Q: I am wondering what your opinion is about paying additional money toward my mortgage principal to pay off the balance early. Is it better to put extra money into paying off the mortgage, or should I invest that same money in another investment or 401(k)? I’d like to be able to either pay off the mortgage in 10 years at age 66 or have the funds available from other investments or my 401(k) to pay off at that time. — Tami
I’m often asked whether it’s better to prepay a mortgage or invest the difference. But you’ve put a fresh twist on it: You already know you want to pay off your mortgage early and are just looking for the best way to do that. With that goal in mind, you need to consider your own level of financial literacy and comfort with investing.
THE RISK-FREE ROUTE
Putting money into your home is a simple and safe investment. You will effectively “earn” your net interest rate. So, if your mortgage interest rate is 4.5 percent, and you don’t itemize your deductions, every dollar you prepay earns an effective interest rate of 4.5 percent – a lot better than you’ll do if you keep the cash in a savings account.
The nice thing is you won’t lose any money on this investment. It’s risk-free. And you’ll be building equity in your home. Paying off your mortgage by the time you retire means you’ll reduce your living expenses just as your income is potentially diminishing.