Debt-to-Income Ratio: How to Calculate Your DTI

16 min.

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI) is a term that's often used when you apply for a loan or mortgage. This ratio is a percentage that shows how much of your income goes toward paying off your debts. Lenders use this information to assess your financial standing and determine your eligibility for credit.

Debt-to-Income Ratio: How to Calculate Your DTI

In this article, we will guide you through how to calculate your DTI and what it means for your financial health. We will outline the different types of DTIs, their significance, and how they are calculated.

What is the Debt-to-income Ratio?

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a financial metric used to measure the amount of debt an individual or household carries compared to their income. It is an important metric when assessing an individual's ability to manage their debt obligations and make loan payments. The Debt-to-income ratios are expressed as a percentage and are calculated by dividing the total monthly debt obligations by the gross monthly income, including pre-tax income.

The total monthly debt obligation includes all debts such as credit card payments, car loans, student loans, mortgage payments, and any other loans or financial obligations. Gross monthly income refers to the total income an individual or household earns before taxes and other deductions.

For example, if an individual has a total debt obligation of $1,500 per month and their gross income is $5,000 per month, their DTI ratio would be 30% ($1,500 / $5,000).

Lenders often use the DTI ratio as a key factor in determining whether an individual qualifies for a loan or mortgage. Typically, a lower DTI ratio is considered more favorable and indicates that an individual has enough expendable income to make future loan payments. While the ideal DTI ratio varies by lender and the type of loan being considered, a ratio of 36% or less is generally considered favorable.

A high DTI ratio suggests that an individual may struggle to make future loan payments and may be at risk of defaulting on their debts. Moreover, it may impact their credit score negatively and lower their chances of securing loans or credit in the future.

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Why Your DTI is Important

DTI, or debt-to-income ratio, is an important financial metric that lenders use to determine if you can repay a loan. It measures the amount of debt you have relative to your income and indicates whether you have enough free cash flow to take on additional debt. A healthy DTI is a key factor in securing favorable loan terms and interest rates.

DTI reflects your level of debt relative to your income. A DTI of 36% or lower is generally considered a healthy range, while a DTI above 43% is considered high risk by most lenders.

Lenders use your DTI to determine your creditworthiness and ability to repay a loan. If your DTI is too high, lenders may be hesitant to loan you money or may grant you a loan with less favorable terms, such as a higher interest rate or shorter repayment period. Conversely, if your DTI is low, lenders will view you as a lower-risk borrower and may offer better loan terms and rates.

Maintaining a healthy DTI requires careful financial management. Consider strategies such as paying down debt, increasing income, and avoiding new debt. If you are looking to take on additional debt, be aware of how it impacts your DTI and overall financial health. Remember that long-term financial health is more important than short-term borrowing.

How to Calculate the Debt-to-income Ratio

To calculate the debt-to-income ratio, you will need to divide your total monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. The resulting percentage is your DTI ratio.

  1. Calculate your total monthly debt payments. The first step in calculating your DTI is to determine your total monthly debt payments. This includes all monthly payments that you make toward any outstanding loans or debts. For example, credit card payments, car loans, student loans, personal loans, and mortgage payments.

  2. Determine your gross monthly income. The next step is to determine your gross monthly income, which is your total income before taxes and other deductions. This includes all of your sources of income, including your salary, bonuses, commissions, and any other regular income.

  3. Divide your total monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. Finally, divide your total monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. This will give you your DTI ratio, which is expressed as a percentage.

For example, if you have $1,500 in monthly debt payments and your gross monthly income is $5,000, your DTI ratio would be $1,500 / $5,000 = 0.3 or 30%.

Generally, lenders use DTI ratios to determine an individual's eligibility for a loan. A higher DTI ratio indicates that an individual may be at a higher risk of defaulting on their monthly minimum debt payments, making them less likely to be approved for new credit or loans. It is, therefore, essential to keep your DTI ratio as low as possible by paying down outstanding debts or increasing your income.

DTI Requirements by Mortgage Type

Debt-to-income (DTI) is the percentage of an individual's monthly gross income that goes towards paying their debt obligations, including their monthly mortgage payment.

There are different DTI requirements for each type of mortgage.

  • Conventional loans. The maximum allowable DTI is 50%. However, most lenders prefer a maximum DTI of 45%. This means that the borrower's monthly debt obligations, including their mortgage payment, should not exceed 45% of their gross monthly income. Borrowers with a DTI between 45% to 50% may still qualify for a conventional loan but may be subject to additional scrutiny or higher interest rates.

  • FHA loans. The maximum allowable DTI is 43%, although some lenders may offer loans with higher DTIs under certain circumstances. For example, if a borrower has a high credit score, a low loan-to-value ratio, or significant reserves in their bank account, they may obtain an FHA loan with a higher DTI.

  • VA loans. The maximum allowable DTI is 41%. However, VA lenders may consider borrowers with a DTI of up to 50% if they have a strong credit score and sufficient assets or reserves.

