Can Debt Ever Be Good?

Most people have heard of Dave Ramsey. His financial advice has helped millions of people get out of debt and free up their financial inflow (their income). So is this simplistic advice the whole picture when it comes to debt?

The list of successful people who have made fortunes with debt says otherwise. When’s the last time you heard of a wealthy person who built a massive business without borrowing money in some sort of way? It’s not very common. In fact, the three richest people in the US, and the world for that matter (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet) have all built businesses or bought businesses that used debt regularly in their operations.

But why is Dave Ramsey so against debt? While I can’t get into his head, there are three legitimate reasons I can think of why he dislikes the idea of borrowing money entirely:

  1. Debt has to be payed back. While the future ability to pay off debt is uncertain, the requirement to pay it back is definitely certain. This represents risk.
  2. Debt gives control and responsibility of part of your financial life to someone else. While you are still responsible for taking care and utilizing whatever you purchased with the debt, you are no longer owning this thing altogether by yourself.
  3. Debt costs money and time. To borrow money it usually takes time and complications. On top of that there are costs associated with borrowing like origination fees, legal fees, and (of course) interest. While the rate of return you get on your money might be greater than the interest rate, you are involving more risk into your financial picture.

So, after close examination, do Dave Ramsey’s probable reasons and concerns for not using debt seem pretty well founded? I’ll leave that up to you. However they can be summarized in one word: Risk.

Debt represents risk. Whichever way you borrow money, whether for a home, real estate property, or college, recognize that debt is a risk that cannot be overlooked. While I believe debt cannot or should not be eliminated from our lives completely, taking a careful look at it can go a far way in eliminating pitfalls.

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