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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-07-2007, 03:50 PM   #41
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

Quote:
Originally Posted by kb56
When I refinance in 03, I decided it was a good time to put more into the market. I took an additional $30K morage out of the house.

The $30K invested in 03 now worth $27K more (good market timing). Taxes on the additional money borrowed is less the $5K (with a tax benefit of more than $1K).

This worked well for me, but most people warn against borrowing too much against the house. In my case, it was a small (percentage) gamble.
You should have taken more with that kind of return.
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-07-2007, 03:54 PM   #42
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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Originally Posted by jdw_fire
Even though I agree with paying off your mortgage when/before you retire, when you use FIRECalc to look at this problem you need to use the Advanced version and put the mortgage in as a non-inflation adjusted increase to your withdrawal of $6240/yr. When you do this the success rate for the having a mortgage example is 96.2% instead of the 94.3% success without a mortgage.
Excellent! I'm happy to see somebody finally tried to model this correctly. But, part of that mortgage payment still comes back to you as equity build-up, so I still think you need an amortization schedule built-in to FIREcalc to really model this accurately. (And tax modeling, too.)

So, why do you still think it's a good idea to pay off the mortgage?
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-07-2007, 04:01 PM   #43
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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Originally Posted by garrynky
No mortgage here. I want to keep my expenses in retirement to a minimum. In theory this might not be the smart thing, but it sure feels good.
Same for me and here is why I paid the house off early:

1. I believe a house the most important asset one can own. A roof over one's head is a must. If I'm six feet under one day, the DW has a place to live without issues.
2. Paying the house off early (ie saving interest payments) was a "bird in the hand". Investing in stocks may not be.
3. I had one person to work for at the office (the boss). The second was the mortgage company. By getting rid of the mortgage company, I eliminated another person (boss). Only one left to go since I past FI this year!
4. Having a place to rest my head at night allowed me to concentrate on other areas such as investing, buying and selling assets (ie equipment), etc.

Would I go and borrow money from a paid for house? No way. If I need to touch my house for money, I need to get my (ass)et off the internet and get a job!

All of this is IMO. Each will have to review their situation for a best plan. Good luck.

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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-07-2007, 06:40 PM   #44
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

Quote:
Originally Posted by free4now
I maintain that someone who takes a mortgage out and invests the proceeds at least partially in the stock market will end up worse off while living off their savings in a down market.
It depends on many factors. If you maintain that this is true for all cases, then you are wrong.

Quote:
I simulated a mortgage in FIRECalc and it made survivability worse. I started from the default values in Standard FIREcalc, and assumed a $100k loan, 6.25% interest only for 30 years, meaning payments of $520/mo, or 6240/year. To simulate the mortgage in FIREcalc I increased the spending from $30k/yr to $36,240/yr, and increased the assets invested from 750k to 850k.

Simulating the mortgage this way in FIRECalc dropped the success rate from 94.3% to 91.5%.
That seems reasonable although I question whether you checked the no inflation box for the mortgage payments. So, to the extent that you got everything right in the simulator, you found a case that favors mortgage payoff. You should think about what that result means -- that the worst cases in history slightly favored payoff of a 6.25%, 30 year mortgage that represented about 13% of the total portfolio value.

Quote:
sgeeeee, if you have an example of how a mortgage can increase the FIREcalc success rate I would like to see it. It would have to be for someone with no income streams besides interest from savings invested mostly in equities, since I agree that mortgages can help if there are income streams in place.
Oh god. . . Look in the archives. I must have run a dozen cases a few years ago. If I remember correctly, 6.25% was about the cross-over mortgage rate for long (over 2 decade) mortgages. For rates below that, the historical record favored keeping the mortgage. For rates above that, it favored payoff. I ran simulations to look at tax impact, rebalancing the portfolio to consider the mortgage as a bond, . . .

There is a lot of resistance from some people to the idea that keeping a mortgage can be beneficial to both portfolio performance and risk reduction. But depending on the numbers, it has certainly had that effect historically. This conclusion really shouldn't be that surprising. If I could get a 0%, 30 year loan for a hundred thousand dollars, I would be a fool not to take it. At 1%, the loan is still a no-brainer. 2%? . . . Historically, FIRECalc can tell us when the loan risk begins to adversely affect SWR. Of course, none of us can predict whether a particular mortgage will benefit us in the future. We can only compare to the past 130 years.
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 04:29 AM   #45
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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Originally Posted by free4now
I maintain that someone who takes a mortgage out and invests the proceeds at least partially in the stock market will end up worse off while living off their savings in a down market.
It is called leverage. Borrowing to invest in the stock market is monitored by the SEC. When people do it with their mortgage, it doesn't show up on the radar screen. Leverage is the reason so many people went broke in the market crash in 1929.

