8 Steps to Buying a Vacation Home

If you’re like many Americans, you dream of having a beach house, a desert escape, or a mountain hideaway. Perhaps you’re tired of staying at hotels and want the comforts of home at your fingertips.

You’re ready to make this dream a reality. Before you do, consider these steps.

How to Buy a Vacation Home

1. Choose a Home That Fits Your Needs

As you begin your search for a vacation home, carefully consider your goals and needs. Start with the location. Do you prefer an urban or rural area? Lots of property or a townhouse with just a small yard to care for?

Consider what amenities are important to be close to. Where is the nearest grocery store? Is a hospital accessible?

Consider your goals for the property. Is this a place that only you and your family will use? Do you plan to rent it out from time to time? Or maybe you plan to be there only a couple of weeks out of the year, using it as a rental property the rest of the time.

The answers to these questions will have a cascade effect on the other factors you’ll need to consider, from financing to taxes and other costs.

2. Figure Out Financing

Next, consider what kind of mortgage works best for you, if you’re not paying cash. You may want to engage a mortgage broker or direct lender to help with this process.

If you have a primary residence, you may be in the market for a second mortgage. The key question: Are you purchasing a second home or an investment property?

Second home. A second home is one that you, family members, or friends plan to live in for a certain period of time every year and not rent it out. Second-home loans have the same rates as primary residences. The down payment could be as low as 10%, though 20% is typical.

Investment property. If you plan on using your vacation home to generate rental income, expect a down payment of 25% or 30% and a higher rate for a non-owner- occupied loan. If you need the rental income in order to qualify for the additional home purchase, you may need to identify a renter and have a lease. A lender still may only consider a percentage of the rental income toward your qualifying income.

Some people may choose to tap equity in their primary home to buy the vacation home. One popular option is a cash-out refinance, in which you borrow more than you owe on your primary home and take the extra money as cash.

3. Consider Costs

While you consider the goals you’re hoping to accomplish by acquiring a vacation home, try to avoid home buying mistakes.

A mortgage lender can delineate the down payment, monthly mortgage payment, and closing costs. But remember that there are other costs to consider, including maintenance of the home and landscape, utilities, furnishings, insurance, property taxes, and travel to and from the home.

If you’re planning on renting out the house, determine frequency and expected rental income. Be prepared to take a financial hit if you are unable to rent the property out as much as you planned. For a full picture of cost, check out our home affordability calculator.

4. Learn About Taxes

Taxes will be an ongoing consideration if you buy a vacation home.

A second home qualifies for mortgage interest and property tax deductions as long as the home is for personal use. And if you rent out the home for 14 or fewer days during the year, you can pocket the rental income tax-free.

If you rent out the home for more than 14 days, you must report all rental income to the IRS. You also can deduct rental expenses.

The mortgage interest deduction is available on total mortgages up to $750,000. If you already have a mortgage equal to the amount you on primary residence, your second home will not qualify.

The bottom line: Tax rules vary greatly, depending on personal or rental use.

5. Research Alternatives

There are a number of options to owning a vacation home. For example, you may consider buying a home with friends or family members, or purchasing a timeshare. But before you pursue an option, carefully weigh the pros and cons.

If you’re considering purchasing a home with other people, beware the potential challenges. Owning a home together requires a lot of compromise and cooperation.

You also must decide what will happen if one party is having trouble paying the mortgage. Are the others willing to cover it?

In addition to second home and investment properties, you may be tempted by timeshares, vacation clubs, fractional ownership, and condo hotels. Be aware that it may be hard to resell these, and the property may not retain its value over time.

6. Make It Easy to Rent

If you do decide to use your vacation home as a rental property, you have to take other people’s concerns and desires into account. Be sure to consider the factors that will make it easy to rent. A home near tourist hot spots, amenities, and a beach or lake may be more desirable.

Consider, too, factors that will make the house less desirable. Is there planned construction nearby that will make it unpleasant to stay at the house?

How far the house is from your main residence takes on increased significance when you’re a rental property owner. Will you have to engage a property manager to maintain the house and address renters’ concerns? Doing so will increase your costs.

7. Pay Attention to Local Rules

Local laws or homeowners association rules may limit who you can rent to and when.

