We don't always stop to appreciate the many benefits of living in America. For one thing, we have a little thing called the Bill of Rights that offers a few benefits you won't find in many nations. Our investment regulations, though perhaps imperfect, are also tops; unlike many other countries, we expect our publicly traded companies to issue quarterly statements and audited annual reports. And we've got a number of significant advantages when it comes to mortgages.
You may not realize it, but in many nations, a homeowner cannot pay off his or her mortgage early, or in full, without penalties. Here, we can. (You do have to ensure that there are no such penalties when you sign up for a mortgage.) This is a bit of a big deal, arguably making us a more economically competitive nation. Our ease of getting in and out of mortgages and homes means that we can pursue different and better jobs when they're out of town. It makes us a more fluid, dynamic society. (In many countries, such as Canada, you can't deduct mortgage interest -- this tax benefit is another advantage America has.)
Of course, if you're not moving, it's often good not to pay off your mortgage early (though everyone's situation is different). Consider this scenario, for example: If you're paying 6% interest, and you expect to earn 8-10% on your stock investments, it's probably best to keep your mortgage going. If your mortgage is at 8% and you expect to earn 6% in your other investments, paying off the mortgage would be smart, since you'll save more than you earn. (Though look into refinancing, too!)
If you're interested in homebuying and homeowning issues, visit our Home Center, which features lots of money-saving tips and even some special mortgage rates.
And if you're in the market for a mortgage, another way to inform yourself about options is to spend some time at the websites of lenders, such as Wells Fargo
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Microsoft and Time Warner. The Fool's disclosure policy can be found here.