Why one couple decided to make their starter home into their forever home

April 08, 2019 | GET MORE : Economic Trends

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Preparing for a mortgage-free retirement has been a priority for Stephanie and Ron Edwards.

A month before our first wedding anniversary, my husband Ron and I closed on the purchase of what, at the time, we considered to be our starter home. 

Buying a house at 22 was overwhelming, but after crunching the numbers we discovered our mortgage payment for a three-bedroom house was only $150 more per month than our rent for a small two-bedroom apartment. Excited by the prospect of home ownership, we gave up cable television and cut back on dining out, going to the movies, shopping and a few other luxuries to make up the difference in expenses. 

As we unpacked boxes in our new home, we daydreamed about how we would move into a larger, nicer house as our careers advanced and how we’d like more storage space and a larger master suite. However, 16 years later, we’re still living in our so-called starter home, which we love. We even moved from the small master suite into a smaller bedroom to create a nicely sized dining and board game room, which is essential for my husband’s gaming hobby. 

There’s no place like home

We’ve been a bit envious as we’ve seen our contemporaries move into homes twice the size of ours in fancier areas. So, what’s kept us here? Our house is charming and our quiet, peaceful neighborhood is in a great location, close to shopping, dining and several lakefront parks. 

At 1,500 square feet, the house might be considered small, but its open floor plan helps it feel much more spacious than its actual size. With only one fur-child, Shadow, our corgi mix rescue pup, the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house more than meets our needs. We’re comfortable here, and even though homes in our neighborhood are in high demand and house sales prices are at an all-time high, we plan to stay. 

Making it our own

Over the years, living in a home with a lower mortgage has allowed us the financial opportunity to make small renovations, implementing our own style and décor tastes. We brought our outdated 1990s kitchen into modern times, replaced wall-to-wall white carpeting with beautiful mocha-stained hardwood floors and revitalized our backyard oasis. 

Each renovation project we complete adds more of our personal flair, making us fall in love with our home all over again. 

Helping us realize our future goals

Most importantly, our mortgage will be paid off before either of us reaches 50. Ten years ago, we were able to refinance from a 30-year to a 20-year loan, shaving off approximately seven years of payments. We know retirement age will creep up on us before we know it, so staying in our small, yet lovely, home is the best decision for meeting our future goals.

Being mortgage-free during retirement is an important part of our financial plan. Once our home is paid off, we can invest the funds we were using to pay our mortgage. We’re happy with our decision to stay put and look forward to not having the financial burden of a mortgage in our 60s and 70s. 

Other retirement planning strategies

Of course, paying off your home early as possible is only one strategy when planning your retirement. At U.S. Bank, our Financial IQ site offers a wealth of retirement planning resources, including this decade-by-decade guide providing tips on how to plan for retirement in your 20s and beyond. 

For more ideas on how to plan for your financial future, join U.S. Bank for the Saving for Retirement a Decade-by-Decade Guide webinar at 1 p.m. CT on Wednesday, April 24.  

Written by Stephanie Edwards, a communications representative with U.S. Bank based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Check out an infographic for a preview of the upcoming webinar.