For example, a homeowners association might limit how often you can rent your vacation home, whether renters can have pets, where they can park, and how much noise they can make.

Be aware that these rules can be put in place after you’ve purchased your vacation home.

8. Tap Local Expertise

It’s a good idea to enlist the help of local real estate agents and lenders.

Vacation homes tend to exist in specialized markets, and these experts can help you navigate local taxes, transaction fees, zoning, and rental ordinances. They can also help you determine the best time to buy a house in the area you’re interested in.

Because they are familiar with the local market and comparable properties, they are also likely to be more comfortable with appraisals, especially in low-population areas where there may be fewer houses to compare.

The Takeaway

Buying a vacation home can be a ticket to relaxation or a rough trip. It’s imperative to know the rules governing a second home vs. a rental property, how to finance a vacation house, tax considerations, and more.

Ready to buy? SoFi offers mortgages for second homes and investment properties, including single-family homes, two-unit buildings, condos, and planned unit developments.

SoFi also offers a cash-out refinance, all at competitive rates.

Got two minutes to spare? That’s how long it takes to check your rate for a mortgage with SoFi.



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What Is IRS Form 1098?

A Form 1098 is a tax document that reports amounts that may affect a tax filer’s adjustments to income or deductions from their income on their annual tax return. There are several variations of the form—some are used to report amounts paid and some are used to report charitable contributions made. Any of the forms a person may receive are important documents to refer to when completing annual income tax returns.

Reasons for Getting a Form 1098

There are several variations of Form 1098. The standard form, Mortgage Interest Statement, is probably the one most people are familiar with. It reflects mortgage interest a borrower paid in a calendar year. If a borrower paid $600 or more in interest on a mortgage debt in a calendar year, they should receive a Form 1098 to use when completing their annual tax return. The form includes the amount of mortgage interest paid and any refund of overpaid interest, the outstanding mortgage balance, mortgage insurance premiums paid, and other amounts related to the mortgage loan.

1098-T vs. 1098-E

For those who have paid tuition to a college or university or who have paid interest on student loan debt, the Forms 1098-T and 1098-E may be familiar.

•  Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, includes amounts of payments received by the school for qualified tuition and related expenses. It also includes amounts of scholarships and grants a student may have received, adjustments to those scholarships and grants, and other information.
•  Form 1098-E is a Student Loan Interest Statement. Lenders who receive interest payments of $600 or more from a student loan borrower in a calendar year must provide this form to the borrower. The form includes the amount of student loan interest paid by the borrower, the account number assigned by the lender, and other information.

Other Variations of Form 1098

•  Form 1098-C is connected with a very specific form of charitable giving. It shows any donation a tax filer made to a qualifying charity or non-profit of a car, truck, van, bus, boat, or airplane worth more than $500 and that meets other requirements.
•  Form 1098-F shows any court-ordered fines, penalties, restitution or remediation a person has paid.
•  Form 1098-MA reflects mortgage assistance payments made by a State Housing Finance Agency (HFA) and mortgage payments made by the mortgage borrower, the homeowner.
•  Form 1098-Q is connected with a specific form of retirement-savings vehicle, called a Qualifying Longevity Annuity Contract. This form is a statement showing the money the annuity holder received from such a contract over the course of a calendar year.

Using Form 1098 at Tax Time

For homeowners who are still paying mortgage payments, Form 1098-Mortgage Interest Statement, is an important part of completing a tax return. A tax filer’s deductions depend on a number of specific factors, but there are some general rules to keep in mind when looking at Form 1098.

•  The debt must be secured by real property.
•  The real property that secures the debt must be a main or second home.
•  Mortgages taken out after Dec. 31, 2017, must total $750,000 or less. Those taken out before that date must total $1 million or less.
•  Separate forms will be provided for each qualifying mortgage.
•  It is necessary to itemize deductions on a tax return to claim the mortgage interest deduction.

The potential deduction of interest paid on student loans, shown on Form 1098-E, follows different rules. Notably, this deduction is an adjustment to a tax filer’s income, so it’s not necessary to itemize deductions.

•  The student loan interest deduction is limited to $2500 or the amount actually paid, whichever is less.
•  The deduction is gradually phased out at certain income levels. For tax year 2020, tax filers with a modified adjusted gross income of $85,000 or more ($170,000 or more if filing a joint return) cannot claim the deduction at all.

