Dealing with debt
4 min read
Wellbeing for individuals

Debt: The good, the bad and the ugly

Sahil Sethi

The average household debt in the UK is £57,910. For most people, that debt is made up of secured debt (like a mortgage), but can also encompass personal loans, credit cards and store cards, and ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes.  While getting into too much debt can create problems, some forms of debt are actually considered positive, and in some situations can be embraced rather than avoided. In this article, we run through the good, the bad and the ugly of debt so you can improve your financial situation without setting aside the positives. 

Is there such a thing as ‘good’ debt?

It might sound weird to describe some debt as ‘good’, but in some situations, taking on debt can actually improve your finances. This can be true when you are making an investment that ends up growing your money. 

An example of this would be a mortgage (a loan to buy a property). Property has historically increased in value over time, and has historically increased faster than the rate of interest you pay on your property loan. Taking out a mortgage can therefore result in you having more money at the end than you have paid out for your loan (a profit).

Another form of investment that may involve taking on ‘good’ debt is a business loan ‒ if your business succeeds. Or you may choose to invest in your education, leading to better employment prospects and better finances overall. 

Of course all debt needs serious consideration. There is always a chance the investment won’t work out as you planned. And before you choose to take on one of these forms of debt, it’s vital that you have a plan to make sure you are able to keep up with repayments, and that they don’t take too much out of your income. Otherwise, you could end up in a difficult position with regards to your other commitments. 

Bad debt: what to watch out for

Other forms of debt may be more likely to have a damaging effect on your finances. Borrowing to buy a depreciating asset (something that loses value over time), such as a car, can be a form of bad debt if you take out a loan with high interest payments. This will mean you pay much more than the car is worth, and will not be able to sell it for this value to recoup your costs. Similarly, borrowing too much on credit or store cards can incur high interest costs. 

It’s difficult to avoid buying some of life’s necessities, but if you need to take on some debt to do so, it’s important to look for lower cost credit options and to limit the amount you borrow. Check what your monthly repayments would be, and the overall amount you would need to spend on your purchase. Ensure you are able to make the minimum repayments, if not more. The quicker you can settle your debt, the less interest you will pay. 

Ugly debt: what to avoid

Certain types of debt can be particularly difficult to deal with. This is most likely where there is such a high interest rate that any delay in repayment can mean you’ll be paying much more than you need to. 

Sometimes, people resort to taking more loans in order to pay off their original debt. This can lead to a debt spiral, where someone takes on more and more debt. This can damage their credit rating, too, so lower interest rates in the future are harder to obtain. 

If your debts are too hard to manage, or you feel you’re in a debt spiral, you can seek help. There are several free services you can access – find out more here.

Photo by on Unsplash

The content is for information purposes only, you should not construe any such information or other material  as legal, tax, investment, financial or other advice.

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