Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Or Invest? [Answered]

Should I pay off my mortgage or invest?

As you continue through your financial journey, you may be wondering if you should pay off your mortgage or invest.  Depending on what stage of life you are in, you may be leaning one way or the other.

Understanding Your Mortgage

Before we make a decision, let’s take a deeper look into what we are paying for with a mortgage. A look at our interest rate, monthly payment, and the amount of time we are paying for a loan will determine how much we actually pay.  I’m going to warn you, this post is math-intensive, but I will wrap it all up in an easy to understand format at the end.
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For my readers out there, let’s start from the top:

To begin, let’s look at a $200,000 loan.  For an interest rate, let’s assume you have a great rate of 4% over a period of 30 years. With these figures, our mortgage will look like the following:

Mortgage = $200,000 at 4% for 30 years

Monthly Payment = $955 basenot including taxes, possible PMI, etc.
Total Paid After 30 Years = $343,739 
So if we do not make any extra payments, we would have spent an extra $143,739 in interest to the bank for that loan.

How To Understand Investments

First and foremost, not all investments are the same.  I have described this more thoroughly in my related article: Exposing The Mutual Fund Industry  For this example, let’s assume we decide to invest in an S&P Index Fund (great choice!).  Historically, the S&P has averaged about 8% per year.  With that being said, let’s do the following calculation based on compound interest.

Investment = $955 a month, for 30 years at 8% interest

Monthly Investment = $955 = $11,460 a year
Total Investment After 30 Years = $1,402,083.65 

Extra Money Towards Mortgage Scenario

reverse mortgages have several different payment options
Now, this is not apples to apples.  The original question is if we should neglect retirement and pay off our mortgage first.  Let’s dig further into this scenario.  Let’s change the scenario and assume we plan to pay off our mortgage early. Assume we are able to pay our mortgage off in 15 years instead of 30.

Mortgage = $200,000 at 4% for 15 years

Monthly Payment = $1479 basenot including taxes, possible PMI, etc.
Total Paid After 15 Years = $266,288 
After 15 years, we would have paid, $66,288 in interest to the bank.
Obviously paying down our mortgage quickly has an impressive impact on the amount of interest we pay to the bank.  By cutting our mortgage time by half, we were able to pay $77,451 less in interest on our loan.
In this scenario, we increased our mortgage payment by $524 a month and cut 15 years off our loan.  By doing this, we saved $77,451 in interest.

Invest The Extra Instead Scenario

saving 18% is better than a pension
In the above scenario, we paid an extra $524 a month to save $77,451 over the life of the loan.  What if we had invested that $524 a month for those 30 years instead of reducing our mortgage time? Let’s see how that impacts our investments.

Investment = $524 a month, for 30 years at 8% compound interest

Monthly Investment = $524 = $6,288 a year
Total Investment After 30 Years = $769,310.82 after 30 years
So if we did not pay extra on our mortgage, we would have paid an extra $77,451 in interest over the life of the loan.  However, if we used that extra money to invest, we would have made $184,391.09 after the first 15 years.  This amount would have compounded to $769.310.82 after the full 30 years.

Apples To Apples

The final scenario involves us paying our mortgage off in 15 years and not contributing to retirement during that time.  After the 15 years, we will invest the full $1,479 a month into retirement for 15 years to see where we end up.  This is the true apples to apples test.

Investment = $1,479 a month, for 15 years at 8% compound interest

Monthly Investment = $1,479 = $17,748 a year
Total Investment After 15 Years = $520,447.38 after 15 years

So Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Or Invest?

options to consider
1st Scenario = Delay retirement and pay off the mortgage early (15 Years) and then invest heavily for 15 years = $520,447.38

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2nd Scenario = Payoff Mortgage in 30 years, and invest a smaller amount for 30 years = $769,310.82

The clear answer is to invest first.  By delaying your retirement and focusing on your mortgage, you are giving up way more than you are gaining.  By investing a smaller amount for a longer period of time, after the 30 year period, you would be up $248,863.44 versus delaying retirement. Compound interest is amazing and it works much better with time.

The Best Answer – Should You Pay Pay Off Your Mortgage Or Invest?

