5 Things I Learned While Paying Off My Mortgage

Last year I spent every waking moment thinking about paying off my mortgage. “How am I going to pay this off by the end of the year? How can I save more money? How can I earn more money?” At times, it was probably unhealthy, but I learned a ton during that 2014 year, both about myself and about others. Here is a compilation of everything that I now realize after paying off my mortgage.

1) You Will Relate to NO ONE

20150316 - paying off my mortgage relate to no oneIn that first month I was extremely excited to do everything possible to succeed in paying off my mortgage. I knew it was unconventional, so I tried not to tell too many people, but I just couldn’t help it! I still remember the first guy that I told. I was at work and we were having a conversation around personal finance and debt – that’s when I let it slip – I was paying off my mortgage by the end of the year.

His response: “Why? And what do you plan to do with all that money when it’s gone? Are you just going to sit on it all your life?

Okay, so this first unveiling didn’t go so well. Not only was this idea foreign to him, but he also just assumed that I was a miser and would do absolutely nothing with the extra money when all my debts were gone. I was so frazzled that all I got out for an explanation was, “I want to have options in life, and paying off my mortgage is going to provide that for me.” I’m sure he didn’t really understand what I was saying due to the blank expression on his face.

Another friend of mine came back at me with this response – “Why pay off such a cheap debt? You could earn more if you just invested the money instead.

His thought was that he could earn at least 7%-8% in the market each year, so why pay off a 3.75% interest rate mortgage? The point sounds valid, but it completely ignores risk. The risk of “earning” 3.75% by paying off the mortgage early is a whopping zero. But, investing in the market during these volatile times is actually quite risky. There is certainly a chance to earn 7% or more in the market, but there is also a chance of losing 40%! I was more comfortable taking the zero risk option.

Finally, there are those that will be jealous of your plans and they’ll just give you a laundry list of excuses why they can’t do it: kids, a bad economy, medical bills, expensive car repairs, blah blah blah. In reality, the reasons are: going out to eat too much, spending retail prices for everything, and buying more car than they can really afford.

paying off my mortgage2) Goals Are Amazing Tools for Success

I have always been one to make goals for myself, but setting this audacious house payoff goal made me realize just how powerful goals really are! After paying off $21,000 to my ex in six months, I realized that paying off my mortgage of $54,500 was absolutely possible. It definitely wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but it was possible!

For those that snarkily say that I should invest instead of paying off my mortgage, they really don’t know what they’re talking about. Have you ever heard of anyone setting a goal to invest $54,500 into the market in one year? Likely not. So if I were to “invest instead of pay off my house debt”, how much do you think I would actually invest in a year? What, maybe $10,000? There just isn’t that same sense of urgency there, so it would be dang near impossible to invest the same amount, which of course would mean that it’s likely not the better option!

If you want to succeed in life, continually set goals for yourself. You’ll get to where you want to be waaayyy faster with goals.

3) The Average Person’s Crisis is Nothing

Paying off my mortgage was the last step of a three year process to get completely debt free. Along this journey, my wife left me (and took a bunch of money with her), water leaked into my house and destroyed much of my ceilings, and I had multiple struggles with vehicles that I was hoping to sell for a profit (mechanical issues and a deer crash). After this long battle against debt and the set-backs that showed up along the way, suddenly my co-workers’ crises started sounding ridiculous:

  • “My car blew a tire and it set me back $150”
  • “I got my check a week late and almost couldn’t make the rent payment!”
  • “I couldn’t believe how much our vacation really cost when I looked at the credit card bill!”

See what I mean? I just don’t know what to say to these people anymore. I should just carry index cards with me that say, “You should have been a little smarter with your money, dingus!”

4) Your Bank Account Will Soar

Now THIS is the fun part! When you don’t have any debt, your expenses total up to hardly anything. For me, my necessary expenses each month became a laughable $460. With next to nothing for expenses, your bank account has a chance to soar incredibly quickly!

