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Q. I'm a recent widow living in the Detroit area. I owe $105,000 on my house, but in this economy, it would probably sell for $12,000 less than what I owe. I want to move closer to my sister in Texas, but the local market doesn't seem to be improving. I don't have credit card debt, and I do have some savings. Does it ever make sense to "pay" to get out of a mortgage? It feels like throwing money away, but I don't want to live here for as long as it would take to break even.
Suze: I am so sorry to hear of your loss. You and I both realize that selling your home for less than you owe on the mortgage is not in any way desirable. But that doesn't mean it's not the best move for you to make. Remember my motto: People first, then money, then things. Right now taking care of yourself is more important than being beholden to what might make the most financial sense. If living closer to your sister is what will make you happiest, then, my dear, that is the best move you could make.
I don't even see this as a waste of money. I want you to look at it as a major investment in your future, an investment that will pay a priceless dividend. I suspect that being closer to your sister will bring you not only companionship but perhaps a sense of security as well. That's a logical desire as we age, and it becomes even more magnified after the death of a spouse or partner.
My only caveat is that you should not rush. I always suggest that widows try not to make any big decisions for at least 12 months after losing a spouse. You may feel impatient, but the emotional fog of losing a loved one can take that long to lift. Give yourself enough time to regain your equilibrium, and then see what your heart and head are telling you.
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From the July 2012 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine