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Sell Stocks And Pay Off Your Mortgage

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It’s hard to borrow yourself rich—especially when you can’t deduct the interest.

A friend from Connecticut tells me she and her husband were recently inspired to sell some securities and pay off their mortgage. She figures the market is due for a correction.

A clever move, I say, and not just because stocks are richly priced. Mortgages, even though rates are at near-record lows, are expensive. And there’s a tax problem.

The tax angle relates to what went into effect last year—something Trump called a tax cut, although it raised federal taxes for a lot of people in high-tax states like Connecticut. For our purposes what matters is that the law made mortgages undesirable.

Used to be that people would say, “I took out a mortgage because I need the deduction.” That doesn’t work so well now. The new law has a standard deduction of $24,400 for a couple, and you have to clear this hurdle before the first dollar of benefit comes from a deduction for mortgage interest.

Today In: Money

Most middle-class homeowners aren’t itemizing at all. For them, the aftertax cost of a 4% mortgage is 4%.

If you are still itemizing, your interest deduction may not be worth much. You are probably claiming the maximum $10,000 in state and local taxes. (If you aren’t, you are living in an igloo in a state without an income tax.) That means the first $14,400 of other deductions don’t do anything for you.

A couple with $2,400 of charitable donations and $15,000 of interest is in effect able to deduct only a fifth of the interest. The aftertax cost of the mortgage depends on these borrowers’ tax bracket, but will probably be in the neighborhood of 3.7%.

Before 2018, your finances were very different. You no doubt topped the standard deduction (which was lower then) with just the write-off for state and local taxes (which didn’t have that $10,000 cap). So all of your mortgage interest went to work in reducing federal taxes. You could do a little arbitrage.

If your aftertax cost of a 4% mortgage was 2.7%, an investment yielding 3% aftertax yielded a positive spread. You’d hold onto that investment instead of paying off the mortgage. It was quite rational to sit on a pile of 3% tax-exempt bonds while taking out a 4% mortgage to buy a house.

Now that sort of scheme doesn’t make sense. The aftertax yield on muni bonds is way less than than the aftertax cost of a mortgage. This is true of corporate bonds, too: Their aftertax return, net of defaults, is less than the cost of a mortgage today.

So, if you have excess loot outside your retirement accounts, and it’s invested in bonds, you’d come out ahead paying off a mortgage.

What about stocks? Should you, like my friend, sell stocks held in a taxable account in order to pay off your mortgage? This is a trickier question. If your stocks are highly appreciated, perhaps not. You could hang onto them and avoid the capital gains.

If they are not appreciated, or if you have a windfall and you’re deciding whether the stock market or your mortgage is the place to use it, the trade-off changes.

Stock prices are, by historical measures, quite high in relation to their earnings. The market’s long-term future return is correspondingly less.

Financiers

In the short term, stocks are entirely unpredictable. Neither my friend, nor I, nor Warren Buffett can tell you whether there will be a crash next year to vindicate her decision or another upward lurch that will make her regretful.

For the long term, though, you can use earnings yields to arrive at an expected return. I explain the arithmetic here. A realistic expectation for real annual returns is between 3% and 4%. Add in inflation and you’ve got a nominal return not much more than 5%.

From that, subtract taxes. You’ve got a base federal tax of 15% or 20% on dividends and long-term gains. There’s also the Obamacare 3.8% if your income is above $250,000. You have state income taxes, no longer mitigated by a federal deduction for them (because you’ll probably be well above the $10,000 limit no matter what).

Add it all up, and you can look forward to an aftertax return from stocks of maybe 4%. That is, your expected return could be only a smidgen above the aftertax cost of your mortgage. Worth the risk? Not for my friend. Not for me.

What if I’m wrong about the market, and it’s destined to deliver 10%? Or what if you are a risk lover, willing to dive in with only a meager expected gain? Mortgages are still a bad way to finance your gamble.

You don’t have to borrow money at a non-tax-deductible 4%. I can tell you where to get a loan at slightly more than 2%, with the interest fully deductible.

The place to go is the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Instead of buying stocks, buy stock index futures.

When you go long an E-mini S&P 500 future you are, in effect, buying $150,000 of stock with borrowed money. You don’t see the debt; it’s built into the price of the future. The reason the loan is cheap is that futures prices are determined by arbitrageurs (like giant banks) that can borrow cheaply. The reason the interest is in effect deductible is that it comes out of the taxable gains you report on the futures.

Futures contracts are taxed somewhat more heavily than stocks. Their rate is a blend of ordinary rates and the favorable rates on dividends and long-term gains. Also, futures players don’t have the option of deferring capital gains. Even so, owning futures is way cheaper than owing money to a bank while putting money into stocks.

