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Today we are sharing performance data from the Prosper Portfolio for April 2019.

Highlights from the report include:

  • In April, 65% of originations were rated AA-B and the dollar weighted average FICO was 717, relatively flat month-over-month.
  • Weighted average income of borrowers on the platform in April increased by $9,493 year-over-year.
  • The weighted average borrower rate for April originations decreased by 7 bps month-over-month, which was largely driven by a shift in rating mix. Without this shift in mix, the weighted average borrower rate would have increased 2 bps.

Portfolio insights and key charts can be found here.

The Prosper Performance Updates are designed to help our investor community better understand performance trends and to provide important insights into the trends we are seeing and the information needed to invest through the Prosper platform.

If you wish to add your name to the monthly performance update list, please email institutions@prosper.com.

The post Prosper Performance Update – April 2019 appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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If you’re like the average American who has thousands of dollars in credit card debt, you might be considering a credit card balance transfer. Such offers can be a real solution for lowering your credit card interest rate and paying off your balance sooner; however, there are some caveats to those benefits that you need to understand before taking the balance transfer leap.  

Why Consider a Credit Card Balance Transfer?

A credit card balance transfer lets you move debt from one card to another that has a lower interest rate. Many credit card issuers offer a 0 percent, or otherwise low, introductory APR on balance transfers. With a 0 percent APR, all of your monthly payment goes toward your accumulated debt rather than on the interest it is accruing, which in turn helps you pay down your balance sooner than you would on the original card.

What to Consider with a Credit Card Balance Transfer

Like any financial vehicle that you are considering, be a smart consumer and investigate all the terms and conditions of a credit card balance transfer in order to determine if it is right for your particular situation. Look for the following:

Interest Rate

The most advantageous balance transfer offers come with a 0 percent APR; however, those are reserved for consumers with the highest credit scores. MagnifyMoney says such offers typically go to consumers with credit scores of 740 or higher. Those with scores between 670 and 739, i.e., good credit, can likely find some pretty good offers, too.

But Money Under 30 points out that, “When you have poor credit, your options for a balance transfer can be very limited.” Don’t give up without trying though. You may still be able to qualify for a card with a balance transfer offer that includes a lower APR than that of your current card. Just don’t expect it to be 0 percent. 

Introductory Period and Beyond

One of the most important things to understand about a balance transfer offer is that the 0 or low APR does not last forever. It is only good for the introductory period being offered by the credit card issuer. This is typically anywhere from six to 18 months, and again the best offers, i.e., those with the longest introductory periods, go to those with the highest credit scores.

Once the introductory period ends, the card assumes its regular APR on your balance, which is why you need to know that rate before you decide to complete a balance transfer. If the regular APR is higher than your current card’s, it may not be worth it, especially if you can’t pay off your balance during the introductory period.

Transfer Fees

Another thing to consider is the transfer fee that may be applied to the transaction. Credit Card Insider says that, “Most credit card issuers charge between 2% and 5% of the balance” for this fee.

Before you apply for or accept a balance transfer offer, find out exactly how much the transfer fee will be. You can also ask the issuer to waive the transfer fee. Some automatically offer such a waiver if “the transfer is made within a certain number of days of opening the card.”

Interest Rate for New Purchases

The 0 percent APR on a balance transfer is a great deal, but it only applies to the balance being transferred. The card’s regular APR will be applied to any new purchases charged to the card. In order to achieve your goal of paying off your debt sooner, avoid putting any new purchases on the new or old card. Otherwise, you could end up even further in debt than you already are.

Penalties

Credit Karma warns that some issuers penalize late or missed payments on a balance transfer by applying a penalty APR to it. The penalty may also include canceling out the 0 or low introductory APR rate altogether. Find out ahead of time if that will be the case with the balance transfer you are considering. If so, consider setting up a recurring automatic payment of at least the monthly minimum amount due. 

