If you are thinking about applying for a loan, you should have some idea what your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is before applying. Understanding your debt-to-income ratio helps you determine which loan product and what loan amount you should apply for. It also helps you make the decision between applying for a mortgage now and holding off to address other financial goals or hurdles.

Calculating DTI

Your debt-to-income ratio is exactly that. It is a simple comparison of your total monthly debts to your gross monthly income. The calculation is actually pretty straightforward.

Most folks seek out a debt-to-income ratio calculator to determine their DTI, but the actual calculation is easy. You simply divide monthly debt (d) by your monthly income (i): d / i = debt-to-income ratio. So, most of the work is accurately identifying your debt and income. Fortunately, this is usually pretty straightforward.


Your debt for this calculation is any “rolling” debt. Rolling debt includes any recurring and consistent monthly cost. Generally, this means other loans and credits and will not include basic living expenses, like utility payments. Chances are you are already aware of your monthly debt obligations and can name them off hand. If you are a little hazy, or just want to confirm, you can access old statements on most company websites or phone apps. Another option is to pull your own credit. This should show you everything the lender will find and use in their calculation. Most bank apps these days will allow you to view your score, but for a full history you can do a soft pull of your own credit for free at annualcreditreport.com.


Income is easy to calculate into a monthly number once you know your gross income and pay schedule. If you are a salary or hourly worker, all this information is included on your paystubs.

Salary pay is the easiest to calculate. If you are paid twice monthly – on the first and fifteenth – you can simply multiply the gross income on your most recent paystub by two. If you are paid bi-weekly, you still use the gross income amount on your paystub, but you multiply it by 26 and divide the product by 12. If you are paid weekly, you multiply gross income by 52 and divide by 12.

If you are an hourly worker, calculating your income is still easy, there are just a few more steps. You first determine how many hours a week you work on average. You then multiply that by your wage – don’t forget to include overtime if it is consistent. Finally, you multiply your weekly income by 52 and divide by 12.

If you are paid on commission or own a small business, you should be able to find your income on the previous year’s tax returns. Look for your adjusted gross income and divide that by 12 to get an estimated monthly income.

*Pro tip: if you are thinking of applying for a loan with self-employment or commission income, you should have your tax returns handy.Have multiple types of income? That’s great. You’ll just calculate the incomes individually and combine them. Make sure you can show that each income is consistent and reliable.

What is a good DTI?

Most lenders like to see a total debt-to-income ratio under 36%, with 28% or less of that going toward your mortgage or mortgages.

When you submit a loan application, the lender works to confirm you are financially ready to handle the loan you requested. Your debt-to-income ratio carries a lot of weight in this consideration.

Most lenders like to see a total debt-to-income ratio under 36%, with 28% or less of that going toward your mortgage(s). Anything lower than that is great, even though it doesn’t really benefit you in underwriting. Creeping a little over 36% will not immediately disqualify you, though it may lead to a more thorough review of your loan and financial readiness to ensure you are not taking on too much. A debt-to-income ratio of 43% is generally the upper limit for you to still qualify for a mortgage.

How do I improve my DTI?

There are two ways to improve your debt-to-income ratio, raise your income or lower your debt.

Of these two options, lowering debt tends to be the option people have the most immediate control over. One thing you can do to lower your rolling debt is to pay something off. This can be done outright by making a chunk payment right out of your bank account. This can also be accomplished by absorbing this debt into another loan. Many accomplish this with a cash-out refinance. If a debt is to be covered in a new loan, the monthly payment for the new loan will be the debt number used in the calculation. So, if you have multiple debts being paid in a cash-out transaction, your debt calculation will only include the new mortgage payment.

As an example, let’s say you’re absorbing high interest credit card debt into your mortgage via a cash-out refinance. When your loan officer is processing your loan, your total debt will not include the high-interest credit card debt. Instead, it will include the new (cash-out) loan amount and the projected, low-interest payments attached. This would result in a lower DTI, giving you a greater chance to qualify for the loan and putting you in a better financial situation after the loan.