When I bought my first home in 2011, I had a very Independent Woman attitude about it all, and wanted to pay down my mortgage as fast as possible. Because I was self-reliant, and didn’t need a man to become debt-free and reach all my goals! Right? Well. 28-year-old-Krystal had a lot to learn about financial priorities. I eventually realized that putting every extra penny towards my mortgage wasn’t making me happy, and it wasn’t getting me any closer to my number one financial goal of early retirement. So by the time I sold that home in 2015, the only extras I was putting towards my mortgage was keeping to an accelerated bi-weekly schedule.
Since RD and I are taking possession of our home in a few weeks, we’ve been discussing how we plan to pay down our mortgage. Based on our budget I showed you earlier this month, we’ll definitely be going with an accelerated bi-weekly payment plan, but aside from that? We have vague goals of putting down some sort of lump sum payment every year. Accelerated payments and small lump sums will be enough for us to reach our goal of eliminating our mortgage before we retire. But as a PF blogger, I just had to run the numbers to see how long it would take us to “burn” our mortgage, Sean Cooper style. :)
We’ve calculated that our joint expenses will be $3,600/month – which includes our base mortgage payment, strata, and property taxes, along with our fixed bills, groceries, household expenses, and a monthly buffer of $365 set aside for household repairs and emergencies. If we decided to put down the rest of our income towards the mortgage (which means we’d live on a very strict budget), we could eliminate our mortgage in less than 5 years.
So yeah, it would be pretty damn cool to be mortgage-free before I’m 40 (especially in the Vancouver area!), but the lifestyle and sacrifice required to achieve that goal is not appealing. And at this point in our lives, it’s just not going to happen. 5 years is a really long time! Maybe our mindset will change in the future, but here’s why it’s not going to happen right now:
We have other (more important) financial goals
Traveling multiple times a year is something we both agree is really important to us, and we want to do for as long as we are physically able to travel. It’s one thing to potentially lose our big trip each year (that seems manageable), but not be able to afford flights to visit our families, go to Tofino, or plan weekend getaways to the Sunshine Coast or Squamish? That sounds horrible. Living that kind of life for the next 5 years (which happen to be prime adventure travel/hiking years) to pay off our mortgage sooner? No thanks.
As for early retirement, saving for that goal has always been my top financial priority. And now that RD has figured out when he can retire from the government, it means my retirement age will be 54. :) Losing 5 key years of retirement savings stresses me out because if I keep saving at the rate that I’m saving right now, I will reach my goal easily.
No interest in working harder
Work more than my 9-5 job, and the small amount of freelance work I do on the side? Sorry, again, not interested. Maybe that’s a horrible attitude to have, but this is the reason why we chose to take on a small mortgage – so that we will never feel like we need to work harder than we already are, just to keep a roof over our heads.
Related: Why I don’t want to be self-employed
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s really important to work hard to achieve your goals. I worked three jobs to pay down my debt, and continued to hustle in order to save for my first down payment – often working 70-75 hours/week. But that lifestyle isn’t sustainable, and I burned out after 18 months. I’m glad I worked hard to put myself in the financial situation I am now, but I made a promise to myself after I moved back from Germany that I was never going back to working crazy hours again – even if it meant taking a pay cut. Living a balanced lifestyle is just so much more important to me.
I want a little YOLO attitude in my life
We love our lifestyle right now. We’re frugal and we often say no to things when they come up, but we also don’t want to miss out on what we feel is important. I love being able to say ‘yes’ to a girls weekend in Seattle or Vegas, treating my sister to a spa day for her birthday, and buying that sorta pricey climbing gym membership with zero regrets. I want to continue being able to do all of these things without stressing or feeling guilty that I should be putting those dollars towards the mortgage instead.
You really do only live once, and the whole point of buying the condo that we bought was because we could afford to continue living exactly how we’re living now. I’ve worked so hard for the past 10 years to become as financially stable as I am right now, and the idea of having to sacrifice for 5 more years sounds exhausting. And, honestly, it seems joyless.
Our mortgage will be paid off before we retire
We both agree that we don’t want a mortgage in retirement, and that goal is easily attainable by making accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments, and small lump sum payments every year. Interest rates may change in the future, but for the next 5 years, we’re looking at a 2.59% rate. And I know we can get a better return for our money by investing it instead. Since we already have a sizeable down payment, the thought of putting more of our net worth into real estate isn’t something we are super comfortable with.
As I said at the beginning of this post, this is our thinking right now, but it doesn’t mean we won’t change our minds in the future. Maybe we’ll come up with a happy middle ground where we are paying extra towards our mortgage to eliminate it in 10 or 12 years instead of aggressively going for 5 years. Or maybe we’ll just be happy with the 20 year plan that we have going for us.
Are you planning on aggressively paying down your mortgage?
I’ve been hounded by collection agencies. I’ve had my credit cards declined in public. I’ve borrowed money from friends. And I’ve been so maxed out I couldn’t even afford to take the bus.
