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Is it better to pay off your mortgage early or save for retirement?

By Chris Burke - Topics: mortgages, Spain
This article is published on: 10th August 2022

One of the more common and difficult questions to answer for clients, more because emotionally people like to pay off their debts and specifically their mortgage (its most likely the biggest debt you will have in your lifetime, if you exclude children!) is ‘Is it better to pay off my mortgage early or save for retirement?’ Well, I am very analytical, which is great being a financial adviser, so I need facts to make decisions and to look forward for clients planning.

Whether you’ve received a pay rise or you’re just planning for the future in general, it can be a challenge deciding how to employ use your hard-earned cash. From a psychological perspective, in a way it makes sense making clearing your debts a priority. However, will you be better off this way or by doing something else with that money/investing those funds? Which option will provide the better return on investment and generate long term wealth for you?

The first step is to evaluate your personal financial situation with a professional financial adviser if possible. There are many variables to take into consideration here such as:

  • What are your objectives/goals?
  • Do you have surplus cash each month?
  • Do you have an emergency fund in place?
  • What exactly are you looking to achieve?

Choosing to pay off your mortgage early
It can be very enticing to pay off your mortgage early and being debt free whilst owning your home outright. This may be able to save you thousands in the long-run and reduce your monthly outgoings, which could be a solid financial decision. Certainly, in the early years of your mortgage, if you are paying mainly interest on your monthly mortgage payments, then this may be the best option for you. However, have you considered the interest rate you have on your mortgage? Is this favourable when compared to other options? And furthermore, have you looked in to the potential early redemption penalties?

Pros of paying off your mortgage early Cons of paying off your mortgage early
Save on paying off the interest borrowed You may cut into your savings (and emergency fund)
Debt free earlier (psychological) Have you diversified? Is your mortgage your only investment?
More money available to you after Early redemption penalties
  Are you losing an opportunity to increase your wealth, by missing out on doing something more effective with the money?
  Money is historically cheap to borrow

Choosing to invest your money
Even though paying off a mortgage early can have many benefits and lifts the burden of repaying a large debt, in many cases it may be wiser to invest extra cash instead in the form of investments or retirement funds. With regards to investing for the future, the earlier that you do this the better. Interest builds up over time (the power of compound interest!) so the longer you have your funds invested ‘working for you’ the more they will be worth when it’s eventually the time to use them.

Pros of investing (vs paying off your mortgage early) Cons of investing (vs paying off your mortgage early)
Potential to see a higher rate of return and increase your wealth Riskier – returns are not guaranteed
The assets are more liquid – easier to sell if you are in need of cash Still requires that you make payments
Depending on the type of investment, there may be opportunity for tax savings or for your employer to match the amount Doesn’t make your debt ‘go away’

So, as I said earlier, I am analytical and its not for me to decide whether anyone should pay off their mortgage early or not, that’s their decision. However, mathematics doesn’t lie so let’s look at a real-life example. The Mortgage payments, rates of return and end results are real figures obtained from our mortgage department and professional investment calculator:

In the below examples I have used €1,930 as the monthly amount in total as this is what came back as the monthly payment for borrowing €300,000 over 15 years:

Case Study 1

Paying your mortgage off over 25 years and also saving for retirement along the way:

Property Value €600 000
Mortgage of €300 000 EUR (50% Mortgage)
25-year term fixed rate at 2%
€1,271 EUR monthly payment
Mortgage paid in full after 25 years

Meanwhile whilst also saving for retirement:

Investing €659 a month for 25 years (€659 + €1,271 adds up to €1,930, the 15-year monthly payment amount below)
5% compound interest
Value of investment/retirement plan after 25 years: €377,425

Case Study 2

Property Value €600 000
Mortgage of €300 000 EUR (50% Mortgage)
15-year term at 2% fixed rate
€1,930 EUR monthly payment

Mortgage paid off in 15 years

Then (after the 15-year period and mortgage fully paid off)

Investing €1,930 a month for 10 years
5% compound interest
Value after 10 years: €291,000

Comparison Results
After 25 years in case study 1, you will have the value of the property you are living in plus €377,425 towards a retirement fund. After 25 years in case study 2, you will have the value of the property plus a retirement fund of €291,000.

Surmise
The difference is nearly €86,000, which I think most people would consider a decent amount of money. The main reason for this is that investing over a greater period of time will statistically bring you a greater return in your investments than shorter. Emotionally, people may like to pay their mortgage off first and then save for retirement, this will either mean you will have less for retirement in the above example or it will cost you a lot more. You would actually need to save €2,500 per month for the 10 years in case study 2 to achieve the same retirement pot, a whopping €68,400 more for the same outcome.

Should I pay off my mortgage or invest?
Before making a decision, it’s important to do a full-scale financial review (ideally with a financial adviser). For example, do you have an emergency fund in place to cover you in case of any unexpected surprises? Furthermore, take your life situation and goals into account. Do you have any plans to travel which you will need the money for? Or a wedding? Furthermore, how long do you think you will be in your home for? If you are considering moving to another place in the near future, it does not make sense to pay off your mortgage (and potentially paying a penalty).

Both options can be seen as very smart financial decisions, depending on your personal circumstances. But everyone’s financial situation is different. It’s important to take everything into consideration and consult a professional.

If you would like to speak with a Financial Adviser in Spain, I am experienced, qualified and legally able to discuss your financial matters. I am also able to review your current pensions, investments and other assets, with the potential to make them more effective and tax efficient moving forward. If necessary, we can perform in depth financial planning to get you set up/back on the right path/or ready for retirement once I fully understand what you are looking to achieve and your situation.

You can get in touch via the form below – or click the button below to make a direct virtual appointment here.

Article by Chris Burke

If you are based in the Barcelona/Costa Brava area and would like to have an initial, complimentary face to face video call or arrange a time to visit Chris in his office in central Barcelona, contact Chris on chris.burke@spectrum-ifa.com or whatsapp +34 689915730. If you are based in another area within Europe, please complete the form below and we will put a local adviser in touch with you.

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