It seems like the answer should be fairly straight forward but in reality it depends on several factors the biggest one being taxes. If you are looking to take out a lump sum of money to pay off your mortgage before you go into retirement you may want to reconsider the taxable implications of how you have received this money. Let’s take 2 different examples of paying off a $50,000 mortgage and your taxable income is $38,500 as a single filer.
Example A: IRA Distribution
Withdrawing money from these accounts will be taxed at ordinary income. If you are going to need $50,000 you will need to pay taxes on that distribution. If you add the $38,500 wages to the $50,000 distribution you may jump from a 12% bracket to 24% 1. In that case you will need to pull out roughly $66,000 to cover your taxes
Example B: Investment Account
The basics on withdrawing from these accounts are conditional so I have made a map that will guide you in the amount of taxes that you may have to pay.
Another great option is what I like to call bridging. This is when you have decided that you have saved enough in your retirement account and instead of maxing out contributions you reduce it to the min for the match and save the rest in a high yield savings account. This is not for everyone and you will need to be aware of the tax implications that it will cause you. With that being said if you are looking to use the funds less than 12 months you will have protection of principal and growth at rate from 2% or more with full liquidity.
Reducing your debt in retirement is always a best practice because you never know what will happen. I highly recommend before you make a decision like this is to talk to your CPA and financial advisor to see how a longer term plan can reduce your taxable liability and coordinate timing of your retirement.
Sources: https://taxfoundation.org/2019-tax-brackets/ 1