Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Faster or Invest More?

In many ways, choosing between paying off your mortgage faster or investing more mirrors the decision faced by casino visitors every time they place a bet. Those flashing lights and obnoxiously loud sound effects cover up what’s really happening.

Think of it this way. With each pull of the handle, you “invest.” Any seasoned gambler knows the house wins the majority of the time. But it is possible to win, given the right circumstances. When you do make that big score, there’s always a point when you have to make “the decision.” Do you continue playing and hope for more winnings? Or do you take what you’ve earned so far, and call it quits?

Let’s step back outside the casino analogy. When you make your mortgage payments, you’re sticking to the safe route. You’re choosing to take what you’ve earned and stop betting. You may not win any more, but you’re at least going home a winner.

So how do you choose between paying off your mortgage and investing more money? That’s a question only you can answer. But we can help you get there. No ante required.

Paying Off Your Mortgage Early : One Less Monthly Payment

Having one less bill to worry about each month does sound pretty good, doesn’t it?

One of the biggest reasons to pay into your mortgage quickly (rather than invest) lies in the predictability of the monthly payment. With each dollar paid, you know your final balance is decreasing. The quicker you pay that balance off, the less interest you’ll owe. Those regular payments are chipping away with a consistent impact. By investing extra funds in your mortgage, you’re bringing yourself closer to owning your home outright.

If your goal is to invest in an asset — such as a house — and then potentially liquidate it down the road, it’s worth it to heavily consider paying down your mortgage as fast as possible. Even if you don’t end up selling, you can borrow against the house’s value via a home equity line of credit. The house itself (and the ability to borrow against it) can act as powerful tools in the future when considering your finances.

No Mortgage Payment Means No Deductions

As with most decisions, there are two main routes. There’s the risky choice that may (or may not) pay off, and then there’s the safe choice that will get you to your goal — just with more time and effort. In many ways, paying off your mortgage could be seen as the “responsible” thing to do. However, there are some considerations you need to be aware of, even for this choice.

Let’s say that you do end up paying off your mortgage. Now you completely own your house. While it’s true that you do have equity in that investment, getting those returns out of the walls and into your wallet isn’t as easy as withdrawing money from your checking account. Selling a car is one thing. However, listing your house brings a whole list of fees, which can quickly eat into your profits.  Not to mention the fact that you’ll still need another place to live after it’s sold, and housing isn’t free.

Besides putting your mortgage payment back into your bank account, paying off your house could hurt you come tax time. You can typically deduct what’s left of your mortgage on your taxes. Without that monthly payment, however, your deduction goes away.

Some might say that while a tax deduction has a nice tone to it, tax credits are even better. Investments can be considered tax breaks, which reduce what you owe. For the cautious spenders, there are conservative investing options as well. Even tucking away a few dollars here and there can bring large dividends down the road — which you may need in retirement.

Invest In Your Future, Today

Retirement lies at the heart of many investing arguments. It’s the end goal for most of us, right? Although investing often brings a sense of risk, you can still invest and bring the odds well into your favor. Remember our casino metaphor? It is possible to win — and win big. Sometimes, at least.

Granted, your returns start to gain ground the more aggressively you invest.

“Aggressive portfolios are often built to help you get gains of 10% or more,” SmartAsset advises. “Even if you fall a bit below that, your rate of return may be markedly higher than your mortgage rate if the market is doing well.”

Meanwhile, your risk increases as well, since “you’re building a liquid asset that has the potential to put you in a better financial position than if you simply eliminated your mortgage interest expense.” Instead of making the payments and methodically removing debt month after month, you can be proactive about your income.

With Zero Risk Comes Zero To Little Reward

Risk is one of the biggest reasons many people simply don’t invest. The $500 you’ve saved up could drop down to $5 as much as it could gain a couple zeroes at the end. That’s the decision you face each time you go for another pull on the slot machine.

There’s also a belief that big returns require expertise and knowledge of market trends. While there may be some truth to that thinking, a little research here and there could positively influence your investing decisions. You could bring in an advisor to do the research for you, but that cuts into your profits a bit.

Consider Your Options

Deciding between paying off your mortgage faster or investing extra funds lies in contemplating the fine details. Here’s a quick summary to get your thinking started. Consider these questions and your answers to them.

  • What tax benefits does each option bring with it?
  • What’s the interest rate associated with my mortgage? How does it compare to what I think I’d earn by investing? Would refinancing to secure a lower interest rate be more advantageous in my situation?
  • How comfortable do I feel with investing in the stock market, even conservatively? Would it be better to hire an expert instead?
  • What are my future financial plans? How long do I have before I will retire? For how long will I stay in this home?
  • What are my present circumstances? Given my age/number of children/salary/job outlook/debts/etc., what’s the best financial decision to benefit me presently?
  • What’s the present state of both the investment world and the housing market? Will that state likely change in the near future?
  • What debt do I already have accrued? What high-interest debt can I get rid of to further improve my credit score and potentially increase my savings once that payment is gone?
  • Which approach characterizes my financial style — aggressive or conservative?

Once you’ve mentally checked in with your current financial circumstances and your future financial plans, the path may become clearer.

Money Isn’t Always Greener on the Other Side

Stories of investment success increase the allure to bet it all on the stock market and hope for a lucrative windfall. Yet for many, owning a house may be worth more than any six-figure check. Whichever asset you choose to pursue, remaining informed serves to set you up for success.

Know what you’re working towards and how to get there. That way, you can enjoy the happiness of the moment when the day finally comes. Then celebrate all the hard work you’ve put into making it happen. You deserve it.

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Rebecca Henderson

Rebecca Henderson has a Master's in German and a Bachelor's in Creative Writing. She alternates her time between writing and working on a variety of motorized projects. Most recently, she and her boyfriend have been building a custom drift trike. Rebecca believes that language, love, and a life worth living are only the first ingredients to happiness.

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