Pay Off Your Mortgage

Here is how to get your retirement plan back on track in 2009

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The benchmark interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has dipped as low as 5.17 percent, according to Freddie Mac. If you're getting a significantly higher return in the stock market (very doubtful right now), it might make sense to keep your mortgage going into retirement. But if you're not an investment wizard or don't want to take the risk, start prepaying your mortgage principal as you approach retirement. "You get an absolutely safe return by paying off your mortgage," says Laurence Kotlikoff, a Boston University economics professor and coauthor of Spend 'Til the End: The Revolutionary Guide to Raising Your Living Standard—Today and When You Retire. "If you have a 7 percent mortgage and 3 percent deflation right now, that means that you are paying 10 percent on your mortgage. Every dollar you pay [down on your mortgage principal] now is giving you a 10 percent real return."

More New Year's resolutions for retirement:

Delay retirement

Put off claiming Social Security

Get your 401(k) match

Avoid early withdrawals

Scrutinize 401(k) fees

Determine your risk tolerance

Rebalance your portfolio

Evaluate your target-date fund

Get a pension


Bump up your contributions

More money-related New Year’s resolutions