Bottom line... It magnifies gains and losses.

Leverage is not neccesarily a bad thing... if used properly. But it is probably not a good idea for the average investor with retirement as the goal. This is just a risk reward trade-off. What ever the underlying investment is... the risk is magnified proportionately. You can accomplish the same thing by investing directly in riskier assets and not risk the loss of your house...

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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 06:34 AM   #46
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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Originally Posted by chinaco
It is called leverage. Borrowing to invest in the stock market is monitored by the SEC. When people do it with their mortgage, it doesn't show up on the radar screen. Leverage is the reason so many people went broke in the market crash in 1929.

Bottom line... It magnifies gains and losses.

Leverage is not neccesarily a bad thing... if used properly. But it is probably not a good idea for the average investor with retirement as the goal. This is just a risk reward trade-off. What ever the underlying investment is... the risk is magnified proportionately. You can accomplish the same thing by investing directly in riskier assets and not risk the loss of your house...


Well put!

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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 08:15 AM   #47
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

you should also look at the long term history of the Dow going back to 1895 or so. There have been long stretches where it has stayed flat for 20 years or so. The peak of 1929 wasn't reached again until 1955 and there was an almost 20 year stretch from approximately 1966 through 1982 where it stayed flat.

what if come 2020 we are still somewhere around the 10000-12000 level?
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 10:15 AM   #48
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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Originally Posted by al_bundy
you should also look at the long term history of the Dow going back to 1895 or so. There have been long stretches where it has stayed flat for 20 years or so. The peak of 1929 wasn't reached again until 1955 and there was an almost 20 year stretch from approximately 1966 through 1982 where it stayed flat.
what if come 2020 we are still somewhere around the 10000-12000 level?
Yes, but consider what happened in the 10 years before or the 10 years after those grim periods. That's the nice thing about 30-year mortgages... almost as nice as 40-year mortgages!
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 10:24 AM   #49
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

that's assuming you invest before the big runup. what if you had taken out a mortgage in 2003 and invested it all then and it's essentially flat until 2020? too much risk since if the value of your home falls and the Dow does one of it's scheduled 20% to 50% crashes and stays down for a long time and you have to sell your home for some reason than you could be in a world of hurt. what if you need a large chunk of that money for some reason while the market is crashing? if it was in equity you can always borrow it. if it's invested and currently a loss you have to wait and pray
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 12:13 PM   #50
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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Originally Posted by al_bundy
that's assuming you invest before the big runup. what if you had taken out a mortgage in 2003 and invested it all then and it's essentially flat until 2020? too much risk since if the value of your home falls and the Dow does one of it's scheduled 20% to 50% crashes and stays down for a long time and you have to sell your home for some reason than you could be in a world of hurt. what if you need a large chunk of that money for some reason while the market is crashing? if it was in equity you can always borrow it. if it's invested and currently a loss you have to wait and pray
You're preachin' to the choir, Al. Spouse and I built our portfolio from 1982-2002 and spent the last two years of that project wondering if we'd have to start all over again. We'd paid off several mortgages over the years and were actually debt free 1998-2000. BTDT.

The best advice I can give you is that all these questions have been discussed in previous threads that should be read. Pay attention to SG's posts because he's good at explaining probability, statistics, and the interpretation of the math. Look at the mitigating/safety factors I applied to our decision and, if you can't apply the same factors, then don't try this at your own home.

The simplistic answer is that a 30-year mortgage almost always gives you enough time to recover from a bear market-- especially when so many stock-market databases ignore the effect of reinvested dividends. If you're focused on that "almost" word then it brings the discussion to the same level as fallout shelters, MREs, shotgun shells, and random asteroid strikes. I can't reassure you. If you don't feel comfortable with a mortgage then don't do it.

I'm focused on the measures that can be taken to raise one's FIRECalc success rates and to minimize the risks. Going through your scary scenarios without a mortgage is worse than going through them with a mortgage, and the FIRECalc math validates that counter-intuitive concept. Paying a fixed mortgage with declining dollars is wonderful, especially if you can collect a COLA pension or annuity. Putting the money in low-cost, reinvested index funds for three decades with a small-cap value premium just loads the dice in our favor.