One caveat for people planning to burn a mortgage: Stay liquid. Don’t use up cash you may need during a stretch of unemployment.

But if you have a lot of assets in a taxable account, it’s time to rethink your mortgage. Debt is no longer a bargain.

I aim to help you save on taxes and money management costs. I graduated from Harvard in 1973, have been a journalist for 44 years, and was editor of Forbes magazine from 1999 to 2010. Tax law is a frequent subject in my articles. I have been an Enrolled Agent since 1979. Email me at williambaldwinfinance — at — gmail — dot — com.

Source: Sell Stocks And Pay Off Your Mortgage

In many situations, paying off your mortgage early could potentially be costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars…and I’ll run the numbers to show this based off real world examples. Enjoy! Add me on Snapchat/Instagram: GPStephan Join the private Real Estate Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/there… The Real Estate Agent Academy: Learn how to start and grow your career as a Real Estate Agent to a Six-Figure Income, how to best build your network of clients, expand into luxury markets, and the exact steps I’ve used to grow my business from $0 to over $120 million in sales: https://goo.gl/UFpi4c This is one of those subjects that’s not intuitive for most people – you would think that paying off your mortgage early would be a really good idea. But this isn’t always the case. The reason people think this way is because they haven’t really looked at the true cost of ownership, what their money is really worth, and they only focus on the end number. On our $400,000 loan example, your payment is $1956 per month and you wind up paying $304,000 in interest over 30 years. But there are three very important considerations here: 1. The first is the mortgage interest tax write off – this is what makes real estate extremely appealing, and why keeping a mortgage helps long term.For the average person in a 23% tax bracket, with a 4.2% interest rate, after you factor in your write offs, your ACTUAL cost of interest is only 3.23%. 2. The second factor is Inflation. Because the bank is holding the entire loan over 30 years and you get to pay bits and pieces of it over time, it should be safe to assume a 2% AVERAGE inflation rate over 30 years. This means that even though you’re paying a NET interest rate now of 3.23%, if we subtract 2% annually for inflation, this means that you’re really only effectively paying 1.23% in interest after tax write offs and inflation. 3. Finally, the third factor is opportunity cost. Can you make MORE than a 1.23% return ANYWHERE ELSE adjusted for inflation? The answer is pretty much always yes. This means that if you INVEST your money instead of paying down the mortgage, mathematically over the term of the loan you’d come out ahead than if you just paid off the loan early. So with these points above, we’ll take two scenarios. In scenario one, you have a 30-year, $400,000 loan at a 4.2% interest rate that you pay off in half the time – you increase your payments from $1956 to $3000 per month in order to make this happen. Then once the loan is paid off, you invest the full amount in the stock market for another 15 years. After an additional 15 years, that works out to be just over $1,000,000. So you now have a paid of house plus a million dollars. But what happens if you kept the 30-year mortgage and instead of you paying it off in half the time by increasing your payments to $3000/mo, you just invested the extra $1050 per month instead? Because you didn’t pay down your mortgage early and you invested that extra money instead, at a 7.5% return in an SP500 index fund…at the end of 30 years, you’ll have a paid off home PLUS $1,433,000.. This means that over 30 years, that’s a difference of $433,000…by NOT paying down your mortgage early, and instead investing the difference. Although keep in mind, if you have a really high interest rate on your loan, above about 6%, it’s probably better to pay it off. This is because the upside to investing gets smaller and smaller the higher your mortgage interest rate is. But the biggest advantage of paying it off early is that with the above example, we assume the person will actually invest the money rather than pay off their loan early. In order for this calculation to work, the person needs to be disciplined enough to actually invest the different and not spend it. But for anyone with the discipline to actually stick with an investing plan instead of paying down the mortgage, statistically and mathematically, you can often make more money paying it off slowly than paying it off early. For business inquiries or one-on-one real estate investing/real estate agent consulting or coaching, you can reach me at GrahamStephanBusiness@gmail.com Suggested reading: The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: http://goo.gl/TPTSVC Your money or your life: https://goo.gl/fmlaJR The Millionaire Real Estate Investor: https://goo.gl/sV9xtl How to Win Friends and Influence People: https://goo.gl/1f3Meq Think and grow rich: https://goo.gl/SSKlyu Awaken the giant within: https://goo.gl/niIAEI The Book on Rental Property Investing: https://goo.gl/qtJqFq Favorite Credit Cards: Chase Sapphire Reserve – https://goo.gl/sT68EC American Express Platinum – https://goo.gl/C9n4e3

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