Great perspective to a timely question

by John Glynn on January 14, 2009

Ric Edelman fields a question from one of his radio show listeners:

Q: Do you and your wife make extra principal payments to your
interest-only loan? Or do you not want to own your home someday?

Many in the investment business suggest investing it in the stock market
– you don’t keep up with inflation by putting the money into your home
or keeping the money in cash. Well, over the past decade or so, with all
of the ups and downs of the stock market, I bet the folks who kept their
money in cash or paid down their mortgages fared better than those in
the stock market. I know, I know, the market goes up and down, and over
the “long term” the stock market is supposed to outperform the other
things, but I question this advice sometimes and just wonder if you are
going to own your home someday? If not, why?

Ric: No, we don’t make extra payments. We personally handle our money
the same way we advise our clients and consumers.

Why would we want to add extra money to our payment? If you believe that
real estate values rise over long periods, the home’s equity will grow
all by itself, and it will do so at such a rate that any extra payments
we’d make would be pointless.

Here’s an example: Say you own a $500,000 house with a $400,000
mortgage. You thus have only $100,000 in equity. If you send in an extra
$100 per month for five years, you’ll have an extra $6,000 in equity.
But if the house grows just 1% per year, it will produce $25,505 in new
equity, or four times more than your effort from making extra payments!
And if the house grows 2% per year, your new equity will be more than

This is one reason – there are nine others in my DVD on the topic – why
making extra payments is a waste of time and effort.

Of course, I began by asking if you believe that real estate values will
rise over long periods. If you don’t believe that, then you shouldn’t be
a real estate owner in the first place. You should rent instead.

Also, I note that you referred to those who recommend placing into the
stock market all the money that you’d otherwise use to make extra
payments. I do not agree with that advice. Instead, you should invest
the money in a highly diversified manner. That’s because, as you’ve
noted, it’s possible to see stock prices falter for extended periods. By
owning a wide variety of assets, and not just stocks, you reduce the
risk of such underperformance.

But even if you invest solely in stocks, you’re highly likely to do
fine. Remember that we’re comparing the interest rate on your mortgage
to the performance of the stock market. Since your mortgage will last
for 30 years, we need to evaluate stock prices over that same period.
And in every 30-year period since 1926, according to Ibbotson
Associates, stocks have handily outperformed mortgage rates.

I realize that you’re questioning the strategy because of the stock
market’s recent performance, but it’s precisely at such times that we
need to remind ourselves of the long-term nature of the markets.
Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to do the wrong thing at the wrong time for
the wrong reason.

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