Mortgage-free, but keeping my sandals on.

DH = dear husband

Mortgage-free …

“Let’s take a look at our mortgage,” DH said after the first week of September. We had made our very last payment of $1400, and I think we were hoping to see a lovely $0. DH scrolled down the page of our online account … and then back up again. “It’s gone,” he said.

I looked too, and there was no indication of a mortgage or its pay-off to be seen. There was a new line of text that said, “Take out a mortgage with us!” My guess is that it’s a promotion that the bank automatically inserts onto the pages of customers who don’t have a mortgage with them.

Wouldn’t you think that the bank would send out a little “Congratulations!” – or at least provide the satisfying visual of “$0.00”? According the Cheese_Baron, the bank doesn’t find mortgage pay-off a cause for celebration:

… but not debt-free

Our $0 mortgage was SUPPOSED to be the big “Woooo-hoo!” But we blew it. We never used debt in the 6 years and 2 months – 74 months – of our journey out of debt between June 2012 and July 2018. But in August – month #75 of a total 76 – we got ahead of ourselves and ended up with a $3,800 line of credit 🙁

Moral of the story? If you’re trying to reverse decades-long habits of poor financial management, don’t let go of your vigilance once you’ve hit debt-freedom. You’re going to need the awareness and accountability that got you this far to stay out of debt and to build on the positive side of $0.

So although the grass in our backyard beckons, we’re keeping our sandals on. We’ll take our barefoot walk once that annoying line of credit is gone. As of now, it’s down to $2,500.

The impact of healthy finances when life sucks

Although transparency is a real blog-value of mine, there are limits to what I can disclose. All I’ll say is that something really crappy has happened, and for me it has involved the fog of shock, an incredulous outrage, and a frustrated powerlessness. It has nothing to do with finances.

Great things happen whether or not you’ve got your financial act together – and so do awful things. Does financial health make a difference when life takes a nose-dive?

I think it does. It offers a buffer to absorb some of the mess that – for me at least – comes with crisis. I get less competent and more wasteful at times like this. I get drawn to band-aid comforts – like take-out – and I want to provide them for anyone else who is impacted. Poor financial health just makes tough times colder and more stressful.

There. That’s it for this week. I believe that all will be well soon.

Was there a tough time when you noticed that financial health either helped or hindered you? If you ran a bank, what would you communicate to customers who had paid off their mortgage?


Join the Conversation


  1. I’m sorry to hear you’re having a tough time when you expected to celebrate. I will keep you in my prayers. May God give you peace, comfort and strength.

    1. Thank you, Kelly. It did strike me as particularly cruel timing, but there are no guarantees for a smooth ride – and our good financial health does make a difference for the better, even though it’s not at all related to finances. Your words are kind. Thank you.

  2. Sorry to hear something has happened. Hope you can reach out via email if it’s something you want to talk about. But yes, I know exactly what you mean. I have bought SO many candles in the last week to give me some sort of comfort or peace in my new home. And many, many other things. Hopefully the cheap col will balance it all out in the end.

    1. Thank you, Tonya. It sounds like you’re experiencing the same phenomenon. Candles in your case – take-out in mine. At one point I would have been annoyed at myself for being “weak”. Now, I’m allowing myself to be kind to myself – and I’m glad you are too.

  3. Sorry to hear there’s been a bump in the road for you guys. I know how hard you’ve worked. Hope all is well soon. Please let me know if I can help in any way. I’ve noticed in stressful live events financial health is a blessing, its one less thing to worry about and you can focus on the problem at hand.

    1. Thank you, Brian. You’ve hit on a real truth there: being financially healthy allows us to focus on the problem at hand. It certainly doesn’t prevent problems from arising – but it’s so much worse trying to deal with a problem when the mercilessness of financial stress is there on top of it.

  4. I’m sorry to hear of your troubles, but glad to hear things should be alright soon. Having your finances in order when trouble comes knocking is a definite plus not only in dealing with the trouble itself, but the inevitable stress that comes along with it.

