As stipulated in the debt contract, the debtor backs the debt with assets that the creditor may claim in the event of default. In a secured claim contract, if the debtor defaults, or is unable to payback the debt, the creditor can take ownership of the collateral and sell it to pay off what the debtor owes. For example, if a consumer defaults on a mortgage, the bank can claim the house and sell it to pay off the consumer’s debt. In the event of default, the secured claim is worth only as much as the collateral that backs it.
In contrast, unsecured claims are debt contracts or instruments not backed by collateral. Secured claims are considered less risky. In addition, these contracts or instruments offer lower yields. In comparison, unsecured claims are more risky. These contracts or instruments offer higher yields to compensate the lender (or investor) for the higher risk.