Got this letter from a fellow PDITF reader….
My husband and I own a condo in the SF Bay Area. We bought a 1bd condo at what (we thought) was the bottom of the market (sad face). We’re currently under water on the place about $30-$40K. We recently started snowballing our debt and the only remaining debt is about $3k of student loans due to be paid off in the next 2 months or so. Here’s our dilemma: after building 6 mo. of expenses in savings, should we:
1) start paying off the condo? Keeping with our current snowball amount ($3k) we could have the joint paid off in 2016! Problem is, we also plan on having children in the next few years and the maximum time we’ll live here is about 4 more years (although we’re open to using as a rental property), but we will likely stay in the area.
2) start saving the 3k/investing the 3k? We are embarrassingly naive about investing in general and have no stocks/bonds/MM accounts other than our 401K…
We just don’t want to pour money into a house when we know it’s not our long term home, but we also want to make a savvy financial decision.
Advice from you/your readers would be hugely appreciated! Many, many thanks!
The first thing that stood out to me about Courtney’s letter was this: “We are embarrassingly naive about investing in general and have no stocks/bonds/MM accounts other than our 401K”. Girl, it’s time to get educated and start investing. You need to have, at minimum, a basic understanding of the different investment vehicles available to you. That way YOU can decide if you’d rather invest or pay down the mortgage. You can’t make a decision until you know what all your options are.
I’m a fan of Vanguard mutual funds. Some love bonds. Others invest in individual stocks. I’d recommend scowering some PF blogs that really dive in to the ‘meat and potatoes’ of investing, so you and your hubby can choose the plan that’s best for you.
How much should you be investing? The general rule is at least 10% of your gross income, but probably some where closer to 15% if possible. I don’t know how much of your gross income is going in to your 401k plans, but if you’re investing less than 10%, I’d say your first plan of action (once your free of the student loan) should be to up your retirement contributions.
Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you what you should do with your discretionary income (save or pay down mortgage), because I have no clue what the real estate market in S.F. will look like in four years. If you think the markets are going up, up, up…it makes sense to pay down the mortgage a bit and let your equity appreciate. If you think the market is going down, down, down…it’s probably better to put your cash in the bank so it doesn’t lose value.
It doesn’t really sound like you are too sure what your life is going to look like 2-5 years from now. You may have a kid (you might not), your condo might go up in value (it might not), you might rent out your place (you might not). Until you really have a solid idea when you’ll be moving and when you’ll be having kids, I’d recommend putting your discretionary income in the bank. Cash gives you flexibility. If at any point down the road you decide you’d rather pay down your mortgage, you can always pull cash from your savings to do so.
I’m just one man though, and I’m definitely no real estate (or investing) expert. Let’s see what other PDITF readers would recommend doing in your situation. How bout it y’all, what do you think Courtney should do? Pay down the mortgage or build up cash savings?