My mortgage company is offering to sign me up for weekly or biweekly, rather than monthly, payments. The program is free, and I’m told it will help me pay off the loan faster. Should I sign up? --M.W., Sacramento, Calif.
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Because a year has 52 weeks—or 13 four-week periods—making weekly payments works out to be an extra monthly payment each year. Making weekly or biweekly payments can be an easy way to help you pay off your loan faster and save money on interest. Paying biweekly on a $300,000, 30-year mortgage with a 4% interest rate rather than monthly will pay off the loan more than four years early (see the biweekly mortgage calculator at Bankrate.com).
But you can accomplish the same goal on your own and maintain more flexibility by making one extra monthly payment each year. Do that whenever you have extra cash, rather than locking yourself into a program. You may have more-pressing uses for the money, such as saving for retirement, building your emergency fund or paying off higher-interest debt. “Unless you are maxing out your 401(k) and IRA, there are other, higher priorities for your spare cash than paying down a low, fixed-rate, often tax-deductible mortgage,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.
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