Do Your Homework Before You Apply

Now that you understand how credit card balance transfers work, find out if a specific deal is right for you by using an online balance transfer calculator. Both creditcards.com and Bankrate offer them for free, letting you determine within minutes if a balance transfer will actually save you money.  If you determine a balance transfer is not the right fit for you, you may want to consider a personal loan, which often offers fixed terms and fixed rates so that you understand exactly how long it will take you to pay off your debt.

The post Is a Credit Card Balance Right for You? appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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If you’re dreaming of a new kitchen, master suite or outdoor deck and you’re not sure how to finance it, there are several options you can consider. The key is figuring out the best option for your situation.

Your Home as Collateral

Since you’re planning a home improvement, it often makes sense to secure financing for such projects using the equity you have already built up in your home. There are three options for doing this, each of which works a bit differently—but for all of them, you typically need about 20 percent equity in your home. As Bankrate explains, “Equity is the difference between how much you owe and how much your home is worth.” For example, if your home is valued at $200,000 and the balance on your mortgage is $160,000, you have $40,000 or 20 percent in equity.

HELOC

The first option is to take out a home equity line of credit or HELOC, which is a revolving line of credit that you can draw on (up to the limit that you are approved for) whenever you need funds. It’s important to understand that a HELOC is a secured loan, which means that your home is used as collateral.

This variable rate loan is typically tied to the lender’s prime rate, which means that your interest rate can fluctuate up or down. 

A HELOC consists of two distinct phases. First is its draw period, when you can take funds as needed and you’re only required to pay down the interest. The draw period lasts anywhere from five to 15 years, depending on your lender. After the draw period ends, the loan converts to its repayment phase, when you make set payments for the remaining balance, typically between 10 to 20 years.

A HELOC works well for borrowers who:

  • Have significant equity in their homes
  • Are confident about repayment, considering that (as collateral) their homes can be subject to foreclosure
  • Like the flexibility of drawing funds as needed over time for various purposes

Home Equity Loans

A home equity loan is similar to a HELOC in that your house is used as collateral, but it is structured differently. A home equity loan is a second mortgage on your home that is a one-time, fixed-rate loan tied to longer-term interest rates, typically with a five- to 10-year term.

Like a HELOC, a home equity loan works well for borrowers who have significant equity in their homes, high repayment confidence, and who are in these situations:

  • Longer-term interest rates are lower than the short-term rates used for HELOCs
  • They know exactly how much money they need up front for a project

Cash-Out Refinances

The final financing option that uses home equity is a cash-out refinance. In this case, you refinance your entire mortgage with the total new loan amount, including a cash sum that you receive at closing. You have your choice of fixed or variable rate loans, as well as the length of your repayment term.

A cash-out refinance works best for borrowers with a lot of equity in their homes in these circumstances:

  • The current mortgage rates available are lower than their existing mortgage rate
  • They have excellent credit scores to qualify for the best rates
  • Desire no restrictions on the use of the money being cashed out

Other Financing Options

Don’t worry if you don’t have much equity in your home — you can still finance your home improvement project using these other two lending vehicles. Both work best for those with good-to-excellent credit scores.

Personal Loans

Instead of basing your loan on your on your home’s collateral, a personal loan is based on your credit score, income, and financial history. There are more personal loan options available today than ever before. Many, including a loan through Prosper, are fixed-rate and fixed-term, which means you’ll know exactly what your payment will be for the life of the loan (and exactly when it will be paid off).

Additional benefits of personal loans:

  • Fixed loan payments help you budget your loan repayment into your monthly cash flow
  • No need for a home appraisal

Credit Cards

Finally, you can choose to pay for your home improvement with a credit card; just choose wisely. A credit card makes sense when:

  • You’re eligible for a 0% introductory rate (preferably on a card also offering rewards).
  • You’ll be able to pay off the project before the introductory rate period ends.

Take Your Time With Your Decision

Financing a large project is a big decision, so take your time to research and learn about your options so you make a decision that works best for your situation. You shouldn’t rush to select a contractor to complete your project, and the same goes for choosing how and from whom to get your project’s financing.

The post 5 Ways to Pay for a Home Improvement Project appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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Today we are sharing performance data from the Prosper Portfolio for March 2019.

