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Life Without a Mortgage
CNBC.com | September 26, 2011 | 09:41 AM EDT

The countdown to retirement is on for millions of baby boomers and, thanks to a lifetime of diligent saving, some have amassed enough wealth to pay off their mortgages and live debt free.

Conventional wisdom says it's best to pay off your mortgage before retirement, but given the low-interest rate environment, and the need to preserve cash in an unstable economy, that strategy is no longer absolute.

“Paying off your house is one goal, but having a zero-mortgage liability is not the answer for everyone,” says Jennie Fierstein, a certified financial planner (CFP) in Westborough, Mass. “If you don’t have a stream of resources to replenish it, you might do yourself a disservice by taking money out of the bank to pay off your mortgage.”

Retirees themselves, it seems, are equally torn as to the most prudent course of action.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 41 percent of U.S. households aged 60 to 69 in 2007 maintained a mortgage. Of these, 51 percent had sufficient assets to repay their loans.

When It Pays to Borrow

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