Is it possible for the average Australian to pay off a mortgage in 10 years?
The great Australian dream of owning your own home is something that many of us strive for, but in reality, most of us settle with a big fat 30-year mortgage. It doesn’t have to be that way though. You can save thousands of dollars and years off your home loan with these tips and expert advice.
Did you know that the average Australian mortgage is just under $430,000? Latest figures released from the AFG June Mortgage Index in June 2014 show that the average mortgage price is down slightly but New South Wales still the most expensive state with an average mortgage price of $524,009.
Speaking of averages, according to the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics), the average annual income for adult full-time workers in Australia is $72,800.
Australia is renowned for its high property prices and in fact, our housing price-to-income ratio is among the worst in the world. While this may scare some out of the market, credit rating agency Fitch has determined that our economy is one of the strongest in the world, keeping mortgages affordable.
So maybe the real question isn’t our capacity to buy but our priorities.
Is paying off your mortgage really a priority?
The increased interest in creative mortgage options, like offset accounts, points to the fact that Australians definitely want to pay off their home loan sooner. Sooner is a relative term, with many of us happy just to know we’re shaving some interest off somewhere along the line. With so many competing investment options and strategies – as well as our growing battle with credit card debt – is our mortgage really what we should be focusing on?
And what about diversification? It would seem that investing and paying off our mortgage are on different sides of the coin in this priority debate. On the one hand, we hear about the potential returns available on the stock market or in the property market and the opportunities for tax deductions. On the other side, many of us feel too overwhelmed to consider these options when we consider the size of our mortgage and the reality that we’re barely meeting those repayments on a budget that is in desperate need of an overhaul.
- Paul is the Founder and CEO of Educating Property Investors and We Find Houses.
- Educating Property Investors offers private coaching sessions, mentoring and investment strategy development.
According to Paul Wilson, property coach and CEO of Educating Property Investors, it doesn’t necessarily have to be one at the expense of the other. “Most of my clients come to me with the aim of creating wealth for their retirement rather than paying off their home loan. What I have to teach them is the priority of paying off bad debt like their own house first. Wealth in retirement is an added bonus that naturally happens on the side.”
- Michal is a senior financial planner and financial coach with Sydney Financial Planning.
- He has a huge range of qualifications, including Masters of Engineering (Commerce), an Advanced Diploma in Financial Services (Financial Planning), a Diploma in Financial Services (Financial Planning), and Certificate IV in Mortgage Broking to name a few.
“Owning our own home is more of a cultural priority rather than an investment priority,” says Michal Bodi, senior financial planner with Sydney Financial Planning. If it’s a priority however, it makes sense to pay it off as quickly as possible because the average mortgage can end up costing homeowners up to $1,000,000 after interest and fees.
How can you do it?
If there were a magic bullet for achieving financial freedom, everyone would be enjoying the fruits of a mortgage free life. Paying off your mortgage in less than half the average time can definitely be done but there’s no cut and dried way to do it:
According to Bodi, the budget is the centre of the universe for financial planners. “Many people think ‘budget’ as a dirty word because it is confronting but I like to think of it as an elimination of waste rather than deprivation. It helps us see values and patterns of behaviour so we can build a strategy and plan around that.”
American mortgagee Adam Hatter made headlines last year when he shared exactly how he and his wife paid off their $157,000 mortgage off in just under five years. In a simple but brutal strategy, the Hatter’s refinanced their mortgage and then ruthlessly attacked their budget. They paused their savings plans, wore op-shop clothes, rationed their utilities and re-evaluated their monthly bills, then put everything extra onto their mortgage. While their mortgage amount is less than half of what we are up for in Australia, we can still take some inspiration from their strategies and determined effort.
It’s quite likely that the mortgage product you are currently paying off is not the best one available to you. You can save thousands of dollars off your mortgage by:
- Refinancing to a lower interest rate or signing up for a package that gives you a discount.
- Dividing your monthly payment into two and paying it every two weeks – you will effectively make an extra payment each year as there are 26 fortnights in a year, which can shave years off your loan.
- Using an offset account effectively. Instead of having separate savings accounts, put all of your money in your offset account and pay less interest on your mortgage balance when it is calculated daily.
- Repaying more than the minimum. When you pay more than the minimum repayment, more goes straight to the principal of the loan and helps pays it off quicker.
