Deciding on 10 or 15 Year for Refinance

Dear Dr. Don, 

My husband and I are refinancing our home. We can't decide between a 10-year or 15-year mortgage. We can afford either loan term with a refinance. As of this writing, rates currently are 3.49% for the 10-year mortgage and 3.59% for the 15-year mortgage. Is it better to take the 15-year with a slightly lower payment and higher interest and make extra payments toward the principal? We are in our 50s and are not sure when we will retire.


-Susan Scenarios

Dear Susan, 

With just the 0.1% difference in rates, I like the idea of the 15-year mortgage versus the 10-year. I'm a firm believer in financial flexibility. If you take out the 10-year mortgage, the higher monthly payment is a contractual obligation.

Compare Mortgage Rates in Your Area

Taking out the 15-year mortgage and making additional principal payments can get you to the same approximate payoff date and gives you the flexibility to skip an additional principal payment if your monthly budget gets a little tight in any particular month.

You didn't tell me exactly how much you were refinancing, so I put together a table for a $100,000 refinancing using Bankrate's mortgage calculator and amortization schedule. It showed that you would pay an extra $677.88 to pay off a 15-year mortgage in 10 years and one month at 3.59%, versus a 10-year mortgage at 3.49%. The table ignores any loss of the mortgage interest deduction on your income tax returns. If you're refinancing a $200,000 mortgage, then the number would be twice that amount.

You have to decide if it's worth the additional money to preserve your financial flexibility by using a 15-year mortgage instead of the 10-year mortgage. If you are both secure in your jobs and have an adequate emergency fund, then you probably will use the 10-year mortgage for your refinance.

Get more news, money-saving tips and expert advice by signing up for a free Bankrate newsletter.

Ask the adviser

To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask the Experts" page and select one of these topics: "Financing a home," "Saving and Investing" or "Money." Read more Dr. Don columns for additional personal finance advice.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

Copyright 2013, Bankrate Inc.