Your Mortgage Is Debt, Too!

I see it all over the place.  On TV.  On blogs.  In news articles.  It doesn’t matter.

When talking about debt, mortgages seem to get glossed over.  The focus always seems to be on ‘non-mortgage debt’.

While this is good, the fact remains that you still owe on your mortgage.  It’s still debt.  And, chances are, for most that have a mortgage, it’s the biggest debt and/or the biggest monthly payment that you have associated with debt.

So, why might mortgages get ‘left out’ of the debt discussion?  Just speculating here:

Read moreYour Mortgage Is Debt, Too!

Don’t Pay For A Bi-Weekly Mortgage Plan

My boss recently bought a house, so quite a few of our work related conversations over the past couple of months have shifted away from work and discussing the various stages of home ownership.

One recent conversation brought to light that it’s probably worth reminding people that it’s generally not a good idea to pay to enroll in the bi-weekly mortgage plan.

Me: How’s everything with the move going?
Boss: Pretty good.  Hey, look at this.  We just closed last week but I already got something from the mortgage company.  They offered this bi-weekly mortgage plan for $295.  It shortens the mortgage time by seven years.
Me: Yeah, I get those all the time.
Boss: I was just doing the math and it looks like all they’re doing is making twenty-six “half” deductions instead of twelve “full” deductions.  That basically means that they’re just taking an extra payment a year, right?
Me: You got it.
Boss (getting excited now): So can’t I just add extra to my payment each month and accomplish the same thing?
Me: Yep.
Boss: So, why would anybody pay $295 for this?
Me: Because a lot of people see the savings, figure a $295 investment is worth it, but don’t realize that they can accomplish the same thing without paying a dime for it.
Boss: Sneaky.
Me: It sure is!

My boss and many others have figured out on their own that paying for the bi-weekly plan is simply not worth it.  If you want to do the same thing, all you have to do is:

  1. Identify what your monthly payment is for principal and interest only.  This means that if part of your payment consists of an ‘escrow’ amount to cover such things as property taxes, insurance or association fees, you should exclude this.
  2. Divide the amount above by twelve.
  3. Add this payment amount to your monthly payment.  If possible, make sure you specify this as an extra payment towards principal.  Also, make sure that you don’t have a pre-payment penalty (most standard mortgages don’t).
  4. Enjoy the shorter mortgage pay-off time AND the $295 you saved by not letting the bank do this for you.

Example:
Your monthly mortgage payment is $1500 broken down by:
Principal and interest: $1200
Escrow (taxes / insurance): $300

You only want to concentrate on the principal and interest, so your focus is on the $1200.

Divide that by twelve and you end up with $100. That’s going to be your ‘extra’ payment per month.

Contact the bank (or logon to your account if your bank lets you) and add $100 per month to your payment, specifying it to go towards principal.

Your payment will now be $1600 per month:
Principal and interest: $1200
Extra principal payment: $100
Escrow (taxes / insurance): $300

We aren’t doing this at the moment because we’re redirecting any extra money we have towards other things like paying down student loan debt and saving for some home renovations, but should this be a priority, this will be the formula we’ll follow!

Paying Down A Chunk Of Student Loans

Last December, I reported that my grandmother had passed away.  She was 95 and lived a great life.

I miss her dearly.

She was kind enough to have left me an inheritance.  She and my grandfather (who passed away in the mid-1990’s) lived modestly, but were able to save a little bit.

My grandmother had told me of the fact that I was to receive some money at a couple of different points over the past few years.  Even so, I never ‘counted on’ this money, because I knew that expenses she might have for medical or housing issues might necessitate dipping into her savings.  If that would have happened, I would have been perfectly OK with that because her happiness and comfort was more important to me than any amount of money could have provided.

Things played out, though, where I did receive some money after her passing.  I’m holding onto some, and not including it our net worth, because I haven’t decided what to do with it.  I have often heard that the best thing to when coming into money is…..nothing.

We did make a decision to take some of it and apply it towards paying down the student loan balances that exist as debt.  Our goal is to pay these off by the end of 2012, so we applied a portion of the monies towards that.

I sent off the payment this morning!

I know that my grandmother would approve of this choice.  She and my grandfather were among the first people to instill in me, at an early age, the belief that carrying little or no debt was the best way to go.  From as long as I remember, my grandparents owned what was theirs.

The payment we made will take out a big chunk, around 40%, of the first of two student loans.  In addition to applying 25% of our expected tax refunds when those come in, we should be on track to be near a zero balance by the end of 2010.  Once that’s paid off, we’ll ‘debt snowball‘ the amount we’re paying on the first loan into the second loan payment.

I would much rather have my grandmother back, but I’m thankful that I do have thirty five years worth of memories of her, and a lot of good values and things that provided me happiness. Paying down our debts will make us very happy, so even though she’s not here in spirit, part of her is along the journey with us now, and I’m very happy to have her on our side!

Other great reads

Here are some additional posts I’ve read recently by other great, hard working bloggers.  Give them a read if you have a few minutes:

Our Rule Of Twenty Five (Percent)

One of our biggest financial goals is to get out of all non-mortgage debt.

Thankfully, we don’t carry any credit card debt and our cars are both paid for, so the only thing we have at the moment is student loan balances.

When my wife was working, we were able to dedicate big chunks on a pretty regular basis, and the balances dropped quite a bit. My wife left the work force last year to take care of Baby Beagle, and coincidentally, her paychecks stopped.  Sadly, this reduced our ability to pay extra in most months.

(In all seriousness, we realized this going in and were fine with the trade-off)

Even so, we still want paying down debt to be a priority, so we now have a rule of twenty five percent.  That simply means that any ‘extra’ income we come across, twenty five percent will automatically go towards paying down debt.

At the moment, our extra cash inflows are pretty much limited to tax refunds.  We haven’t gotten our return yet, but we did ‘hold back’ some money from each of my paychecks last year that we knew would be refunded to us if we’d let the government withhold more.  We have that amount available to us now.

We’re also anticipating an actual refund.

As a one time thing, you may remember last year when I announced that my grandmother had passed away.  She left us some money, and we will be applying the same rule towards the money we receive from her.

With these three items, we’ll be able to reduce our student loan debt about 20% from it’s current level.  Our goal is to have these loans completely paid off by the end of 2012, and this will keep us on track.

I like the rule of twenty five percent, because it makes the application of the money towards the loans almost automatic.  We know we’re coming into a little bit of cash, and we automatically take that twenty five percent out of any discussion of what we want to do with it, as my wife and I know that it will be going directly toward paying down debt.