At this point, Liz and I figure that we could live fairly comfortably and still save $60,000 per year. This amount could buy us a rental property, which could then earn us even more money to buy more rentals, etc. etc. until those rentals are earning us $160,000 per year after ten years of investing. At that point we’ll be 40 years old with a TON of options! Debt freedom is awesome!

20150316 - paying off my mortgage5) Start Thinking About Want-to’s Instead of Have-to’s

While paying off my mortgage, I realized that most people have just dug themselves into a huge debt hole that they are convinced they can’t get out of. Every waking moment of their lives is spent thinking about the next payment that needs to be made and what has to be done in order to pay it on time. It’s honestly the most terrible way to live, but almost everyone voluntarily signs up for it!

By paying off my mortgage and getting rid of all my debts, I now don’t have to think about those “have-to’s”. I have plenty of money in the bank and am earning even more as we speak. Contrary to the thoughts of those that are in debt, my time is spent thinking about future vacations, future investments, and activities that wills strengthen my prized relationships. It definitely isn’t normal, and I get crazy looks from time to time, but it is hands-down the absolute best life that I have experienced thus far.

If you want to get out of debt but just don’t know where to start, please contact me! Seriously. There is a “Contact” tab at the top of the page. Please use it and ask me anything. I would love to help!

Where are you in your debt-payoff process? Have people given you crazy looks yet?

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17 comments to 5 Things I Learned While Paying Off My Mortgage

  • Ryan

    Thanks for the great read! Although I am still 7 years away from my plan to pay off the house I still get the “deer in headlights” look when I tell people my plan and that I cant wait until I can get rid of my escrow acct. Even at 24y/o I cant really relate to anyone my own age as far as finances are concerned, it just puts me in an awkward position to talk about when I know me and the other person aren’t on the same level.

    Keep it up and congrats on the engagement!

    • Haha, yeah. To be honest, it still is a little awkward when people talk about the “great deal” they got on their car payments, etc etc. Most of the time, I just say nothing and hope that someone else will congratulate them on their “wisdom”. 😉

  • Your so right, people don’t know how to relate when you tell them you are paying off your mortgage early. We are paying our 30 year mortgage off in 7 years or less (5 years if I have it my way).

    Most people say as if they were on auto pilot “that you could earn so much more in the market”. But like you pointed out that is a potential gain of say 7-8% with downside risk. Where paying off the mortgage is a guaranteed return based on what ever your interest rate is.

    To me I consider the early pay down of my mortgage as my bond allocation. When finished I will be getting payments in the form of the mortgage I am no longer paying.

    Also people try to go to the ole tax deduction. I did the math and over 7 years I end up paying $10K more in taxes, but I save $27K in interest. So even the math doesn’t work.

    And lastly like you pointed out, the options you have once you are mortgage free.

    Can’t wait to be in the same boat as you my friend.

    Cheers!
    Gen Y Finance Guy recently posted..February 2015 – Detailed Financial Report #2

    • Thanks for the comment, Gen Y! Yeah, you’re right. The tax deduction definitely doesn’t work either. People just want to justify buying something they can’t afford, and this is how they do it. Keep up the great work with the mortgage payoff! You won’t regret it!

  • christine

    Hi Derek,
    What an inspiring post. I really want to have a crack at paying off my mortgage but don’t know how to do the sums. Can you help me?
    I have a mortgage of $233K, interest rate 4.19% 3 year fixed interest only. Im hoping to change the mortgage agreement next year when it expires. Keeping things simple, do I take $233 divide by the number of years I want to settle it? E.G. 233 /10 YEARS = $23.3K per year? I have excluded lots of things like interest and annual fees. But I thought if i pay $23K yearly, then settling the house loan in 10-11 years is a feasibility. But the thing is, I really want to buffer up my savings to at least $100K for emergencies and retirement planning.

    • Hi Christine! That’s awesome that you want to pay off your mortgage, but be sure not to do so INSTEAD of investing for your retirement. You should really be doing these both at the same time.

