Borrowing money can enhance your lifestyle or increase your investment opportunities. Using credit wisely can help us to get ahead however if not managed well it can have a negative impact on your financial future.
This video looks at how to borrow well and to keep the credit we’re using manageable to ensure its helping not hindering us in achieving our life goals.
We’ll help you learn about:
- what good credit management means,
- when credit can be used effectively, and
- the different types of credit available.
This video may be helpful for anyone who:
- is borrowing, or contemplating borrowing, for the first time.
- wants to know more about using credit effectively.
- wants to know more about keeping credit well managed.
Hi, I’m Bronwyn Lawson from Westpac’s Davidson Institute here to talk to you today about ‘Borrowing money’. Borrowing is an integral part of our financial journey however if not managed well it can have a detrimental effect on our financial position instead of enhancing it. This video addresses the basics of borrowing to help you get on the right footing when using credit.
The three key areas that we are going to focus on are: Firstly, why borrow? Looking at the reasons people borrow money. Then, the different types of credit. Different types of loans have different purposes and should be matched to the purpose of the borrowing. Then finally, what you should be aware of. If you are going to borrow, what are some of the things you should take into consideration when making that decision?
Firstly, I want to look at “Why borrow?” because a common reason for people getting into financial difficulty is because they have borrowed for the wrong reason or they have the wrong type of borrowing for their original purpose. There are three main reasons we borrow money The first and most common reason for borrowing is to buy things now rather than later. Whether it’s a house, a car, furniture, computers, or simply that new pair of shoes or the latest tech gadget
… we want these things and are not always prepared to save up to buy them because the time taken to save means we potentially miss an opportunity.
The second reason people borrow is to invest to boost wealth generation. This may be to buy an investment property, share portfolio, increase our super contributions or invest in a business. Investing is a means to increase wealth so we can buy more stuff in the future by selling the investment or using the income from the investment.
The final reason people borrow is to cover a mismatch in cash flow timings. For instance, perhaps your pay is due to be deposited in the bank account on Thursday, but a bill, such as rent, rates, school fees, insurance and so on, needs to be paid a few days beforehand. You will have the cash in a few days, but you need it today. This is where credit cards and short-term debt may be useful. You can pay for stuff now, knowing that you can repay the debt when you receive your pay.
Whatever the reason for borrowing the key thing you need remember is it does need to be repaid, and it does come at a cost. Credit is a useful tool when used wisely however, I must admit, it isn’t always used well. But let’s see if we can set you off on the right foot.
Essentially, both saving and borrowing are two different ways of achieving the same goal: getting something that you need or want. The key to determining whether to use your savings or get a loan lies in understanding when you need to have the thing that you are purchasing and how borrowing will change the total cost of the purchase.
Ultimately, it’s about getting the right balance between saving and borrowing, then borrowing well to ensure the credit supports your overall goals. So, let’s have a look at the example of buying a car. If you were to save up to purchase a car that cost $25,000 and you could save $470 per month, it would take you a little over 4 years to save up $25,000.
On the other hand, if you were to borrow to purchase the car now on an unsecured loan it would take you roughly 7 years to pay off the loan at the same rate as you are saving, that is $470 a month. Including interest and fees, this would actually use about $39,580 of your money to repay that loan.
Don’t forget, whether you save or borrow, during the time of ownership you will also have to pay for the running of the car … fuel, maintenance and so on, which is another thing that needs to be budgeted for. This may mean you are not able to repay at the same rate as you were saving and thus it would take you longer to repay the loan and it would cost even more.
The second reason we borrow is to invest. Borrowing increases the amount of capital we have to invest with the intent of also increasing returns. Some examples of borrowing to invest include taking out a mortgage for an investment property or borrowing money on a margin loan to purchase shares.
Let me take you through an example to illustrate the benefits of borrowing to invest. Let us say you invest $100 of your own money - this is sometimes referred to as your equity. Let’s keep the maths simple and say that you can get a return of 10% … which will make you a profit of $10.
However, if you use your $100 equity as a 20% deposit and borrow $400 you would have $500 to invest. If you could still get a 10% return this calculates out to earnings of $50. Of course, you will have to pay interest on the $400 borrowed. Again, for ease of calculating, let’s say the interest rate on the loan is 5% therefore costing $20, and leaving a profit of $30 – higher than the original $10 in earnings on your $100.
Borrowing to invest can provide a positive outcome where the returns are higher than the cost to borrow. Borrowing to invest is also known as ‘leverage’ or ‘gearing’. You are said to be ‘positively geared’ when the income from your investments outweighs all the costs of borrowing to invest. You are said to be ‘negatively geared’ where the income from your investments doesn’t cover all the costs of borrowing to invest.
There may be possible tax benefits when you borrow to invest, which include being able to claim interest and fees, as well as franking credits – but you should seek appropriate financial advice before using this strategy. Whilst gearing can magnify gains it can also magnify losses if investment returns are negative. Borrowers are liable for the interest cost and repayment of the loan, regardless of whether their investment makes or loses money.
