Dave Ramsey says: Housing payment should be less than 25 percent of monthly income

Published: Thursday, July 3 2014 7:02 a.m. MDT

Your housing payment should not exceed 25 percent of your monthly take-home pay on a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage.

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Dear Dave,

You recommend that no more than 25 percent of your monthly income go toward a house payment. Does this figure include taxes and insurance too?

— Ryan

Dear Ryan,

Yes, it does. Your housing payment should not exceed 25 percent of your monthly take-home pay on a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage.

When it comes to buying a house, the goal is not to live in the Taj Mahal or have something so expensive you end up being “house poor.” When buying a home, especially for first-time homebuyers, you should look for something nice — in a decent area — that you can get paid off as quickly as possible.

It’s really not a big deal if you cheat a couple of percentage points one way or the other. But 25 percent is a good rule of thumb to ensure you’ll still have money left over to live on, save and invest.

— Dave

Dear Dave,

My mom and dad took out a whole life insurance policy for me when I was born. The cash value is $2,500, and my husband and I want to cash it out and put the money toward paying off debt. We already have larger term life insurance policies in place, but I’m worried that doing this will offend my parents. What should I do?

— Laura

Dear Laura,

I think the real question is how many toxic things will you do because you’re afraid you might offend them. Whole life policies are financially toxic. They’re a bad product, and keeping it for no better reason than it might hurt their feelings a little bit isn’t much of a reason — especially when the alternative is paying down debt and getting your financial life in order.

I know this is mom and dad we’re talking about, so you’ll have to be nice about everything. But at the same time, your parents have to realize it’s your life and you make the decisions. Try sitting down with them and gently explaining that while you appreciate and love them for their generosity, you’re going to cash it out and use it to get out of debt. Let them know you’re not wasting their gift and that you’re using it to make a positive impact on your lives.

You’re not doing anything disrespectful, Laura. Just be very clear about the reason and loving with your explanation. Then, if they chose to become a little emotional or resentful, that’s on them. If they get really upset and want the money back, you can do that too. But getting your financial house in order is much more important than hanging on to a bad financial product you don’t need in the first place.

— Dave

Follow Dave on Twitter at DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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