I have had a few folks take exception to my statements in Questions with an Answer: Get Out of Debt, in that they question whether it is more important to incur some debt to build wealth, than worry about growing debt, and if I could figure out how you type a Bronx cheer, I would, but I will simply say bunk!
The exact exchange was:
My response was simply, I would rather owe nothing. Savings of all kind can drop in value very quickly (depending on how it is being held), but debt will never magically decrease in value (and severity) without you doing something about it.
You may own a house worth $400,000 right now, and you have a mortgage that is for $125,000, however, it is not outside the realm of possibilities that the house could (in a very short period of time) be worth less than what you owe on it, then where are you? I have rarely (if ever) heard the opposite where suddenly your mortgage was forgiven and you owed nothing on your house, but your “Wealth” is mercurial.
The ephemeral nature of wealth is sometimes lost on folks, if I own $1,000,000 worth of BCM Enterprises Stocks (as options, which don’t vest for another 6 months) and I owe $160,000 on my mortgage, my Net Worth is?
Correct! Stock options are worthless until you see the money from the transaction in your bank account. I had over 10,000 shares of Nortel in options and 1 bright day they were finally worth $300, and then they were worth nothing again (as an obtuse example).
How about if I own a $1.5 Million home in a lovely section of the Beaches in Toronto, and I owe $400,000 on the mortgage, how much am I worth?
Correct Again! OK, that one is going to cause some comments, but, having things that you think are worth something is a wonderful thing, but until somebody pays for it, it is worthless. More likely than not my beautiful cottage in the Beaches (no I don’t live there) will sell for more than $1.5M if I tried to sell it, but maybe not.
One more: I have a Pension that is going to pay me 60% of my salary when I retire, I have $200,000 in my RRSP but I still owe $95,000 on my home, and I have $10,000 worth of other debt (bad gambling debts, let’s say), what is my Net Worth now?
Some might say: $95,000 at least because you have all that lovely RRSP money and that juicy pension, but do I?
If I cash my RRSP in, I am going to get SLAUGHTERED on taxes, and say this heavenly Bull Market we are in goes Bear very quickly, what am I worth? My Net worth would be closer to $0, and then you can figure out what you can valuate your pension however you like (but remember you have to live long enough to enjoy that as well).
All of this to say, that Wealth is Ephemeral, and can disappear like a Fart in the Wind, but DEBT is like an abscessing tooth, until you remove it, it will hurt and it will not go away until you do something about it!