Like the woman who asked about planning for her retirement, many people are worried about whether they can afford to stop working. While saving for the future is important, I wish more people would look at the other half of the equation: If you reduce your living costs, you won't need to save as much. Chances are, your mortgage is your single largest living expense, so just think how much easier life will be if you pay off your mortgage before you retire. Of course, even if you pay off the mortgage, you'll still need to cover your property tax and home insurance, but that's a small amount compared to most mortgage balances these days. You're probably wondering what magic trick you need to master to pull this off. But don't worry, no magic required. Let's tackle this one step at a time. All of this advice assumes you plan to stay in the home you currently live in.
- Make sure you are paying the lowest possible interest rate on your loan. If your mortgage is above 7.5 percent and you have a good credit rating, please look into refinancing at a lower rate.
- Once you have the lowest possible interest rate, commit to making extra payments (check with your lender to see if there is a prepayment penalty). If you make just one extra mortgage payment a year on a 30-year loan at 6 percent interest, you'll reduce the term of the loan to 24.7 years. On a $150,000, 30-year mortgage, that means paying $36,831 less in interest. The best way to do this is to divide your monthly mortgage payment by 12.
- That number is the amount you should add to your regular monthly payment. On this $150,000 mortgage, that would be an extra $75 a month.
- Your lender may encourage you to switch to a biweekly mortgage as a way to pay off your mortgage faster. But a biweekly mortgage is no different from making one extra payment a year. There are 52 weeks in a year, so biweekly comes to 26 payments, which is the same as 13 monthly payments. The problem is that many lenders will charge $300 or more to set up the biweekly arrangement, and you might be hit with additional service charges of $5 or so for every payment. Now you may not think that's a big deal, but over 25 years at an annual average rate of return of 8 percent, that comes to about $9,500. That's a lot of money to waste when you can arrange the payments yourself.