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Naughty vs. nice debt

Though debt is generally frowned upon by most personal finance experts, some high-profile money gurus, such as real estate investing mogul Grant Cardone, see it differently.

“While it’s true that too much debt can be a bad thing, it can be one of the most powerful tools in a real estate investor’s arsenal,” he wrote in a blog post.

He would know. His private equity firm, Cardone Capital, says that its assets are valued at over $4 billion.

Cardone argues in his blog post that there is “bad debt” and “good debt.” Bad debt is debt that doesn’t contribute to your future wealth growth, like paying off cars and credit cards. But good debt is “used to purchase assets that appreciate or produce income,” like real estate or investments.

He would likely believe that The Elf on the Shelf founders accrued good debt when they decided to put their credit score, homes and 401(k)s on the line to create a company. Though not everyone creates a viral Christmas toy, Cardone does believe that good debt is one that attempts to produce income.

In this vein, you can also incur small debts to produce more income. For instance, you can spend a bit of money trying to start a low-level side hustle and see how far it gets you. The better it does, the more money you can put into it.

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Expand your money-making

Now that Elf on the Shelf has proven to be a success, the company put huge efforts into expansion to generate more wealth. Bloomberg reports that the Elf’s parent company, The Lumistella Company, has over 75 licensing deals around the world for ice cream, mall experiences and more.

This is a similar way that Cardone generated his wealth. He used debt to start out investing in real estate, made his money back and then kept investing.

“Real estate is the best example of good debt because it has the potential to generate both capital appreciation and cash flow,” he says in his blog post.

But if buying huge amounts of property seems out of reach, you can still get your piece of the fruit cake. You can invest your money in a real estate investment trust (REIT). You can buy shares of REITs just like you would with stocks. You receive a shareholder dividend from the rents collected on those REIT properties, which range from commercial to residential.

If all you want for Christmas is more money, “good” debt may be a way to get you there.


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Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.


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