While about 80% of Canadians visit a doctor at least once a year to help ensure they remain physically healthy, the number of people who check their financial health by regularly reviewing their mortgage is far less.
Plenty can change in someone’s life in a year, never mind during the standard five-year mortgage a lot of Canadians sign up for. A career change, kids, retirement or new-found money or it could be that such a major event is on the horizon. All can affect the type of mortgage that fits just right.
Canadian consumers tend to become complacent about their mortgage payments when they could be saving a lot of money. For example, the more adverse you become to risk, the less likely a variable mortgage will be right for you. Using online tools, such as a mortgage calculator and a mortgage penalty calculator , you will know how much you can expect to pay to break your existing mortgage.
Even though banks are in the business of getting as much interest from you as they can, many will allow people to pay a lump sum of the principal on the mortgage’s anniversary and increase their monthly payments. An extra $100 a month on a standard $200,000 mortgage could save almost $18,000 in interest and shorten the amortization period by about four years.
Paying down your mortgage faster may seemingly put a crimp into your future finances if something happens and you need the money — unlike, say, putting it into a tax-free savings account or other low-risk liquid investment. But many financial institutions have a re-advance clause that allows you to retrieve some of the money spent accelerating mortgage payments, says Peter Veselinovich, vice-president of banking and mortgage operations at Winnipeg-based Investors Group.
Of course, it may become more difficult to get those funds back if there is a dramatic downward change in housing values and you haven’t built up enough equity. But that’s where understanding your entire financial situation, not just your mortgage, can help. “Most of us don’t like to think about debt, says Veselinovich. “It’s just something that somehow comes up and ends up as part of our personal balance sheet and we make payments.”
Even something simple such as making renovations could affect the type of mortgage desired. For example, topping up or refinancing an existing mortgage can pay for renovations, providing you’re comfortable with a blended interest rate. If you’re buying a new home, you may be able to port your current mortgage. Or maybe you just want to consolidate higher-interest unsecured debt into your mortgage.
A mortgage can also help you become more tax efficient if you’re thinking of investing in a business, buying a rental property or putting some money into mutual funds or the stock market. That’s because the interest paid on money borrowed on a principal property can be written off against revenue from those investments.
But the biggest reason for making changes to your mortgage mid-stream may be because it could be a lot easier to do something before your situation changes, such as going into a new venture or before retirement.
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