Real estate often plays a catalytic role in improving finances and helping families achieve financial freedom. But if you already have existing debt on the books, you need to do your due diligence prior to taking on any more.

Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

Before diving too deep into the discussion of whether or not it’s smart to invest in rental properties when you have existing debt, it’s important that we discuss the nuances of debt. In particular, we need to examine the difference between what financial advisors call “good debt” and “bad debt.”

Good debt is generally considered debt that you have against an appreciating asset—such as a house or business. Ideally, this debt creates cash flow for you. At the very least, the asset’s value appreciates over time and puts you in a stronger financial situation.

Bad debt is debt that you have against things like credit cards, car loans, and student loans. With bad debt, there is no appreciating asset. There also tend to be high interest rates, which makes it easy to fall behind on payments.

As the old saying goes, good debt will make you rich, while bad debt will make you poor. This is obviously an oversimplification, but you get the picture.


Related: How Debt & Taxes Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Poorer

Investing in Real Estate With Debt

Very few Americans are totally debt free. There are plenty of people who have gotten rid of their bad debt, but even those people typically have some good debt on the books. Thus the question arises: Can/should you invest in real estate while in debt?

The answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as you may like. While you certainly can,…