Good old-fashioned budgeting logic says it’s always worthwhile having a cash emergency fund. While for people with expensive card and loan debts we generally disagree (see Use Savings To Repay Debts?), for those who are debt-free, apart from a mortgage, this is a good idea.
Overpay most mortgages and the cash is gone. So if you’ve an emergency (leaking roof or redundancy, not new shoes) and you’d overpaid with all spare cash, you could be forced to borrow again instead. Your earlier overpayments may not stop lenders charging you for being in arrears if you miss monthly repayments (see Mortgage Arrears Help).
So it’s always a good idea to keep an emergency fund in a top savings account – three to six months’ worth of cash is a good guide, enough to live on if you lost your job, for example. If you’re thinking of using newly arriving extra income (such as a pay rise) to overpay your mortgage, then build up an emergency fund first.
This applies even if the calculator shows you’d be better off overpaying your mortgage. It’s what’s known as ‘a premium for liquidity’. In other words, it’s sacrificing some interest for easy access to cash when needed.
Mortgages with flexible features (including offset, current account mortgages or those with a ‘borrow-back’ facility) allow you to overpay and borrow the money back. So you can overpay the mortgage, then withdraw cash without penalty if you need it again. If you have one of these, there’s no problem putting all spare cash in the mortgage.
It can be used like a high-rate savings account as you’re effectively saving at your mortgage rate but without paying tax. That said, as mentioned earlier, this is less beneficial as all savings accounts give you all the interest without tax taken off thanks to the new personal savings allowance.
This example shows how it can work:
On a £150,000, 25-year mortgage, offsetting £25,000 of savings could mean you pay off your mortgage one year and 10 months early, and save £3,350 in interest, while still having access to your savings if needed.
Don’t misread this as saying everyone should go for one of these mortgages. The problem is their interest rates are usually higher than standard mortgages’, and for many the extra cost of the mortgage debt more than outweighs the gain on savings.
But some of these flexible features are not well publicised so check with your lender if you have this option.
See the Ultimate Mortgage Calculator to do a comparison, plus see the Mortgage and Remortgage guides.