Q: I retired in 1990, and my wife and I own our home. The subject of your recent column on prepaying your mortgage is no longer a realistic matter for us, but it certainly was when I “bought” my first house in 1963. At that time the interest rate I was paying was 5.25 percent for 30 years on a house that cost us $23,000.
In subsequent years – won’t go into details – the current bank (that changed more than once) – would occasionally try to entice me to pay off the mortgage. That was, of course, at a time when the mortgage interest rates were higher, and going up. I always chose to not pay off that mortgage.
But the difference, as I saw it and still see it, was that I had a young family, no money, and we lived hand to mouth, so to speak. For some years, I supplemented my income with borrowed money. The money I was able to borrow was borrowed at rates much higher than 5.25 percent. Therefore it seemed wise to me at the time not to try to pay off the mortgage. (Many years later I did pay off the loan.)
We were, and to some extent still are, a frugal family. We practiced self-denial at the time. I am thankful that we have long since been able to afford a “good” lifestyle.
So, without belaboring it, if this approach was right under the circumstances, I can imagine that many a young and responsible family today (forgetting for the moment the – I hope – unusual financial circumstances we have right now) will need to borrow money from time to time, too. And, if this thesis, also in your opinion, is correct, I believe that it should have been mentioned in your article, even realizing that you had space limitations.
A: Thanks for your comment. I agree that there are times in life where you make choices between unpalatable options. Clearly, you were able to manage the money you borrowed, and were ultimately able to pay it off and then build a solid financial life. Not everyone has the wherewithal or financial savvy to pull that off. So, kudos to you.
In general, I’ve found that there are several kinds of borrowers: Those who don’t mind making their monthly payments (and who invest anything left over in other investments); those who have enough cash to just make their monthly payments; and, those who can’t stand debt and work to pay off their mortgage as quickly as possible.
I think there’s room for all of these sorts of financial choices. My favorite part of your letter is when you describe yourself as a “frugal family” who practiced “self-denial” when you needed to. Being frugal is, in my mind, a badge of honor – and a talent not enough Americans seem to value. I hate to waste money. I’d much rather choose where to spend it than have it dribble away.
Thanks for sharing your story.
For more information on refinancing and prepaying your mortgage, read Mortgage Interest Rate Matters Less Than Monthly Mortgage Payment Savings