In a post about controlling spending by creating artificial scarcity, I wrote the following in response to a reader comment:
“When I first had a mortgage, my wife and I used to save more than 50% of our income, but we put it all on the mortgage by doubling all payments and paying 10% of the original mortgage balance each year. I realize now that I would have been better off to have invested some of this money, but I didn't know that at the time.”Based on the information I had available at the time, I now think I did the right thing by paying off my mortgage aggressively. With the benefit of hindsight I now know that my income grew considerably from those early years and that stock returns were strong through the 1980s and 90s, but I couldn’t have predicted these facts in advance with sufficient certainty.
Paying off debt is a great way to reduce financial risk in your life. For all I knew, maybe the world would stop demanding the kind of work I did, or that my health would fail. This didn’t happen to me, but if my career had followed the path of one of my family members, I would have regretted building up debt and counting on future income to bail me out.
Any analysis that shows the benefits of taking on debt must necessarily assume a fairly rosy picture of future income, or at least not a dismal future. Keeping debt to a minimum is a great way to give yourself some downside protection.
On the Positive Side …
Here are a few of my older articles that I still quite like:
A game show reveals your risk aversion and helps us to examine Morningstar mutual fund rankings. In another post, I explained more about the risk aversion levels baked into Morningstar’s rankings.
A simple idea for making mutual fund fees clear.
Mutual fund Deferred Sales Charges (DSCs) are not much different from front-end loads when it comes to using your money to pay your advisor an up-front commission.
Absurd consequences of the asset allocation theory of constant relative risk aversion.
A market timing experiment shows that a market timer has to be right about 60% of the time to break even with a buy-and-hold investor. This rises to 63% in a taxable account. Things don’t get any better when basing market timing decisions on recent stock movements.