how to use debt

New Rule of Money #2: Learn How to Use Debt

The power of good debt and OPM

This is the first in a series on the new rules of money. I lay the foundation for this series in my post "The Real Reason You Feel (and Are) Poorer". I highly suggest you read that post in preparation for this and the following posts on the new rules of money.

Many people teach that debt is bad or evil. They preach that it is smart to pay off your debt and to stay out of debt. And to an extent they are right.

There is good debt and bad debt. It is wise to pay off bad debt—or not get into it in the first place. Simply said, bad debt takes money out of your pocket, and good debt puts money into your pocket.

A credit card is often bad debt because people use it to buy depreciating items like big screen TVs, cars, and vacations. Conversely, a loan for an investment property that you rent out can be good debt if the asset’s cash flow covers the debt payment and puts money in your pocket.

The people who preach the evils of debt do not understand that debt is essential to the American economy. Whether that is good or bad is debatable, but what is not debatable is that without debt, our entire economy would collapse. Our entire economy is based on steady inflation. And the way in which we encourage that inflation is through debt.

Unfortunately, the way the rich use debt and the way the poor and middle classes use debt are vastly different.

How the poor use debt

As mentioned above, the poor and middle class use debt to generally buy liabilities like a car or a vacation. Even the things they consider to be investments, such as their own personal home, are not assets. Why? Because the very simple definition of an asset is that it puts money into your pocket. A liability takes money out. A personal home only takes money out of your pocket.

This method of using bad debt to attain things that generally lose value over time keeps most people financially enslaved to debt for most of their lives. And when they do finally decide to get off the drug of bad debt, they often spend years working harder and harder to pay it off. It’s a lot of lost time and opportunity.

How the rich use debt

The rich use good debt to grow their worth, and they invest in cash flowing assets using Other People’s Money (OPM)—both the bank’s and investors’.

OPM is a fundamental concept of Rich Dad and a sign of high financial intelligence. By using both good debt and OPM, you can dramatically increase your Return on Investment (ROI)—and you can even achieve infinite returns.

Good debt is a type of OPM. The downside to debt is that you can generally only borrow a certain percentage of an asset’s purchase price. In keeping with our real estate example from my previous post on good debt, that is generally around 70 to 80 percent of the purchase price.

Because of this, you have two choices when you find a worthy investment: use your own money or use other people’s money. Provided you structure the deal well, the more you can use other people’s money, the higher your return will be.

Many people think it’s a fantasy world that people would just give you money to invest, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that most people don’t have time to find good deals. Instead, they rely on people with the proper financial education, skill set, and drive to bring deals to them.

My real estate advisor, Ken McElroy, has perfected using OPM. His company, MC Companies, buys apartment buildings. He does all the hard work of finding deals, doing the due diligence, negotiating with owners and lenders, and handling management. In return, people line up hoping to invest their money with him.

Today, Ken does big deals that require a certain type of investor. Not just anyone can invest with Ken. But he started with small deals, like the ones I’m writing about today and worked his way up to big deals.

The Power of Good Debt

Here’s an example of why using good debt is a powerful investment tool for the rich.

Using the bank to leverage my investments, I can leverage my money. Using simple math, let’s assume I have $100,000 and am looking to invest it in a $100,000 property that rents for around $800 per month. You can find many properties like this if you look diligently.

I could use all my money to purchase one property for $100,000, or I could use good debt to buy five $100,000 properties.

The bank would lend me $80,000 for each property and I would divide my $100,000 into five $20,000 down payments.

At 5 percent interest, the payment on the loans would be around $500, including taxes and insurance. So, my cash flow on each property would be $300 a month ($800 in rent – $500 in debt payment = $300 per month) for a total of $1,500 ($300 x 5 = $1,500) per month—an 18 percent annual return.

The Power of OPM

Now, here’s an example of why using good debt, coupled with OPM, is an even more powerful investment tool for the rich.

Using OPM, I can increase my return and secure even more assets. Let’s say that instead of having to put down 20 percent on five properties, I can use my $100,000 to put down 5 percent on 20 properties. I can do this by finding 20 great deals and lining up investors to invest in them.

Here’s how the math works out.

The bank would lend $80,000 for each property, and I would divide my $100,000 into twenty $5,000 segments, using OPM to raise the other $15,000 needed for each property. Again, at 5 percent interest, the payment on the loans would be around $500 per month. Let’s assume that we’ll pay a little more for our investors’s money and give them 7 percent interest. The money owed to them would be a little less than $100 per month—but we’ll go with $100 to make it simple. So, our total costs would be about $600 per month.

That means we’ll have a cash flow of about $200 per month, which we’ll split with our investors 50/50. We’ll pocket $100 per month, or $1,200 per year, and our investors will pocket $100 per month, or $1,200 per year.

Adding up the total return for all 20 deals, that’s $24,000 per year cash flow, a return of 24 percent. Not only am I making 6 percent more per year than if I just used my money, but I also have ownership in 20 assets instead of just 5. Later I can refinance these properties, pay off my investors, get my investment back, and continue to receive cash flow from the 20 properties—an infinite return.

Again, I’m using very simple math here. In real life, the numbers are more complicated and much larger. But the principles are the same. Investing with OPM takes a high level of financial intelligence. But both Ken McElroy and I both started small and worked into the big apartment deals we do today. You can do the same.

Be diligent. Continue to increase your financial education. Work hard. And master the fundamentals of good debt and OPM, and you will become wealthy.

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