What is a 'Floor'

A floor is the lowest acceptable limit as restricted by controlling parties. Floors can be established for a number of factors, including prices, wages, interest rates, underwriting standards and bonds. Some types of floors, such as underwriting floors, act as mere guidelines while others, such as price and wage floors, are regulatory constraints that restrict the natural behavior of free markets.

BREAKING DOWN 'Floor'

As a form of restriction, a floor provides a limit for a particular activity or transaction to which it must adhere. The floor functions as a lower limit, while a ceiling signifies the upper limit. The designated activity may be assigned anywhere from the lower to the upper limit, but is not considered acceptable if it falls below the floor level or goes above the ceiling level.

Floors in Lending

Lenders use an underwriting floor to establish minimum guidelines for borrower creditworthiness and to determine the size of loan for which the borrower is qualified. These limits are imposed by the financial institution performing the service of lending and can vary from one institution to the next.

The lowest available interest rate can also be seen as a floor, as a lower rate is not available from the particular institution. Often, this minimum is designed to cover any costs associated with processing and servicing the loan. An interest rate floor is often present through the issuing of an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), as it prevents interest rates from adjusting below a preset level.

Floors in Pricing

A price floor is the lowest amount at which a good or service may be sold and still function within the traditional supply and demand model. Prices below the price floor do not result in an appropriate increase in demand.

Price floors may also be set through regulation and result in a minimum price requirement for the good in question. For example, the government might decide to establish a price floor for alcoholic beverages with the goal of lowering alcohol consumption for health reasons. In the absence of a price floor, the free market equilibrium price might be lower.

Floors in Wages

Minimum wage is an example of a wage floor and functions as a minimum price per hour that a worker must be paid, as determined by federal and state governments. An unintended consequence may be an increase in unemployment, as low-skilled workers are priced out of the labor market. Failure to appropriately raise the minimum wage can lead to those workers losing buying power over the long-term as inflation lowers the true value of the wages being earned.

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