The clear advantages of paying off your mortgage as quickly as possible have changed quite a bit over the past few years. The urgency to pay it off has somewhat diminished, as interest rates have plummeted to historical lows. It's no longer the black and white decision it was back when interest rates hovered between 6 percent and 9 percent, and even the 11 percent to 13 percent we saw a couple of decades ago.
I am a big proponent of paying down that ugly mortgage beast as soon as is practical. But, before you go cutting a check to the bank, there is a pecking order of financial priorities you need to address before you consider tackling your mortgage.In order of importance, here are the places you need to put your financial attention first:
- Take the Cards Off the Table: Pay off all credit cards with high interest rates. Consider the huge discrepancy between credit cards with interest rates of 13 percent - 23 percent, and a 4 percent mortgage interest rate.
- In Case Of Emergency: You need to build an emergency fund, ideally 8-12 months of living expenses. Yes, today's job market is improving, but if you suddenly find yourself facing a layoff, you need to be prepared to sustain up to one year of living expenses.
- Build Up For Retirement: Are you able to make the maximum yearly contributions to your retirement accounts, 401K, IRA or an equivalent? Ask your accountant what the maximum allowable is for you and go for it!
- Get The Kids To School: Ah yes, the kids, their schools and their college funds. Depending on how many children you have, how old they are, and what type of college enrollment expectation they have, you need to be making adequate contributions to those 529 plans or other college savings accounts.
- You May Live A Long Time: My mom is 97 this year, and my aunt just turned 100. So I am keenly aware that my money could run out before my health runs down. Another priority investment you need to be making each year is toward long-term health care insurance. It is not as costly when you start it in your 30s or 40s. But, if you didn't get around to it till your 50s, it will take a hit out of your budget each month.
Once you have paid out and paid off all of the above...you are ready to begin to slay the mortgage dragon with the remaining funds you have available.
Next consideration is age. I believe that you should make efforts to pay off that mortgage by the time you plan to retire. There is something very freeing about the release of that last mortgage payment when you switch to a fixed income. Plus, chances are you will not need the mortgage interest deduction.
One important note that many people don't realize is that when you are into years 20 through 30 of your mortgage payment, you are paying very little actual interest compared to what you paid in the early years. The banks have very cunningly structured mortgages so that they get a large portion of their money early on via interest sooner than later over the 30 years.
I always suggest making that decision by counting backwards. If you want to retire and be mortgage free by age 65, then calculate how much extra you will have to pay monthly or yearly to pay it off by that date. There are numerous calculators online that will help you do this.
Here's an example: You bought your home at age 45 with a 30 year loan at 5 percent. You are now 55-years-old and you still owe $300,000 but plan to retire at 65. You are going to need to up your current payment of approximately $1,650 a month to approximately $2,650 a month till age 65. Not only will you get your mortgage paid off ten years sooner, you will have saved almost $78,000 in interest!
Building permits/total housing units: 0.15% Decline in building permits 2005-2011: -60.29% (11th smallest) Building permits 2011 YTD: 8,136 Total housing units: 5,567,315 At the beginning of 2011, a number of new, restrictive building codes went into effect in Pennsylvania. This caused a rush among builders to secure permits, with housing permits increasing a massive 117.8% between November and December 2010, according to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. The state's housing market has not been doing well since. Permits issued from January to June 2011 fell 16% compared to the same six-month period one year earlier. The national average for permits issued in the first six months of 2011 compared to the first six months of 2011 is a decrease of 6%. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Building permits/total housing units: 0.14% Decline in building permits 2005-2011: Building permits 2011 YTD: -77.09% (11th largest) Total housing units: 721,830 Maine has seen one of the largest decreases in building permits in the past six years. This is unsurprising as home sales in general declined substantially. Home sales for June 2011 decreased 21.39% from June 2010, according to the Maine Association of Realtors. The state's median sales price also decreased 1.37% over this same period. According to numbers from the Census Bureau, Maine has the highest vacancy rate in the country, reaching 22.8% in 2010. However, this number also includes empty vacation houses. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Building permits/total housing units: 0.14% Decline in building permits 2005-2011: -61.85% (12th smallest) Building permits 2011 YTD: 11,033 Total housing units: 8,108,103 New York State's housing market is among the largest in the country. As a result, the number of permits is minuscule when compared to the state's total housing units. Although new home sales decreased in the first half of 2011 from 2010, the number of permits actually increased slightly during that period, from 10,189 in 2010. This is significantly lower than 2005's 28,921 permits. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Building permits/total housing units: 0.12% Decline in building permits 2005-2011: 69.55% (24th smallest) Building permits 2011 YTD: 3,402 Total housing units: 2,808,254 Despite having a healthy economy compared to much of the country, Massachusetts' housing market is beginning to face serious troubles. In June 2011, sales of single-family homes in the state decreased 23.5% from the year before, reaching the lowest level since 1991, according to the Warren Group, a New England real estate research firm. With so few home sales, it follows that not many new homes are being built. Year-to-date, building permits for 2011 are about one quarter of what they were in 2005. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Building permits/total housing units: 0.12% Decline in building permits 2005-2011: -76.61% (12th largest) Building permits 2011 YTD: 6,184 Total housing units: 5,127,508 Ohio has suffered, and continues to suffer, greatly from the housing crisis. Over 8,000 homes were foreclosed in July 2011, the ninth-largest amount in the country, according to real estate company RealtyTrac. With such a high foreclosure rate, currently at one in every 608 housing units, housing is already too inexpensive for people to want to build. Ohio has therefore had one of the greatest decreases in building permits in the country over the past six years. Median existing home sales are also down in many areas of the state, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. In Toledo, prices are down 17% from one year ago, the third largest rate in the country. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Building permits/total housing units: 0.09% Decline in building permits 2005-2011: -74.06% (14th largest) Building permits 2011 YTD: 1,403 Total housing units: 1,487,891 Connecticut has had one of the greatest declines in the number of new building permits in the country. This trend saw a small turnaround in June -- the first monthly year-over-year gain in 2011 in new construction, according to the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. However, the Hartford Courant reports that for "the first six months of the year, residential construction was down 30 percent compared with the same period in 2010." June was also the first increase in home construction in five years. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Building permits/total housing units: 0.09 Decline in building permits 2005-2011: -82.19% (7th largest) Building permits 2011 YTD: 4,250 Total housing units: 4,532,233 Michigan is one of the states that has suffered the most from the recession. The state's unemployment rate peaked around 15% in 2010. It is now at 10.5%, which is still significantly higher than the national average of 9.2%. The state has a vacancy rate of just under 15%, which is one of the highest in the country. New building permits have also decreased by over 80% since 2005, also one of the highest rates in the country. The state may now be more focused on tearing down old buildings than building new ones. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Building permits/total housing units: 0.09% Decline in building permits 2005-2011: -84.18% (3rd largest) Building permits 2011 YTD: 4,897 Total housing units: 5,296,715 Illinois has seen an almost 85% decrease in new housing permits since 2005. This is the third largest drop in the country. There are a number of initiatives being made across the state to improve the housing markets. In Chicago, for instance, Mayor Emanuel has made a number of changes to increase the speed with which building permits are issued. Additionally, a "Micro-Market Recovery Program" has been introduced to slow the city's foreclosure rate. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Building permits/total housing units: 0.09% Decline in building permits 2005-2011: -72.71% (17th largest) Building permits 2011 YTD: 774 Total housing units: 881,917 West Virginia's decline in building permits has slowed to almost a crawl. In the first six months of 2005 the state issued almost 3,000 permits. For the first half of 2011, that amount decreased to 774. If every permit were to result in a new housing structure, those homes would represent less than 0.1% of the total housing units in the state. Despite all this, construction is one area that is benefiting the state. According to the organization WorkForce West Virginia, 700 construction jobs were added in-state this past July -- the largest amount of jobs added in the private sector. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Building permits/total housing units: 0.07% Decline in building permits 2005-2011: -70.81% (22nd largest) Building permits 2011 YTD: 312 Total housing units: 463,388 Foreclosure filings increased 4% in Rhode Island from the first six months of 2010 to the first six months of 2011, according to RealtyTrac. Foreclosures dropped by 29% for that same period on the national level. Rhode Island home sales decreased 20% from one year ago in the second-quarter, according to the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. Additionally, median home prices have dropped 2%. These numbers indicate that Rhode Island's housing market is not recovering at the same pace as the majority of the country. For this first six months of this year, the state has issued a mere 312 building permits, the smallest number in the country. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
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