Form 1098-T provides information that will be useful for tax filers who qualify for education credits provided by the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit.

•  The American Opportunity Credit may be claimed by certain tax filers who paid qualified higher education expenses. To claim the credit, certain qualifications must be met, including income level, dependency status, the type of program the student is enrolled in, the enrollment status of the student, among others. The maximum credit is $2500 per eligible student and may be claimed for only four tax years per eligible student.
•  The Lifetime Learning Credit may also be claimed by certain tax filers who paid qualified education expenses, but has some differences from the American Opportunity Credit. The annual limit is $2000 per tax return (not per student). It’s not limited to college-related expenses—courses to acquire or improve job skills are also eligible. There is no limit on the number of years this credit can be claimed, and there is no minimum number of hours a student must be enrolled.

Both the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit have income phase-out levels. Like the student loan interest deduction provided by Form 1098-E, both of these credits are adjustments to income and don’t require a tax filer to itemize deductions.

The Takeaway

Any of the variations of Form 1098 contain important information for filing your 2020 taxes. They all include financial information that has the potential to affect the amount of money a tax filer may be able to deduct. For specific information about a tax situation, it’s recommended to talk to a tax professional. The information in this article is only intended to be an overview, not tax advice. Keeping up with finances is more than just once-a-year tax filing. SoFi Money® lets account holders spend, save, and earn all in one place, making it easier to know where your money is and what it’s doing.

Learn more about how SoFi Money® can help you keep track of your finances.


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Cash Out Refinance: What Is It and How Does It Work?

There may come a time when you need to access a large amount of cash to pay off credit card debt or fund home improvements. And when that happens, you can consider using one of the greatest assets at your disposal — your home’s equity.

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A cash-out refinance is a mortgage refinancing option that allows you to renegotiate the terms of your mortgage and turn your home equity into cash. This article will explain what a cash-out refinance is, the pros and cons, and how to determine whether it’s right for you.

What is a cash-out refinance?

A cash-out refinance is a way to access some of your home’s equity. You’ll refinance your existing mortgage at a higher amount, and then you get to keep the difference.

For example, let’s say you own a $250,000 home and still owe $200,000. If you want $20,000 in cash, you’ll do a cash-out refinance for $220,000. $200,000 will go towards your mortgage, and you’ll receive a cash payment of $20,000.

Cash-out refinancing is different than simply refinancing your home. When you refinance, you take out a new loan for the same amount but at a lower interest rate.

Similar to a home equity loan, the goal of cash-out refinancing is to lower your interest rate. With a cash-out refinance, you’re turning the home equity into cash. Cash-out refinancing is usually less expensive than a home equity loan.

What are the pros and cons of a cash-out refinance?

There are advantages and disadvantages to any financial decision, and this is certainly true for a cash-out refinance. Understanding some of the pros and cons can help you decide whether this is the right move for you.

Pro

  • Consolidate debt: The average interest rate on credit cards is 17.25%. But if you’re carrying a balance from month to month, this can add up to a lot of money in interest. Using a cash-out refinance to pay down credit cards can save you thousands of dollars.
  • Fund home improvement projects: Home improvement projects are usually a good investment because they increase the value of your home. However, not all projects will add the same amount of value, so make sure you do your homework first.
  • Boost your credit score: If you use the money to pay off debt, this will lower your credit utilization. This impacts your credit score by up to 30%, so reducing this can improve your score.
  • Improve your home loan terms: When you refinance your home, you’re replacing your current mortgage with a new one. This could mean shorter payment terms, and you may be able to qualify for lower interest rates.
  • Possible tax deduction: If you use the money to improve your home, you may be able to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction. You should consult with a tax professional to find out if you qualify for the deduction.

