Some personal finance oxymorons seem to make no sense whatsoever, such as “bankrupt millionaire” or “negative income.” Yet none of them sound as baffling as one of the most contradictory paradoxes of all: “Good debt.”
Is a college education and student loan debt a good thing? Or does it all add up to one big, bad investment? Knowing the difference can prepare you for the financial impact that debt brings.
Good debt vs bad debt
What makes bad debt so bad? In a nutshell, bad debt is borrowing money to pay for something that diminishes or drops in value over time.
An auto loan is a perfect example of bad debt. Not only does potentially high interest add to the total amount of principal borrowed, but the car you bought is a depreciating asset. That’s not including the maintenance, insurance, and gas costs that can add to the total cost of the car.
Credit cards can be a good form of revolving debt, but can become one very bad type of debt if you let your balance build up, since penalty interest can become unmanageable.
If you’re paying off another form of long-term debt, a credit card may only add to the problem. Yours may earn rewards — a nice perk — but they may not be worth the risk of a large balance.
Other forms of debt, like payday and cash advance loans, come with insanely high interest rates that can eat your budget up alive. Big-ticket purchases that need to be financed, like luxury items you don’t need, can be considered bad debt since they don’t appreciate in value.
What is good debt, exactly? It’s about borrowing money for something that will appreciate or increase in value and make your loan worth the investment, time, and money.
Mortgage loans are usually considered a good type of debt. Unlike a car, a house is hoped to increase in market value over time. If you sell it years down the line, you’ll ideally net enough of a profit to offset some of the principal and interest you’ve paid on the loan.
Home loans also tend to carry lower interest rates and the interest you pay is tax deductible, adding to your overall savings. Investing in a rental property is another way to offset a mortgage or real estate loan.
Entrepreneurs who take out a small business loan may also be staying on the good side of debt, since the money they put into paying for overhead, office space, equipment, employee training, and salaries should pay off over time if their venture is a success.
Are student loans good or bad?
In the good debt vs bad debt debate, student loans fall into a gray area. Student loans can be considered good debt because the money you’re borrowing to attend school is your ticket to earning a degree and getting hired at a well-paying job. That debt should pay itself off over time with a lucrative career in place.
On the other hand, that degree does not guarantee employment. Student loan debt currently exceeds the $1.2 trillion mark, with more than 43 million borrowers struggling to pay off their loans.
As of last month, 8.1 percent of Americans aged 20 to 24 years old remain unemployed — a bad sign for undergraduate and graduate degree holders unable to find work and pay down their debt.
Student loans may be the hardest type of debt to narrow down to simply “good” or “bad,” since everyone’s financial and lending needs may differ. Examining some of the basic pros and cons can help you decide if it’s the type of debt for you.
Student loan pros
- Student loans allow you to pursue a college education without having to pay for your entire tuition in full. With a college degree, you improve your chances of finding well-paying, stable employment.
- Some federal loans are subsidized. If you qualify, you’ll have your interest paid off during select periods of time.
- Interest rates on federal loans are lower than most other lending products; fixed, regardless of your credit standing; and tax deductible.
- Student loans come with a variety of repayment plans (standard, graduated, extended, income-based, etc.) that can make your loan payments easier to align with your budget.
- You have opportunities to refinance, consolidate, defer, or forbear your student loans if you’re struggling with debt.
- With timely, disciplined payments, student loans can add positively to your credit history and score.
Student loan cons
- Even though a college education can improve your chances at gainful employment, there are no guarantees.
- Entry-level workers fresh out of college also may not earn enough to comfortably afford their loan repayments. The high amount of debt compared to a lower salary can produce a skewed debt-to-income ratio, which can hurt your credit.
- Student loan debt can lead to delinquency and default, each of which can ruin your credit score and inhibit your chances at being approved for other types of credit.
- Student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.
- Consolidating federal loans means relinquishing some built-in privileges.
There’s no such thing as good debt
When you weigh the pros and cons, there’s really no such thing as good debt.
That is, unless you’ve got enough money on hand to pay down the majority of your interest before it accrues — but if that was the case, there wouldn’t be much of a reason to take out a loan in the first place.
You might perceive student loans as a type of “better” debt than most, since the value of a college education is like an appreciating asset unto itself. The higher your degree, the more attractive you likely become to future employers.
From a financial standpoint, it’s often a necessary evil for students who don’t have the luxury of grants, scholarships, or other aid to cover the bulk of their tuition costs.
Borrowing money for student loans may be unavoidable, but by managing your debt carefully, you can shift it from bad to good.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.49% effective March 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.50% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.81% – 8.79%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.55% – 7.12%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.00% – 9.74%6||Undergrad & Graduate|