6 Great Reasons for Paying off the Mortgage on Your Home
Should you pay off the mortgage on the home you are living in? Mortgage interest rates are at historic lows and a fixed rate mortgage seems to be a deal of a lifetime right now, so why would anyone pay it off? Here are six reasons why paying off your mortgage is still worthwhile in the current economic climate. (See also: How (and Why) to Help Your Parents Pay Off Their Mortgage.)
A Mortgage Is a Cost
Even with a tax deduction, the interest you pay on a mortgage is still a cost. I don't think it makes sense to continue to sending the banks interest just so that the government returns a little portion of it back to you. It is really only a great deal for the bank if you keep your mortgage for its full term.
One reason many people do not pay off their mortgage is that the extra money you put into your house isn't as liquid as cash sitting in an account. However, once the mortgage is completely paid off, you will free up the amount of money you used to send to the bank. That money can be saved or spent on other things as you wish.
High Investment Returns Are Rarely Guaranteed
I know that many folks would argue that today's low interest rate mortgages mean that you can use the money to invest and earn a yield higher than the mortgage. However, it is fairly impossible to find a guaranteed investment that pays more than the average mortgage rate right now. Money markets are yielding near 0%, and the stock market is quite volatile and has long periods of stagnant or negative return as we have seen in the past decade. Basically, there is no guarantee that you will beat your mortgage rate with your investments.
Security Against Income Loss
If you have a paid off home, then you are much better insulated against income or job loss because you do not have that liability every month. Many people take 30 year mortgages these days, but how many people actually have a job guarantee for 30 years? My guess is that most of us will go through a period of reduced income in three decades. The sad thing is that if the mortgage isn't paid off then the bank could take back the home after three or four missed payments even if the homeowner has been paying on time for years.
Home Equity Is Accessible
One argument against paying off the mortgage is that money put into a home is illiquid. This is true to an extent. There are ways to release the home equity as long as you have equity in the home. Home equity lines of credit are relatively cheap compared to credit cards, and seniors can opt to take a reverse mortgage. It usually costs some money to release the equity in your home, but it is possible to still live in the home if you really needed to tap your home equity. For some people, the fact that home equity is less liquid is actually a good thing because they would be less likely to spend it. I think of home equity as an emergency fund, and it should only be tapped when absolutely necessary.
Debt Is Bad During Deflation
Although mortgage rates are near historic lows right now, I think that deflation is a possibility in the near term. In the face of deflation any type of debt is getting greater in real terms. Basically, your wages will probably decrease in the current economy while your debt is just as large or grows even larger. It is better to retire the mortgage or be a renter in the face of deflation.
Although I completely understand that it is possible to keep a mortgage on your home and then make a profit on investing, I feel that it is a gamble on your residence. The stock market has had long terms of zero or negative growth so unless you have a guaranteed investment that pays more than your mortgage rate, then it is probably best to retire that debt once and for all. Once you are free from a mortgage you will actually be a homeowner, and no longer a home debtor.