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.

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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James Ewen
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