Is Paying off Your Mortgage the Best Move?

Dear Dr. Don,

I currently owe $30,000 on my mortgage. I am 59� years old and would like to pay it off within the next five years. My payments are currently very low and include my property taxes.

How much more would I have to pay each month to accomplish this goal? I asked the mortgage company, which is my bank, for an amortization schedule, but they said they don't do that. Can you help me by giving me a rough estimate? The interest rate on the mortgage is 3.5%.

-- Kathy Credit

Dear Kathy,

Of course they do it. They just won't do it for you. That's OK because the estimate is easy, and Bankrate can provide you with the amortization schedule. You're asking what the monthly payment has to be to amortize a $30,000 mortgage over five years at 3.5%. The payment is $545.75. That number doesn't include any monthly escrow amount. I used Bankrate's mortgage calculator to solve for the payment.

The difference between the principal and interest component of your current mortgage payment and this $545.75 number is the amount of additional principal you need to pay each month to accomplish your goal of paying off the mortgage in the next five years.

While it's a great goal to have your mortgage paid off prior to retirement, it's not always your best financial move. For example, if you have the ability to contribute to a retirement plan at work in which your employer matches all or part of your contribution, and you're not contributing up to the limit of the company match, then contributing to the retirement plan up to the limit of the matching program makes more sense than paying down the mortgage. The interest rate on your mortgage is a low 3.5%, but you can make 50% if the company matches your contribution.

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