Microloans, Microfinance, and Microentrepreneurship Oh My!

Have you ever seen someone in need, wanted to help them, but didn’t? Maybe you didn’t have the time. Maybe you were worried they’d squander your hard earned money on booze. Maybe you didn’t even know how to help, but just wished you could.

I’ve thought that tons of times. Every one of those things. But, then there’s the people who have good intentions. They want to live better. They want to help their families have a better standard of living. They just need help with one thing – a wheelbarrow, $100 to get rid of their last bit of debt that’s keeping them down, some clothes or an electric bill paid off. Those are the people I’m interested in.

I’m not a millionaire, but we make a decent wage. We don’t have new cars or even a flatscreen TV. I prefer to spend my money on food, and that’s not really that big of an expense. Really, we have more expendable income than we think, most of the time.

But, for the extra income we do have, $50 here, $100 there, we could do something great with it.

A while ago I found Kiva.org and decided to bookmark it for later. I came back a few times, reading some of the profiles and checking into the business. I took a look around at some other sites that looked similar, too. But, Kiva actually helps people who are entrepreneurial the majority of the time, which helps me feel some sort of bond.

The other thing about Kiva’s program is the fact that you’re not just giving your money away. You’re loaning it. And, they allow people like you and I to make small loans (called microfinance, or microloans), which help people expand or start their business. The repayment percentage is around 97-99%, which is great! The repayment period is between 4-18 months depending on the person you choose to loan to. And, the interest can be around 36% (annually), which is probably one of the best investments I’ve ever heard of, other than the housing market starting around 2002-2005. Since it’s a small loan and they have a plan on how to 1) repay the loan and 2) what they’re going to use it for, the people who receive the loan are very good about repaying.

So, it helps them, and you’re able to use the interest to help more people. How cool is that? Another bonus is that we are able to distribute our small amounts of money between lots of people.

If you’re interested in helping people get ahead, but don’t want to just throw your money away, check out Kiva.org.

[tags]microfinance, microloan, micro, loan, finance, investment, help, needy, kiva, kiva.org[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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