Follow this flow chart to invest and pay off your mortgage the best way:

Invest 18% First, Then Pay Off Your Mortgage

As you can see from the above strategy, due to the power of compound interest, retirement should be started before you pay extra towards your mortgage.  Start that ball rolling on your retirement by setting yourself up at 18% of your income.

By investing this amount, you are giving yourself a rock-solid retirement in just about any scenario.

You do not need to go crazy over the 18% if you still have a mortgage.  If you are able to put the 18% away, put any extra money towards your mortgage to pay it off early!  Win-win! There is certainly something to say for not having a mortgage payment.

The security that comes from that is unmatched.  It gives you the freedom to know that if you lost your job, you wouldn’t be kicked out to the streets.  You would still be able to provide shelter for your family.

So to answer your question, you should invest first, up to 18%, and then pay off your mortgage early.  By doing this, you will be able just about anything that life throws at you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and if you could do me a couple of favors I would appreciate it.

First, please subscribe to my new YouTube channel over Here! Second, please subscribe by email below – I have some free budget printables coming out in the near future and I want to make sure you get them!

Until then, keep at it my friends, you work too hard to be this broke!  If you still need your free budget printables, get them here!

Should I pay off my mortgage or invest?

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About The Author

Ryan Luke

Ryan Luke is a father of three, a husband, a financial coach, and a full-time police officer. He has been featured on MarketWatch, Forbes, Fox Business, Experian, MSN, and USA Today. He focuses on providing easy to understand personal finance information to first responders so they can get out of debt and build wealth on a public servant salary.

15 thoughts on “Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Or Invest? [Answered]”

  1. Fair assessment Susie, however I would argue that putting money into a home also is not risk free. Housing bubbles and the potential depreciation is also a factor. I think the biggest risk of all is not preparing for retirement until it is too late.

    1. You are absolutely right! Buying a home is risky and expensive. But, it is already a sunk cost in that you will own it whether you pay off your mortgage or put money away for savings. It is also very risky to not be prepared for retirement. My point was just that readers should be aware that an investment in the S&P 500 or other financial instrument is not risk-free, whereas paying off your mortgage (once you already have it) is. Unless the interest rate is below the risk-free rate (e.g., a US Treasury) or above the average return on the S&P 500, the decision is a function of each person’s risk tolerance and not quite black and white. (To be clear, when I wrote the first draft of my post on the similar topic, I didn’t consider the risk aspect either. It is a tricky nuance.)

  2. Nice article as this is something that I think people often wonder about. Another area of interest is if you even need a mortgage. Many young people or retirees are now weighing the advantage of even carrying a mortgage as opposed to renting and using any differential savings to keep free if debt. Do you have thoughts on this?

  3. This is always one that gets us! I think paying off the mortgage early would just FEEL better overall. We decided to make sure we get to our savings rate in check and then everything extra will go towards the mortgage.

    1. I completely agree! The feeling of freedom that comes with a paid off house is unmatched! However, the danger of neglecting retirement is a real threat.

  4. We definitely struggle with this balance. We want to retire early and not have a house payment! But at 39, we feel like We need to invest to catch up from earlier years of not investing as much as we “should” have. Such a dilemma!
    Thanks for the article, though, as it did make me feel slightly better about the decisions we have made on our journey.

    1. I’m glad I could add some value to you Melody! I agree if you’re not investing 18% yet I would do that first before tackling the house.
      I’m with you though, the thought of no mortgage would be the most freeing feeling ever!

  5. When mortgage interests are low, always invest first.
    When mortgage interests are high, pay mortgage off first.
    Also, if mortgage interests or home prices are high, look at renting.
    If mortgages used to be high and you’ve paid off mortgage a lot, and then interests drop -> remortgage and release capital to investments.

  6. What would you suggest if you are already retired and have a mortgage? Work toward paying off the mortgage or invest in a nonretirement acct?

    1. Hello Norma, it would really depend on your income, savings, and current amount left on your mortgage.
      For most people, it is recommended that they start to invest in a retirement account before they work on paying their mortgage off early. Since you are already retired, it would depend on how much income you have and where it is coming from as well as your current mortgage rate.
      If your mortgage rate is 3% and you’re making 5% or more on your investments, it wouldn’t make sense to pay off the mortgage early.
      If you need more info, please feel free to reach out to me at

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