Sure, personal finance guru Dave Ramsey’s advice has encouraged thousands of devoted followers to get out of debt and stop living paycheck to paycheck. Yet, depending on your circumstances, he may be dead wrong on paying off your mortgage early.
A generation ago, mortgage rates were 6–10%. With interest rates that high, paying off your mortgage was a no-brainer. Today, however, interest rates are 2.5–4%, making a different story. You could pay off your mortgage quicker if you’d like. But with the low-interest rates today, you may want to consider investing instead of paying off the low-interest debt. The average stock market return for buy-and-hold investors over the long term is about 7% annually, even after considering inflation.
In sum, Dave Ramsey’s advice just doesn’t make as much sense today with how low-interest rates are comparatively.
But some nuance is in order: Ramsey promotes financial stability. He accepts the risk of missed investment returns in exchange for the guarantee of reduced financial obligations. On balance, investing in the market while carrying a mortgage is tantamount to leveraging debt.
Idea for Impact: Ramsey measures opportunity cost as the difference between paying down your mortgage and the worst-case stock market investment scenario. So, unless you’re extraordinarily risk-averse and can’t take the risk in the market, you shouldn’t pay off your mortgage early. Invest in a low-cost index fund, and don’t let short-term movements sway your decisions.