Most of us would like to be free of debt.
That’s why stories of regular people paying off thousands are so inspiring: If they can do it, maybe we can, too.
However, before setting our sights on being completely debt-free, it’s important to meet any other debts that might take priority on a monthly basis, certified financial planner and certified public accountant Jordan Niefeld from Raymond James Financial told Business Insider.
“Choosing to pay off the wrong debt may be very costly,” he said. You should always be making at least minimum payments on your debts, so before committing your cash to make extra payments on a single debt, start with the most urgent: your mortgage.
If you have a mortgage, Niefeld said, that should be your first priority. This includes second mortgages or home equity loans. “If you fall behind, you will not only ruin your credit, but your bank may be able to foreclose,” he explained. “Foreclosures really lower your score up to seven years by almost 200 points. It’s difficult, if you default, to try to take out any loan going forward — even trying to rent a home. It’s a very nasty, negative thing to have on your credit.”
The next most urgent debt is related: property taxes and insurance.
“If you don’t pay your property taxes, there will be tax liens and [the taxing authority] can come after you,” said Niefeld. “Even if the taxing authority takes possession of your home, you’re still going to owe the mortgage. Bottom line: Always maintain your property tax. That includes homeowner’s insurance — if you default, they just add it to the mortgage anyway.”
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