Is it Smarter for Seniors to Hold Mortgages or Pay them Off?
AARP reports that
- 53.6 percent of households age 55-64 carried a mortgage in 2010, compared with 37 percent in 1989
- 40.5 percent of households age 65-74 carried a mortgage in 2010, compared with 21.7 percent in 1989
- The median value of mortgage debt among the 55-64 crowd soared to $97,000 in 2010, up from $33,800 in 1989.
- The median value of mortgage debt among the 65-74 crowd soared to $70,000 in 2010, up from $15,300 in 1989.
Are seniors just haphazardly going into retirement years with much more debt? Is the additional debt due to increased home values, increased wealth, or a carryover from the boom bust cycle in real estate? All of the above? Or could it just be smart?
Not All Debt Is Bad
How Might You Use the Funds You Have Rather Than Paying Off Your Mortgage?
From a strict financial point of view, however, your house is an asset. When you put money into any asset you want to see that the asset appreciates in value... that it grows. It sounds somewhat counter intuitive until you realize no matter how much you put in to your house in terms of the equity, but whether you put down 100%, or you borrow 100%, the price of your home is established by the market. Therefore, paying money into your mortgage is technically a zero rate of return.
With that in mind, the issue that comes up is the big one. If you don't put it into your home by paying down principle, what else could you do with it? Right now, the investments in the market are very poor. CDs are paying on average 1.6% in the country, but that’s today. Looking further down the road, we’ve been accustomed to five, six, seven, eight percent returns on investments. So if you can borrow from the bank at three, four, or five percent, you can put it in stocks or even just very secure treasury bonds and end up with a positive result. You are doing what a bank does, borrowing low, and you’re investing high at a secure rate.
Think in Terms of Net Worth. Paying Off the Mortgage Is Old School
The key words that you should be thinking about are net worth. When you add up your home and all your other liquid assets, less your liabilities, that’s what your worth is. So whether you own a $100,000 home of which you owe $90,000 and therefore you have a net worth of $10,000; or you have a $100,000 home of which you owe $100,000 but you have $10,000 in the bank, you still have a net worth of $10,000. They are the same, except from my own recent personal experience, I couldn’t count the number of people that would have been better off having the cash outside the house.
Home Equity Is A Tempting Asset If You Should Lose a Lawsuit
There is a wonderful story from the 1930s, where Walt Disney owed Bank of America $7 million dollars that he had borrowed to finance Snow White. He and his brother laughed, because they realized that the last thing Bank of America was going to do was foreclose on them. In fact, the bank wound up giving them more money because they couldn’t afford to take the studio from them. Luckily for both Disney and Bank of America, Snow White was a hit and they were able to pay the loan.
For you, it is similar. Just imagine if you own a home that is completely paid off versus your neighbor who has the exact same home but owes the bank 90% of the money. You both have some kind of financial problem. I can’t promise you, but hypothetically I’ll promise you, if the bank has to choose who to go after, they’re coming after you because your house they could put on the market and sell and get their money back. The person who owes the bank a lot of money, that house isn’t worth anything and they are more likely to keep the house.
If You Want to Make Those Extra Payment, Here Are the Best Methods
One is to make extra payments. Some folk decide to pay an extra payment every quarter. Or you can just add money to each payment. You can also just send a check any time you feel like paying off some principle.
Whatever your needs are with regard to your mortgage, please know that we are available to help in any way possible. Refinance to lower cost? Use equity in one home to purchase a rental property? You tell us what you need done. We have the resources to get it done.