Paying off Debt is the BEST Investment

Credit CardsI firmly believe that paying off debt is the best investment with the greatest rate of return. For every dollar that you pay back in debt on top of your minimum payment, that’s less money you will give to your creditor. This does not mean I don’t believe in investing, but rather I want to take care of my priorities first.

There are other reasons why I think eliminating your debt is a great investment. It’s closely tied to our psychological and emotional side. The feeling one gets when they pay off their credit card or student loan is priceless. I am experiencing this first hand since paying off my credit card debt.

Debt Payments as an Investment

Let’s plug-in some real numbers and for arguments sake, I will use my credit-card debt as an example. When I started out, my credit card debt was $3,500. I managed to pay my credit card debt in 347 days. My interest rate on the card was 12.9%, which I managed to negotiate down from 19.99%.

For every $100 extra dollars I paid, my annual return rate was $12.90 or 12.9% compounded monthly. That means on my initial $3,500 my total dollar return was $479.18. That essentially means I kept $479.18 in my pocket by paying off my credit card. This additional $479.18 saved, I could use to pay down further debt, such as adding it to my mortgage or use it towards investing.

What’s Right For You?

We’re all in different parts of our lives, and some of us carry more debt than others. Some debt is considered good debt, like a mortgage. Than there is obviously the bad consumer debt, such as credit cards. The key to it all is to assess what is right for you now and where do you want to be in the future. I made the decision to eliminate all of my debt (not including my mortgage), before considering investing. I wanted a clean slate, a fresh start and another chance to make it right and live a debt free life.

The key is to find your comfort zone. I was not comfortable with investing my money, when I had debt to pay off. It just did not make sense to me logically. You may be different. Find out what works for you.

The Psychology Behind It

No one can tell you what to feel or think. Same goes for investing and paying off debt. For me, it was important to crush my debt. Why? It’s has to do more with psychology than anything else. Debt is powerful and plays an emotional game with your mind. It did with mine at least, until I grabbed the bull by the horns and took control of my debt situation. I prioritized my debt. I knew I wanted to become debt free, before considering investing. I did what was important for me.

A Financial Highway article talks about the emotions of knowing when to invest versus paying down debt. Ray illustrates a simple logical approach on making the best decision for you. One writer who focuses heavily on Money Psychology is Ramit Sethi, have a look at some of his articles. One clear message that comes out from both articles:  do what’s important for you. So if you want to pay off your debt and invest all the same time, then do it. I paid off my credit card debt, before considering investing. I knew once I was credit card debt free, I would be happier inside seeing a big fat zero next to “Amount Owing”.

For me it was important to work on eliminating my debt, before considering the investment side of things. I am happy I made the right decision a year ago, when I embarked on my journey out of debt.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Would you consider investing while holding credit card debt?

15 Responses to “Paying off Debt is the BEST Investment”

  1. cashflowmantra

    Nov 08. 2011

    I agree that paying off debt is a great investment. Not only is the return usually better than what the markets are providing these days, but that return is guaranteed and tax free as well. The best of all 3 worlds.

  2. Eddie

    Nov 08. 2011

    Good point!
    You are absolutely right, it is tax free as well!

  3. The Dividend Ninja

    Nov 08. 2011

    Eddie Thanx for contributing!

    I would add no question that paying off your debt is the “single best investment”! If you are carrying high interest consumer debt, then don’t even consider investing. Work on paying it off! 🙂

    Makes no sense to me to be earning 1% to 4% returns when your debt is -12% to -19%, overall this is a net loss in cash flow. But debt isn’t about logic is it? As CashFlowMantra points out, it’s tax free! How good is that? 🙂

    Cheers

  4. PrairieBandit

    Nov 08. 2011

    What about paying off the debt from a mortgage?

  5. The Dividend Ninja

    Nov 08. 2011

    PrairieBandit Thanx for posting 😉 You could certainly contribute to your mortgage and invest at the same time, or pay off more on your mortgage – it’s up to you!

    1. A Mortgage is not high interest consumer debt, mortgage rates are far lower than credit card rates.

    2. A Mortgage is an investment because you are paying into the equity of your home.

    3. Your home = equity, your credit card debt = liability.

    4. You can use your home equity for collateral, to establish a line of credit and purchase investments.

    Cheers!

    • PrairieBandit

      Nov 09. 2011

      When you do make a lump sum payment on your mortgage, you are effectively reducing the amount of interest you would have had to pay on your mortgage. What makes lump payments on a mortgage so attractive is 100% of the payment goes towards the principal.

      I too like to diversify my investments, but when I run the numbers paying off my mortgage first looks like it makes the most sense.

  6. Eddie

    Nov 09. 2011

    If you contribute your debt to the mortgage, you are actually not eliminating debt. Instead just hiding it.

    It still has to be paid off at some point or another.

    Cheers!

    • The Dividend Ninja

      Nov 09. 2011

      Eddie yes your mortgage payments are part of your overall debt service – yes it has to be paid off of course.

      But a Mortgage is also an investment because you are paying into the equity of your home. This is much different from other consumer debt! I think that was my point.

      Cheers

  7. My Own Advisor

    Nov 09. 2011

    Nice post!

    I think debt pay down is essential no doubt, but don’t forget investments. Time is on your side as an investor, many folks don’t take advantage of this nearly enough.

    As an investor, time is your best friend.

  8. youngandthrifty

    Nov 14. 2011

    COuldn’t agree more!

    Why save up for an emergency fun of 1.5% when you can get help yourself to 19% guaranteed by tackling the consumer debt?

    Great post Eddie!!!

  9. I definitely agree that credit card debts must be paid off ASAP. Never hold credit card debt. In the least, get a line of credit (usually lower interest rates) to cover it just in case you can’t pay it off right away. The cost is just too high.

    As for a mortgage, this only really falls into a psychology dilema 🙂 I do both right now, I invest and I accelerate my mortgage. What I think is important with a mortgage is to decide when you want to be done with it and work towards that goal and invest the difference. Don’t forget to negotiate the rates and look at either breaking the mortgage or blending it. I shaved off years early on simply by managing the rates. Also, make sure you pay at least every 2 weeks as it accelerates it.

    I have personally avoided the ‘game’ where I choose the best return when it comes to a mortgage or an investment simply because the mortgage payments always need to be serviced. Regardless of your employment status whereas an investment can be stopped.

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