Cons

  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI): If the value of your home falls below 80%, you’ll have to pay PMI. PMI costs between 0.5% to 1.0% of the total loan amount. So you need to be sure the benefits you stand to gain outweigh these costs.
  • You’ll have new mortgage terms: In some situations, taking out a new loan with new terms could be an advantage to you. But if you already have a very low interest rate, this could work against you. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions before agreeing to anything.
  • Closing costs: When you refinance your home, you have to pay closing costs, which are the fees paid to finalize a real estate transaction. These costs are usually between 2% and 5% of the loan amount, so this will be thousands of dollars you’ll have to pay out of pocket.
  • Won’t fix bad financial habits: Using a cash-out refinance to pay down debt can be a smart decision. But it won’t help you if you rack that debt back up again. Make sure you work on improving your financial habits so you don’t stay stuck in a cycle of debt.
  • You put your home at risk: With a cash-out refinance, your home is used as collateral to guarantee the mortgage loan. So if you’re unable to make your monthly payments, you are in danger of losing your home.

How can you use a cash-out refinance?

The money you receive from a cash-out refinance can be used for pretty much any purpose. You can use it to pay off high-interest credit card debt or for home renovations.

However, just because you can use this money for any expense doesn’t mean you should. Paying down high-interest debt is a good move because it’ll reduce the amount you pay in interest. And home improvements can help you increase your home’s value.

But it’s not a good idea to use a cash-out refinance to fund things like vacations or brand-new cars. The return on your investment will be minimal, and you’ll be putting your home at risk for very little reward.

Alternatives to a Cash-Out Refinance

Cash-out refinancing won’t be the right choice for everyone. If you need to access a large amount of cash but aren’t sure about a cash-out refinance, there are alternatives you can consider.

  • HELOC: One of the most popular alternatives to a cash-out refinance is taking out a home equity line of credit (HELOC). A HELOC is kind of like a personal loan and a credit card all rolled into one. It’s a revolving line of credit and is less expensive and less time-consuming than a cash-out refinance. Plus, you’ll only pay interest on the money you actually borrow.
  • Personal loan: If you want access to a large, lump sum of money, personal loans could be a good alternative. These loans are faster to process than a cash-out refinance, and you’ll pay off the money in a much shorter time period.
  • Look for other ways to find the money: And finally, you may want to consider if there are other ways you can find the money you need. Could you borrow the money from friends or family or take on a side job? This isn’t the most exciting alternative, but if you can make it work, it’ll save you from taking on more debt.

Summary

In the right circumstances, cash-out refinancing can be a good move. It can help you re-invest into your home, pay off debt, and improve your financial situation.

However, cash-out refinancing is not a quick fix. If you don’t change the behaviors that created the problem, you risk digging yourself into an even deeper financial home. Plus, you’re putting your home at risk in the process.

If you choose to go forward with a cash-out refinance, be sure to put your money to good use. Use this experience to put you and your family in a better position financially.

Source: crediful.com

7 Tax Benefits of Owning a Home: A Complete Guide for Filing This Year

What are the tax benefits of owning a home? Plenty of homeowners are asking themselves this right around now as they prepare to file their taxes.

You may recall the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—the most substantial overhaul to the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years—went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The result was likely a big change to your taxes, especially the tax perks of homeownership.

While this revised tax code is still in effect today, the coronavirus has thrown a few curveballs. For one, the Internal Revenue Service has delayed filing season by about two weeks, which means it won’t start accepting or processing any 2020 tax year returns until Feb. 12, 2021. (So far at least, the filing deadline stands firm at the usual date, April 15.)

In addition to this delay, many might be wondering whether the new realities of COVID-19 life (like their work-from-home setup) might qualify for a tax deduction, or how other variables from unemployment to stimulus checks might affect their tax return this year.

Whatever questions you have, look no further than this complete guide to all the tax benefits of owning a home, where we run down all the tax breaks homeowners should be aware of when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. Read on to make sure you aren’t missing anything that could save you money!

Tax break 1: Mortgage interest

Homeowners with a mortgage that went into effect before Dec. 15, 2017, can deduct interest on loans up to $1 million.

“However, for acquisition debt incurred after Dec. 15, 2017, homeowners can only deduct the interest on the first $750,000,” says Lee Reams Sr., chief content officer of TaxBuzz.

Why it’s important: The ability to deduct the interest on a mortgage continues to be a big benefit of owning a home. And the more recent your mortgage, the greater your tax savings.

“The way mortgage payments are amortized, the first payments are almost all interest,” says Wendy Connick, owner of Connick Financial Solutions. (See how your loan amortizes and how much you’re paying in interest with this online mortgage calculator.)

