I hate certain types of credit. I don't own a personal credit card, and I don't want one. Payday lending,tax-refund anticipation loans, and other forms of legalized loan sharking should be outlawed.
Too many people get in trouble with these "services" and with upside-down car loans, second mortgages, and high-interest-rate financing for home improvements and furniture.
I don't do any of them. I drive an eight-year-old Lexus that I have had for six years.
Meanwhile, I have a nice house, with a low-interest mortgage and plenty of equity. Having seen the downturn coming, I lived in a rental house for four years and waited until I got a good deal.
Credit keeps many people from living within their means. At the end of their lives they wind up broke and struggling. I never want to be one of those people.
Many of my successful friends share the same philosophy about debt. They want as little as possible.
About the time I was thinking about purchasing a home, a friend told me he was buying a large house. This buddy is a financial genius. He is someone you never heard of -- and he wants it that way. I go to him for great insights, but he never lets me quote him.
He drives a modest car and lived in a modest home, both of which he paid for in cash. He is more interested in his portfolio than in pretense. He is a self-made success.
He said that with the housing market depressed and interest rates below 5 percent, it made good financial sense to buy a nice house and finance it for fifteen years. I'm not sure he really wanted a nicer house. He just saw it as a financial opportunity.
He is rarely wrong and never makes irrational moves. It got me to thinking again about the evils of credit. There are times when credit is good, such as when it is used responsibly by people who can handle it.
Take, for example,those in a high tax bracket who are financing houses.
If they borrow the money at 5 percent annual interest, the actual cost, in most cases, will be roughly 3 percent, after taxes. If they use the house money for an immediate annuity, they would have the cash flow to pay the mortgage, get the mortgage interest deduction, and benefit from any increase in value of the house. (I am assuming that sometime in the next fifteen years, houses will appreciate in value again.)
In the meantime, the mortgage and annuity payments would stay the same.
That is a fairly low-risk way to use credit.
Someone could also put his money in the stock market and make big gains. Or lose his shirt. There has been a lot of shirt-losing going on the past couple of years.
Investing in the stock market can be like going to the racetrack. There are going to be winners and there are going to be losers. People should understand that any investment involves risk.
In the subprime "too big to fail" anything-goes market that brought on the financial crisis, some people forgot about risk. Those are the people I don't want to have credit. None at all.
Many are tying themselves to lifelong debt by paying outrageous fees and interest on credit cards. Credit cards can take 20 percentto 30 percent a year in interest plus really outrageous fees. Guaranteed. And you don't get a tax deduction. I can't think of a worse investment than that.
I watched so many people fall off the wagon on credit cards that I bought into the "Just Say No" philosophy on credit.
A pioneer in the "never borrow money" philosophy was Christian author and lecturer Larry Burkett. In the mid-1970s, he founded a non-profit organization called Christian Financial Concepts, which used biblical principles in guiding people with their finances. One of those principles was to have no debt whatsoever.
Burkett was extremely popular in Christian financial circlesuntil his death in 2003, but he never reached a mainstream audience. Dave Ramsey has. He has a syndicated radio show andhad a nightly program on the Fox Business News Network. In his book, Financial Peace,Ramsey acknowledged Burkett's influence.
Like Burkett, he focuses his attention on churches and Christian communities, but Ramsey goes on to reach every demographic. His message of savings and sacrifice and never borrowing money is one that many people need to hear.
Then I think about my friend. His new home was a smart financial move.
Credit in moderation can be good. But like any addiction, credit can be the worst nightmare of your life.
It's safer to say "No" than to be tempted.