As a widow in my mid-sixties, should I pay off my home or invest the money my husband left me? What's the very best use I can make of these funds?
If you plan on staying in the house and if your income needs are met from other sources, then we'd counsel you to pay off the mortgage.
We don't know your specific risk tolerance, but most widows of your lifestage tend to be very conservative with investments. It's only right that they should be cautious with their financial resources. Generally speaking, we think it would be wise to let that natural sense of prudence and discretion guide you in decisions of this nature. Anything can happen in our economy, especially in times such as these. Any investment – whether it's stocks, a farm, oil and gas, precious metals, art, or anything else – can decrease in value if the market goes sour. Many people who felt unshakably secure in terms of their financial situation lost a large portion of their wealth when the economy took a downward turn.
Meanwhile, regardless of what happens in the economy, a mortgage liability will survive because the lenders are protected by law. With this in mind, we'd advise you to take a portion of your assets to pay off and retire your home mortgage. At the same time, it would be a good idea to keep some funds available and liquid. It's important to have some ready cash on hand in case of an emergency.
The following words of wisdom from the book of Proverbs bear a special relevance to your situation: "Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand" (Proverbs 19:20-21). In other words, let God be your counselor. The needs of widows are especially close to His heart, and He has promised never to leave you or forsake you in your time of need. If you have peace about paying off your home, go ahead and do it. If not, you can probably afford to hold off and wait for clearer guidance.
For additional help and information on this topic, we'd encourage you to consult the resources and referrals highlighted below. Or if you have relationship concerns and challenges associated with this situation, please don't hesitate to give our Counseling department a call.
Should I Pay Off My Mortgage?: Ron Blue discusses the financial benefits of retiring a mortgage.
Family and Personal Finances (resource list)
Money and Finances