Note that the mortgage interest deduction is an itemized deduction. This means that for it to work in your favor, all of your itemized deductions (there are more below) need to be greater than the new standard deduction, which the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled.

And note that those amounts just increased for the 2020 tax year. For individuals, the deduction is now $12,400 ($12,200 in 2019), and it’s $24,800 for married couples filing jointly ($24,400 in 2019), plus $1,300 for each spouse aged 65 or older. The deduction also went up to $18,650 for head of household ($18,350 in 2019), plus an additional $1,650 for those 65 or older.

As a result, only about 5% of taxpayers will itemize deductions this filing season, says Connick.

For some homeowners, itemizing simply may not be worth it. So when would itemizing work in your favor? As one example, if you’re a married couple under 65 who paid $20,000 in mortgage interest and $6,000 in state and local taxes, you would exceed the standard deduction and be able to reduce your taxable income by an additional $1,200 by itemizing.

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Watch: Ready To Refinance? Ask These 5 Questions First

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Tax break 2: Property taxes

This deduction is capped at $10,000 for those married filing jointly no matter how high the taxes are. (Here’s more info on how to calculate property taxes.)

Why it’s important: Taxpayers can take one $10,000 deduction, says Brian Ashcraft, director of compliance at Liberty Tax Service.

Just note that property taxes are on that itemized list of all of your deductions that must add up to more than your particular standard deduction to be worth your while.

And remember that if you have a mortgage, your property taxes are built into your monthly payment.

Tax break 3: Private mortgage insurance

If you put less than 20% down on your home, odds are you’re paying private mortgage insurance, or PMI, which costs from 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.

But here’s some good news for PMI users: You can deduct the interest on this insurance thanks to the Mortgage Insurance Tax Deduction Act of 2019—aka the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act—which reinstated certain deductions and credits for homeowners.

“These include the deduction for PMI,” says Laura Fogel, certified public accountant at Gonzalez and Associates in Massachusetts. (This credit is retroactive, so talk to your accountant to see if it makes sense to amend your 2018 or 2019 tax return in case you missed it in past years.)

Also note that this tax deduction is set to expire again after 2020 unless Congress decides to extend it in 2021.

Why it’s important: The PMI interest deduction is also an itemized deduction. But if you can take it, it might help push you over the $24,800 standard deduction for married couples under 65. And here’s how much you’ll save: If you make $100,000 and put down 5% on a $200,000 house, you’ll pay about $1,500 in annual PMI premiums and thus cut your taxable income by $1,500. Nice!

Tax break 4: Energy efficiency upgrades

The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit was a tax incentive for installing alternative energy upgrades in a home. Most of these tax credits expired after December 2016; however, two credits are still around (but not for long). The credits for solar electric and solar water-heating equipment are available through Dec. 31, 2021, says Josh Zimmelman, owner of Westwood Tax & Consulting, a New York–based accounting firm.

The SECURE Act also retroactively reinstated a $500 deduction for certain qualified energy-efficient upgrades “such as exterior windows, doors, and insulation,” says Fogel.

Why it’s important: You can still save a tidy sum on your solar energy. And—bonus!—this is a credit, so no worrying about itemizing here. However, the percentage of the credit varies based on the date of installation. For equipment installed between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, 26% of the expenditure is eligible for the credit (down from 30% in 2019). That figure drops to 22% for installation between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021. As of now, the credit ends entirely after 2021.

Tax break 5: A home office

Good news for all self-employed people whose home office is the main place where they work: You can deduct $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet, of office space, which amounts to a maximum deduction of $1,500.

For those who can take the deduction, understand that there are very strict rules on what constitutes a dedicated, fully deductible home office space. Here’s more on the much-misunderstood home office tax deduction.

The fine print: The bad news for everyone forced to work at home due to COVID-19? Unfortunately, if you are a W-2 employee, you’re not eligible for the home office deduction under the CARES Act even if you spent most of 2020 in your home office.

Tax break 6: Home improvements to age in place

To get this break, these home improvements will need to exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. So if you make $60,000, this deduction kicks in only on money spent over $4,500.

The cost of these improvements can result in a nice tax break for many older homeowners who plan to age in place and add renovations such as wheelchair ramps or grab bars in bathrooms. Deductible improvements might also include widening doorways, lowering cabinets or electrical fixtures, and adding stair lifts.

