If this is the first of my Lending Club return updates that you’ve read, let me catch you up a bit. It all started with a little Lending Club / Sharebuilder experiment. It’s moved on past that, to an ongoing series here at Beating Broke where I share, on a quarterly basis, how the account is doing, the things I’ve done with the account recently, and the things that I might be thinking about trying over the next quarter.
How I invest in Lending Club
Because of where I live (North Dakota), I’m not able to directly invest in fresh loans. I’m forced to use the FolioFN trading platform to buy (and occasionally sell) the notes that I’m investing in. But, based on my returns, I don’t think I’ll be complaining anytime soon. If you’d like to read more about how I select my Lending Club notes, you can read my post on that subject here.
While I consider investing in peer-to-peer investing to be a nearly passive income source, it isn’t a pure passive income source. What I mean by that is that it does require some active management in order to keep the money invested in loans, and not just sitting fallow in your account. Without meaning to, I put that to the test this last quarter. In February, I don’t even know if I logged into the account. I certainly didn’t buy any new notes. What that means is that for the better part of February, the money that I had coming in just sat in the cash account not doing a darn thing. By the end of February, the cash account was nearly 10% of my Lending Club portfolio. I invested all of that back into notes in March, but it was a lesson in needing to log in and check the account once in a while.
Lending Club Loan Analysis
Analysis might be a bit too strong of a word. At the end of the quarter, I had invested in a total of 62 notes. Of those 62 notes, 19 had been paid off, and there have been no written off loans. There is one that has slipped into the delinquent status column, however, and is showing signs of ending up in the written off column. The balance on principle of the loan is less than 1% of my total portfolio. I might be able to sell it, but it’s far enough delinquent that I’d have to sell it at a significant discount. Honestly, I haven’t decided if I’ll do that or not. I’d rather it just came back around and was paid off, but I’m more of a realist than that. Maybe we’ll be talking about the written off loan effect at the end of next quarter.
Lending Club Return
So this is the part that everyone’s been reading for, right? If you look back at the 4Q12 update, you’ll see that my rate of return (displayed as NAR in the account dashboard) was 14.48%. I screwed up a bit and didn’t record the NAR displayed at the end of March. As of 4/24/2013, it’s being displayed as 14.63. That still includes the one delinquent loan, so it’s likely to go down some if that loan is sold at a significant discount, or if it is written off. The spreadsheet I use to keep track of the numbers shows a a return of 15.86% and 13.26% (adjusted with inflation, which may or may not be necessary).
The cash flow in the account remains pretty good. I had several loans paid off in the last quarter that was reinvested. All told, the portfolio of active (principle remaining) loans grew by 2 over the first quarter. The average amount of money churning back into the account each month is averaging well over $30 a month now allowing me to invest in one new note (at $25/each) each month and then another when the balance grows beyond $25 again. Monthly interest received is teetering around the $10 a month line. I think my next goal might be to get the interest income up to $25 a month. That would be pretty sweet. I’d be investing in a new note each month on just the interest along. If I want to do that anytime soon, however, it means I’ll have to start putting money into the account again. I haven’t put anything into it since November of last year, and I haven’t yet decided when I’ll start putting money into it again, but it will likely be soon.
Embracing Risk, and Increasing Returns
I suppose that somewhere along the way, here, I should mention risk. The notes that I’m investing in all carry a risk of potential default. If they all were to default, I’d lose every penny in my account. The odds of that happening are pretty small. But, the odds of having one or two loans default out of a couple hundred is significantly higher. If you’re going to invest in Lending Club notes, or any investment, you need to know and understand the risks. That’s your warning, and my disclaimer.
Now, take a minute and go look to see what your bank or credit union of choice pays on their savings account. How about their best rate on a CD? Now, even if I were to invest my portfolio into loans with a better credit rating (and, supposedly lesser risk), I could easily be making 6-9% if there weren’t any defaults. It beats the heck out of the rates at my credit union.
One last disclaimer. Please don’t put your liquid (or, emergency) savings into risky investments. You need those readily available, and relatively risk free. Even at a paltry 0.25% in a savings account, it’s in the best place. Every other drop of savings is fair game though. Your money needs to be working for you, not the bank.