Highlights from the report include:

  • In March, 64% of originations were rated AA-B and the dollar weighted average FICO was 717, relatively flat month-over-month.
  • Weighted average income of borrowers on the platform in March increased by $10,942 year-over-year.
  • Weighted average borrower rate for March originations on the platform increased by 28 bps compared to the month of February 2019. This increase was largely mix driven; the weighted average borrower rate would have been relatively flat month-over-month without the shift in rating mix.

Portfolio insights and key charts can be found here.

The Prosper Performance Updates are designed to help our investor community better understand performance trends and to provide important insights into the trends we are seeing and the information needed to invest through the Prosper platform.

If you wish to add your name to the monthly performance update list, please email institutions@prosper.com.

The post Prosper Performance Update – March 2019 appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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It happens to everyone. We spend more than we make in a given month, or worse, every month. Sometimes there is a valid reason, such as an unexpected necessary expense like a car repair or medical bill. But too often, there is no apparent reason for our dwindling cash flow. Or is there?

Advertisers and retailers are constantly laying sneaky traps to get us to spend more than we intended and more than most of us can afford. Once you understand the psychology behind these spending traps, you can train yourself to dodge them and keep more money in your own pocket. 

Resist the Emotional Tricks

SafetyNet explains: “Marketers study consumers’ lifestyles and world views to focus on specific psychological triggers.” They appeal to your desire for the latest gadgets and trends, to your fear for the safety of your family or property and to your jealousy of others.

One Psychology of Spending course says, “The challenge is to recognize the emotional appeals being made in most ads and minimize them so you can rationally judge the true value of what is being sold.”

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Your friend buys a new car. Does it immediately make you want one too, even though you loved your car up until the moment you saw your friend’s shiny purchase? It’s human nature to envy others, but the need to act on that green monster isn’t a foregone conclusion, even though that is what advertisers and retailers want you to do.

Instead, compare financial situations rather than things. Acknowledging that your friend’s new car is the result of a job change helps you distinguish his purchase as solely about him and not you.     

Make a Shopping List

Whether it’s the grocery store shelves, the 100-store shopping mall, the miles of car dealerships or unlimited online sites, consumers today face an overwhelming number of decisions about how to spend their money. The American Psychological Association points out that this constant barrage wears down our will power to spend our money wisely.

When making big financial decisions, counter that trap by making one financial decision at a time. With everyday purchases, always make a list and stick to it to avoid making impulse buys and saving money on “bargains” that you don’t really want or need. The Chopra Center even suggests rewarding yourself with an inexpensive treat (a coffee) or a free experience (a picnic) for sticking to your list.

Don’t Shop to Soothe

When you’re sad or stressed, do you shop to feel better? If so, you’re not alone. In 2017, Credit Karma surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers about stress spending and found a significant number of them shopped to deal with anxiety and depression:

  • 52 percent admitted to stress spending when they were in a negative place
  • 43 percent of stress spenders spent at least $200 on their purchases
  • 83 percent of stress spenders later felt a sense of regret about their purchases

That last statistic is solid evidence that retail therapy doesn’t work. In fact, it actually creates more stress, especially if you are buying things you can’t afford.

Limit Credit Card Purchases

According to Psychology Today, “The main psychological force of credit cards is that they separate the pleasure of buying from the pain of paying.” It’s one thing to pay with a credit card in order to earn the cash back rewards if you’re paying off your credit cards every month. But that’s a big if.

Too many of us use credit cards because we can’t afford the thing we want today and we’re not willing to wait until later when we can afford it. Nor is it usually just one item that gets charged, it’s many things—clothing, meals, vacations and more. That all adds up, and even though the pain may be delayed, it often feels far worse and costs much more than paying with cash as you go. 

Distinguish Needs and Wants

The desire for instant gratification has all but obliterated the virtue of patience that our parents and grandparents prized. Between globalization, immediate access to credit and 24/7 online shopping, there is almost nothing you can’t buy today and have in your hands within a matter of days—or hours. All of this ready availability blurs our sense of needs versus wants.

