Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Early?

It's a dream to be able to pay off your mortgage early, but is there a downside?  While it sounds like a great idea, there are some factors to consider before doing so.  This article will explore some of the reasons you may want to hold off on that final payoff amount.

Other Debts 

If you have various other debts (credit cards, auto loans, etc.) it's a good idea to pay those off before the mortgage.  Why?  Well, credit cards usually have astronomical interest rates so that outstanding balance will only grow if you choose to put all your money towards your mortgage.

That extra interest on your credit card or auto loan isn't tax deductible, which leads to the next point.

Check for Penalties 

Some mortgages come with a prepayment penalty.  If you're thinking about paying yours off early, then check the fine print to see if it applies, and also run the numbers to see if early payoff makes sense.

Fund Your Retirement Plan 

Before you go paying the mortgage off, consider funding your retirement plan.  If you don't have one already, it may be a good idea to set one up as they are tax advantageous.

Once you get a good handle on your retirement plan, paying off the mortgage might be next on your list.  A good-sized nest egg and a home that's mortgage-free sounds like a great way to start off retirement.

Consider the Side Effects 

When deciding to pay off the mortgage, there seems like no downside but there are various things to consider.  Will making additional payments put a strain on your savings?  How about your emergency fund? 

It's essential to consider your overall financial health when making such a big decision.  Although being mortgage-free would be a fabulous feeling, you don't want to do it at the detriment of your cash flow.

Pull the Trigger 

After reviewing all your financial information and deciding what's best for your situation, be confident in your decision and follow through.  It's a great feeling to be mortgage-free or on your way there.  The bottom line is that you need to do what makes you comfortable for your family.


How Much House Can You Afford? Ask Yourself These Critical Questions to Find Out

It is the perennial question for every first-time homeowner. How much house can I afford? As with so many life-changing decisions, there is no one right answer to this common query, and the size of the home you buy, and the mortgage you take out, will depend on several critical factors.

If you want to know how much home you can afford, you need to ask yourself the right questions. Even more importantly, you need to provide yourself with honest answers to those queries. Here are some things you should be asking as you get ready for the transition from renter to first-time home buyer. 

What is my current income? Is that income secure, or is my job in jeopardy? Your ability to pay the mortgage will depend on visibility of income, making the answer to this question extremely critical. 

How much disposable income do I currently have? How much of that disposable income can I devote to the costs of home ownership? Owning a home is more than paying the mortgage, and you will need to set money aside for repairs, upkeep, and other essentials. 

Do I have money for a down payment? The more you can put down, the smaller your monthly mortgage payment will be. Even if you can do it, financing 100% of the purchase price could make your mortgage payment unaffordable. 

How much do I want to devote to savings, investments and other essentials? Putting all your money into the roof over your head could leave you dangerously undiversified and put your financial future at risk. 

What is my credit score? What steps can I take to raise it quickly? A low credit score can mean a higher interest rate on your mortgage or even an outright denial. If your credit score is less than optimal, paying down debt and taking other steps to raise it will be to your advantage. 

What other debts do I have? Taking on a big mortgage payment when you have other debts can be risky, so take a hard look at your monthly expenses and your balance sheet. It may be worth putting off the home purchase until you have paid your other debts. 

Am I willing to shop for a lower priced home if it means a more affordable mortgage payment? You may need to give up some wants or consider a different neighborhood to find a home you can more easily afford. 

Shopping for your first home can be an intimidating process, but knowing how much home you can afford will make that process easier and less stressful. The real estate agent and mortgage broker will have their opinions about home affordability and optimal mortgage payments, but in the end, your considered opinion is what counts.


3 Simple Ways to Repair Your Credit

For many Canadians looking to purchase a home, bad credit scores stand in the way of getting a mortgage. Most lenders prefer your score to be 650 or higher. If they do allow for lower credit scores, it is typically because the interest ratings on those loans are considerably higher.

