Should I retire my mortgage?

Far too many seniors are spending their golden years worried about their finances—and debt is a big reason why. In fact, more than 60% of households headed by an adult 60 or older have some form of debt. Most people want to retire with manageable debt—or none at all.  Eliminating mortgage payments is one of the key steps to reaching that goal.

Reasons to Retire Your Mortgage before you Retire Yourself:

Being mortgage-free in retirement means eliminating your biggest retirement expense. If you can achieve that, you will enjoy increased cash flow and greater financial flexibility.  You will also have an equity cushion in case of an emergency, giving you greater peace of mind.

If you have a healthy emergency fund and no credit card debt, you are in a good place to accelerate your mortgage payoff. Here are a few steps to consider:

  • Apply any extra cash you have toward paying off your remaining balance.
  • Make extra principal payments regularly, or when a bonus or other funds become available, to help pay it off more quickly.
  • Refinance to a shorter term. The interest rate for a shorter-term mortgage is usually much lower than a 20- or 30-year mortgage, so payments can be surprisingly affordable.
  • Consider a biweekly mortgage, which accelerates your mortgage payoff by letting you make the equivalent of 13 monthly payments in one year.

Other Ways to Reduce or Eliminate your Mortgage:

Move into a less expensive home. In addition to decreasing your mortgage, this decision may also lower taxes and insurance, as well as maintenance costs, giving you more flexibility in your retirement budget.

Explore the option of a Reverse Mortgage. These can be more complicated, and it’s important to understand the risks.  But they are a legitimate tool for retirement planning and might be worth considering. At a high level, here is how they work:

  • A homeowner 62 or older converts home equity for cash.
  • The homeowner can stay in the house.
  • The cash must be repaid with interest when the homeowner dies or sells.
  • Monthly principal and interest payments are eliminated. However, the homeowner is still responsible for taxes and insurance.

Reverse mortgages aren’t for everyone. But in the right circumstances, they can make sense.

There is no question that less debt means more freedom in your retirement budget, but retiring your mortgage early is an individual choice. Like all important financial decisions, you should consider all the factors before deciding what is best for your situation.