Kiva: Microfinance With American Ingenuity

July 27, 2009

Can a loan of $500 dollars change someone’s life?  Microfinance says yes.  Microfinance is the supply of loans and other financial services to the poor. 

Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi banker and economist.  While visiting a poor village near his university in Bangladesh in 1976,  Mr. Yunus was shocked to meet people kept in virtual servitude by usurious loans.  He made a loan of $27 to 42 women out of his own pocket.  This experience caused him to realize that an organization was needed that would provide banking services to the poor.  Grameen bank was born.

In 2006, Muhammed Yunus and Grameen bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”

Something about microfinance inspired me.  I like the idea of helping someone with their own idea.  After all, I’ve benefited from borrowing. 

I started looking for a way to get involved.  In 2007 I read that Premal Shah, the President of Kiva, was speaking in Madison.  Kiva is microfinance with American ingenuity.  Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.”  “Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entreprenuers around the globe.”

I attended Mr. Shah’s invigorating talk.  The next day I made a loan of $25 dollars to Guloglan Agakishiev, who was running a butcher shop on what looked to be card tables.  Within a couple of months Guloglan had started repaying his loan of $1000 on schedule.  He finished repaying his loan in the fifteen months that was promised.

Testing Kiva even further, I let my money sit in their account and watched to see if they would sweep it into their coffers.  To their credit, they haven’t, and occasionally remind me that I have money in my account that could be loaned again or taken out.

Hooked, I started to give gift certificates to try to get more people involved.  And so now I am offering a $25 Kiva gift ceritificate to each of the first three people who comment.

Loan payment calculation

February 2, 2009

In Brief

            Farming requires capital.  Most farmers require borrowed capital.  Do you know how to calculate the payment on a loan?  Do you know the trick most banks use to take more of your money?  Hint:  How many days are in a year?  If you answered 365 you are not a banker.

In Detail

            I came home from college one weekend and found my parents at the kitchen table scratching their heads.  They couldn’t figure out how the bank came up with the yearly payment due. 

            I had taken “Math of Finance” in college.  I told them, “I got this,” implying a young mind was needed.  They were gracious enough to let me try. 

            Let’s say the loan was $10,000 dollars at 8% for one year.  Common sense would tell you $800, right?  Why was the payment due $811.11?

1.  Take the interest rate, 8%.  Move the decimal over two spots to the left, .08.

2.  Divide .08 by the number of days in a year, 365 days, equals .000219178, the daily           rate.

3.  Multiply the daily rate by the principal, $10,000 dollars equals $2.19178, the daily charge.

4.  Multiply the daily charge by the number of days in the loan.  In this case, 365 days times $2.19178 equals $800.

            This is where my parents smile and tell me this is what they came up with too.  Let’s figure it again.  $800.  Ok, maybe there was a leap year, or the loan term was for a few more days than 365.  Look at the loan.  Look at the calendar.  Count the days.  Nope.

            Ok, we’re not too proud.  Let’s go see our loan officer and ask him to figure it out for us. 

            He got out our loan application and showed us where there were two boxes.  One was to calculate the loan based on a 365 day year.  One was to calculate the loan based on a 360 day year.  Our loan had the 360 day year checked.

            So now we figure again.

  1. Take the interest rate, 8%.  Move the decimal over two spots to the left, .08.
  2. Divide .08 by the new number of days in a bank year, 360 days, equals .000222222, the daily rate.
  3. Multiply the daily rate by the principal, $10,000 dollars, equals $2.22222, the daily charge.
  4. Multiply the daily charge by the number of days in the loan.  It’s still 365 days; because this is how many days we had the loan.  So 365 days times $2.22222 equals $811.11.

Ok, we see.  But why does the bank use a 360 day year?  What is that, a Mayan calendar or something?  The loan officer hemmed and hawed and couldn’t answer us.  Finally, he took us to the bank president who told us it was to increase the bank’s yield. 

      Take out your loan and see if it’s calculated with a 360 day year.  This is what is called, “increasing the bank’s yield.”  What would you call it?