Career Loss Amplifies the Need to Be Completely Debt-Free

We paid off our last mortgage when we were 44, one year earlier than this guy says you should pay it off.

His reasoning is this:

“The reason I say 45 is the turning point, or in your 40s, is because think about a career: Most careers start in early 20s and end in the mid-60s,” O’Leary says. “So, when you’re 45 years old, the game is more than half over, and you better be out of debt, because you’re going to use the rest of the innings in that game to accrue capital.”

I agree with him, but let’s take it a step further. For an increasing number of people, “the game” was over by the time they were 50 or 55 or 60. Their job went overseas, or they were let go in a downsizing, or younger people willingly to accept much lower pay were promoted over them and then they were sent packing. Now they’re working at a job beneath their capabilities and earning far less than they did in the career they spent most of their life on.

When you’re in that position, there’s no time to “accrue capital.” You’re in survival mode. And when you’re in survival mode, the very best place to be is debt-free. When you own your home outright, no one can kick you out unless you don’t pay your taxes (which is why if you’re forced to downsize your life, you should move to an area where you can afford the taxes). So you’ll always have a roof over your head.

We were forced to sell our paid-off house five years after we paid it off, because a career loss meant that “the game was over” for us, and we could no longer afford the skyrocketing property taxes. We did not reinvest all the money we made from the sale of that house in a new house; in fact, we spent less than a third of that money on the next house.

This worked out very well for us. But the point is, we had the option of doing this because WE WERE AND ARE DEBT-FREE. So whether your “game” ends at 50 or 80, pay off all your debts as soon as you can, including your mortgage, and you will be in the best position you can be.

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