    I’m also sorry to hear that your bank hasn’t given you the satisfactory “$0.00” that you were looking for. I think that they should, at least for a month, before making that account simply disappear. I know this is not exactly the celebratory month you were planning on, but I hope you’ll be ready to take that barefoot walk very soon.

    1. Thank you, Gary. Very true that trouble brings stress of its own with it – so who wants financial stress as well? Nobody I know. And I like your idea of a month-long “$0.00” display on the online accounts of people who have paid off their mortgage. If there had been such a thing for us, we would have looked at it many times by this point 🙂

  5. My thoughts are with you and your family that this misery will disappear from your life as quickly as it appeared.

    You had a perfect 74 month journey which is no small feat! Then PLOT TWIST. The equity line stumble just makes your story have a bit of a thrilling ending. All about perspective, right? Be good to yourself-you’re human. In this reader’s eyes it doesn’t negate your amazing accomplishments at all.

    Congratulations on being mortgage free! It’s an amazing dream of yours that has just come true!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Linda. And I have adjusted to the plot twist idea – though I like your “PLOT TWIST” for a “thrilling ending” better 🙂 You’re right: I am human. And I am being good to myself. Thanks again.

  6. I will swap my £82,785.44 mortgage if you like :). If it is any consolation Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs sent me a tax fine of £1,500 and I got the letter Christmas Eve 2014!
    So my long winded logic is this:
    In the UK they have a Special Services regiment in the army called the SAS, these guys are the best of the best, and they have incredibly grueling training regimes which pushes the individual to the extreme limits, at one point they cover 40 miles carrying 60lbs of gear in 20 hours, one time after completing the 40 miles they were told to turn around and do another 20miles, most of them sat down and gave up, the few that did got half a mile down the road to find a truck waiting for them, they didn’t have to do another 20 they just wanted to know who was mentally tough enough to do the job.
    So you have a choice, sit down and give up or remember how flipping amazing you have been to get here. Pour your self a stiff drink, put a smile on your face and get on and do what you know you can do! #WhoDaresWIns

    1. Oh, where is that truck?! I love that analogy, Tom. Thank you. What a test to put to those exhausted soldiers! But don’t worry; my annoying loc will not make me sit down and give up. It has made me embarrassed, but it has also given me a valuable heads-up as we move into debt-freedom: keep up the vigilance! The one thing that would seriously bother me would be not being able to pay off the rest of the loc by the end of September. I’ve put a stake in the ground on that one. I know it’s not a rational thing, but I’ve been saying “We’ll be debt-free in September” for so long, I just really want to make it happen. I checked out your mortgage in Canadian dollars, and it doesn’t look hopeless at all! I don’t know your age or income (or if your mortgage is your only debt), but my bet is that if you stay focused and get intentional about bringing it down to $0, you will – and sooner than you think.

      1. We are very lucky our household income is over the mortgage amount and we have no other debt and we are both mid 30’s. We are very much staying focused having reduced the term of our mortgage down to 8 years and we are 7 years in. It can be a drain getting the balance right, really really hard between want and need, save and splurge and stay in or go out. I don’t think any of our peer group is doing what we are but for some reason the “social mores” in London dictate you can boast about what you have but not the debt you have to go in to get it, having a BMW on finance (no one talks about the finance plan) is better than being debt free. I find these blogs refreshing as it is like a debtors anonymous where people in a similar boat can find solace from those in the same situation or survived the same situation.

        1. Absolutely! And social mores in London are not different from those in most Canadian and American cities. NO one talks about the debt involved in their lifestyles. If you can find a frugal social circle to go along with your blog-reading, you’ll get even more influence that runs counter to that BMW culture. I suspect that much of the “drain” you experience comes from the continuing pull of our ad-saturated society. But you’re in your mid-30s, and you’ll be completely debt-free in a year! Is that right, Tom?! Wonderful!!

