What does principal mean in finance?

What does principal mean in finance?

What does principal mean in finance?



In the realm of finance, the term “principal” holds significant importance. It refers to the initial amount of money invested or borrowed, excluding any interest or additional earnings. Understanding the concept of principal is crucial for individuals, businesses, and investors alike, as it forms the foundation for various financial transactions and calculations.

Principal in Investments

Definition: In investment contexts, principal refers to the original amount of money invested, excluding any returns or gains. When an individual invests in stocks, bonds, or other financial instruments, the principal represents the initial capital they have committed.

Importance: The principal amount is vital for calculating investment returns and determining the overall performance of an investment. By comparing the final value of an investment to its principal, investors can assess the profitability and success of their investment decisions.

Example: Suppose an individual invests $10,000 in a mutual fund. The principal amount in this case is $10,000. If the value of the investment grows to $12,000 over a certain period, the principal remains unchanged, while the investment has generated a $2,000 return.

Principal in Loans

Definition: When it comes to loans, the principal refers to the initial amount borrowed from a lender. It represents the sum that needs to be repaid, excluding any interest or fees.

Significance: The principal amount is fundamental in loan agreements, as it determines the total amount that needs to be repaid by the borrower. Lenders often charge interest on the principal, which affects the total repayment amount and the borrower’s financial obligations.

Example: Let’s consider a mortgage loan where an individual borrows $200,000 from a bank. The principal amount in this case is $200,000. Over the loan term, the borrower will make regular payments, which typically include both principal and interest portions. The principal amount gradually decreases as the borrower repays the loan, while the interest payments compensate the lender for providing the funds.

Principal and Amortization

Definition: Amortization is the process of gradually paying off a loan through regular installments, which include both principal and interest portions. The principal component of each payment reduces the outstanding loan balance.

Role of Principal: The principal plays a key role in the amortization process. As the borrower makes periodic payments, a portion of each payment is allocated towards reducing the principal amount owed. Over time, the principal decreases, and the interest portion of the payments also decreases accordingly.

Example: Consider a car loan with a principal amount of $20,000, an interest rate of 5%, and a loan term of five years. Through regular monthly payments, the borrower gradually reduces the principal balance. At the end of the loan term, the principal will be fully repaid, along with the accrued interest.


Understanding the concept of principal is essential in the world of finance. Whether it’s investments or loans, the principal amount forms the core of financial transactions. It helps investors assess the performance of their investments and enables borrowers to determine their repayment obligations accurately.


– Investopedia: www.investopedia.com/terms/p/principal.asp
– The Balance: www.thebalance.com/what-is-principal-315391