Last week I wrote about the hidden emergency fund in your Roth IRA. In case you didn’t read that article, a huge takeaway was that you can take out contributions (not earnings) out of your Roth IRA penalty-free at any age.
In writing that article, I thought about how much accessible money I might have in my Roth IRA. I’ve been maxing it out for about 15-20 years. That’s a big chunk of change. Without adding it up, I’d estimate it is around $50,000 (some years the maximum contribution was $2000). What if I took all that money out to pay off my mortgage?
Personally, I’d never such a thing and here’s why. The math of the average returns in the stock market (7-8%) is more valuable to me than saving 3.5%, especially when the interest on that is tax-deductible. I’ll go with the math every time and twice on Sunday.
However, there are others who aren’t as focused on the math. Some people, such as those who follow finance “guru” Dave Ramsey hate debt and try to eliminate it as soon as possible. A mortgage is debt. I consider it good debt, but some of these people are against all debt. I understand their thinking, being free of debt can be huge psychologically. It can eliminate stress and that’s a good thing.
This left me wondering, has anyone ever considered making this move? On some level, it makes sense to eliminate your mortgage for peace of mind. You won’t need as big a retirement if you’ve eliminated your biggest expense, right? While all this is true, I’ll still go with the numbers and take the 7-8% compounding over many years vs. the 3.5% (minus the tax deduction) compounding over the same time.
I have to think someone has said, “I’m done with debt. I’m going to raid my Roth IRA and get this debt out of my life.” If you are that person, I’d love to talk to you. I think it’s an interesting option for debt-haters and I’ve seen it discussed.
On the other hand, what about the reverse situation? What if you had home equity and did a cash-out refinance or home equity line of credit (HELOC) for the sole purpose of investing the money to earn a higher percentage. As an entrepreneur, I have access to solo 401Ks and SEP-IRAs, but I often don’t max them out. Why? Because I need the cash to live on. Also, it can be tough to max them out because these types of accounts have higher limits.
Getting money out of your home to invest sounds risky, but it truly is the opposite of pulling money out of your investment to pay off your house, right? So maybe it isn’t so crazy?
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Ben Luthi says
Beyond the simple math, I think it’s a bad idea simply because it breaks down the psychological barrier that tells you not to touch your retirement. As soon as you start raiding the IRA, what’s stopping you to do it again for another “worthy” cause?
Lazy Man says
That’s something I didn’t think about. I think the people who hate debt would say that all causes that eliminate debt are indeed worthy.
Ben Luthi says
I agree with you. For some, paying off debt is more of a value than a financial decision. And while I’d never recommend someone use retirement funds to do it, if someone has really done their due diligence and crunched the numbers, and decided that’s the best thing to do, I can respect that.
Gary W says
I want to pay off my mortgage as well. 4.5% interest with a $2119 monthly payment. The $128k remaining is more expensive than the $128k earning money in stocks. This represents 2.5% of my IRA and Roth IRA combined.
Cashing out my contributions in Roth will not give me a tax hit or penalty. Being unemployed i will save a big monthly expense! Ten years till i retire
I will bet none of the authors have been in situation where they hate their job and only remain at it because they have a mortgage payment. If piece of mind having no debt and the freedom to work somewhere they enjoy far outweights the financial logic. In the end your mental and physical health is worth more than any financial logic.
I thought about very thing this morning. Put a portion of my biweekly savings into a Roth 401k option and let it grow until the balance meets or exceeds the balance of the mortgage. It gives you the mathematical advantage of higher growth (at least until you pull it to pay off the mortgage) but doesn’t have the liquidity penalty of simply making principal payments on the mortgage. If the rainy day happens, that money is still liquid and can be accessed.
For me, this would likely happen about age 60, the perfect time to clear up mortgage debt prior to retirement to reduce cash flow requirements.
It also has the advantage of automation where it happens without my regular activity, unlike a principal payment.