Long-term loans are a valuable financial tool that producers can use to purchase large capital investments, including farm equipment, land, or housing. These types of loans are typically paid off over a period of time lasting longer than one year. Long-term loan payments are made up of principal and interest. The principal is the original amount of money borrowed. Interest is set by the terms of the loan and accrues over the lifetime of the loan based on the interest rate, the principal balance remaining, and the length of the loan.
Loan amortization is the schedule for how payments will be made over the lifetime of the loan. The loan amortization schedule tells borrowers the beginning period loan balance, the regular payment, the amount of the payment that goes towards interest and the principal, and the remaining loan balance. A fixed payment schedule is the most common, where each payment is the same amount.
When considering securing a long-term loan, it is important to consider not just the monthly payments but the overall amount you will be paying over the lifetime of the loan. Since interest accrues on the loan, the amount you pay will be more than the initial loan amount. Table 1 is an example of a loan amortization schedule for a 5-year, $30,000 loan, with a 5% interest rate and payments made annually. In that example, the initial loan was $30,000, but total payments equaled $34,646.22. The loan amount, interest rate, and length of the loan can all have large impacts on how much you end up paying in total. A lower interest rate will decrease the overall amount paid, so it is important to search for a lender that will charge you the lowest interest rate. But, most lenders will likely offer a similar interest rate. A more effective way to reduce the total payment amount is to take a loan with a shorter payment schedule. This will increase the payment made each pay period but will reduce the total amount paid over the lifetime of the loan. Lastly, putting down a larger down payment and reducing the loan amount will also decrease the total amount paid. Since interest accrues based on the principal, a reduction in the loan amount will result in less interest accruing, and the total amount paid on the loan will decrease.
There are several tools available that can help you evaluate a loan and the total costs involved. Mississippi State University has a free loan amortization calculator Excel tool that can be found at: https://www.agecon.msstate.edu/whatwedo/budgets.php. The Farm Credit Services of America also has a free loan amortization calculator at: https://www.fcsamerica.com/products-services/digital-tools/loan-payment-calculator.Understanding how your loan payments are constructed and what factors impact total payments is essential in getting the right loan for your farm business.