Several polls have suggested that it’s taking longer to pay off a mortgage. The latest such survey came out on Friday.
According to CIBC/Leger, Canadian mortgagors now say they won’t be mortgage-free, on average, until age 57. That’s two years longer than respondents said last year.
Not surprisingly, racking up debt makes it harder to pay down a mortgage. Among people who accumulated non-mortgage debt after buying a home, only 11% made extra lump-sum payments on their mortgage. That compares to 19% for people who didn’t add additional non-mortgage debt.
Major factors that determine average mortgage payoff time include:
Government mortgage policies (like maximum amortization length)
Income and employment growth
Spending and savings habits
(Incidentally, these factors could theoretically conspire to reduce payoff times in the future. So the above-noted two-year delay in mortgage freedom isn’t necessarily irreversible.)
We can’t control most of these variables but we certainly have say in how much we spend. On that note, the survey found that one half (50%) of Canadians added non-mortgage debt after buying their last home. That’s significant, given that debt accumulation can extend a mortgagor’s effective amortization substantially.
As just one example, consider someone who piles up $5,000 in consumer debt at 19% interest. Paying 3% of the original balance ($150) each month means it’ll take four years to pay off that debt.
If that $150 per month were instead used for mortgage prepayments, a $200,000 mortgage could be eliminated more than four and a half years sooner (assuming a standard 25-year amortization, monthly payments and a rate of 2.99%).
Alas, debt accumulation is often unavoidable. Then again, sometimes it is avoidable but we tend to want life’s luxuries and conveniences now, not later. Either way, while paying off a mortgage at 57 is bad enough, carrying it into retirement (when earning power drops) could be downright perilous for some.
BMO says that over half of Canadians expect to have a mortgage after retirement. One has to wonder how many unprepared retirees will regret not making more savings sacrifices earlier in life (to the extent they could have).
Poll details: CIBC’s poll was conducted by Leger Marketing. It was an online survey of 1,503 18+ year old Canadians from February 19-25, 2013. All respondents had a mortgage they were responsible for.
Rob McLister, CMT
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