Why I Prepay My Mortgage

Recently, I wrote a short story about why I didn’t buy my dream house.  The truth is, I still love that house.  I wish I didn’t live so close to it and that it wasn’t so easily within my reach.  It is still for sale, and it practically begs me to buy it each time I drive by.

According to my mortgage broker, I can afford to buy my dream house.  The numbers add up, and it would be feasible for us to upgrade our housing at this time.  However, it’s not that simple.  Even though we can technically afford it, we are choosing to stay put and focus our attention on paying off our mortgage ASAP.  Why, you ask? Simply put, I want to be debt free.

 

Our Financial Situation

Why I Prepay My MortgageRetirement planners and finance geeks look at me like some sort of circus freak when I say that I am prepaying my mortgage.  Since it is locked in at a rate of 3.25%, I am paying a minimal amount of interest on it.  Why would I prepay my mortgage instead of investing my excess income for a higher return?  Why would I reduce my liquidity by pumping most of my extra cash into an illiquid asset?  Why prepay when there are a plethora of investment opportunities that will likely bring me a return of way more than 3.25%?  Why do I not realize that mortgage interest is tax-deductible and that I am giving up that shiny gold nugget for chump change?  It seems to be a hot button issue that sends homeowners on both sides of the fence into a tizzy.  I assure you that I do find opposing viewpoints intriguing.  However, we have different plans.

First of all, I want to emphasize the fact that I think my personal saving and retirement saving should take precedence over mortgage prepayment.  For that reason, we put 20% of our pre-tax income (including our company match) away in our work sponsored 401K.  Additionally, we have about a year’s worth of living expenses in cash savings and have already maxed out our Roth IRAs for 2012.  Even after paying over on our mortgage, we are also saving a decent amount of cash each month (to save or invest), and we actively fund our kid’s college funds.  We are free of all consumer debts (car loans, student loans, personal debt), and our only bill - aside from living expenses - is our mortgage.  If we had any kind of other debt, I would be paying it off before I ever considered prepaying our mortgage.  However, since all of those pieces are in place, what now?

We recently decided it would be best for us to pay off our mortgage as soon as our income allows.  You may be wondering what brought us to this conclusion. The short answer is that I hate debt.  I abhor bills.  I don’t like the feeling of owing anything to anyone.  I despise debt so much that we completely altered our lifestyle over the past few years in order to get rid of our credit cards, car loans, and student loans.  Now that we are debt free aside from our mortgage, I have found that I really like our simple, frugal lifestyle.  I don’t miss cable tv.  I like eating at home.  I am finding that a simple lifestyle is very fulfilling and less stressful – at least for us.  With that being said, here are the reasons that we chose to pay off our mortgage.

 

Reasons We Are Prepaying our Mortgage

Timeframe – I am aware that the stock market has yielded gains of over 10% on average during recent decades.  However, since we are paying off our house over such a short period of time (42 months), investments would be more volatile.  It’s true that over 3.5 years, we could possibly see impressive gains depending on what investment we chose.  We could also see crushing losses.  Since we are dealing with such a short window of time, I feel more comfortable spending our disposable income on our housing.  After our house is paid off, we will have to reassess our situation.

Debt is a Burden - I realize that debt can be used as a tool to reach great wealth.  Afterall, we couldn’t have bought our primary residence and two rental properties without using debt.  With that being said, I truly do not like the crushing feeling that being in debt adds to my life.  We plan our lives around our debt and have to take it into consideration with each step.  What if we want to start our own business?  What if one spouse wants to stay home with the kids?    While we are in mortgage debt, our $1,400 minimum payment must be taken into account.  When we are debt free, we answer to no one – except, unfortunately, the tax man.

When we started on our debt free journey, we took no prisoners.  We attacked each loan with fervor until we smote its ruin upon the mountainside.  As each bill was conquered, we felt like we had won Olympic Gold Medals.  Now those bills are a distant memory.  I don’t miss them and am determined to make my mortgage payment disappear as well.

