Focus on this debt for a better retirement

  • The mean value of mortgage debt for people between the ages of 56 and 61 in 2010 was $73,923, compared with just $27,493 in 1992, according to a recent study.
  • For a less stressful retirement, try to be free of your mortgage, said financial advisor Winnie Sun.
  • Upping your payments a little bit each month now can make a big difference in this effort.

If possible, try not to let your mortgage payments follow you into retirement, said financial advisor Winnie Sun.

"When you have a mortgage, you really want to focus on paying it down," said Sun, founder of Sun Group Wealth Partners. "There's a lot of benefits to this."

Fewer payments, of course, will leave you with more money in your retirement. Since many people live on a fixed income after their working years, the fewer bills, the better, Sun explained.

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If you can be mortgage-free, your retirement will also be more secure, Sun said, adding, "You'll have a true asset" for expenses such as long-term care insurance.

Sun recommended you "up your payment just ever so slightly," by 10 percent, 5 percent, 1 percent — however much you can afford.

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To be sure, people's mortgage bills have become harder to walk away from. The mean value of mortgage debt for people between the ages of 56 and 61 in 2010 was $73,923, compared with just $27,493 in 1992, according to a recent study.

And while you chip away at your housing debt, you need to make sure you're leaving room for other important expenses, Sun said. For example, your retirement savings shouldn't suffer.