Blogger Tim Stobbs reveals how he became mortgage-free

By Tim Stobbs, Special to The Star

Pay off mortgage in six years

If you have ever heard the phrase “A day late and a dollar short, ” it applies to me.

After spending six years looking forward to the day when I could burn my mortgage papers, my final lump sum payment was $1 short of paying off the $1,979 balance.

So instead of being mortgage-free on Oct. 31 which had been our goal, the final $1 came out on Nov. 1, which was the date for my next regular payment.

Rhea, my wife, and I had been working hard to be mortgage-free on Oct. 31. We had a well-defined plan over the past three years with a strong focus on reducing our debts and the discipline to stick to the plan, while coping with what life threw our way. A related goal was to save enough money to be able to retire by my 42nd birthday in another eight years.

We bought our four-bedroom house in 2006 for $190,000 and took out a $150,000 mortgage, which is tiny by today’s standards.

Today my house would be worth almost $400,000. At the time, we were a one-income family so I doubted I could ever pay it off this early. Yet with a combination of using my raises to increase our regular payments and then lump sum payments whenever possible, we paid it off in just over six years.

To celebrate, we threw a party where we enjoyed a buffet, good wine and cocktails, and shared the moment with some family and friends. I discovered my journey persuaded a few friends to increase their own mortgage payments to move toward mortgage freedom that much earlier for them.

We dusted off an old tradition, lit a fire and tossed in our mortgage papers. I treated myself to a new Google Nexus 7 tablet. My wife, Rhea, ordered 30-yard line, 20 row up tickets for the 2013 Grey Cup in Regina. We plan to redo our kitchen floor with new cork and are taking a month-long vacation next year in the Maritimes.

The most common questions from friends are: What does it feel like and now what? As to the first question, paying off your mortgage is really about watching a number on a bank statement go to zero. It doesn’t really have much of an immediate impact. I suspect the true feeling of excitement will come at the end of this month when the $1,940 that went to the bank stays in my pocket. That’s almost $24,000 a year to save and spend on things that are important to us.

As to the second question, the majority of that money will go toward our retirement plans because we value our freedom so much. We also plan to donate some money to a project to build a wheelchair accessible spray park in our community.

It was a long road and more than once I doubted my decision. We could potentially have gotten a better rate of return investing, rather than paying down debt, which was a temptation to stop paying the mortgage off so quickly.

We also delayed a lot of want-list items, including some home renovation plans. Our vacations were close to home.

In the end, I’m thrilled because I have much more freedom. The choices are endless and that is the best feeling of all. I can think about a semi-retirement option in a few more years.

Another benefit of being mortgage-free is that it has reduced my workplace stress, because I have a cushion if for some reason I’m laid off or lose my job. If you are looking for a way to get a rock-solid sleep at night, I highly recommend paying off your mortgage.

Paying off your mortgage is a lot of work and you have to make sacrifices to get there.

I suggest that step one is increasing your payments. My mistake was waiting to get started.

You can follow Tim Stobbs’ attempt to retire early on his blog Canadian Dream: Free at 45.

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