The RBA decided to once again leave interest rates on hold at 0.1% at its recent March meeting, which means yet another month at the lowest interest rates ever.
In fact, if you have been paying off a mortgage at any stage over the past few years, you have been doing so in a historically low interest rate environment.
The RBA does this to stimulate the economy. The lower the interest rates are, the less money you spend on your debt, which means you have more to spend elsewhere. This extra spending helps prop up the economy.
But how you put that money to use is up to you. Recent research has shown the pandemic changed many of our spending habits, with Australian households saving an estimated extra $120 billion between April and December last year, due to restrictions on travel, hospitality and more. We seem to be more cautious about spending on material goods and luxuries and now choose to funnel extra cashflow back into our homes.
First things first
In order to take advantage of low interest rates, you need to make sure you’re paying the lowest that you can be.
Get online and check out loan comparison websites to see what else is out there. If there are better deals, you can consider refinancing with another lender; or, if you don’t want to leave your current bank, give them a call and ask them to match the better rate.
It’s a competitive market for lenders and they are keen to retain customers, so banks will often grant you a better deal if you pick up the phone and make them think you are ready to take your debt elsewhere.
Pay your own mortgage off sooner?
Now that you’re happy with your interest rate, where to next? One option is to keep making the same mortgage repayments, or even increase them and pay down your mortgage as soon as you can. Traditionally, people would want to pay their house off ASAP. Paying a bit extra when you can manage can shave years off your repayment term and save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. You own your own house and any money that comes in. But is that still the best option?
Conditions have changed
Paying off your house early used to be beneficial when interest rates were much higher. For example, when banks were offering an average of around 7% on standard variable products, the accumulative effect of compound interest meant you would end up paying more than the purchase price of the property in interest alone over a 30-year loan term.
Now though, it’s a different story. You can get much better returns by focusing on acquiring new, quality debt rather than paying off existing debt which is attracting very small interest. Investing in property with plenty of upside for growth and good rental return can be a great way to take advantage of low interest rates.
Make lower repayments?
An option is to make lower repayments on your mortgage and free up more cash for your day to day life. That extra cash could be used to pay for something you need, or again, to invest in shares or property.
Making minimum repayments on your owner-occupier mortgage will free up even more cash to leverage into as much quality debt as you can manage.
You might use that cashflow to acquire multiple investment properties, which pay a rental income and appreciate in value throughout the rest of your own mortgage term.
Then, later down the track, you have the option to sell off some of your assets and use the capital gains to pay off your remaining debt, while keeping remaining properties for further income and equity. Or, simply keep holding the assets and benefiting from their growth and returns for as long as possible.