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Licensed Insolvency Trustee and Vice-President of Sands & Associates Blair Mantin was a recent guest at Global News Vancouver.  In this “Money Matters” segment, Blair shares professional tips and insights that every consumer should know.  As Blair explains, “Not all debts are created equal” and what you don’t know, can hurt you.

Watch our clip below and read on for more information about things you need to know before taking on debt.

 

Types of Debt:  The good, the bad…and the ugly.

Virtually no modern consumer is immune to taking on some form of debt.  Whether it’s a mortgage, student loan, or run of the mill credit card – getting credit (debt) is a fact of life.  What many people are unaware of though, is that not all types of debts are worth it.  Learn the differences to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of debt.  As Blair explains:

Some examples of “Good Debt”:  Debt that you incur with the expectation that there will be some future benefit.

Mortgages – Usually ‘good debt’ as it’s almost a ‘forced saving’ program.

  • Instead of paying rent each month, you are progressively building equity in an asset that will ideally appreciate over time.
  • Be careful though, this can turn ‘bad’ if you abuse home equity lines of credit, or over-extend yourself on a mortgage based on a variable interest rate that will escalate as rates rise.

Student loans – Typically ‘good’ debt as it’s a means of investing in your intellectual capital and income-earning potential.

  • A key of keeping student loans ‘good debt’ is managing them.
  • Just because you can be advanced a specific sum, doesn’t mean you need to take all of it.  It is easy to become burdened with massive student loans.
  • Look realistically at the employment prospects and ability to earn income post-graduation before investing in specific programs and education.
    • Be especially careful with professional / non-degree programs –  often fees are may be higher than university or college tuition, with uncertain employment prospects.
  • Take steps to supplement your income while being a student.  Part-time jobs, tutoring etc can all help cut down how much you need to borrow.

Here’s where debts can start sliding into “bad” – essentially the money has been spent, the benefits gone, but the obligation to repay remains.  Some examples of debts to be cautious when taking on:

Credit card debt – For most people, credit card debt accumulates slowly, over time and is often a function of monthly overspending of a budget.  The worst part of credit card debt is the interest rate that accumulates on purchases that have often long been forgotten.

  • At a 24% interest rate (mid-point of most bank cards and department store cards) your debts will double on you every three years!  Paying just the minimum on even a small $6,000 debt can take 40 years or more.  Credit card debt can quickly escalate to the point of being a problem.

Lengthy vehicle loan financing – Whereas a mortgage is based on the idea that an asset will appreciate, a car loan turns this idea around completely.  By definition a car is a depreciating asset!  In response to car prices that keep going up, manufacturers have started to offer increasingly long finance terms.  7 years even 8 years is not uncommon to see.  Tying oneself to a monthly car payment for such an extended period of time can eat up budget room that could be used to pay down high interest debt or even to build savings for retirement or investment.

  • Look at used vehicles, car sharing, and limit any financing agreements to 3-5 years.  Don’t try to make an unaffordable vehicle affordable by simply stretching out the payments.

And finally, two types of debt that most professionals would probably agree belong in the “ugly” category.  Typically these types of debt are incurred as a last resort, and/or debt where there can be severe, immediate consequences if they are left unpaid:

Payday loans

Often used as a ‘last resort’ to meet daily expenses in a pinch when all income is consumed by monthly costs and debt repayments.

  • The big problem here is that the interest rates and fees are incredibly high, and this usually starts a cycle of borrowing.  One payday loan is paid back, and then another is needed to bridge the income gap left by the fees and interest.  It is not uncommon for people using payday loans to have up to 10-15 different loans outstanding at one time.

Government debts

Not always ‘ugly’, but certainly URGENT.

  • The government has powers of collection and wage seizure that most other common creditors do not.

4 Tips for Consumers to Evaluate their Debts

  • Take stock of your situation.  How much debt of each category do you have?
  • If you’re only able to make the minimum payments on any ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ debt each month, it’s a sure sign that change needs to happen if you want to become debt-free.
  • Be wary of ignoring debts.  Generally the problem will not solve itself, and an escalated situation of collection calls and harassment can be incredibly stressful.
  • Reach out to a professional for advice.  A Licensed Insolvency Trustee can help you deal with virtually all of your debts, and give you a debt-repayment plan that is manageable and attainable.

When debts become unmanageable, life can become very stressful almost immediately.  Sands & Associates is BC’s leading firm of award-winning Licensed Insolvency Trustees, with a focus on assisting individuals and small businesses regain control of their financial affairs.  Founded in 1990 and operating from a network of local offices throughout the province, we take pride in our empathetic and non-judgmental approach to providing debt options.

A debt-free future IS possible.  Take the first step, book your free confidential debt consultation with one of our professionals to discuss your situation and get real debt solutions.

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