That was me in 2006. I was 24 and just about to graduate from college. I had a mountain of student loan and credit card debt, and basically no job prospects. My three part-time jobs weren’t enough to pay “real” rent, so I was stuck living in my parents basement, and in a relationship I needed to get out of. With my college diploma in hand, I was desperate to start my new adult life. I needed change, and it needed to happen immediately.
I haven’t really thought of that time in my life for a while. But doing my taxes this year and shredding a bunch of old paperwork showed me just how bad it was. I saw max out credit card statements, a line of credit that I used as a revolving debit account, and collections notices for bills I couldn’t pay and chose to ignore. Shredding those pieces of paper was liberating, but it made me realize that the financial disaster of a person I used to be is still hiding inside of me.
Last month I spent nearly $2,000 in car repairs, travel, and clothing. And it could have been a lot worse. My life has changed in that I can now pay for all of that spending in cash – but when I look back at 24-year-old me, I can still see how easy it would be to slide back into old habits. Buying two items of clothing to replace two that have worn out was fun. I could have bought way more and still not have been satisfied. I still fight the urge to be lazy and not cook a single meal (and not having RD around lately has made me even lazier). I’ve been fantasizing about what I could be spending my money on instead of saving for retirement (imagine having an extra $1,500 per month to spend!), and can you imagine the traveling that could be done if I emptied my savings account?!
So what’s stopping me from sliding back? A lot of it has to do with the anxiety and hopelessness I felt when I was living perpetually in the red. If you’ve ever been in debt before, you know the feeling … like it’s too big of a mountain to climb … like you’ll always be struggling just to get by. I remember spending countless hours worrying, crying, and stressing out over how I was going to ever turn my life around. I had never been good with money, and was never taught how. I came from an immigrant family, but my parents were always responsible with their cash. I should have learned from their example, but I didn’t.
It took a lot of will power and motivation to take the step to change my life, but looking through those financial statements showed me it was worth it. Seeing my debt shrink each month (even if it was just by a little bit) was so motivating as it was happening back then, and it was motivating to me to read 10 years later.
I thought that once I got out of debt and taught myself how to be responsible with my money, that the urge to spend would disappear. But it hasn’t. Sometimes I slip up and buy things I regret, or I eat at restaurants too often, and I’m still sometimes shocked at my credit card statements. I have all of my savings automatically withdrawn from my account as soon as I get paid – not because it’s easier for me, but because if I don’t, I’m afraid I’ll spend it. I keep a detailed spreadsheet of all of my spending and savings and transactions because it helps me stay focused and on track. My monthly budgets and spending recaps on this blog? They’re for me, not you. :)
I may not be the personal finance train wreck I used to be, and I think my money management will always be a work in progress. I’m not a natural saver, but I know that it’s important for my future self, and for my current sanity. Seeing my savings grow and knowing I’ll be okay financially in the future gives me a lot less anxiety than seeing my debt grow. So I’ll continue saving and investing and spending within my means. But it’s not easy.
Are you a natural saver or spender?
Where did you live while you were going to school, and if you had to do it over again, would you do it any differently?
This post was inspired by the Globe’s recent article: Want to save $45,000 in university costs? Live with Mom and Dad
When I was 17, I received a scholarship to study (and play field hockey) at a university in Michigan. The total value of that scholarship was approximately $20,600 per academic year ($11,000 tuition, $8,600 on-campus housing, $1,000 books). And that was when $1 CAN was the equivalent of $0.67 US.
Had I not gotten a full scholarship, there was no way I could have gone. Even if just my tuition was covered, coming up with $8,600 per year for housing (that’s $34,400 for a 4-year program)? Not possible unless I took out massive student loans.
When I was 22, I decided to go back to school in my hometown. I was living in a downtown apartment at the time, paying $625/month rent. As soon as I knew I was going back to school, I moved home and into my parents’ basement. In the two years I was in college, that saved me $15,000.
Sure, I missed out on some things. Bonding with my classmates (who were also roommates), and having the independence of living on my own. I really liked living on-campus when I was in Michigan. I didn’t have a commute (which meant I could roll out of bed at 10:45 for my 11am class), and all my meals were made for me at the cafeteria. But it just didn’t make financial sense to keep my apartment – or even live closer to campus. Even if I really wanted to. Living in the same town as my parents, they were happy (but maybe a little reluctant) to let me live with them again. I had moved out twice before, after all. :)
The $15,000 I saved while living with my parents likely would have been a lot more if I had lived somewhere else. It’s pretty easy to get tempted with dinners out, drinks, parties, etc. when you’re surrounded by friends … or living on campus, where there are always temptations to help you spend your money. And since I graduated over $20,000 in debt, it’s obvious I already had problems keeping my spending in check.
So, where did you live while you were going to school? Did you live with your parents, and regret not having the freedom? Or did you move out on your own (or to a different city), only to have accumulated more student loans than you thought you would?