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Suze Orman says this is when to pay off your mortgage

CNBC logo CNBC 10/12/2018
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Personal finance expert and best-selling author of "Women & Money" Suze Orman says you should pay off your debt as soon as possible and that probably includes your mortgage.

"If you're going to buy a house, be responsible with it. And if you're going to stay living it that house for the rest of your life, pay off that mortgage as soon as you possibly can," she tells CNBC Make It.

Orman recommends that you aim to be mortgage-free by the time you retire. That's because everything you owe, including your home, costs you money, but it can affect your mental health as well. "Debt is bondage," she says. "You will never, ever, ever have financial freedom if you have debt."

Debt can affect other important parts of your life, too, keeping you from earning more and getting what you want, professionally. "When you are in debt, you feel it," Orman says, and "your boss can feel that," too. In essence, "you render yourself powerless."

That's why, she emphasizes, you shouldn't put off anything you can take care of now, like paying off your home.

Save on your home from day one

Planning ahead when you buy a home can also help you minimize the total amount you owe. One way to save big, Orman says, is to choose a cheaper, 15-year fixed rate mortgage over a 30-year one.

In March of 2017, for example, "the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate was 4.3 percent, while a 15-year [had] an average fixed rate of just 3.5 percent," Orman wrote in a post on her blog. "That's nearly a percentage point less!"

A 1 percent variance can make a huge difference. On a $250,000 loan, paying 4.3 percent for 30 years amounts to $195,000 in interest, according to Orman, while 15 years at 3.5 percent comes out to only $72,000. That's more than $100,000 in savings.

On Tuesday, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage was at 4.78 percent, while the 15-year fixed rate mortgage was at 4.08 percent, according to Bankrate, so the difference between the two options has shrunk. But the shorter-term loan can amount to significant savings when the rates are similar as well. On a $250,000 mortgage, you'll pay $78,000 in interest over the full term of a 15-year plan and $169,000 for a 30-year plan, even if they both offer 3.8 percent interest rates, according to Bankrate's mortgage calculator.

However, a 15-year mortgage isn't the right choice for everyone. While the lower interest rate saves you money in the long term, the monthly payments are much higher.

What to do if you haven't paid off your mortgage by retirement

If you're nearing retirement age and still owe a significant amount on your home, consider continuing to work until age 70. That gives you more time to pay down your debts while still earning income. "Stop saving at work and plow the extra money that will pop into your paycheck to reducing your mortgage debt ASAP," Orman wrote for Money.

Working even a few more years helps increase your retirement savings substantially, she says: "Your retirement accounts will last you longer and hopefully have grown over that period of time, which hopefully will generate more income for you."

Additionally, "every year you wait between your normal retirement age and 70, Social Security will add a guaranteed 8 percent to your eventual monthly payout," Orman wrote in a recent feature for AARP The Magazine.

With your mortgage paid off, you'll be able to make your retirement savings stretch even farther. And you'll notice other positive changes as well, she says: "If you're out of debt, when you're being responsible with your money, what happens? You feel powerful! And other people can feel that you're powerful."


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