Stop paying your mortgage immediately!

Back in May, I recommended that you stop paying your mortgage immediately.

That advice worked out pretty well, huh? You've already saved ten or twenty thousand dollars, and have you noticed that the bank is still not bothering you? Keep living rent-free. When the bank (or government) finally does get around to calling you, they'll be very nice and accommodative, and they'll negotiate a very nice principal reduction for you.

In Friday's Union-Tribune, economist Peter Schiff gives the same advice:
If you are a mortgage holder who is either struggling with crushing payments, bitter for having overpaid for your home during the bubble, or who has extravagantly refinanced when prices were rising, the government's landmark $700 billion bailout package has an important message for you: stop making your mortgage payments . . . immediately. Furthermore, if you believe that with some planning and sacrifice you may be able to meet your mortgage obligations, the government's message is clear: relax, don't bother.

While angry voters have labeled the package as a bailout for Wall Street, it is more akin to a “Get out of Jail Free” card for anyone who acted irresponsibly during the boom. Here's why.

Nobody likes foreclosure, least of all politicians. The new law clearly indicates that the government will make major efforts to reduce foreclosures through “term extensions, rate reductions and principal write-downs” of the troubled mortgages that it buys from the private sector. In other words, your new landlord will bend over backward to keep you in your home. The legislation telegraphs this by including a provision that extends until 2013 the exclusion of loan reductions from taxable income.

When a financial institution holds a mortgage, homeowners must live with the fear of foreclosure. Private institutions only have obligations to shareholders. In the case of a defaulting borrower, they will look to recover as much of their principal as possible. If foreclosure is their best option, they will take it in a heartbeat.

The government has no such obligations. Its only goal is to keep voters happy. After supposedly bailing out the fat cats on Wall Street, no politician wants to be accused of evicting struggling families. Once you understand this, all of your anxiety should melt away. Why pay your mortgage if foreclosure is off the table, and if you know that lower payments, and possibly a reduced loan amount, would result? A tarnished a credit rating is a small price to pay for such a benefit.

Read the whole thing. And then stop payment on that mortgage check you just mailed.

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