A mortgage is an investment

It seems obvious that you should always pay off your debts as soon as possible, but there actually are some situations in which paying off one’s mortgage might not be one’s top priority.

A mortgage, for example, might pay for itself if the rate of inflation exceeds the interest rate. And, indeed, this has always been the case: The store value of money is 2.5 to 3.5 percent; rarely has it gone higher than that. Interest rates are at record lows and, not unrelated, inflation has been high due to the Federal Reserve’s two rounds of quantitative easing.

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If you use the house every day, why not reduce the money you must take out each year? Term insurance is pure insurance — that is, insurance as it should be. Whole life insurance is a forced savings account.

Take the growth rate, plus the cost of inflation in adding those numbers, and that is your interest rate. Today it’s a borrower’s market. By borrowing money now, you can save money when rates go up. For example, a 40-year mortgage will have doubled in value by the time it reaches maturity simply because of inflation. Meanwhile, you’ve been using the house effectively for free!