Is it better to save or pay off a mortgage? | moneyfacts.co.uk

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Michelle Monck

Michelle Monck

Consumer Finance Expert
Published: 20/01/2021

At a glance

  • Ideally your mortgage would be paid off before retirement but there are options for older borrowers
  • You can use your savings to pay off your mortgage sooner - but you need to check your mortgage terms and conditions
  • Offset mortgages allow you to use your savings to reduce your mortgage commitment

In today’s world of low savings rates, some may be wondering whether their money could be working harder by paying off their mortgage instead. So, is it better to save or pay off a mortgage? We take a look.

At what age should your mortgage be paid off?

In an ideal world, your mortgage will be paid off well before retirement, giving you time to funnel some extra money into your pension savings and leaving you debt-free before you leave the workplace. In reality, it isn’t always that simple – people are buying homes later, and with 25 to 30-year terms being commonplace, it isn’t difficult to see how a lot of people could end up continuing to pay a mortgage in their retirement years. The date could be pushed back even further if the borrower has to dip into their property equity at any point, or if they increase their mortgage to work their way up the ladder.

While it’s perfectly possible to continue paying a mortgage in retirement – retirement interest-only mortgages, for example, are becoming increasingly common – you may have other ideas. Paying off a mortgage early can mean you pay less interest, as well as freeing up your disposable income, so it could be worth considering how you can go about it. For many, using their savings could be a wise decision.

Should I use my savings to pay off my mortgage?

If you’ve got a healthy savings balance that’s earning little to nothing in a standard savings account, putting it to work by paying down your mortgage could make a lot of sense. However, it depends on the amount of savings you’ve got and the rate of interest they’re earning, and likewise, your mortgage balance and its interest rate.

Typically speaking, it’s likely that your savings rate will be lower than your mortgage rate, which means you’ll be paying more in mortgage interest than you’ll be earning from your savings. In this case, using your savings to overpay your mortgage means you’ll be saving more in the long run – you’ll be reducing your mortgage balance, which means the resulting interest payments will be smaller, and you’ll also have the chance to pay off your mortgage early, reducing the number of years you pay interest for.

All in all, overpaying has the potential to shave thousands of pounds off the overall cost of your mortgage, so for many, using some of their savings in this way could be incredibly beneficial. However, the key word here is “some” – even if your savings interest rate is poor, it’s wise to keep at least a small chunk of your savings untouched. It’s typically recommended to have at least three months’ worth of income squirrelled away as savings in case of an emergency (ideally six months’ worth), which should be kept accessible, such as in an easy access account or high interest current account.

You’ll need to check your mortgage contract terms, too. If you’re on an introductory fixed, discount or tracker rate, it’s likely that you’ll only be able to overpay a certain amount each year (typically 10% of the mortgage balance) without paying an early repayment charge, but if you’re on a standard variable rate or term product, you may have more leeway to pay extra.

Could an offset mortgage be a good option?

For those wary about completely losing access to their savings, there is an alternative. Offset mortgages still allow you to use your savings to help reduce your mortgage commitments, but in a slightly different way – you keep your savings in an account that’s linked to your mortgage, but rather than earning interest on it, the amount is used to “offset” your mortgage balance, so you pay interest on a smaller mortgage amount and could potentially repay the mortgage sooner. But, if you need to withdraw the savings at any point, you can.

This method is particularly suitable for those with a decent chunk of savings, though interest rates are often higher for offset mortgage deals, so it’s important to make sure it’ll pay off.

Another option could be using your savings to boost your deposit when it comes time to remortgage, which could reduce your loan-to-value (LTV) and therefore your repayments. And, if you continued to regularly overpay, you could benefit from paying the mortgage off even sooner.

Is it better to pay a lump sum off my mortgage or pay extra monthly?

This depends on the terms and conditions of your mortgage contract, and how much you have available to you in savings. A lot of mortgage lenders will let you set up a standing order so you can pay extra each month, which could be ideal for those who are using their disposable income to bring down their mortgage. Others will accept lump-sum payments on a more ad-hoc basis, perhaps if you get an annual bonus, or want to save up first to make sure you don’t need an extra financial buffer elsewhere.