      If you want to figure out how much you’ll be paying monthly for a regular fixed mortgage (often the best way to go), then just head to http://www.mortgagecalculator.org/. I took the liberty of entering your info and used a 1% property tax payment: To pay off your $233k home in 10 years, you would need to make monthly payments of $2,574. Pretty steep. The $23k a year (like you mentioned) would allow you to pay the house off in about 15 years, which would STILL be fantastic!

      If this isn’t feasible for you, then maybe selling your home might be the way to go – find something cheaper. Hope this info helped you, Christine!

  • Cheap Dutch Guy

    My neighbor was just boasting about his mother getting her new lease on a 2015 vehicle for “only” $300/month. My cars have always been fully paid for and with recent tax return money we were able to pay down my wife’s vehicle loan amount to around $900, that will be paid off in no time!

    I recently told a guy at work, (he’s 58 and years away from paying off his house), that I plan to payoff my mortgage by the time I’m 50, 13 years from now, Which is exactly how many years are left on our current mortgage. He laughed so hard at me and said “GOOD LUCK!” You won’t be doing that with your 4 young kids. So I proceeded to tell him about you, and directed him to your website, to which his reply was, “yeah, but he doesn’t have kids”
    Yes, children can cost quite a bit of money, but if you are still smart minded, savvy, savers, like my wife and I are, I think we can make our dreams a reality.

    This co workers disbelief only adds to making it a point to get it done. It’s always fun to prove someone wrong when it comes to making good decisions. Just like the time I told someone we were trying to get our house taxes lowered, he laughed me off too, but guess what, we did it.
    Who’s laughing now.

    • Ha, yeah, I wouldn’t know what to say to your neighbor. That lease sounds terrible.

      And, your coworker sounds a bit negative. Perhaps he should have been more frugal or figured out how to earn more money during his lifetime. Set your goals and you’ll get there CDG! Keep me posted on your awesomeness. 🙂

  • Rob Benton

    I agree that paying off a mortgage leads to serious financial freedom, making the wants of life seem more feasible. I think that some people are turned off at the thought of having to pay on a mortgage because of the interest rate they will have to fork out. Personally though, I would much rather pay off a house and be done with it than have an eternal monthly renter’s fee.
    Rob Benton recently posted..Why Do Mortgage Rates Change?

  • […] of the same things you’re struggling with. Some of them I still struggle with, but I have been able to overcome many of the challenges that I’ve faced. And for those monsters that I’ve been able to slay, I want to help you overcome them too. […]

  • […] no one else I know in real life who’s in this club. No one. As Derek learned last year when he paid off his mortgage, there is absolutely no one to relate to which can create some weird conversations and situations. […]

  • nicole

    Hi Derek,
    I read this section all the time. It is so inspirational. I am so pumped to get my mortgage balance down in a shorter amount of time. I do not know why this is not taught in college or high schools.I feel so pissed at myself by not realizing just paying a little bit more per month on how much farther I would have been by now. But, right now is the important part and I am working towards that goal of debt freedom. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    • Hi Nicole! I’m glad you’re still inspired to pay off your mortgage debt! My wife and I are saving more money now than ever because we ditched all our debt. And, with saving up money ultimately means INVESTING money, which means our cash flow will just keep going up!

      Keep working it! You won’t be disappointed!

  • […] After that decision day, it took me less than one year to pay off my entire mortgage. […]

  • D

    Great read my friend.

    I am on the same path as you. 49 now, divorced at 39……….big financial setback. Child support and spousal support. But now I am the Captain of my own ship………..will be mortgage free by age 53 – 4 more years. Have no other debt and already saving for a rplacement vehicle, for 4 years in the future.

    Age 53 I plan to be debt free, newer truck, considering retirement. I will likely stay at my job another 2 years, plowing all my former mortgage payments into RRSP backroom. Should be able to put in about $55,000 into RRSP’s in those two years….they sayonara job! Retirement at 55. I may take a job elsewhere to fill my time, but it will be by CHOICE…not necessity

    • Great job, D! It’s not easy to pick yourself up after a divorce situation. There are so many people that would have just given up and chalked it up to bad luck. Not us! We’re now on the other side and even better off financially! Love it!

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