The Minimum Payment Trap

On the outside, minimum payments are made to look harmless and as though they exist for your advantage. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Minimum payments are designed to keep people in spiraling debt.

The lower the minimum payment (relative to the size of the loan), the more interest you will pay.

When you take out any sort of loan loan, there is often a structured loan repayment plant for the duration of the loan. Lower minimum payments are attractive to consumers because they see it as an opportunity to make big, expensive purchases without the need to save up for them. The problem with this model is that on top of paying for the items or commodities in question, you also pay interest on a loan. While this is widely known, what is not widely known is that Minimum payments maximize your out of pocket expenses significantly. 

My friend recently bought a home for a relatively affordable price in Bellevue, Washington. A year or so after buying the home, he found out the house had severe electrical and plumbing issues. He had to take out a second mortgage to gut, fix, and repair the whole house. At first, he was very happy because the minimum amount due per month on the 2nd mortgage was very affordable and would let him fix his abode.

Still, due to the cost of the repairs and materials, he did most of the work himself. I would come over to help him with heavy things or to hang drywall occasionally. One day I came over and he was noticeably upset. I ask him what was wrong, and he told me this:

(paraphrasing) ” I just found out that if I make the minimum payment on my second mortgage, I will pay twice as much across twenty years. I can’t afford to make much more than the minimum payment between other bills, my first mortgage, and student debt. I’m f**king screwed for twenty years. I looked into my other debts and it’s the same thing. I make $100,000 a year, but I can’t save anything because of all of my bills. How can I raise a family without sinking further into the hole?”

He had been lured into the minimum payment trap for the past decade of his adult life. He’s an opportunist. He saw every loan with a minimum payment as an opportunity to buy things he didn’t necessarily need… like the boat he purchased a few years ago. He doesn’t get to spend much time on it. It costs him a few hundred a month and it will continue to do so for years to come.

How do I beat Minimum payments?

The best way to get a head of minimum payments is to not take out loans in the first place. Save your money, then make a purchase. Not the other way around.

What if I already have Minimum payments to make?

Don’t make the minimum payment, even if you can only pay 5% more it will save you in the long run. If you can afford to pay more upfront on the loan, do so. If you can afford to make higher monthly payments, absolutely do so.

What if I have no other options, I need to take out a loan?

Same advice as above, try to put as much down up front as you can. Always pay more than the minimum payment due. Make sure to review the loan terms with scrutiny, some loans have terms that change after five years.

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