I was meeting one of my friend and had a few hours talk that day. One of his idea intrigued me, which is about how took up mortgage and car loan make him a better person, a more responsible person. His argument to me was with more loan/mortgage, he felt he had more responsibility financially. It motivated him to work harder, went out to work more often, earned much more income. As the conversation get longer, I started to feel more and more uneasy with his ideas. Somewhere inside me feel that maybe he got the sequence wrong, it was not those debt/mortgage that made him a better person, he became a better and more successful person before he can afford those loan/mortgage.
It is a popular idea to divide debt into good debt and bad debt nowadays. Good debt by definition is the debt that can earn you money, create more cash flow for you, bad debt is the opposite side of good debt. Accumulate bad debt is easy, just go out there and buy that fancy car or that latest gadget on the shelf on credit when you have no idea how to pay off the other two credit card that you has used up their credit limit. Good debt is a bit tricky, I read a few books on this, and I still confuse. The idea seems to be you borrow money you don’t have to invest in investment vehicle that nobody can guarantee its return. If return on investment of that vehicle is higher than the interest on the money you borrowed, you are called ‘leverage’ else you are ‘over leverage yourself’.
Right now, I am not ready to take on double risk for my own personal finance planning. Saving accumulation still the number one priority on my list now, professional development for a higher paying job is second on the list. Sometime I get into discussion with friend about whether high saving rate or high income is more important, that discussion always ended both parties agree that both are important. With living cost in Singapore maintain at certain level, you cannot have a high saving rate if your income is too low. In theory, a person with a monthly income of 10K, A and saving rate of 80% is having the same live style as another person with monthly income of 2K, B and no saving. In this case, if B is able to increase his income without increase his expense, his saving rate will be growing without his knowing and not affecting his life style.
Back to the topic of debt, sometime people don’t realise the effect from their purchase. Take smartphone as an example, a decent smart phone can cost up to $1000 now. Assuming a typical consumer change their phone every 2 years, which means he has a monthly instalment of about $42. This instalment is permanent unless his behaviour changes and stop chasing the latest gadget every two years. Now let’s see what did he gave up for that smartphone. In order to produce that same $42 every month with a investment vehicle that return 5% per annual, he need to invest ($42 x 12)/5% which means $10080 invested.
Of course I am not suggesting that you are not allowed to buy a phone unless you have $10080 accumulated in your investment. You are free to spend your money anyway you want since you have put in the hard work to earn that money. I just hope that before you make decision that will affect your monthly cash flow, you are fully aware what are you buying into and you are perfectly comfortable with that.