Given greater risk is involved you should be comfortable that gearing is consistent with your risk appetite. Borrowers should ensure they have sufficient income to service the loan and any interest rate rises from other sources.
The third reason people borrow is to cover mis-timings in cash flow … that is, when you have an expense that needs to be paid before you have the cash available to pay for it. Many people will ration their money from payday to payday to ensure they have enough for known expenses, but what if the car breaks down? Or you need to have some emergency plumbing done? If you don’t have enough cash available, then you may choose to borrow to cover the shortfall.
For example, Josie gets paid on a fortnightly basis, so she has her rent set up to come out of her account the day after payday; she does her grocery shopping and any errands the weekend after she gets paid; as well as allocating money for her phone, electricity bill and car rego. So, the balance of her account tends to fluctuate like the graph on the screen. But then last week her car needed some emergency repairs
… while she knew she would have the money once she got paid again, right now she needed to pay for the repairs and she didn’t have enough cash available, so she needed to borrow to cover the shortfall, but then repaid it as soon as she got paid.
This is where people can sometimes run into trouble. If these little mis-timings are not repaid as soon as possible but continue to accumulate, say on a credit card, it’s possible to end up with an unnecessary debt that can become costly and even detrimental to your financial profile. Debt created by cash flow mis-timing should be repaid as soon as possible, and if they’re becoming a regular occurrence then it might be time to look at how you’re spending your money.
Now that we know why we borrow, let’s take a look at the different types of borrowing or the different types of credit available. Now before I talk about the different types of borrowing, a cardinal rule you should always remember when borrowing money is to ‘Match the life of the loan to the life of the asset’.
Let me give you an example. Some years ago, my mate Zac wanted a new car but didn’t have enough cash to buy it, but he did have the money available in a redraw facility on his home loan. Now Zac thought using this money was a great idea, as the home loan had a lower interest rate than he would have paid on a personal loan, and he didn’t have to increase his repayments.
On the downside though, the car died recently, however he still has another 10 years left to pay off his home loan. Because he didn’t increase the repayments on the home loan, he’ll continue to pay this car off and be charged interest for the remainder of his home loan. And because he had no room left on the home loan, or savings, to buy another car, he’s had to borrow for a new car and is now effectively paying off two cars.
Always think about what you are buying and how long it will last and aim to pay it off before it reaches the end of its useful life. The first type of credit we’ll look at is short-term loans. These types of loans should be used for timing differences. I need to pay something now, that I can afford to pay from my regular income, but I will not get paid for a few days.
A payday lender will advance you money against your next pay. The interest rate is often high and the penalties for not repaying are also high. You may be able to get an overdraft on your bank account. This may be arranged or unarranged. Unarranged means a payment comes out of your bank account which does not have enough money in it, but the bank allows it to go through putting your account balance into debit. You will be charged interest until you put the money back into the account.
An arranged Overdraft, on the other hand, is an overdraft you apply for and a limit is put in place. You will generally be charged a lower interest rate than an unarranged overdraft and it would be unlikely that an overdrawn penalty fee would be applied as long as you stay within your approved limit.
Credit cards are another form of short-term credit, though unfortunately they often turn into longer term debt. There are a number of different types; some with interest-free periods and a higher interest rate or no interest-free period but a lower interest rate. Some offer different reward programs, but these are generally the most expensive in terms of fees and rates.
If you have a card with an interest-free period and will pay the balance off within that period, then you should only need to pay the card fee. If you do not think you will pay it off in the interest-free period, you would most likely be better off with a card that has a lower interest rate.
A recent addition to short- term borrowings are ‘buy now pay later’ services such as AfterPay, ZipPay, and the likes. These services are often offered by the retailer, who gets paid directly by the lender, and then the borrower (you) repays the lender via a series of direct debits to your account, which is set up when you register with the lender. The attraction to these services is that some offer interest-free purchases with no credit checks and automatic repayments.
While this might seem like a great deal, if you are going to use these services please make sure you understand the terms and conditions and ensure you have the money available in your account when repayments are due. You don’t want your purchase to end up costing you more in the long run due to late payment fees by the lender, and dishonour fees from your bank.
When buying larger items, that will take more than one pay period to pay back you may still use your credit card, but it may be more appropriate to use some type of personal finance, or vehicle finance if you are purchasing a car. Personal loans are mid-term finance (often 2 to 5 years) with regular repayments that can be used for a variety of purposes – travel, furniture, debt consolidation and so on.
They often have a fixed interest rate which means repayments are fixed for the term of the loan too. Very handy when you’re working with a budget. They may be secured or unsecured but when unsecured may have a higher interest rate, which may mean higher repayments too.
Another type of personal finance is ‘Rent to Buy’. With this type of finance, you are paying a rental for the item with the intent of buying the product at the end of an agreed term. This is often used for furniture or household appliance purchases. Take care to add up the total rental and the amount to pay at the end to see how much it will actually cost you. A consumer lease is like rent to buy, but you may not have the option to buy it at the end.