Really, it’s up to you, but just make sure to find out when interest is calculated on your mortgage. If it’s daily then it doesn’t matter when you overpay as your monthly repayment (including interest) will be calculated on the lower balance, but if it’s monthly, annually or quarterly, you’ll need to make sure you overpay at the right time so as to not miss out on the interest savings.

Is there a disadvantage to paying off a mortgage?

For many people, the goal is to become mortgage-free, and being able to do so sooner could dramatically reduce the amount of interest you ultimately have to pay. But is there a disadvantage to paying off a mortgage?

Arguably, there’s no direct disadvantage to paying off a mortgage, but you need to make sure that you’re making the right financial decisions. For example, do you have other, more expensive debts that you could be paying off? Do you have a pension pot that you’re neglecting? If so, it could be worth focusing on these areas first to ensure your savings are being put to the best possible use.

Is it worth keeping a small mortgage?

It used to be recommended to keep a small mortgage balance, primarily so that the mortgage lender would be responsible for keeping hold of the title deeds, and to avoid exit/redemption fees. These days, with the vast majority of deeds being digital, there’s no need, and you’d arguably benefit far more from paying off your mortgage and no longer being subject to interest payments than you would from saving on the redemption fee.

Using retirement funds to pay off a mortgage

For those already in retirement, using their pension funds to pay off a mortgage can be a popular option. This is particularly true for those who have an outstanding interest-only mortgage and have no means of repaying the balance, and/or those whose 25% tax-free lump sum is a significant amount. In this case, it’s essentially the same as using savings to repay a mortgage, but in this stage of life, it’s particularly important to exercise caution. You wouldn’t want to use too much of your pension funds to pay off the mortgage and then find you didn’t have enough to live on in retirement, so it’s vital to seek suitable advice before you take the plunge.

Using your pension to pay off your mortgage FAQs

Can I retire if my house is paid off?

Yes! For most, being mortgage-free as they enter retirement is an ideal scenario, but that’s not to say you can’t retire if you don’t pay it off. It’s all about your income and individual circumstances.

Is it wise to pay off a mortgage in retirement?

Yes, purely because most retirees’ income will be lower, which could mean keeping up with mortgage repayments is difficult. That said, if you’ve yet to repay your mortgage and are entering retirement, you could look to options such as retirement interest-only mortgages – these let you keep your mortgage without making repayments of the capital amount borrowed, with the balance repaid when the house is sold.

When should retirees not pay off their mortgage?

The only reason to not pay off a mortgage is if it will leave the retiree in financial jeopardy (if, for example, they use too much of their pension savings to pay it off and don’t have enough left over).

What happens when you pay off your mortgage?

If you do decide to pay off your mortgage, great! The mortgage lender will remove its charge on your property and send you various documents to prove that fact. Once everything’s confirmed, you’ll own your home outright and will have no further obligation to your lender.

Paying off your mortgage FAQs

What should you do after the house is paid off?

That’s entirely up to you! You’re now free to spend your money however you wish, without needing to pay a chunk on mortgage repayments each month. However, it may be worth thinking long-term and putting the money you’re saving into a pension instead, or into an ISA, to benefit from long-term tax-efficiency. It may also be worth requesting a copy of the title deeds from the Land Registry so you can prove ownership, should you ever need to.

Will paying off a mortgage hurt my credit score?

No, it shouldn’t hurt your credit score if you pay off your mortgage.

How long does a paid-off mortgage stay on your credit report?

A paid-off mortgage is a closed account, and will stay on your credit report for six years.

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

scales weighing house and blocks of gold

At a glance

  • Ideally your mortgage would be paid off before retirement but there are options for older borrowers
  • You can use your savings to pay off your mortgage sooner - but you need to check your mortgage terms and conditions
  • Offset mortgages allow you to use your savings to reduce your mortgage commitment

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