Tom Smart, Deseret News
Kevin and Steffani Raff take a moment to sign mortgage papers with their broker, Rick Lyman, as they are laying their own wood floor to help them save money while building their new home this past summer in Saratoga Springs, Utah. Forty percent of those over 55 in a survey said paying off a mortgage was their best financial decision.

Forty percent of Americans older than 55 consider the money they used to pay off a mortgage the best ever spent, according to an article by Market Watch.

Of the 1,540 surveyed in a Harris Interactive study, 40 percent also said starting to save early was one of their best decisions.

But those younger than 55 have different priorities than mortgages. Those 25 to 54 didn’t even mention paying off a mortgage. Instead, 53 percent said saving early is a top priority and 52 percent said insuring family protection is key.

Greg McBribe, a senior financial analyst at Bankrate, said for those younger than 55, mortgages shouldn’t necessarily be the most important financial focus.

“Paying off the mortgage becomes a higher priority later in your career, after you’ve amassed sufficient savings for emergencies, after you’ve paid off other debt, after you’ve put the kids through college, and after you’ve spent years accumulating your retirement nest egg on a tax-advantaged basis,” McBride told Market Watch.

Retirement savings should be the focus for those even close to retirement before paying off mortgages, McBride said.

The only people who should focus on paying off mortgages without having yet maxed out retirement savings are those who can’t claim a tax deduction from the paid interest anymore, McBride said.