BusinessDesk investments editor Frances Cook responds to emails from readers each week to answer questions about money. Below, you will find her expert advice. Send your own questions to [email protected].

Hi Frances,

My partner wants to put every cent we have on the mortgage to pay it down quickly. I’m not so sure. 

I’d rather spend any free money on doing things with the kids while they are here. Our four kids are 21, 18, 15 and 11. The kids and I ride dirt bikes so that costs me a bit. 

The total we owe is $386,000. Currently, I work in the oil and gas industry and I’m a self-employed builder, so if I’m not on-site, I’m building. 

I charge out between 250 and 330 hours a month, my body and mind are feeling it, and the thought of trying to keep this up until I’m 60 just doesn’t excite me at all. 

I guess I just wonder if I should push my loan out, cut my hours back, make minimum payments and live a bit of life before I’m buggered. 

In a few years down the track, the kids will be gone so my cost of living will be down, my hourly rate will go up, so I’ll be able to hit it harder then. 


Hi B,

Both you and your partner have good points on this debate. For one, yes, paying off the mortgage fast is an excellent goal, and one that can help you get ahead financially. 

But if you’re looking ahead at the next few years and seeing an unending cycle of drudgery, that’s no good. It’s no way to live life. And, not to be morbid, no day is promised. 

In my own circle, a family friend has just tragically died of a brain tumour in his mid-fifties. It’s an unwelcome reminder that we must balance achieving future goals with living an enjoyable life now. 

Here are some options you could think about.


First, is there a way to balance these goals so everyone's happy? 

For instance, in my household, there’s a rule. If I do extra work and get extra income, I want most of it going towards future goals. But I also can’t spend every waking moment working and paying bills, because I’ll be miserable. 

So, the split is 80% towards extra mortgage payments and investments, and 20% can go on something fun. That way I don’t feel burned out, but I’m still achieving goals. 

Is there a similar percentage split that would work for your household and keep everyone happy? 

Earn more

You’re also working huge hours, so I’m not surprised that you’re feeling burned-out and not excited at the thought of continuing at this pace. If you do a 330-hour month, that’s over 80 hours a week, roughly double the standard full-time job. 

That’s not sustainable! You absolutely need time to recharge. 

Rather than continuing to work such long hours, is there a way you can focus on the highest-earning parts of your current jobs? 

Is there a particular skill that’s in demand that you could learn and charge more for? Has it been a while since you’ve asked for a raise? It might be time to have that conversation with your boss.

If you could earn more per hour, then you could reduce the number of hours you work without sacrificing much in lifestyle. It’s worth getting strategic, if you can find any options here.

Reduce mortgage payments

I also think you should sit down with your partner and see what concrete difference it would make to reduce your mortgage payments. 

If you use something like Sorted’s Mortgage Calculator, you can see a $386,000 mortgage at 6% interest costs about $534 a week, if you pay it off over 30 years. 

If you put in an extra $60 a week, that comes down to a 24-year mortgage. 

If you can put in an extra $200 a week, that brings it down to a 16-year mortgage. 

But as time narrows down, it gets harder to make progress. Compounding interest starts to have less impact. 

An extra $250 a week only brings it down to a 14-year mortgage. 

Spending that $50 on something fun might be worth more to you than being mortgage-free two years earlier. That might be all the extra fun money you need. 

Time has a huge impact on mortgage payments. 

Once you've already brought it down to something like a 10-year mortgage, extra payments start to have a lesser impact, because it's not spread over such a long period of time. 

Money goals are always on a sliding scale, so I think it’s a mistake to see this as all or nothing, achieve or don’t achieve. 

It’s about where your money will have the biggest impact for you as a couple, to help you live the best life both now and in the future. 

You can absolutely have both.

If you can have an honest chat about the results of a mortgage calculator, and see where the biggest benefit and middle ground are for you as a couple, it will help make the conversation a bit less fuzzy. 

Partner contributes more

I’m always cautious to wade into a couple’s relationship dynamic, so please take this next part with a big grain of salt. 

After all, I don’t know how much your partner works now, how much they contribute to these future goals and if they’ve got another important job, like looking after the kids. 

However, if it’s really important to your partner to pay off the mortgage early, and you’re already working long hours and feeling burned out ... is it possible for your partner to take on more of this financial goal, instead? 

Are they able to pick up more hours at work and put that towards the mortgage, giving you the space for more quality time with the kids? 

Or could they go after a promotion that means they earn more, without sacrificing time? 

As I say, I don’t know the division of labour in your house. But it doesn’t seem fair that you’re working such long hours for a goal that you’re not 100% invested in. 

It’s not a situation of, “They who makes the money gets to dictate how it’s spent." You’re a team. But if you’re feeling the need for more balance, that’s a totally valid request.

If there’s a version where you can make extra payments on the mortgage while still leaving space to enjoy the here and now, I think that’s really worthwhile. 

Send questions to [email protected] if you want to be featured in the column. Emails should be about 200 words, and we won't publish your name. Unfortunately, Frances is not able to respond to every email received, or offer individual financial advice.   

Information in this column is general in nature and should not be taken as individual financial advice. Frances Cook and BusinessDesk are not responsible for any loss a reader may suffer.