But that's good enough for me. When I'm in Vegas I only play blackjack, too. You have to find your own comfort zone.
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 02:50 PM   #51
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
The simplistic answer is that a 30-year mortgage almost always gives you enough time to recover from a bear market.
Thanks for that explanation Nords... I'm learning from this thread! I'm coming around from my "mortgage always bad" perspective to see that they can be useful in some cases.

The main thing that seems to help mortgages look good is that the payment doesn't rise with inflation over 30 years.

Still though, I think hardly anyone actually pays off a 30 year mortgage over 30 years. In most practical cases people pay off mortgages earlier to refinance or move. This is why I assume I will hold a mortgage for only 5-10 years when I do planning, to avoid making the mistake of counting on lots of inflation protection I will never see.

I'm too lazy to run FIRECalc simulations right now for 5-10 year real world mortgage terms, but I suspect that shorter term would make them look much less attractive.
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 06:27 PM   #52
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

I'm glad that refinancing worked out for Nords, but for most us without guarranteed government pensions (Does anybody outside of the military get get pension before they are 55?) I think it seldom makes sense to keep an existing mortgage, much less take out a new one.

While I understand how having a mortgage could increase a portfolio survivable using historical data, what if future stock returns in the next 30 years are lower than we've seen in the past 136 years? There are some very smart people, Buffett, Berstein, Speigel all suggesting this is likely to be the case.

For me the pay off vs keep mortgage debate is pretty simple; you should pay off your mortgage if either A. it makes you sleep better at night or B. The after tax cost of the mortgage is higher than the after tax risk free rate you can get on your investment.
I think it is important for people to really understand all the tax ramifications. Ffor instance early retiree are often able to take advantage of the standard deduction once the mortgage interest expense is eliminated, on the other hand paying off the mortgage may require selling appreciated assets that you owe capital gains tax on.

In my case assuming my ex-girlfriends 4.875% mortgage vs selling assets and pay $25K in cap gains tax, was the slightly cheaper option. Although pyschologically having a mortgage after not having one for 13 years is not a happy feeling.
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 07:20 PM   #53
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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Originally Posted by clifp
For me the pay off vs keep mortgage debate is pretty simple; you should pay off your mortgage if either A. it makes you sleep better at night or B. The after tax cost of the mortgage is higher than the after tax risk free rate you can get on your investment.
I know that for me, it's SO simple. Both A and B are true. I will have no mortgage, and I will probably have a nice vegetable garden in the back yard. My small pension and small social security check will cover the rest of the necessities. I am working hard to build my nestegg, and plan to enjoy it. No matter what, I will have my home and that will give me tremendous peace of mind.

I don't want to travel. I don't want a Cadillac, or a boat, or an RV, diamonds, or furs. What I DO want is the peace of mind that I have, knowing my house is paid off. That probably makes no sense to most people, but I have lived through some hard times that have made this a Big Deal to me.
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-08-2007, 07:58 PM   #54
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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I don't want to travel. I don't want a Cadillac, or a boat, or an RV, diamonds, or furs. What I DO want is the peace of mind that I have, knowing my house is paid off. That probably makes no sense to most people, but I have lived through some hard times that have made this a Big Deal to me.
You make a whole lot of sense to me.
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Old 04-08-2007, 08:14 PM   #55
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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I know that for me, it's SO simple. Both A and B are true. I will have no mortgage, and I will probably have a nice vegetable garden in the back yard. My small pension and small social security check will cover the rest of the necessities. I am working hard to build my nestegg, and plan to enjoy it. No matter what, I will have my home and that will give me tremendous peace of mind.

I don't want to travel. I don't want a Cadillac, or a boat, or an RV, diamonds, or furs. What I DO want is the peace of mind that I have, knowing my house is paid off. That probably makes no sense to most people, but I have lived through some hard times that have made this a Big Deal to me.
Same here.

Have too much stuff as it is; and by middle class USA standards I have not much.
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-09-2007, 12:12 AM   #56
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

I applaud hilbilly and the rest of those that see a mortgage as in net liability no matter what one can attempt at financial arbitrage. Getting a banker (or loan shark) out of your chain of title is more important to me than working a spread against the mortage and the S&P and putting my home at risk. The fewer third parties you have in life that can impact your basic security, including bankers with their deed of trust, bad drivers, tax grabbing politicians, and not distant enough relatives with their agenda, the better chances to remain FIRED without unnecessary risk or hassels.
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-09-2007, 01:48 AM   #57
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

I don't want to try to convince anyone to keep their mortgage. They should do whatever they feel comfortable with. But for those readers who are not afraid of debt on principle and may read this thread, we should correct at least one of misconceptions.

