5 Ways Borrowing Money Can Improve Your Life: Debt Is Not Always The Devil It’s Made Out To Be

Stop telling me that debt is always bad. That’s black and white thinking. There are times when borrowing money is necessary for some of us. There are times it’s an investment. Borrowing money may have saved my daughter’s life. Debt is not always the devil.

register-810546_1280 Burrowing money is not always bad: photo of old cash register

I Owe, I Owe, But Not Forever

I don’t write about money and debt very often. I’m not comfortable sharing my own status concerning debt. I owe. I owe a lot.  

That doesn’t mean I’m a proponent of racking up debt without knowing your limitations. It doesn’t mean that I buy, buy, buy without restraint. It means that I’ve made some conscious and strategic decisions regarding what was best for my future, and more importantly, what was best for Annie’s future.

I haven’t written a post about money and debt in over a year:

6 Ways To Cut Up Credit Cards

You’re probably wondering how I’m doing on my own journey to become debt-free. I won’t go into details, but I owe about 5% less today than I did a year ago. But that’s not the point to this post. I get sick and tired of money gurus and extremists always telling me that debt is the devil.

Debt Is Not Always Bad

I had a rough childhood. I was a child victim of a cult. That didn’t set me up for a prosperous future. It hasn’t stopped me either.

In my 20s, I was poor. I lived in a trailer and worked at a mini-mart. In my 30’s, I was still poor, but I went to back to college. By my late 30s, I started to see that I was gaining a little upward mobility. I’d earned a Masters Degree. I’d become a college professor. I was also $35,000 into student loans.

I moved to Kansas, 2000 miles away, to secure my first full-time teaching job. I had to borrow money to make the move. When I reached Kansas, I needed a dependable car. I borrowed more money. I was up to $45,000 in debt.

I’ve made several more moves since Kansas. I’ve been through a handful of cars. I’ve been through a divorce and a five-year child-custody battle. I’ve bought a house. I’ve borrowed more money. Yes, I’m in debt: over $150,000 in debt. But debt is not always the devil.

5 Ways Borrowing Money Can Improve Your Life

  1. Borrowing money can make you smarter: There was no way I could have gone through eight years of college without financial help. My family had no money. I got through the first two years on grants and scholarships, but I had to break down and get loans when I went to the university. I’m not sorry I did. If I hadn’t borrowed that money, I might still be working at a mini-mart or flipping burgers. Now I have a solid career. I teach and help others. And I have more money in my retirement account than I owe on my home.
  2. Borrowing money can keep you reliable: I feel bad when I see struggling young parents driving a car that could break down at any moment. When my daughter was born, I decided that having a reliable car was important. I didn’t want my daughter and her mom to get stuck on the side of the road in a bad part of town. Having reliable transportation has helped me to be a better parent and a better employee. It’s helped me to help others.
  3. Borrowing money can save a life: Unfortunately, Annie’s mom had some severe psychological issues that made her a danger to herself and others. She was professionally evaluated as not being capable to care for a young child. She was too preoccupied with her own state of mind. But she still insisted that she could care for Annie. This led to several inpatient programs and eventually a $30,000 divorce. If I hadn’t borrowed the money to complete the divorce and keep my custodial rights, I’d have been putting my daughter’s life in jeopardy. What kind of father would that have made me?
  4. Borrowing money can create happy memories: I like to take Annie on a trip or two each summer. These vacations are usually paid for with cash. Last summer, some unexpected expenses came up. I’d already planned for Annie to take sailing lessons in Port Townsend, Washington. I could have cancelled. But borrowing the extra $1000 needed to take the trip was well worth it. You can’t relive life. Annie loved the sailing lessons. We will have those memories forever.
  5. Borrowing money can be an investment: I was renter my entire life until October, 2013. Now, I’m buying a house. I bought at a good time. I got a great deal on my house. It was immediately worth $10,000 more than I paid for it. I’m making extra payments to pay it off faster. I intend to sell about the time I retire in 10-12 years. That will give me the leverage to downsize and buy my next house with cash.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I don’t like being in debt. But borrowing money has helped me to live with less worry. It’s helped me get an education. It’s made me a more reliable person. It’s given me a home. It may have even saved my daughter’s life.

I’m not suggesting that you should go out and borrow a crapload of money and live high on the hog. I’m still working toward paying off my debt and living debt-free. I’ve set goals to attain financial freedom and I continue to work toward the mark. But I’m tired of hearing that debt is always bad. Debt is not the devil. Sometimes it just might be an angel in disguise.

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8 Comments

  1. Interesting perspective, Dan. I can see how there may have been some extreme circumstances where debt helped you get out of a jam, but I think it’s always better if you don’t have to deal with the anchor of debt holding you back.

    The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

    1. I agree that creating debt is not the best option and shouldn’t always be the first choice.

      But when it comes to the health and safety of our kids, I would hope any parent would be willing to do what it takes. If I were to save to buy a home, I’d be lucky to ever buy. Rent does not gain equity. And of course without an education, I’d likely still be living in a trailer. Some days I’m not so sure that would be a bad thing. : ) Thanks for stopping by, Jon.

  2. I try to not ever be in debt…besides our house payment. A house payment is a “good type” of debt but I pray one day we don’t even have that debt.

    You bring up some good points though. There are times when debt is good. It’s good to take vacations, it’s good to buy things we need and so on. God is our provider.
    It’s easy to get overwhelmed with bills, but God wants us to have an abundant life, we need to trust Him to provide not only for our physical needs but our overall well being too. We shouldn’t treat Him as a genie, but when we work hard, we need to trust that God wants us to enjoy life too…that means it’s okay to buy ice cream on a tight budget once in a while 🙂

    1. Hi TC! I just bought Annie and myself ice cream this afternoon. I have a plan to be out of debt by the time I’m 60. That might include selling my home and downsizing to something smaller. Who knows, if I focus, I could even get out of debt by my late 50s. That’s only about six years off. I believe!

  3. Thanks for the alternative perspective, Dan. It gets a little tiring just hearing “debt is bad” all the time. Obviously, all else equal, debt is bad. But all else isn’t always equal.

    And I love the point about a reliable car. In addition to familial reasons, a reliable car is also essential in many careers (because randomly not showing up for work isn’t always acceptable).

  4. Thank you for that perspective. As a returning, non-traditional student, I would not be able to attend and complete college before retirement age if I wasn’t taking out loans. Loans are not ideal but neither would be the alternative.

    1. It’s a tough choice. For me, at age 30, taking student loans seemed like the best choice. I’m still paying my student loans off, but my career should allow me to become debt free and retired in another 8-12 years. Best wishes to your for continuing success.

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