          1. Ah sorry I reduced the mortgage from 13 years remaining to 8 years remaining, I got on the Mortgage boat back in September 2011 so this is my 7th year of being mortgaged with 8 remaining. Although we are looking at the budget constantly to see what can be put to one side for overpayment to keep reducing it. Our current goal is 3 years time in September 2021, 10 years after buying the flat.
            Once we have the mortgage paid off I will use your blog for my debt free scream:)

  7. Congrats on being mortgage-free! It’s a huge accomplishment even if you have a bit more debt to get through. I think the time surrounding meeting a big financial goal can be very tenuous. I know our spending has increased since being debt-free. Some of that was planned, some wasn’t, and some spending was more justified than other spending.

    And I sincerely hope all will be well soon. So true that no amount of financial stability can protect us from life’s bumps.

    1. I am so comforted to know that even you found that your spending increased at the time of your debt-freedom! Mind you, a new baby and needed bathroom renovations are very good excuses. I’m hoping we’ll settle into a new normal – with more flexibility but still disciplined – before too long. And thank you for your kind words, Kalie.

  8. I’m sure that the banks absolutely don’t want you to pay it off so they wouldn’t congratulate you lest you get the horrible notion in your head that you should NOT stay in debt! It’s a shame but I guess it’s not surprising.

    I both agree that money isn’t going to feel like it matters when other things are falling down but lack of money is DEFINITELY going to make a difference if you’re already down.

    We’ve had a tough week too but we have to remember that weeks will come after this, and so will months. We’ll be ok in the end, we just have to keep moving forward.

    1. Amen to that. I’m sorry you’ve had a rough week too (as has Tonya – how pervasive is this bad week?) The thing about moving forward in a time like this is that we’ll either move into better or bitter, so the thing is to step with additional doses of wisdom. I know you speak from experience when you say that bad finances make the tough times worse. (And for you, those bad finances were completely out of your control. Not the case for me.) As for the banks, I guess we’ll just have to celebrate without them 🙂

  9. We switched our mortgage to a secured line of credit attached to our house during the good years when the interest rate bottomed out at 0% – it was great to have the total payment go onto the debt. When we made our last payment (six years later) we went into the bank and wrote the cheque, proudly telling the mature teller that this payment would make us debt free. She was so impressed she shook our hands and congratulated us (so we did get our much earned recognition :). She also remarked that most people are so deep in debt, feel that is the norm and don’t even try to become debt free. We were on cloud 9 when we left the bank and walked into our debt free future, which we have maintained for over three years, even with a pretty hefty reno that we are just completing.

    Hope your situation is straightening itself out Ruth. Keep looking up!

    1. Nancy, that speaks volumes for banking in person. I’m glad you had the satisfaction of a handshake from someone who recognized that what you were doing was both great and not the norm. And unlike us, you didn’t stumble at the finish line! So how do you like your renovated home? Is it so beautiful that you want to stay in it? Or are you still looking around for reasonably priced condos? Our renos are just beginning – with a massive paint job. Stubborn dark-red trim that devours any paint applied – up to 7 coats – has been involved. My husband discovered another type of paint – only 3 coats now. Anyway, I see many learning curves and many hours ahead.

      1. We have professional painters doing our painting, which is the last big thing – thank God!! They use Dulux paint and swear by it – it does look beautiful, and the new white trim and doors take some getting used to after 30 years of a dark stain. We are still casually looking at reasonably priced condos, but don’t know if we will even stay in our city once we have the mental mindset to move.

        Enjoy your renos – after this I swear we are never doing it again!!

        1. I think you’re wise to leave yourselves open to many options and to wait … Such a hard thing to do! Once the renos are completely done and you’re settled into your new normal, I have no doubt that ideas will start coming to you for the next step. Thanks Nancy 🙂

  10. In response to Tom’s last comment (because this blog format won’t allow me another direct response) – I got mixed up with the “down to 8 years and we are 7 years in” part. I thought that left you with only 1 year. Thanks for the explanation 🙂 I encourage you in that 3-year goal. If you apply what extra you have every month – even when it seems insignificant – and keep vigilant in those micro-decisions that challenge “getting the balance right” (and that IS “really, really hard”) you will cut down on those 8 years by what seems like more than the sum of your efforts. (And if you approach the 3-year mark and it looks like you won’t make it, please remember that 3.5 or 4 or 5.5 is still way better than 8.)

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