Our last trap buster—with every purchase ask yourself “Do I need this? Or do I just want this?” Items that fall in the former category should be your first priority. Those in the latter are not a priority at all.

The post Always Over Budget? Dodge These Psychological Spending Traps appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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April ushers in National Financial Literacy Month at a time when statistics show that most of us could use a refresher in financial education. Recent reports indicate that the average American has five times more in credit card debt than they do in savings.

According to CreditDonkey, the average person’s credit card debt in the United States is $5,331, despite the fact that GoBankingRates found that 58% of Americans don’t have even $1,000 in savings. That imbalance causes significant stress for a large swath of the population — reason enough to celebrate National Financial Literacy Month. 

Fifteen Years of Promoting Financial Literacy

In 2004, Congress established April as the National Financial Literacy Month to highlight its importance and to help teach Americans to establish and maintain healthy financial habits.

The Council for Economic Education, a key sponsor of this initiative, explains that financial illiteracy continues today because of the complexity of our global economy, which makes it increasingly difficult for people to understand how 21st-century economics works.

This also bleeds into personal finances, with members of Generations X, Y, and Z struggling to understand or recognize the implications of revolving credit card debt. CreditDonkey notes that they have the highest rate of revolving credit card usage, with 36 to 37 percent of them keeping a balance on their cards every month.

The Link Between Financial Health and Happiness

This is an unfortunate state of affairs. At Prosper, we believe financial health is a key component of one’s overall happiness and sense of well-being.

For example, our personal loan product has been used by over a million people to refinance high-interest debt or pay for a large purchase. We’ve received thousands of stories telling us how a loan through Prosper has helped individuals and families get back on the path to financial stability, which has significantly improved their overall quality of life.

Taking the First Step Toward Financial Well-Being

While it may seem daunting at first, learning some basic financial planning and money-management skills is your first step toward achieving long-term financial well-being. You can start with the Prosper Blog, where we regularly share financial tips and insights.

To kick off National Financial Literacy Month, we’re sharing some of our community’s favorite blog posts. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to make a positive change on your path to financial well-being:

  1. Expert Advice on How to Grow Your Savings in 2019
  2. Freezing Your Credit: How it Works
  3. 7 Debt Myths to Ditch ASAP
  4. How to Give Yourself a Financial Checkup
  5. Credit Cards vs. Personal Loans: Which is Right for You?

More on Financial Literacy

We’ve also gathered this list of other great resources that provide a wealth of financial literacy tips, ideas, and advice:

  1. Financial Literacy 101: Browse through 12 financial topics ranging from budgeting and spending to credit reports and identity theft.
  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Tools: Learn more about 11 money topics (bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, etc.) and read through seven guides on issues such as paying for college and planning for retirement.
  3. Practical Money Skills: This 27-year old Visa-led private-public partnership provides money-related interactive tools and educational resources for people of all ages.
  4. Smart Money: This FDIC-sponsored financial education program features a podcast network that covers topics such as the Basics of Banking, Checking Accounts, Savings/Spending Plan and Borrowing Money.
  5. Building Wealth – A Beginner’s Guide to Securing Your Financial Future: This workbook created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is filled with exercises that help you understand how to build your own wealth for a happier and more secure future.

Stay tuned throughout the month of April as we share more content focused on your financial wellness.

The post Celebrating National Financial Literacy Month: 5 Articles to Jumpstart Your Financial Well-Being appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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Today we are sharing performance data from the Prosper Portfolio for February 2019.

Highlights from the report include:

  • In February, 66% of originations were rated AA-B and the dollar weighted average FICO was 719, relatively flat month-over-month.
  • Weighted average income of borrowers on the platform in February increased by $13,964 year-over-year.
  • Weighted average borrower rate for February originations on the platform decreased by 18 basis points compared to the month of January 2019. This decrease was largely mix driven; the weighted average borrower rate would have been relatively flat month-over-month without the shift in rating mix.
Portfolio insights and key charts can be found here.

The Prosper Performance Updates are designed to help our investor community better understand performance trends and to provide important insights into the trends we are seeing and the information needed to invest through the Prosper platform.

