Articles tagged with: debt free

The Difference Between Good & Bad Debt

Some debts are worth assuming, but others exert a drag on retirement saving.

Who will retire with substantial debt? It seems many baby boomers will – too many. In a 2014 Employee Benefit Research Institute survey, 44% of boomers reported that they were concerned about the size of their household debt. While many are carrying mortgages, paying with plastic also exerts a drag on their finances. According to credit reporting agency Experian, boomers are the generation holding the most credit cards (an average of 2.66 per person) and the biggest average per-person credit card balance ($5,347).1,2

Indebtedness plagues all generations – and that is why the distinction between good debt and bad debt should be recognized.

What distinguishes a good debt from a bad one? A good debt is purposeful – the borrower assumes it in pursuit of an important life or financial objective, such as homeownership or a college degree. A good debt also gives a borrower long-term potential to make money exceeding the money borrowed. Good debts commonly have both of these characteristics.

In contrast, bad debts are taken on for comparatively trivial reasons, and are usually arranged through credit cards that may charge the borrower double-digit interest (not a small factor in the $5,347 average credit card balance cited above).

Some people break it down further. Thomas Anderson – an executive director of wealth management at Morgan Stanley and the author of the best-selling The Value of Debt in Retirement – identifies three kinds of indebtedness. Oppressive debt is debt at 10% or greater interest, a payday loan being a classic example. Working debt comes with much less interest and may be tax-deductible (think mortgage payments), so it may be worth carrying.3

Taking a page from corporate finance, Anderson also introduces the concept of enriching debt –strategic debt assumed with the certainty than it can be erased at any time. In the enriching debt model, an individual “captures the spread” – he or she borrows from an investment portfolio to pay off student loans, or pays little or nothing down on a home and invests the lump sum saved into equity investments whose rate of return may exceed the mortgage interest. This is not exactly a mainstream approach, but Anderson has argued that it is a wise one, telling the Washington Post that “the second you pay down your house, it’s a one-way liquidity trap, especially for retirees.”3,4

Mortgage debt is the largest debt for most new retirees. According to the American College, the average new retiree carries $100,000 in home loan debt. That certainly amounts to good debt for most people.3

Student loans usually amount to good debt, but not necessarily for the increasing numbers of retiring baby boomers who carry them. Education loans have become the second-largest debt for this demographic, and in some cases retirees are paying off loans taken out for their children or grandchildren.3

Credit card and auto loan debt also factor into the picture. Some contend that an auto loan is actually a good debt because borrower has purchased a durable good, but the interest rates and minimal odds of appreciation for cars and trucks suggest otherwise.

Some households lack budgets. In others, the budget is reliant on everything is going well. Either case opens a door for the accumulation of bad debts.

The fifties are crucial years for debt management. The years from 50-59 may represent the peak earning years for an individual, yet they may also bring peak indebtedness with money going out for everything from mortgage payments to eldercare to child support. As many baby boomers will retire with debt, the reality is that their retirement income will need to be large enough to cover those obligations.

How much debt are you carrying today? Whether you want to retire debt-free or live with some debt after you sell your business or end your career, you need to maintain the financial capacity to address it and/or eradicate it. Speak with a financial professional about your options.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at  ph# 641-782-5577 or email:


Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.  


1 – [3/26/15]

2 – [4/23/15]

3 – [4/22/15]

4 – [3/26/15]

Income inequality and your investment account

A new article came out recently stating that the top 1% of the world population controls $110 trillion of wealth. . I understand that many folks consider this a travesty, but before they get too excited about righting this inequality of wealth, they need to actually “run the numbers” and try to avoid being a hypocrite.

Upon doing a little math, I found many of my clients are in that top 1%. That’s right! Before you get too impressed, consider this: the richest 1% globally control $110 trillion of wealth. There are 7 billion people on earth, so $110 trillion divided by 7 billion equals about $1.5 million each. A farmer client who owns 240 acres of Iowa land (a small farm for those who might not know) or a small business person who owns her business debt free, along with a home and a $500,000 401k, could also fall in that 1%. Heck, a person who can save $275/month and increases that with the inflation rate can get to $1.5 million by retirement age.¹

So to be more fair to the less rich, let’s just take from the “super rich”. That would probably do it, right? Well, according to Forbes list of richest people in the world, the top 50 have roughly $1.2 trillion of wealth.² If you confiscated ALL their wealth, it wouldn’t come close to paying down the total public (government) debt in the world of $52.6 trillion ( It wouldn’t even pay the interest on the debt! And, the $1.2 trillion spread out evenly over every man, woman and child on earth, would give everyone $171.43. Would that pay your cell phone bill for 5 months? Or if you confiscated ALL the wealth of the top 1 percenters and spread it out evenly, everyone would get $15,714.28. For those in third world countries who face REAL poverty, that’s certainly a lot. But in the U.S., although it’s considered poverty, it’s not enough to help most people for any length of time.

How does this affect your investments? When the government attempts to help those in poverty, it spends money on social programs. Since it doesn’t currently bring in enough money through taxes, it borrows the difference from investors with help from the Federal Reserve (our banking system in the U.S.)

Our Federal Reserve creates money out of thin air (“prints” money to increase the money supply) and has been using that money to buy U.S. government-backed debt. That extra money enters our economy.³ Some of it ends up in the hands of citizens. Some spend it, but some save it. For those who save it, some ends up being invested in stocks, some in their businesses, and some in real estate, among other places. This typically pushes asset values higher, which makes those people appear richer….on paper.

They may not be poor but many of them saved that money themselves and they don’t consider themselves rich. When the stock market last crashed, in 2008-2009, many of those people lost nearly 50% of that wealth. Not all of those folks were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Their plans for a successful retirement hinge on a decent 401k and Social Security. And Social Security is funded by a trust fund expected to be exhausted in around 20 years, with the source of this information being the 2013 Annual Reports summary on the Social Security website itself ( and run by a government that is $17 trillion in debt ( The unfunded (future) liabilities of the United States government are projected to be over $127 trillion…more than $1.1 million for every taxpayer alive today.4

So as easy as it is to despise rich people, not all are evil and taking from them won’t come close to solving the problem anyway. And as much as we’d like to think government is the answer, not all government is good and as the debt increases, it probably means much larger problems and much less wealth for everyone when the bubbles pop again like some did in 2008-2009.

Towards that end, we run what-if stress testing scenarios for our clients simulating multiple economic events that could impact their life’s savings, helping them understand the very REAL consequences of actions by governments, terrorists, and the like. Being informed about, and in charge of, your portfolio is the best way to understand and deal with the certainty of uncertainty that affects our life.

Finally, if you really think that rich people have more influence over government than poor people, you may be right. But by that logic, we should all vote for smaller government. There would be fewer people in the government to influence and a chance to reduce the federal debt, which may help save Social Security in the future for us and our kids. If we achieve wealth equality, we’ll need it!

¹annual interest rate 7.5% for 45 years, increasing contributions by an inflation rate of 2.5% and compounding annually. For illustrative purposes only. Not based on any specific investments. Investing in securities involves risk, including potential loss of principal.




The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal.