Reducing your debt before you head into retirement can help secure your finances as you prepare for a fixed income. Chances are your mortgage is one of your largest sources of debt, so looking for ways to repay your mortgage before you hit retirement is a smart financial move.
Here are some creative ways to rethink your mortgage repayment strategy if the math is not on your side and the clock ticks closer toward retirement.
1. Turn your home into a moneymaker
A 2021 study found that 72.7% of baby boomers are carrying mortgage debt, up from 69.6% in 2019. This generation was also the most likely to pause debt payments during the pandemic in comparison to some younger generations. As the pandemic wanes, many baby boomers will be looking to get back on track with mortgage repayments, and potentially make up for lost time.
One unique approach is to put your home to work for you. Homeowners have long relied on renting portions of their home in periods of financial difficulty. If you have a separate suite, this could be relatively easy to do, or you could rely on the many vacation rental sites and networks.
If you’re not keen on inviting others to live with you, there are still other ways to earn extra cash from your property. You could consider renting out a beautiful space in your home to local photographers looking for a unique photo shoot setting. Or, lease storage spaces in your home or garage. If you want a more hands-on approach to developing an income property, consider hosting events such as family reunions, weddings, meetings or larger scale, seasonal community events.
A lot of these ideas depend on the size of your property. If you live in an urban center, you likely won’t be turning your backyard into a corn maze or U-pick garden. Likewise, if you live in a rural area you likely won’t have many takers for parking spots. Use your home’s natural setting to your advantage to earn extra money that can go toward your mortgage. Just make sure you purchase enough insurance to cover your home-based business (more than 50% are underinsured), or an emergency could send you into an even more precarious financial position.
2. Put bonuses and raises toward your mortgage
Before you start aggressively trying to repay your current mortgage, you should confirm that you are at the very best interest rate possible. Mortgage rates are predicted to stay around 3% throughout 2021, so if your interest rate is much higher, it could make sense to look into refinancing. Once you know you’re paying the very best rate possible, your next step should be to direct extra cash toward repaying your mortgage.
One way you can decide to do this is by living off your salary only and directing any workplace bonuses toward mortgage repayment. Since you know you can cover your living costs at your current salary, you can also choose to direct funds from any raises you obtain directly toward your mortgage repayment.
Tax refunds can also be a way to contribute more cash toward your mortgage. The average tax refund in 2021 was about $2,800. Add this amount up over several years and it can help shave some time off the total length of your mortgage.
3. Travel abroad
If you want to get really creative with repaying your debts, you can try moving abroad. Government data shows nearly 5 million Americans live overseas. If your job is portable or allows you to work remotely, one option could be moving to a country with a lower cost of living while renting out your current home. The money you save on living expenses could be combined with your income as a landlord to help repay your mortgage faster.
There are some big financial factors you’ll need to get in order for this strategy to pay off. First, you’ll have to ensure you’re moving to a country with a tax treaty between the United States so you don’t get doubly taxed on your income. Second, keep in mind that the cost of health insurance could be substantial in different countries. While medicine is socialized in many countries, your costs as a foreigner could be expensive, or you might find the wait times to see a specialist are longer than you’d like.
If traveling abroad isn’t in the cards, consider gaining a similar but homegrown advantage by traveling to a city or state with a lower cost of living. If you’ve always wanted to ditch the city for the country, now might be the time.
Heading into retirement with reduced debt helps ease the stress of learning to live on a fixed income. There are many traditional strategies for reducing your mortgage debt, but if you’re looking for something a bit more unique, these three approaches could help you chart your own course.
Jolene Latimer has her Master's in Specialized Journalism from the University of Southern California. She writes about personal finance, marketing and sports.
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