The fine print: You’ll need a letter from your doctor to prove these changes were medically necessary.

Tax break 7: Interest on a home equity line of credit

If you have a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, the interest you pay on that loan is deductible only if that loan is used specifically to “buy, build, or improve a property,” according to the IRS. So you’ll save cash if your home’s crying out for a kitchen overhaul or half-bath. But you can’t use your home as a piggy bank to pay for college or throw a wedding.

The fine print: You can deduct only up to the $750,000 cap, and this is for the amount you pay in interest on your HELOC and mortgage combined. (And if you took out a HELOC before the new 2018 tax plan for anything besides improvements to your home, you cannot legally deduct the interest.)

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com

3 Questions for Anyone Refinancing to a 15-Year Mortgage

3 Questions for Anyone Refinancing to a 15-Year Mortgage – SmartAsset

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If you’re tired of having mortgage debt, refinancing from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan will allow you to pay it off faster. On top of that, you’d also pay less in interest, as shorter loans come with better rates. Refinancing to a 15-year mortgage has some definite perks, but it’s not always the right move for everyone. Asking a few key questions beforehand can help you decide if it makes sense for your situation.

Refinancing your mortgage can have an effect on your overall financial plan. Talk to a local financial advisor today.

Question #1: Can I Afford the Payments?

Shortening your loan term conversely increases your monthly payments and you need to understand how that’s going to affect your budget before signing on. Seeing your payments increase by several hundred dollars may not mean much if you were already paying extra toward the principal, but it could be a deal breaker if it becomes too taxing on your income.

If you have a $200,000 mortgage, for example, refinancing to a 30-year fixed term with a 4 percent interest rate would put your monthly payments at about $955, assuming that you made a 20 percent down payment. Going with a 15-year loan instead with a 3 percent rate would increase your payments to nearly $1,400 a month. That’s roughly the equivalent of a car payment, so if you don’t think your budget can handle it, you want to know that sooner rather than later.

Question #2: Is the Savings on Interest Worth the Higher Payment?

Refinancing to a 15-year loan will certainly save you some money on interest, but it’s important to figure out whether it’s justified by those higher payments. Using the same $200,000 mortgage as an example, that 30-year fixed loan would initially cost you about $666 per month in interest. On the other hand, you’d start out paying about $498 per month in interest by choosing a 15-year fixed mortgage.

Obviously, that’s a pretty big difference, but you also have to take into account what the extra money you’re spending on payments would be worth if you invested it instead. If the difference in your payments with a 15-year loan versus a 30-year loan comes to about $168 a month, that’s money you could put into an IRA.

Question #3: Will I Risk Losing Out on a Bigger Tax Break?

Homeowners can ease the sting of all that interest they’re paying on a 30-year loan by writing it off at tax time. The IRS allows you to deduct interest you pay on primary and secondary mortgage loans as long as you itemize. Deductions reduce the amount of your income that’s subject to tax.

When you refinance to a 15-year loan, you can still take the deduction for your mortgage interest but it loses some of its value since you’re not paying as much interest. You’ll also have less time to benefit from it, which may work against you as you get closer to retirement. If you’ve built up a substantial nest egg and you’re expecting your tax rate to increase during your golden years, the loss of the mortgage interest deduction could make a significant difference in the size of your tax bill.

Bottom Line

If you’re heavily in favor of getting rid of your mortgage, refinancing to a 15-year loan can put you on the fast track to mortgage debt freedom. Just be sure you’ve weighed all the pros and cons first so you don’t end up getting in over your head.

Financial Planning Tips

  • Before deciding whether to refinance or not, think about the impact that altering your mortgage could have on your budget and financial plan. SmartAsset’s free tool can match you with financial advisors who can help you determine what’s best for you. Get started now.
  • Having a stringent budget in place is a great way to get your long-term financial plan off on the right foot. This might include not only watching your spending on a monthly basis, but also on a weekly basis. From here, you can begin to safely set aside money for your retirement savings and other goals for the future. For help putting together a budget, stop by SmartAsset’s free budget calculator.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Justin Horrocks, ©iStock.com/Geber86, ©iStock.com/Andrew Rich

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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