By Trent Derrick, CMT®
The golden rule of finance says that we should always aim to earn more than we spend. After years of diligent budgeting and persistent hard work, it’s likely you may find yourself with more money than you need each month. The question is, how should you best utilize this surplus?
Leaving it sitting idle in a savings or checking account probably won’t yield optimal returns, often making investing a more attractive option. When presented with extra cash, most people consider one of two choices: pay down your mortgage or invest it and put it to work for you. Both options have their advantages, but choosing the optimal approach requires careful consideration of several factors. In this article, we'll explore the pros and cons of paying down your mortgage versus investing your money, enabling you to make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals.
What Makes the Most Financial Sense?
When deciding between these two options, you first want to know which option can provide the greatest payoff. In this case, it’s your mortgage rate versus your expected investment return. You can calculate some rough estimates to evaluate which decision would make more financial sense.
Let’s consider an example. Say your mortgage interest rate is 5%. If you estimate that, based on your risk tolerance and time horizon, you can expect an investment return of 4%, it would make more sense to pay down your mortgage. Otherwise, you’re potentially throwing away 1%. However, if you are an aggressive investor and believe you could earn 8% on your investment, it could make more sense to invest.
This may sound simple on paper, but there are a lot of factors at play. And as we all know, even the best of predictions aren’t set in stone. It’s important to run a thorough analysis and factor in taxes on investments, mortgage interest deductions, risk, and private mortgage insurance, among other elements of your financial life. An experienced wealth advisor can run all of the calculations and do a complete analysis of your unique situation.
The Pros and Cons of Each Option
There are some pros and cons to each that go beyond the raw math. Liquidity can provide a benefit when investing. You’ll have easier access to it in case of an emergency. However, if you put the money towards your mortgage, it’s gone, for all intents and purposes. The only way to get the money back out is to sell your house or refinance your mortgage.
However, an advantage of paying down your mortgage is that your house will be paid off sooner. You will have a greater chance of being able to enter retirement without a mortgage, or at least have your mortgage paid off sooner during retirement. That way you can free up more of your money before your medical expenses start to build. If you invest, your mortgage will be another bill you have to pay while in retirement.
Another benefit of paying off your mortgage completely is decreasing your risk. Once you own your home free and clear, you never have to worry about a foreclosure or having your credit damaged by missed mortgage payments. However, you still have to pay your taxes and carry some risk of having a lien placed against your property.
Choosing a Combination of the Two
For some people, it may make more sense to choose a combination of these two options. For example, if you have less than 20% equity in your property, you may be required to pay private mortgage insurance, meaning you owe additional premiums on top of your mortgage principal and interest payments.
In this case, even if your mortgage rate is 5% and you can earn 6% on an investment, you may still earn a higher return on your money by paying down your mortgage. Once you pay it down to at least 80%, then you free yourself of needing private mortgage insurance and then you can start investing, should you determine that that’s a more appropriate option for you.
Make the Most of Your Money
While the above information offers a broad understanding of the decision-making process, it’s essential to consider other factors before taking action. As a financial advisor dedicated to assisting affluent families, my objective is to guide you toward informed choices regarding your finances. Having worked with many clients who have experienced similar decisions, I have the necessary expertise to help you calculate the optimal returns based on your unique circumstances. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how I can support you in making wise money decisions.
Trent Derrick is a financial advisor and Chartered Market Technician at Legacy Wealth Management. Trent is passionate about the value small businesses bring to their communities and specializes in serving small business owners by providing seamless financial advisory services tailored to their financial needs, including tax planning strategies, cash flow management, retirement planning, and bookkeeping. Trent has a bachelor’s degree from the College of Charleston and studied economics at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. He is a Chartered Market Technician® (CMT®) professional. Trent serves as a guest lecturer for the College of Charleston’s MBA program and acts as chairman of the Market Technician Association’s Charleston chapter. When he’s not working, Trent, a proud Eagle Scout, enjoys volunteering with the Charleston Animal Shelter’s outreach program. Trent and his wife love to cook international cuisines and host dinner parties with their friends. To learn more about Trent, connect with him on LinkedIn.
The opinions voiced in this blog are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which strategies or investments may be suitable for you, consult the appropriate qualified professional prior to making a decision.
All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.