Dear Retirement Adviser,
I have a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage at 6.99%, and it will be paid off 5 years from now, right before I turn 65. I should have no debt by the time I retire if things go as I plan. People say I'm crazy to pay this interest rate and should refinance, but I don't want to be saddled with another 15-year term.
Is there a shorter term at a lower rate available that would meet my goal of no debt in retirement?
-- Vicki Voluble
Retiring debt-free is some of the "fine print" associated with the good old American dream. If you are able to stay in your current home through refinancing and can stay long enough to justify some of the costs, that's a positive.
Mortgages with shorter durations
There are lenders now providing 10-year fixed-rate mortgages. If you find a lender in your market offering this term mortgage, it would probably be at around the same rate as a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. As I write this, Bankrate's national average for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage is 3.27%.
If there's no difference in the interest rates, I'd stick with the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage and make additional principal payments each month to shorten the life of the loan to your targeted goal of having the house paid off around the time you retire. That way, the higher payment isn't contractual, and you can skip the extra additional principal payment if money is tight during any one month.
You can use Bankrate's handy mortgage payment calculator to determine how much extra you need to pay each month to get the loan paid off early. Make sure your new loan doesn't have a prepayment penalty, and you're good to go.
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