Getting a personal loan with a relatively low interest rate isn’t expected to be a problem in 2019, as long as a much feared an economic downturn doesn’t rear its head.
Some lenders are offering personal loans with interest rates as low as about 6 percent to start the year. And while personal loan rates might increase slightly with continued rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, overall there likely won’t be a whole lot of change in 2019, says Greg McBride, CFA, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com.
“We haven’t seen much movement in rates over the last couple years, and I don’t think that’s going to change this year,” McBride says. “The bigger risk on the personal loan side is if there’s broader economic downturn because, in that environment, delinquencies and defaults rise and lenders really scale back.”
Economic downturn could shrink credit availability
Top economic experts told Bankrate in December that a shaky global situation paired with labor shortages and other issues at home threaten the economy through 2019 and into 2020. If an economic downturn does arrive on our doorsteps, McBride says most people might not be able to turn to a personal loan for extra cash.
“If the economy slows, the interest rate won’t be your worry as much as availability of credit. That’s particularly the case for those who have middling credit,” he says. “People with strong credit will find credit availability won’t be as much of an issue an economic slowdown.”
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Credit market expected to be strong in 2019
People typically use personal loans to consolidate their debt, cover emergency expenses or get extra cash for weddings and other seen or unforeseen major life events. The product tends to be especially attractive when the economy is strong and people feel they can pay back the loans after getting new jobs or pay boosts, says Jason Laky, senior vice president of consumer lending at TransUnion.
“Turns out, personal loans are most popular among consumers between ages 40 to 49,” Laky says. “Folks in the middle of their lives and careers.”
Personal loan balances are expected to climb 20 percent to an all-time high of $156.3 billion by the end of 2019, according to the TransUnion Forecast: Top Consumer Credit Trends for ’19.
“Unsecured personal loans, in particular, have had a tremendous amount of growth over the last six years,” Laky says.
TransUnion projects 2018 will wrap up with 131 billion total personal loan balances, up from the low point of $46 billion in 2011.
“When we look at the actual number of new loan originations for 2019, we’re predicting 9.5 percent growth,” Laky says. Their estimate predicts 19.9 million new personal loans will be issued this year.