Paying off my mortgage early didn't seem smart until I started writing about people who had done it, and now it's my top priority

  • I thought investing was a smarter move than paying off a mortgage, and on paper, it is.
  • But, I changed my mind once I started talking to people who had paid off their mortgages
  • Seeing the freedom, opportunity, and savings mortgage payoff brings, I made my first extra payment.

When I signed the papers for my mortgage last year, I had no doubts about keeping that loan for 30 years. 

Unlike other loans I’ve had in the past, I didn’t feel a big rush to pay this one off. I’d gotten a low mortgage rate during the COVID-19 pandemic. I didn’t mind paying for this place for the next 30 years, though I wasn’t sure I’d live there that long. 

After covering personal finance for several years now, I’ve read plenty of hot takes on whether to pay off your mortgage early or invest. Many people feel that investing extra cash is a better use of money. And I’d always agreed with that camp. 

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That was, until I started writing about people who’d paid them off. Now, it’s become a priority for me. This spring, I made my first extra principal payment with a $1,500 check I got from overpaying on my escrow account.

I hate paying interest, and I’d be happy to sacrifice investment returns to save on it 

I’ve paid countless amounts of interest on my federal student loans. I paid a good amount of interest on a four-year car loan previously. I’m not super keen on paying it for another 30 years. 

One of the main arguments against paying off a mortgage early is that the returns you’d get from investing the cash are higher than the typical mortgage interest rate. And, that’s absolutely a fair argument. The average mortgage interest rate right now sits right around 3%. The average stock market return sits around 9%.  

Paying off my mortgage instead of investing is a sacrifice in some sense. But, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. If I can shave 10 or 15 years off my mortgage, that means 10 or 15 years I can invest what I would have paid towards it.

While I might not live in my house forever, it could be helpful for whatever comes next 

I’m relatively young at 24, and while I’m not married and don’t have a family, I’m fully aware that you genuinely never know what life will bring. 

I have no idea what I’ll decide to do with my life in a year, five years, or, honestly, even next month. For that reason, I’d never thought paying off my mortgage early was the right move for me. 

Then, I interviewed Kim Anderson, a blogger and mom of three who paid off her first home in Georgia with her husband. When it came time to move, the couple used that equity to buy their next home in North Carolina — and they paid for that next home in cash. 

Instead of seeing paying off their mortgage as a terminal point of their homeownership story, the Andersons saw it as a platform to go further. And that’s the kind of thing I’d like to replicate myself. 

Mortgage payoff also brings peace of mind money can’t buy

While interviewing people who’d paid off their homes, they consistently told me that they wanted to have a place that was theirs, free and clear. They felt that the security of owning their home outright was worth the sacrifices they made along the way. 

“The motivation was to know that I had a home for my kids that couldn’t be taken away by a bank,” Anderson told me by email. That was something that really resonated with me, and made so much sense.

Connecticut-based Liz Gendreau and her husband paid off their mortgage 17 years early, and shared that a series of setbacks and uncertainties related to her husband’s work and health were an impetus to do so. They wanted to know that whatever came next, they’d be able to keep their home and stay afloat.

After years of freelancing and living on a super volatile income, this was something that resonated with me. Watching plans change and jobs come and go during the pandemic added to that feeling. The past year has really changed my perspective on how I view money, and I’ve realized that I value security over having more.

After talking with several people who have paid off their mortgages, I realized that mortgage payoff is about more than just the money. That’s something I can’t not get behind. 

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