known as interest. Loans typically are secured or unsecured. A secured loan involves pledging an asset (such as a car, boat or house) as collateral for the loan. If the borrower defaults, or doesn't pay back the loan, the lender takes possession of the asset. An unsecured loan option is preferred, but not as common. If the borrower doesn't pay back the unsecured loan, the lender doesn't have the right to take anything in return.
Types of Loans
Personal loans - You can get these loans at almost any bank. The good news is that you can usually spend the money however you like. You might go on vacation, buy a jet ski or get a new television. Personal loans are often unsecured and fairly easy to get if you have average credit history. The downside is that they are usually for small amounts, typically not going over $5,000, and the interest rates are higher than secured loans.
Cash advances - If you are in a pinch and need money quickly, cash advances from your credit card company or other payday loan institutions are an option. These loans are easy to get, but can have extremely high interest rates. They usually are only for small amounts: typically $1,000 or less. These loans should really only be considered when there are no other alternative ways to get money.
Student loans - These are great ways to help finance a college education. The most common loans are Stafford loans and Perkins loans. The interest rates are very reasonable, and you usually don't have to pay the loans back while you are a full-time college student. The downside is that these loans can add up to well over $100,000 in the course of four, six or eight years, leaving new graduates with huge debts as they embark on their new careers.
Mortgage loans - This is most likely the biggest loan you will ever get! If you are looking to purchase your first home or some form of real estate, this is likely the best option. These loans are secured by the house or property you are buying. That means if you don't make your payments in a timely manner, the bank or lender can take your house or property back! Mortgages help people get into homes that would otherwise take years to save for. They are often structured in 10-, 15- or 30-year terms, and the interest you pay is tax-deductible and fairly low compared to other loans.
Small business loans - Your local banks usually offer these loans to people looking to start a business. They do require a little more work than normal and often require a business plan to show the validity of what you are doing. These are often secured loans, so you will have to pledge some personal assets as collateral in case the business fails.