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Should you payoff your mortgage early? I asked that question a couple of weeks ago, and the majority of respondents said “yes.” With that in mind, I thought I’d put together a list of strategies for doing just that…
Refinance your mortgage to a shorter term
If you refinance your mortgage to a shorter term, say from thirty to fifteen years, you can dramatically reduce the time required to payoff your mortgage. You can see for yourself by playing with a mortgage prepayment calculator. As an added bonus, rates are typically lower on shorter term mortgages.
The downside here is that you will have to pay closing costs, etc. (unless you opt for a “no-cost” refinance). Your mortgage payment will also increase, but what did you expect? You’ll be paying off your mortgage significantly faster, so it only makes sense that you’ll pay more per month.
Biweekly mortgage payment plans
I’ve written about biweekly mortgage payment plans in the past. The trick here is that, by sending in half of your monthly mortgage payment every two weeks, you end up making the equivalent of an extra payment every year.
Don’t believe me? Do the math. Instead of making 12 monthly payments, you’ll make 52/2 = 26 biweekly payments — the equivalent of 13 monthly payments. This will shave years off your mortgage. Moreover, if you’re paid on a biweekly basis, this approach might match your budgeting process better than monthly payments.
The downside to biweekly payment programs is that, while many lenders offer these sorts of programs, most of them charge a fee for the privilege. While it might seem easy to justify such fees based on your long-term savings, there’s a better option…
Overpay a fixed amount every month
When we bought our first house, I started sending in an extra 10% of our total payment as an additional principal payment. Ultimately, this works out to the equivalent of 1.2 extra mortgage payments each year — on par with the biweekly plan, but without the extra fees. Since you’re sending a fixed amount everything month, this is also very easy to automate.
Pay next month’s principal this month
This is an idea that I first read about in “Wealth Without Risk.” It goes like this… When you sit down to make your mortgage payment, send an additional payment equal to next month’s principal.
If you’re not sure what next month’s principal payment will be, just double the amount from this month — that’s close enough. In case you weren’t aware, your mortgage statement should break this down for you, listing the amounts going to principal, interest, and taxes/insurance.
The primary advantage with this approach is that it really puts your mortgage payments into hyperdrive. Over time, the amount you are paying toward principal will increase, meaning that you’ll pay down your mortgage faster and faster as the months go by.
There are two primary disadvantages to this approach. The first is that the amount of your overpayment is variable (increasing each month) such that it can be hard to automate your payments. The second is that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with the payments since the overpayment continually accelerates as the interest portion of your payment dwindles.
The haphazard approach
If all else fails, I recommend that you at least take what I’ve termed here the haphazard approach. Whenever you run across a small windfall, simply forward it to your mortgage company as an extra principal payment. Get a check from your reward credit card? Send it in. Get a tax refund? Send it in. Find ten bucks in the gutter? You know the drill… Send it in.
Aside from the fact that this approach doesn’t put any additional strain on your budget, paying down your mortgage with found money can be kind of fun. The downside is that this approach is generally less effective than the alternatives. After all, your additional payments will typically be smaller, and will come at somewhat random intervals.
The above list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a great starting point. If you have any other suggestions, please share them in the comments. If you’d rather invest than prepay your mortgage, that’s fine. In fact, some of the above strategies can be applied to juicing up your investments. For example, make that extra “principal” payment into a brokerage account.
The important thing is to do something.