Health Problems - This is, unfortunately, the most depressing reason for prepaying my mortgage.  I had two spinal fusions in my early twenties and was completely pain-free until having my first daughter in 2009.  Since then, I had another daughter and have experienced debilitating back pain off and on for the past few years.  Right now, I am recovering from a bout of back pain that started in April.  My optimistic side believes that I am getting better and that my pain will one day be a ghost of the past.  However, common sense is telling me to prepare for the worst.  If my back pain continues – or gets worse – there is a very good chance that I will be unable to work in the future.  Having only living expenses would be invaluable to my hardworking husband if he were to become the sole breadwinner.  Hopefully, this won’t be the case…but my philosophy is that I should hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

 

Even after listing all of those reasons for paying off my mortgage, I realize that the numbers may not end up in my favor.  I know that it is more than likely that I would make more money by investing.  On the other hand, no one has a crystal ball.  No one knows with 100% certainty what will happen in the next 42 months.  And as everyone knows, past results do not guarantee future performance.  So….I’m going with my gut.  For now, we have decided to prepay our mortgage.  Will I succeed and pay it off within 3-4 years?  Will I fail miserably and be a slave to mortgage debt for eternity?  Will I do a “cash out refinance” and spend it on hookers and beer?  Life is so unpredictable and almost anything can happen.  Stay tuned to find out!

 

 

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About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. This isn’t a very “moneywise” comment, but I say buy it – lol. With today’s incredibly low rates, I’m not in any hurry to pay my mortgage off. On average, my investments are earning 2x the interest charged on my mortgage. It would be a great feeling to be debt free though Holly.

    • I hear ya! I totally understand. I know that it likely isn’t the smartest thing to do with my extra cash. However, we are talking about my extra money. I save adequately for retirement, etc. so the money that I prepay is money that most people would waste anyways!

  2. For a different situation, I think it would make sense to add your current house your rental property portfolio and upgrade. In your case though, it sounds like it makes a lot of sense to pay that mortgage off quickly. It will buy you a lot of freedom and peace of mind. Still, I would keep an eye out for an investments that have high potential. That extra investment could also act as peace of mind.

    • I think that either way is a good choice…and the only really bad choice would be to completely waste all my money and do neither.

      Trust me, I will not be doing that!

      • I think you are so smart for not going further into debt! Once you pay that house off I think it will be very difficult to go right back into debt. Instead, you will have a lot of money freed up (mortgage and extra money you were throwing at the mortgage) and can save up to pay for a house in cash!!! I agree that debt feels like a burden! Even if it is a mortgage payment.

  3. That’s some serious self-restraint! While interest rates are low, it sounds like you guys have really thought it through and are doing what’s best for you in your personal situation. Kudos.

    • Thank you!

      Yeah, it’s half self-restraint and about half never getting to go anywhere. We have little kids (ages 3 and 1) so we mostly stay home and play. Going out to eat is a huge endeavor and hardly worth it so we eat at home. As our kids get older, I’m sure the opportunities to spend money will increase. However, we will (hopefully) be debt free by then! Woot!

  4. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this strategy – you do what you feel is right! You’ve obviously given this some thought and feel more comfortable with this decision. Isn’t that what personal finance is all about. Sure we could debate whether investing is better due to the low interest rate or whatever. But all in all, personal finance is about using your money for what you believe to be the best of intentions.

    • Thanks!!! You are exactly right-personal finance is about using your money for what you believe- and most importantly- not wasting it.

      Have a great day!

  5. I think the fact of your back would be important to mention in the Get Rich article. That, alone, makes your decision make much more sense to me.
    Good job on your decision.

  6. I think you’re making the right decision for you, that’s what really matters. Honestly, reason can be found both in favor and opposed to killing the mortgage so early—at least it will be one less thing to worry about. :-)

    I had back surgery once, not a fusion or anything but other serious stuff—it’s scary stuff, even after having it taken care of.

    I read your reader story on GRS—great job. :-)

    • Thanks Jen! Back pain sucks. That’s for sure. It has actually felt pretty darn good lately but I am always hesitant to get my hopes up because it has gone away and come back many, many times before.

      • I know exactly what you mean. For me, it always comes back after a couple of weeks of consistent awesome workouts and then I have to take a break.

        Too bad they can’t just fix something once and it’ll stay fixed.

        • You make excellent points here, none more so than it’s important to be debt free.

          I never understand how banks can lend money on 30 year terms to people who are paying interest only but are already 50. This strategy relies on properties increasing in value, which doesn’t always happen.

          It’s important to look at health reasons, like you have done too! Often these are described as unexpected health problems, but in truth we can all learn to save for the worst just in case.
          John @ Debt Advice Resource recently posted..Western Union Money TipMy Profile

  7. Holly, PLEASE read Healing Back Pain by Dr Sarno.

    I had crazy Lower back pain and schiatica 9 years ago
    For two years and before that as well. Since reading the book, I’ve had zero pain. Zero!

    It changed my life. I did a review on it 3 years ago as well.

    Please read it!!!

  8. We are trying to do the same thing. The sooner you can be debt free the better.

    As far as back pain goes, do swimming. I had a herniation that I had to let heal and swimming really helped. You should get checked to see what is going on. Your symptoms sound the same as I had.

