The Holtz Group

A Beginner's Guide to Interest Rates

Whether you borrow money through a credit card, mortgage, or student loan, you always pay interest—a specified percentage of the loan amount. In the US, interest rates are determined by several variables, such as the supply and demand for loans and credit, the Federal Reserve’s target interest rate set by the Federal Open Market Committee, credit risk and inflation expectations, and more. Continue reading for more information on interest rates and their effects on your financial health.

How does interest rate affect me?

A high-interest rate makes debt more expensive and borrowing more difficult, while declining interest rates can promote economic expansion by lowering consumer borrowing costs. Furthermore, interest rates can impact how labor and resources are allocated in the economy. For instance, low-interest rates encourage consumers to invest in particular industries, such as housing and automobiles. Individuals can make wiser financial decisions by understanding interest and being aware of its fluctuating rates.

The risk of low-interest rates

Although low-interest rates have a range of benefits for individuals and businesses, they can also negatively affect the economy. On the one hand, low-interest rates promote economic growth by encouraging borrowing and spending. As a result, organizations and individuals are more likely to invest, aiding business growth and employment creation. On the other hand, the economy can also suffer from low-interest rates with a decrease in the return on savings, making it more difficult for savers to accumulate wealth. Low-interest rates can also raise unemployment because businesses will fire pricey employees and replace them with cheaper temporary or part-time workers and contractors.

How interest rate affects inflation

Interest rate increases typically help keep inflation under control, as both tend to move in the same direction. When inflation rises, the Federal Reserve tends to boost interest rates to get individuals to spend less and save more. A high-interest rate lowers the overall demand for goods and services, relieving the upward pressure on prices.

Different types of interest rates

Banks offer a variety of interest rates, including fixed and adjustable rates. Fixed interest rates remain the same over the life of a loan, while flexible rates can change depending on market conditions. Other types of interest include:

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The total cost of borrowing money expressed as a yearly percentage rate
  • Prime Rate: The lowest interest rate that banks offer to their most creditworthy customers
  • Discount Rate: Discounted rates that are lower than the prime rate, offered to borrowers with good credit histories
  • Simple Interest: Calculated only on the principal amount borrowed or invested
  • Nominal Interest Rate: The rate of interest stated on a loan or investment, without taking inflation into account
  • Real Interest Rate: The rate of interest an investor, saver, or lender receives (or expects to receive) after allowing for inflation

By understanding the different interest rates and how market conditions affect them, borrowers can make better decisions when shopping for mortgages or other loans. 

Need financial advice?

Check out our previous blog post on Debt No More: Strategies for a Brighter Financial Future. In addition, if you need personalized financial advice, our team is always here to help—contact us today to book an appointment!