Friday, July 5, 2013

Should I Try to Save While I'm Still in Debt?

There are two schools of thought on this subject. I am largely in the camp that believes debt should be retired before beginning a serious investment strategy. There are three exceptions and I will begin by addressing these.

Exception 1—Your Mortgage

The typical mortgage has at least a ten-year term and often a twenty-year or thirty-year term. I do not believe it is practical to wait that long to begin investing. 

Exception 2—Employer Matching 401k

If you are fortunate enough to work for an employer that offers matching contributions to a 401k plan, I cannot recommend that you wait to an investment in that plan. You would be leaving free money on the table and that makes no fiscal sense whatsoever.

Exception 3—Small Business Owners

If you are a small business owner, you should invest in growing your business. After all, it is be the wellspring of your present and future income.

These exceptions noted ...

I believe in the time value of money and by extension the value, indeed the necessity, of eliminating the interest expense associated with most if not all debt.

The Time Value of Money

The time value of money is the most persuasive argument available for retiring debt and for investing. You see, saving differs from investing. If you have a piggy bank and save ten dollars, you empty out the piggy bank in ten years and guess what—you still have but ten dollars. Conversely, if you invest ten dollars, in ten years you will have more than ten dollars because whatever you invested in (stock, bonds, certificate of deposit etc.) will have grown in value.

Debt also exemplifies the time value of money. However, with debt, the value accrues to the lender not to you, the borrower. Think about it … instead of you earning money on an investment, the lender is earning money from you. Why? Because you have debt and the interest expense that is a result of that debt finds its way into the corporate coffers.

Sample Scenario

In this example, imagine you have a credit card debt of $5000 with an annual rate of 10%. You would have to pay $126.81 every year for four years to pay this debt in full. That means for $5000 you will pay a total of $6086.88 over a four year period. Obviously, you are paying the credit card company $1086.88 for the privilege of using their money. The time value of money is working for the credit card company, not for you.

Now, I want you to consider this. If you elect to invest before retiring this credit card obligation, what investment can you make that will provide you a safe return exceeding the 10 percent rate you are paying the credit card company? Can you think of even one? I can’t!

If you are lucky and find a reasonably safe investment that pays even 5 percent, this is only half of what you are paying out in interest to the credit card company! This is not a rational course of action.


Apart from the exceptions noted above, it is clearly counterproductive to invest before you have retired your debt.

For you small business owners, the principle applies equally with respect to business debt. Look to your accounts receivable for cash flow and/or debt relief. Take advantage of free invoice factoring calculator to see if your accounts receivable can help you retire business debt early.

About Author:
Andrew Cravenho is the CEO of CBAC LLC, an innovative invoice financing exchange. As a serial entrepreneur, Andrew focuses on helping both small and medium sized businesses take control of their cash flow. Prior to CBAC, Andrew founded an annuity financing company relieving tort victims of financial hardship.


  1. In my opinion, even if I am still in debt, I would still try to save or invest a little of my money. It will eventually go a long way.

  2. Entrepreneurs should read this piece. It will surely give them thoughts for consideration. Your sample scenario regarding credit card interests is also very enlightening. It is another must-read for consumers.


Join 1000's of People Following 50 Plus Finance
Real Time Web Analytics