With Interest Free Periods or buy now pay later you should look closely at the terms and conditions. Quite often you get charged ongoing fees instead of interest and there can be severe penalty rates if you miss a payment. Similar to a Rent to Buy, you should check if the repayments add up to the total cost or whether you may a large payment to make at the end.
Car loans are like personal loans and are often secured by a charge over the car being purchased. Home loans are just longer-term personal loans secured by a mortgage over your home. They may have a loan term of up to 30 years as you would expect a home to last that long.
An investment loan is used to purchase income-producing assets or assets that will get capital growth. The interest rate will be higher than a home loan and the term of the loan may be shorter than a home loan but generally longer than a personal loan. As we looked at earlier, if you are borrowing to invest, check whether the investment is likely to return you more than cost of the borrowing and be careful of investing in assets whose value fluctuates a lot.
These are the main types of borrowing, now let’s look at some of the things to be aware of if you do make the decision to borrow. First of all, borrowing does not come free. There are various costs, including interest and fees, that will need to be paid. Some of the costs that you might incur are:
Set up or establishment fees that the financier charges to set up the loan. The amount will vary depending on the type of borrowing and complexity of the transaction. Interest is the premium you pay to use someone else’s money. There may be ongoing fees or charges as many financiers apply a monthly account keeping fee or something similar.
There may be exit fees when you pay off the loan. Because a financier borrows the money for your loan, they may have to break that borrowing if you repay early so they’ll want to recover their costs. And finally, penalty fees may be applied if you do not pay on time or you breach the conditions of the borrowing.
The amount and type of fees charged will depend on the type of borrowing, the terms and conditions of the borrowing and the security provided for the borrowing. When comparing different types of borrowing or different financiers’ offerings make sure you have taken into account all interest, fees and charges as some lenders may make it sound better by offering you a cheaper interest rate, but their fees and charges may be higher.
Most of the larger lenders promote a comparison rate which includes all interest and fees charged over the term of the loan. This makes it easier to compare between different lenders.
Once you enter into a borrowing arrangement with a bank or financier it incredibly important to ensure you meet the repayment arrangements. Make sure you know when your payments are due and that you have the money available. Let’s face it sometimes we do run short and may not be able to make a repayment. Instead of just hoping for the best, be proactive and let them know you are going to be late.
By making other arrangements they know you are committed to making the payment but just can’t make it right now. The more you communicate with the lender the less likely they are to take action that could be detrimental to your credit history.
The key pitfall or cause of bad borrowing is when our repayments and interest can’t be met from our budget. Some people may be tempted to pay for this shortfall with their credit cards. Let me tell you this is a slippery slope that can lead to financial ruin. If you find yourself in this situation go back to your budget and work out what expenses you may be able to reduce.
Remember all borrowing should be repaid from your regular income or sale of assets. If you understand why you borrow and know it fits within your income, then you will generally be engaging in good borrowing.
I’d also caution to be wary of just paying the minimum repayments, particularly on your credit cards. If you had a $10,000 balance outstanding and you paid the minimum 2% each month, with a 20% interest rate it will take you 77 years to pay it off and cost you $43 thousand in interest. With any loan, paying as much as you can helps to reduce your interest cost and shows you to be a good borrower.
When it comes to borrowing, your credit history is incredibly important as this forms a large part of the credit providers decision to lend you the money or not. It’s simply a record that is kept by credit reporting agencies, such as Equifax, Experian, and Illion, of all your past credit enquiries and applications, details of any existing borrowing, your repayment history, and if there are any court judgements or bankruptcies filed against you.
These records are accessed by a credit provider whenever you apply for a loan or take out a mobile phone payment plan. It tells the credit provider about your past conduct and helps them decide whether you are a good risk and are likely to repay a loan. These records are often summarised as a credit score. The higher your credit score the better.
You are also able to access the information kept about you and it’s advisable that you do so on a regular basis to ensure it remains accurate and healthy. You’re entitled to a free credit report each year which you can obtain directly from the credit agencies online. Some even offer a subscription service to advise you when your credit report is accessed to help reduce instances of fraud.
Given the vital role it plays in any loan application, it’s important to keep your credit history clean and your credit score healthy. You can do this by keeping your repayments and bills paid on time, not making unnecessary credit applications, and reducing any unused limits on credit cards or loans. To find out more, visit creditsmart.org.au or the credit reporting agencies.
Borrowing money to buy things, to invest or just to cover timing differences can enhance your life, but please make sure you are getting the right type of loan for what you are borrowing for and remember the cardinal rule ‘Match the life of the loan with the life of the asset’. It’s important to understand the full cost of any finance and ensure you can afford the repayments from your regular income.
Finally, make sure you pay all your commitments to keep a clean credit record to ensure you can continue to borrow money as and when you need to.
Thank you for viewing this video on ‘Borrowing money’. I trust you found the information useful and relevant and I encourage you to check out the other financial education resources on the Davidson Institute website to help build your financial confidence.