- Checking the fees and charges associated with your loan. Everything adds up and you want to make sure you know what you are up for if you refinance or repay your loan early.
An alternative option that homeowners have to pay their home loan off sooner is investing and using the profits to pay off their home loan. Investments could be anything from investing in shares on the stock exchange or in more property. Paul Wilson, of Educating Property Investors, believes that real estate investment properties can work on any budget and help people pay their home loans off much faster, “You do need to be a good custodian of your money but you also have to be financially efficient and leveraging is one way of doing this.”
Work with a team of professionals such as financial planners, mortgage lenders and brokers, and investment real estate specialists to educate you on your options, come up with a strategy and help you achieve your goals.
These more realistic options have a few things in common including big decisions, determination and some sacrifice, but most importantly, they all use strategy. Having a clear direction of where you are going and the conviction to keep heading in that direction is vitally important in paying off your mortgage in ten years or less. As always, success is found not just in knowing this information but actually doing it.
What factors need to be taken into account?
The ability to pay your mortgage off so much sooner often depends a lot on your plan and strategy. Other factors that come into play include:
- Your income. While there is a lot that an average, full time worker in Australia can do with their income of $72,800 to help pay off their mortgage sooner, a dual income or high-income earning family would be better positioned to make this a reality.
- The location you have bought in. The average house prices in Sydney are much higher than many areas of rural New South Wales and can increase your mortgage significantly and therefore your options and ability to pay it off more quickly.
- Other debt. In Michal Bodi’s opinion, “Wealth building is a false sense of productivity if debt consolidation and elimination hasn’t been addressed first.”
- Your values and goals. Whether your motives for paying off your home loan are to live more simply and cut back at work or kickstart your investment portfolio, your values and goals will definitely influence your strategy. Risk takers and big picture people might be more comfortable looking into investment strategies, whereas those who like to keep things simple, may want to focus primarily on budgeting.
Tim and Fiona have decided to bite the bullet and get out of debt. Their goal is to pay off their mortgage in 10 years. Their first step is to look at their mortgage:
They have a home loan of $430,000 on a 30-year term with a fixed interest rate of 6% that they pay monthly. Note the savings available after two simple changes.
|Mortgage term (years)||Monthly repayments||Interest paid on loan||Savings|
|30 years at 6%||$2,586||$500,984||$0|
|30 years at 5.5%||$2,449||$451,817||$49,167|
|10 years at 5.5%||$4,675||$130,965||$320,852|
By refinancing to a lower interest rate, Tim and Fiona can automatically save almost $50,000. It helps, but it won’t get them to their goal of ten years. To put some real numbers next to the 10-year goal, Tim and Fiona’s monthly repayments will have to almost double. Even a small change like making their repayments weekly instead of monthly could save them time and money.
The second step for Tim and Fiona is to look at their budget. They don’t really have a lot left at the end of each week as it is and need to work out where they can find money for extra repayments.
|Category (per year)||Old budget||New budget|
|Income (take home)||$116,000||$126,000|
|Home and utilities||$45,152||$65,620* (includes mortgage makeover from step two)|
|Insurance and financial||$10,560||$7,940|
|Personal and medical||$9,120||$6,160|
|Entertainment and eating out||$10,100||$8,280|
|Transport and auto||$9,920||$9,920|
|Left over money||$4,108||$0|
After carefully investigating their expenses, Tim and Fiona were able to find a way to make some extra income, redistribute money assigned to saving and investment accounts, as well as slash expenses in a couple of key areas.
Before looking at other creative options Tim and Fiona have worked out that they can afford to make significant extra repayments on their loan, save over $300,000 in interest payments and realistically be debt free in the foreseeable future.
What can you do once the mortgage is paid off?
For those in the enviable position of living debt free, a whole new question arises: what now?
You may enjoy the opportunity to choose the best schools for your kids, extended holidays and kick back your hours at work or you could re-evaluate and come up with a new financial goal.
Bodi recommends revisiting your financial plan whenever your situation changes significantly. By working with a financial planner or money coach, you can come up with a new strategy. Commonly, people take that same amount they were paying on their mortgage and start building a more diversified investment portfolio.
Paying off your mortgage in ten years is possible for some Australians. There are a number of strategies you can employ to achieve that goal and different factors that will affect how you get there but having a strongly defined goal and plan in place is the first and most important step.