If you want to get a good deal on a mortgage with low interest rates, the best thing you can do is to improve your credit score. Here are three ways you can do just that.

1. Check Your Report

The very first thing you need to do is check your credit report. You are allowed one free credit report per year, but some sites will allow you to purchase a full report at any time for a small fee.

Scan the report to see if there are any errors. You'd be surprised to find out most people do have errors on their credit report. It might be in the form of something you finished paying but was never removed, or something that isn't yours to begin with.

Once these errors are removed from your report, your credit rating might go up anywhere from a few points to a few dozen. It just depends on how many errors there were and how largely they were impacting your score.

2. Start Paying Off Debts

If you have any outstanding debts on your report that are bringing down your score, start paying them off. It can be hard, but even if you can only allow $5 or $10 a week it can bring your outstanding debts down considerably over the course of a few months.

For example, let's say your total debts amount to $5,000. Starting with your smallest debt (because these will be paid off quicker), you can begin making $10 payments each week. Over the course of six months, you would have paid off $240, lowering your debt to $4,760. After a year, you'd have paid $480.

Also, take into consideration that most lenders are willing to bargain with you. They may allow you to pay between 50 percent and 75 percent of what the original debt amount was.

The reason they are willing to do this is it's better for them, at the point of collections, to receive some money than to receive none. That same $5,000 could be lowered to $2,500 to $3,250. With your $10 a week payments on top of that, you could make a major dent in your debt in a single year!

3. Credit Cards

Credit cards are one way to raise your credit score, but this only works if you use them responsibly. Keep the total amount used under 30 percent, and make sure you pay it off in full by the end of each month.

Some people have found great success in using their credit cards only for their morning coffee or daily lunch. At the end of the week, they pay off the amount and end up with higher credit scores as a result. 

The key is to continue spending within your budget. Think of your credit card as a debit card, but with a cash advance feature. If you don't know for certain that you'll have the funds for a purchase within one to two weeks, then don't make the purchase.


These three things can help you to slowly, but steadily (and possibly significantly) increase your credit rating. This can help you to not only obtain a mortgage with a low interest but increase the future chances you might be approved for other loans (like for vehicles) also. It is never a bad time to work on your credit score.


Why You Need an Emergency Fund - And How to Get One

Building an emergency fund is something most people know they should do but few actually get around to doing. A recent study found that nearly two-thirds of Americans did not have an emergency fund, and more than half would have trouble coming up with $1,000 on short notice. That lack of savings puts them at risk and makes achieving long-term financial goals much more difficult.

Building an emergency fund is a critical first step on the road to financial security. Many people think that they do not make enough money to build an emergency fund, but even low-income workers can set money aside if they take the right steps.

Take Note of Daily Expenses

You may think you have no extra money to build an emergency fund, but those extra dollars could be hiding in plain sight. Take a few minutes to review your normal daily expenses, from that morning cup of coffee and lunch with coworkers to daily parking charges and the take-out pizza you grab on the way home.

Look for ways to economize and swap high costs for lower ones.

Bagging up your leftovers from last night's dinner could save you $10 or more a day -- that's several hundred dollars a month. Making your coffee at home could save you $20 to $50 more, while skipping the take-out once or twice a week could save you $100 or more. If your town offers public transportation, swapping your car for a bus or trolley could slash your parking charges and save you even more.

Start a Piggy Bank

Now that you have identified the leaks in your daily budget, you can use that knowledge to start building an emergency fund. Take that $10 you would have spent on lunch and place it in a special spot in your wallet. When you get home, transfer that cash to your new piggy bank and watch the money accumulate. When your bank is full, you can use the money to start the savings account that will become your emergency fund.

You do not have to confine your savings to folding money. Change works just as well, and it is much easier to accumulate. Every time you get change, keep it in your pocket until you get home, then transfer it to your piggy bank. You may be surprised at how quickly that spare change adds up.

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