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Posted on: February 3, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Categorized in: Consumer Education

The Truth about Debt: It's Not All Bad

Debt can actually help you build wealth if you understand the difference between good and bad debt and its relationship to your monthly income.

Debt is a four-letter word – and it’s often used like one. We avoid it. We spurn it. We don’t mention it in polite company. But debt isn’t all bad. In fact, debt can actually help you build wealth – if you learn to use it wisely.

Good vs. Bad

Generally, debt is considered good if you use the money to buy something with the potential to grow in value. A college education stands to boost your earning power throughout life, so a student loan may be a good debt. Owning a home gives you a place to live and affords you tax advantages, plus the home’s value may appreciate over time, so a mortgage is often a good debt. But even good debt has a few caveats: Be sure to borrow only what you can afford to pay back, and shop around for the best rate.

Using credit to buy disposable goods (like a T-shirt or a pizza) or anything that falls in value would result in bad debt, which can quickly stanch your cash flow. For example, if you charge a $500 high-definition TV to a credit card with a 17% interest rate, you could end up forking over $622 in total if you took just three years to repay the debt and paid only the minimum. And the higher the purchase price, the more interest you’ll pay.

But the line between good debt and bad debt isn’t always so stark. For instance, you may find it imperative to buy a car in order to hold down a job, but lack the funds to purchase it outright. While a car doesn’t have much potential to grow in value, it doesn’t have to be a bad debt. The trick is to be conservative and buy only what you can afford.

Where Do You Stand?

Most experts recommend spending no more than 36% of your monthly income to pay off debt. Most lenders will consider this figure – called a debt-to-income ratio – when determining whether they will lend you money, and at what rate.

Do you know your debt-to-income ratio? A MIDFLORIDA representative can help you assess your financial picture and suggest ways to improve it. Steps like establishing a MIDFLORIDA savings account can also help you avoid or reduce future debt. Call (863) 688-3733 or toll free (866) 913-3733, look around our website or stop by a branch today to learn more.