If you wish to add your name to the monthly performance update list, please email institutions@prosper.com.

The post Prosper Performance Update – February 2019 appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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Once you file your 2018 tax return, it’s time to celebrate with your refund, right? Yes, but just not the way you might think. Last year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said the majority of taxpayers received an average refund of $2,800. Although spending a few grand on a big, shiny object might feel good in the moment, there are several wiser options to consider.

Instead of buying material stuff, or worse yet, trying your odds on the lottery or at a casino, the financially savvy put their tax refunds to work for them, reaping the benefits well into the future.

Plan for a rainy day

Financial experts agree that everyone should have an emergency fund that could support them for three to six months. This fund would help tide you over in the event of a layoff, natural disaster, debilitating medical issue or some other unforeseen circumstance.

In fact, NBC News asked various financial advisors how best to spend a tax refund, and they all agreed that an emergency fund “is the first place you should park your refund dollars.” This reflects the fact that too many people have nothing or too little stashed away for an emergency. In fact, GOBankingRates found that a majority of adults don’t even have $1,000 in a savings account.

To determine how much you need in your emergency fund, consider all your routine monthly expenses, including housing, utilities, media subscriptions, food, car payment and/or transportation costs, childcare, insurance and debt payments. Tally up all these expenditures and multiply the sum by at least three. If you don’t have that amount of money socked away for a rainy day, use all or part of your tax refund to build up your savings and your peace of mind.

Pay down your debt

A high-interest debt load is one of the biggest hurdles to building wealth, and it is just as problematic for people as the lack of an emergency fund. According to Experian’s State of Credit, the average person has $8,195 in credit and retail card debt. Both NerdWallet and Intuit suggest that paying off such debt is the single smartest thing that you can do with your tax refund.

Although parking your refund in a safe investment (other than your emergency fund) might make sense for some, the TurboTax team explains why paying off debt is the smarter move for most. “It doesn’t make much financial sense to put the IRS check for $3,000 in a fund yielding 1% interest and maintain a $3,000 balance on a credit card charging 18% interest.”

If credit card debt is not an issue for you, consider making an additional mortgage, home equity line of credit or student loan payment with your tax refund. Assuming there are no pre-payment penalties, this will save you money over the life of the account.

Invest in your golden years

Given that approximately half of American households have no money set aside for retirement, putting some of your annual tax refund into a traditional or Roth IRA is another smart move. The Motley Fool notes that adults under 50 can put as much as $6,000 a year into this type of tax-deferred account, while those 50 and older can contribute up to $7,000.

Such a contribution yields three key benefits to your financial health:

  1. A 2019 IRA contribution reduces your 2019 taxable income
  2. The typically lower retiree tax bracket reduces the tax on post-retirement IRA distributions
  3. An IRA compounds over time, increasing the value of your account the longer you own it

Improve yourself, your life or your home

Still looking for a smart way to use your tax refund? If you don’t want or need to put your money in the places described above, at least consider a strategy that pays you back over time, rather than leaving you with nothing:

  • Take a class or acquire a certification that helps you earn more money or a promotion
  • Contribute to a Health Savings Account that helps fund uninsured medical expenses
  • Install energy-efficient appliances or greener home features that can lower both your taxes and utility bills while also increasing the value of your home

On the surface, these suggestions may not sound as exciting as spending your refund on an exotic vacation or as easy as just putting it into your checking account to cover routine expenses. But the peace of mind and financial stability that smart investing brings will pay the savvy tax filer big dividends for years to come.

The post How the Financially Savvy Put Their Tax Refunds to Work appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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When it comes to figuring out if a particular loan could be a good fit for your financial situation, interest rates are an important consideration. After all, your interest rate is a key factor in the total cost of borrowing. There are two main types of interest rates: fixed and variable. Here we’ll take a closer look at variable interest rates, including how they differ from fixed rates and how they’re typically determined.

How are fixed and variable interest rates different?

If a loan has a fixed interest rate, the interest rate stays the same over the life of the loan. With a fixed rate, you’ll know in advance what your payment will be each month and the total amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan. Personal loans through Prosper, for example, have fixed interest rates. Many other forms of financing, like auto loans and federal student loans, are commonly offered with fixed interest rates.