Keeping a mortgage in retirement puts my house at risk -- Your house is always at risk. Fail to pay property tax and you can lose it to the county. Fail to pay your insurance and you can lose it to fire, flood or wind. Holding a mortgage provides another organization (the bank) that you can lose your house to, but for a retiree this possiblility is extremely remote. Consider two unit retirees: Retiree A has $1M and a paid off house. Retiree B has $1.1M and a $100,000 mortgage. Retiree B would have to lose over 99% of his portfolio to lose enough to fail to make annual mortgage payments. If that happens, retiree A will also be out of money. Retiree A may be able to starve to death in his own living room, but he will not have avoided losing the house to the county. By the way, if starving to death in a home you own is the goal, then retiree B could choose to spend his last $100K to pay off the loan at any time. The only thing at risk for both retirees is that their choice to pay off or keep the mortgage may turn out to be more expensive than the alternative choice. That's where the FIRECalc simulations can be valuable. For any specific portfolio and mortgage situation, you can run the simulator and find out whether historically the odds were better (lower risk) for you to hold your mortgage or pay it off.

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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-09-2007, 07:37 AM   #58
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

I am amazed that this tread still raises so many responses.

It is very, very simple:
If you can earn a higher after-tax return on your investments than the after-tax interest rate expense on your debt, you should invest. Otherwise, you should pay off your balance.

For example, if your mortgage rate is 5% for a loan period of 5years and you can invest in a 5-year CD at 5.5%, do not pay off your mortgage. Is this simple?
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???
Old 04-09-2007, 08:11 AM   #59
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

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Originally Posted by bbuzzard
Consider my situation. I have about $70,000 in principle remaining with a $750 mortgage payment. At a 4% SWR, I need $225,000 in the bank to make the payment. If I just paid off the balance of $70,000, I would have $155,000 left, and withdrawing at 4% from the $155,000 I would be able to spend an extra $6,200 on myself as compared to keeping the mortgage.
Couple thoughts...
1. It seems like your monthly payments are very high, considering just $70,000 in principal. You ought to be able to refinance it to around $450/mo with 30-year fixed. That would make it be the "4% SWR equivalent" of only $135,000 instead of $225,000.
2. The 4% SWR allows for annual inflation increases while your fixed interest mortgage payments never go up. So while your mortgage payment now is equivalent to 4% SWR from $225,000 in 2007 dollars, in 10 years it will be significantly less.

P.S. I'm agnostic on whether it's better to pay off the mortage before ER... Just trying to define the problem more precisely
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Old 04-09-2007, 10:32 AM   #60
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Re: Pay off the Mortgage at Retirement???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanky
I am amazed that this tread still raises so many responses.

It is very, very simple:
If you can earn a higher after-tax return on your investments than the after-tax interest rate expense on your debt, you should invest. Otherwise, you should pay off your balance.

For example, if your mortgage rate is 5% for a loan period of 5years and you can invest in a 5-year CD at 5.5%, do not pay off your mortgage. Is this simple?
Well . . . Spanky, it's very simple to say it's simple. But this advice is like saying, "Investment in stocks is easy. Buy low. Sell high. It really is that simple."

In fact, there is more to portfolio & mortgage planning than simply return. There is also the risk issue. With a house, you have the risk that your neigborhood declines and you no longer wish to live there -- inflation risk that your investment in your house does not keep up with inflation -- liquidity and reinvestment risk if you want or need to move -- event risk that some political or social change adversely affects the value of your home . . . With a mortgage, you diminish all of the risks above (especially inflation risk) but add a payment risk (ie. the risk that you will be unable to pay the mortgage). It is this payment risk that most posters who favor payoff seem to focus on. So choosing to keep or pay off a mortgage is about more than return. It is about risk too.

Your simple rule about whether you can get higher return is also difficult to evaluate for 30 year periods. Rates and returns will change over the next 30 years. It is not important that I beat my mortgage rate every year, only over the 30 year period (or the duration of my loan), and that is more difficult to predict. That's where FIRECalc comes in. FIRECalc can tell you your historical probability of beating your mortgage by paying it off for periods as long as 30 years. Most people with 20+ years left on their mortgage and 6.25% or lower mortgage rates will find that investment in a balanced portfolio provided a better SWR and greater return historically. But if the payment risk dominates their concern list, they should still choose to payoff the mortgage.
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