Have you ever considered taking out a home equity loan (also known as a HELOC) to consolidate your debt? There are a lot of people out there giving personal finance advice that will advise you to do that when you're trying to pay off your debt.
But I think consolidating your debt into a home equity loan is an extremely bad move, and I'll tell you why in a minute.
Why Some People Recommend Home Equity Loans
First, I'll let you in on why some “financial gurus” recommend consolidating debt into a home equity loan in the first place.
There are two main reasons:
- It's “easier”– The thinking is that you use the loan money to pay off all of your outstanding consumer debt. Then you only have one loan payment (the home equity loan) to deal with every month. It makes things easier and less confusing than paying multiple loans every month.
- To Get a Lower Interest Rate– You can use a lower interest home equity loan to pay off higher interest consumer debt, which will save you money on interest over time.
Of course, these sound like good reasons, and on the surface, maybe they are. Whenever you can reduce stress and confusion and lower your interest rate, that's a great thing, right?
Why Do You Need a Home Equity Loan?
However, if you're thinking about rolling your debt into a home equity loan, you need to figure out WHY you feel you need to do this in the first place.
So you should ask yourself a couple of quick questions:
- Am I doing this to lower my payments because my debt is eating me alive?
- Have I considered the potential future consequences of using a home equity loan to consolidate my debt?
Here's how I would answer these questions about home equity loans:
- If you have dug yourself a massive hole of debt, a home equity loan is not going to save you. All it does is move your debt from one place to another. Usually it's not the debt that's the actual problem, it's the behavior of the person (or people) that took out the debt in the first place.
Your behavior and attitude when it comes to debt have to change.
Paying off your credit cards and other debt with a HELOC does not change the behavior that got you into debt in the first place. The result is that most people don't change their habits and go right back to the credit cards, ending up in a much worse situation than what they started with.
I know, I know, you're not most people.
Except you are.
- You also have to realize that there is a potentially dire consequence to paying off consumer debt with a home equity loan, and it is this: You are putting your house in jeopardy if you can't pay off the loan.
Credit card debt, medical debt, and some consumer loans can be reduced or written off by the company if you just can't pay it. That may ding your credit score for awhile (big woop, you don't need a credit score anyway), but it's better than having your house taken away from you.
Credit cards and medical debt are unsecured debt, which means they can't seize your property if you can't pay. Even with a vehicle loan, all they can legally take is the vehicle. Do you really want to put your home at risk if you run into problems and can't pay?
Don't put yourself in that vulnerable position.
Don't end up broke and homeless.
So if you're thinking about taking out a home equity loan to pay off your consumer debt, let me be clear if I haven't already-
DON'T DO IT!!!
There is a better way.
A HELOC Won't Change Bad Habits
Quick fixes don't work.
Behavior change is the only fix that can work permanently without putting you at great risk.
You can start by checking out my Celebrating Financial Freedom online course that shows you how.
If you're interested, you can sign up to receive my free mini-course that will give you a taste of what it's all about.
Question: Have you ever used a home equity loan to pay off other debts? What was your experience?
Let me know in the comments.