If a loan has a variable interest rate, the interest rate can change, meaning it can go up or down over time according to a benchmark rate (more on benchmark rates below). Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), for example, generally have variable interest rates. Many credit cards and mortgages have variable rates, and it’s also common for private lenders to offer variable-rate student loans. Loans with variable rates are sometimes referred to as floating-rate loans.

It’s also possible to have a “hybrid” loan, which would have a fixed interest rate for a certain period of time then switch to variable interest rate.

How are variable interest rates determined?

The interest on a variable-rate loan changes according to what’s called a “benchmark” or “index” rate. Two common benchmarks for variable-rate loans in the U.S. are:

  • The Wall Street Journal U.S. prime rate – the base rate on corporate loans posted by at least 70% of the 10 largest U.S. banks.
  • London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) – the average interest rate banks charge each other to borrow money.

In most cases, the interest rate you’ll pay equals the specified benchmark rate plus a markup determined by the lender, sometimes referred to as a “spread” or “margin.” Your markup often depends on the strength of your credit profile: stronger credit typically means you’ll be charged a lower spread, and therefore a lower interest rate.

As the benchmark rate goes up or down, so does the interest rate on your loan. Let’s say you have a loan with a variable interest rate that equals the Wall Street Journal U.S. prime rate + 3%. If the prime rate is 5%, your interest rate would be 8%. If the prime rate goes up to 6%, your interest rate would also increase, reaching 9%. Alternatively, if the prime rate declines to 4%, your interest rate would also fall, dropping to 7%.

How frequently your variable interest rate changes depends on the terms of your loan. For example, some credit card issuers change their interest rates at the start of the next billing cycle following a change in the prime rate. Other loans make interest rate adjustments on a quarterly basis. Be sure to read your loan agreement to see how your issuer sets and adjust rates.

What are the possible pros and cons?

It’s important to note that rising interest rates can meaningfully increase the cost of borrowing, and, with a variable-rate loan, it can be difficult to predict exactly what your interest rate will be in the future. Some variable-rate loans come with an interest rate cap (maximum) and floor (minimum), which can help when calculating how much you’ll potentially pay in interest over the life of a loan.

Returning to the example above, where your loan’s interest rate equals the prime rate + 3%, let’s say your lender has capped your interest rate at 14%. If the prime rate were to reach 12%, your interest rate would only increase to 14% (not 15%), thanks to the cap.

It’s also worth noting that a loan with a variable rate typically starts out at a lower rate than a similar loan with a fixed rate. If you choose the variable-rate option, it’s true that you’ll be taking on a certain level of risk that your rate could go up—but you’re also (potentially) starting off with a lower rate than you’d get with a fixed-rate loan. For some people, this is an important benefit. Before making a final choice, smart borrowers spend time crunching the numbers on potential interest payments and also thinking carefully about their comfort with possible rate increases.

Prosper recently announced that it will launch a HELOC product in 2019. To learn more when a Prosper HELOC is available in your state, visit: https://www.prosper.com/HELOC

The post What Savvy Borrowers Should Know About Variable Interest Rates appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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Today we are sharing performance data from the Prosper Portfolio for January 2019.

Highlights from the report include:

  • In January, 65% of originations were rated AA-B and the dollar weighted average FICO was 719, an increase of 2 points month-over-month.
  • Weighted average income of borrowers on the platform in January increased by $15,509 year-over-year.
  • Weighted average borrower rate for January originations on the platform decreased by 50 bps compared to the month of December 2018. This decrease was largely mix driven; the weighted average borrower rate would have remained flat month-over-month without the shift in rating mix.
Portfolio insights and key charts can be found here.

The Prosper Performance Updates are designed to help our investor community better understand performance trends and to provide important insights into the trends we are seeing and the information needed to invest through the Prosper platform.

If you wish to add your name to the monthly performance update list, please email institutions@prosper.com.

The post Prosper Performance Update: January 2019 appeared first on Prosper Blog.

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