The old adage, "neither a borrower nor a lender be," doesn't always apply in today's consumer economy. Still, it doesn't pay to carry more debt than absolutely necessary. Here are five compelling reasons you should pay down any outstanding loans as quickly as possible.
- You'll pay less total interest. Interest is essentially rent you pay a lender for the use of its money. The longer you keep the money, the more rent you'll pay. If, for example, you borrow $50,000 for 15 years at a rate of eight percent per year, you'll pay a total of $36,009 in interest charges. The same loan amortized over 30 years would cost $82,078 in interest. Refinancing your mortgage or auto loan over a shorter term can save you big bucks -- but only if you can afford the higher monthly payments.
- You'll be able to borrow more economically. When lenders calculate the rate of interest at which you can borrow, they take into account the amount of debt you are currently carrying and your ability to repay it. The greater your debt load, the greater the risk you will default on your payments and the higher the interest rate the lender will charge, to offset the risk. Pay off some debt -- particularly high-interest debt such as credit-card balances -- and you may qualify for a lower interest rate on the rest if you refinance it.
- You'll have greater credit to draw on. When lenders calculate how much you can borrow, they look at the amount of debt you have outstanding now and how much more you can afford to service, given your current income. If you have a big mortgage or a lot of credit-card debt and pay high monthly installments, lenders will be wary of letting you borrow much more. Pay down your debts and free up some cash each month and you'll qualify for more credit.
- You'll have better cash flow. By paying down debt, you'll reduce the amount of your monthly installments going forward. You'll have more money in your pocket for current expenses and extras -- and less need to borrow from high-interest lenders, such as credit card companies, for day-to-day needs.
- You'll reduce your opportunity cost. You could put the money you're paying in interest each month to better use if you pay off your loans. If you deposit the same amount in a savings account, you will earn interest. If you invest it in a home that appreciates in value or brings in rental income, you will make a capital gain when you sell or earn extra income while you are renting it out. You'll be better off by the annual rate of return you make on your investment plus the annual rate of interest you've been paying on your loans.