  9. That’s terrible to hear about the back pain and spinal fusions. There is no doubt that getting rid of the mortgage would certainly help you live off of 1 income. Overall it sounds like you guys do extremely well and have a nice income so I don’t think it’s the end of the world that you’re focusing on paying down the house WHILE saying 20% in your 401ks. You’re killing it.

  10. Thanks for the post. Sorry about the back problems, my Mom had major back surgery a number of years ago so I know it can be painful. I applaud you on working on paying of your mortgage. Sure, you could put it in the market and possibly gain more. However, there is a TON of uncertainty in the market now and you’re already putting away a big chunk. The upside of you possibly paying off the mortgage is that it gives you so much more freedom in the future once paid off. That is an enviable position to be in. Thanks again for the post!

    • John- you are so right!

      There is a ton of uncertainty in the market right now and some of the things I read are downright scary. We already invest quite a bit so…I think it’s definitely what is best for us.

      Thank you for stopping by!!!

  11. I think it’s great that you have opted to not go into further debt and are actively reducing the debt you have now. Most people definitely would have bought the bigger house and would only pay the minimum due. Good for you :)

  12. Very interesting article, thank you. Like most people with a low rate mortgage (mine is 2.29% !!), I am not in a hurry to pay it early.
    But the burden you are talking about is very real, and I sometimes refrain myself from adding extra payments, even though my money is making 3% on my easy access savings account and more elsewhere! Being debt-free is the best feeling, even when the numbers don’t add up.

  13. I think that’s a really smart idea, plus honestly in this economy you can’t make that much on investments right now (or maybe I’m just not investing in the right things). I’d say pay off that mortgage and be debt free sooner. That’s my plan when I buy my first place.

    • Word!

      You will be glad you did when that time comes. My advice is to buy less than you can afford then pay on it on whatever time frame you feel comfortable. Even a 15 year mortgage is preferable to the typical 30 year deal. Who in the world wants to pay on something for 30 years? That’s my entire lifetime we’re talking about. No thank you.

      You are doing awesome~!

  14. The fact that you can prepay your mortgage, be (completely) debt free at 37 and you can still put 20% into retirement means you’re doing something right. I wouldn’t change a thing. Most of us can’t boast that type of financial position. you’re definitely an inspiration.

    I, too, have a goal of being completely debt free by 40, but I’ve dug myself in a bit deeper and need a bit more income to get there. :)

    • The 20% that we put in includes our company match so it’s not quite as impressive as if we were putting it in ourselves.

      I think you’re doing great. And most importantly, you are doing SOMETHING which is more than most people can say. I’m so glad to find other people who share my dream of being completely debt free at a young age. It makes me not feel quite so crazy. =)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      And, by the way, I also “heart” budgets!

  15. Fo your situation you are definitely doing the right thing. Having as few fixed costs as possible will just bring you more piece of mind.

  16. Holly,

    I assume you have the mortgages on your rentals already paid off? Or are you keeping those leveraged in case you get a “slip and fall”?

    Just found your blog, but I like your strategy and posts. Looking forward to going through your old posts..

    • We do have small mortgages on our rental properties. The rent covers the mortgages and expenses so we are in no hurry to pay them off. Our plan is to acquire more rental properties after our house is paid off. Then we will just be able to pay cash.

  17. laura @ move to portugal says:

    We’re overpaying our mortgage for the same reason: we hate debt of any kind. Our mortgage rate is really low (thankfully), and we would probably be better off financially doing something else but mortgage freedom is our priority.

    Sorry to hear about your back.

    • Thanks, Laura!

      We think that prepaying makes perfect sense for us! It sounds like it makes sense for you too. Mortgage freedom will be awesome. How far away are you guys from being entirely debt free?

  18. We also aggressively pay down our low-interest mortgage, despite recommendations to do otherwise. We don’t have quite as impressive liquid savings, however this option works for us. We will be able to free up massive cash flow, have saved a heck of a lot’a interest, plus put ourselves in a solid position for the day we have to move to a big city. I’m a big fan of the basically-no-bills-if-the-sky-ever-falls philosophy. Having a car payment, even though the money is almost free, stresses me out a bit.

    • I totally understand. Some people don’t mind having monthly bills. I personally do not like having monthly obligations. No bills= freedom in my book!

  19. One more thing –
    Think of all the cool the thing you can do once you pay off your mortgage…

  20. I paid $5,000 off one of my rentals this week and it felt great!

    The rate is only 3.375%, but it’s still better than any other guaranteed return on the market.

