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Are we all doomed to be in debt?

Posted: 3:46 PM, Feb 10, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-10 21:46:00Z
Are we all doomed to be in debt?

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who likes being in debt . Even when it helps someone accomplish a goal, like getting an education or buying a home, going into debt isn’t exactly fun. In fact, a lot of people say it’s downright terrible.

A new survey shows 54% of American adults at least somewhat or strongly agree with the idea that debt is “awful but unavoidable.” Prosper, an online lending marketplace, commissioned the survey of 1,000 American adults, asking them about their personal financial health. The results are based on interviews between Dec. 2 and Dec. 9, 2015, and the margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans said debt is necessary to build a strong credit history , but 64% said debt is a trap that should be avoided at all costs. In short, most people think debt is a necessary evil.

But debt isn’t necessarily evil. You can improve your credit without going into debt (basically, use a credit card and always pay the balance in full), and in many situations, loans can be a worthwhile investment. Borrowing money to pay for college, buy a home, or start a business can have immense value, even if that means you’re in the red for a while.

Of course, investments sometimes go wrong. Taking on debt or opening a credit card always has risks, and Americans are quite familiar with them. For that reason, you should always think carefully about why you’re borrowing money and what you’d do if you ever had trouble making payments.

Just as debt can help you build credit, it can destroy it if you start missing payments or let your credit card balances get close to their limits. (You can see how your credit fares by looking at two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.)

To protect yourself against debt and credit troubles, do your best to plan for emergencies. Unexpected expenses often cause debt problems, which is why having an emergency fund is so important, but the Prosper survey says more than half of Americans have less than $5,000 saved, including a third who have less than $1,000 saved.

With those figures in hand, it’s easy to see why people think debt is awful and unavoidable. Sometimes it is. But it doesn’t have to be.

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