  • USDA loans. They have a maximum allowable DTI of 41%, but like VA loans, borrowers with a DTI of up to 50% may still qualify if they have a strong credit history and residual income. Residual income is the amount of money left over after paying all monthly debt obligations, including the mortgage payment.

How to Lower the Debt-to-income Ratio

A high debt-to-income ratio can make it difficult to obtain loans or credit, so it's important to take steps to lower it if it's too high. Here are some ways to lower your debt-to-income ratio:

  1. Increase your income. Increasing your income is the simplest way to lower your debt-to-income ratio. You can look for ways to increase your income, such as taking on a second job, working overtime, or starting a side hustle. Increasing your income will also improve your credit score and reduce your interest rates.

  2. Pay off high-interest debts first. Make a list of all your debts and prioritize them by interest rate and balance. Focus on paying off high-interest debts first because they are costing you the most money. Once you pay off high-interest debt, you can put more money toward other debt payments.

  3. Refinance loans. Refinancing loans with high-interest rates can help lower your debt-to-income ratio. For example, refinancing your mortgage, auto loan, or student loan can reduce your monthly payments, which will free up more money to pay off other debts.

  4. Consolidate loans. You can consolidate multiple loans into one loan with a lower interest rate. Consolidating loans can simplify your debt payments, reduce your monthly payments and help lower your debt-to-income ratio.

  5. Create a budget. Creating a budget will help you manage your finances and reduce unnecessary expenses. A budget can help you prioritize spending and find areas where you can cut back, allowing you to put more money toward your debt payments.

Lowering your debt-to-income ratio takes time and effort, but it is possible with some simple steps, such as increasing your income, paying off high-interest debts first, refinancing loans, consolidating loans, and creating a budget. Lowering your debt-to-income ratio will not only improve your credit score but also provide you with financial stability and flexibility.

Debt-to-income Ratio Example

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a measure of a person's ability to repay their debts based on their income.

For example, let's say that John has a gross monthly income of $5,000, and he pays $1,500 in student loans, $800 in credit card debt, and $1,200 in rent. John's total monthly debt payments would be $3,500 ($1,500 + $800 + $1,200).

To calculate John's DTI ratio, we divide his total monthly debt payments by his gross monthly income:

DTI ratio = Total monthly debt payments / Gross monthly income

DTI ratio = $3,500 / $5,000

DTI ratio = 0.7 or 70%

In this case, John's DTI ratio is 70%. This means that John is using 70% of his gross monthly income to pay off his debts.

Lenders typically use the DTI ratio as a way to evaluate a borrower's ability to repay a loan. Most lenders prefer borrowers to have a DTI ratio of 43% or lower. In some cases, lenders may allow a DTI ratio of up to 50% if the borrower has a good credit score and other positive financial characteristics. You can also have a high credit utilization ratio if your DTI is high. Credit utilization ratio accounts for 30% of your credit score.

If John were to apply for a mortgage loan with a DTI ratio of 70%, it's likely that he would be denied or offered a loan with a higher interest rate or less favorable terms. Alternatively, John may need to reduce some of his other expenses or increase his income to bring down his DTI ratio.


What is a good debt-to-income ratio?

A good debt-to-income ratio is generally considered to be below 36%, although this can vary slightly from lender to lender. This ratio measures the percentage of your monthly income that goes towards paying debt obligations, including things like mortgage payments, car loans, credit card debt, and other monthly bills. Having a low debt-to-income ratio is an indicator to lenders that you can manage your finances responsibly and are less likely to default on your loans.

How do I figure out my debt-to-income ratio?

To figure out your debt-to-income ratio, start by adding up all of your monthly debt payments, including your rent or mortgage payment, car payment, credit card payments, student loan payments, and any other monthly bills you may have. Next, divide that total by your monthly gross income. For example, if your monthly debt payments add up to $1,500 and your monthly gross income is $4,500, your debt-to-income ratio would be 33%.

What is too high of a debt-to-income ratio?

Experts generally agree that a debt-to-income ratio above 43% is considered too high, although again, this can vary depending on the lender and your individual financial situation. A high debt-to-income ratio can be an indicator that you are overextended financially and may struggle to make your monthly payments. It can also make it more difficult to qualify for new loans or credit in the future.

Can I get a VA loan with 55% DTI?

Yes, it is possible to get a VA loan with a debt-to-income ratio of 55%, although this may be more difficult to obtain than a loan with a lower ratio. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not set a maximum debt-to-income ratio for VA loans, but lenders may have their own requirements. Shop around and compare offers from multiple lenders to find the best deal.

What is the maximum DTI for a mortgage?

The maximum debt-to-income ratio for a mortgage can vary depending on loan type and the lender. However, most lenders prefer to see a debt-to-income ratio of 36% or lower. For FHA loans, the maximum debt-to-income ratio is generally 43%, although some lenders may allow up to 50%. Keep in mind that the debt-to-income ratio is just one factor that lenders consider when evaluating your application, and some lenders may be more flexible than others depending on your overall financial picture. It is worth talking to a few different lenders to get a sense of what is possible, given your individual circumstances.
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