    Bit by bit, I’ll get the sucker down to $0! :)
    Financial Samurai recently posted..Refinance Your Mortgage BEFORE Leaving Your Job PleaseMy Profile

  21. Hey Holly!

    Found your blog through MMM and this article in particular resonates with me! We paid our house off in just under 4 years ago and people thought we had lost our minds!

    I love knowing we don’t have a mortgage payment anymore, and I sleep better every night knowing this! Tax deductions be damned!

    • Awesome! I cannot wait until we don’t have a mortgage either. The freedom will be worth waaaaaaaay more than any tax benefit that we are getting.

      It’s weird how resistant other people can be when you say you are prepaying your mortgage. It’s almost seen as unpatriotic or something!!!

  22. I’m so glad I found your blog. Finally, someone that GETS IT!!! When I tell others that we’re debt free except our mortgage and are working toward paying it off in the next few years, everyone thinks we are STARK, RAVING crazy. I can’t wait to experience financial freedom and the feeling that no matter what happens, we won’t have to worry about mortgage payments in our future and can continue to build wealth and retire early..while others are still slave to their mortgage payment!!!
    Amy @ Spin The Meal recently posted..Marinated Venison Kebabs with BulgurMy Profile

    • I hear ya, sister! I get so sick of people telling me I am a dumbass for paying my house off. I cannot wait until 35 months when I am DEBT FREE to feel the joy and excitement of that moment. I KNOW that I will have no regrets and I KNOW you won’t either! Keep on keeping on, my friend!

  23. I too am prepaying our mortgage. My goal is to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
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  1. [...] Why I Prepay My Mortgage on Club Thrifty [...]

  2. [...] @ Club Thrifty writes Why I Prepay My Mortgage – Retirement planners and finance geeks look at me like some sort of circus freak when I say [...]

  3. [...] Thrifty writes Why I Prepay My Mortgage - Retirement planners and finance geeks look at me like some sort of circus freak when I say [...]

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  5. The 99 Best Personal Finance Posts of 2012 - The First Million is the Hardest says:

    [...] Why I Prepay My Mortgage – In our low-interest rate environment, is it a good idea to pay off your mortgage early? [...]

  6. [...] free. Imagine that you did not have to shell out $800 a month in car payments. Better yet, why not pay off your mortgage early and get rid of that $2,000/month mortgage bill? If that was the case, your income could be used as [...]

  7. [...] off our own house as quickly as possible.  We cut more from our budget and started paying almost double payments on our current mortgage.  At this rate, we will be debt free by the age of [...]

  8. [...] out of town for a while.  Over the past few years, we have spent the majority of our resources paying down debt as fast as humanly possible.  We have scrimped and saved, went without, and made do with what we [...]

  9. [...] free. Imagine that you did not have to shell out $800 a month in car payments. Better yet, why not pay off your mortgage early and get rid of that $2,000/month mortgage bill? If that was the case, your income could be used as [...]

  10. [...] and “bad debt.”  I’m here to tell you that all debt sucks.  Some of them, like a house payment, are just less oppressive than others I guess.  Here are 4 reasons you should try to get out of [...]

  11. [...] If you have a mortgage, your mortgage interest is tax deductible. In the first few years, most of the payments made on a mortgage go toward interest so the deduction can be sizable. Even better, property tax payments are also deductible, and if you paid points to your mortgage broker or lender when buying or refinancing the house and getting a loan, those fees can be deducted for the year in which the house was bought. The greater your tax liability, the greater the benefits of owning your own (mortgaged) home. These are some of the considerations and factors to keep in mind when you ask yourself “should I pay off my mortgage early?” [...]

  12. [...] remove my pesky and wasteful private mortgage insurance.  I also mentioned that I plan on paying off my house as soon as humanly possible.  Of course, this always stirs the pot a little.  People do not seem [...]

  13. [...] Unfortunately, most of the gift cards were for places I didn’t want to spend money.  Kohl’s, Best Buy, and Sears were a few of the options available.  The rest of the gift card choices were  for restaurants and other places that I don’t patronize.  I didn’t really need anything from a department store and the last thing I wanted was $500 worth of restaurant gift cards.  I decided to do the most boring thing possible and turn in my points for $500 in Walmart gift cards.  Then I could just use them to buy groceries and throw my allotted grocery money for that month toward my mortgage prepayment. [...]

  14. [...] great about owning one’s own home and possessions.  Imagine if the Siegel’s had paid cash for their home and the new home they were building.  Imagine if they had chosen to live a slightly more modest [...]

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  17. […] Why I Prepay My Mortgage – In our low-interest rate environment, is it a good idea to pay off your mortgage early? […]

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