Debt: Just Another Four-Letter Word

 Is DEBT a four-letter word? It doesn’t have to be – but managing (notice I didn’t say avoiding) credit and loans is an important component in building and maintaining wealth. Clients that have worked with us over the years know that as comprehensive planners, we are trained to view our clients’ entire balance sheet or net worth statement. A quick refresher: Your net worth consists of both assets (investments, savings, etc.,) AND liabilities/debts (home mortgage, auto loans, etc.). You can help improve your net worth or wealth by adding to investments and/or reducing liabilities. Therefore, we work closely with clients to track and analyze their net worth each year as one measurement of overall financial health.

Debt doesn’t have to be one of those bad, four-letter words if used and managed properly. Financing a house can be a good lifestyle decision as well as a smart financial transaction. Certainly today’s low interest rate environment makes it more compelling to wisely use debt or leverage.

For example, Sue and Steve are 45 years old and currently desire to retire in 15 years. “Retire” to them means working for a charitable organization that they are passionate about…perhaps earning some wages…perhaps not.  Essentially, they would like to be Financially Independent at the end of 15 years. Ideally, clients such as Sue and Steve plan to also retire their mortgage over the next 15 years. However...

Utilizing mortgage debt over the next 15 years can be a good financial strategy:

1. Interest rates are historically low, giving them a better opportunity (not guaranteed) to earn higher returns on their retirement savings.

2. There is an income tax benefit for mortgage interest paid.

3. The mortgage payments are a forced savings mechanism. 

Depending upon their overall situation, we might even suggest a 30-year mortgage and that they invest the difference between the 30 and 15-year payments for additional flexibility. As always, each situation is different and you should consult the appropriate professionals.

In summary, our experience suggests that clients’ eliminate debt, including home mortgage debt, at or near retirement.  At retirement, the name of the game becomes “cash flow” and not having to service debt payments goes a long way in living a successful retirement. 

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and is a frequent contributor to national media including appearances on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4 News and published articles including Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), trained and mentored hundreds of CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.

Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation.  Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc., and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.  Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss.