Of the various expenses you'll face in retirement, housing could be a big one. And if you end up carrying mortgage debt into retirement, you might struggle to cover your living costs as you grapple with a fixed income. It's estimated that 30% of today's seniors enter retirement with mortgage debt, and for many of those folks, that's a huge source of stress. If you're looking to avoid that nagging expense during your golden years, here's how you can do it.

1. Accelerate your repayment schedule

The simplest way to ensure that you retire mortgage-free? Pay your home loan off faster. Imagine you sign a 30-year, $200,000 mortgage at 5% interest at age 40, but you know that you'd like to retire at 67. This means you'll need to shave three years off your current repayment schedule. However, adding an extra $50 per month to your regular payment will allow you to knock out that loan about three years earlier, thus putting you right where you need to be.

House surrounded by white fence


If you can't afford to pay more money into your mortgage each month, aim to apply any bonus cash you receive to your loan. This could come in the form of an inheritance, gift, or tax refund. For example, if you're five years into the aforementioned mortgage, get an inheritance of $12,000, and use it to make a lump sum payment, you'll shave three years off the term of your loan as well.

2. Downsize

It's one thing to need a larger home when you have multiple children living under your roof. But if your kids are older and you no longer require the same number of bedrooms or bathrooms, downsizing could not only make sense logistically, but enable you to eliminate your mortgage before retirement. This especially holds true if you're able to use the proceeds of the sale of your larger home to purchase a smaller one outright.

Even if your kids aren't grown, downsizing could serve the key purpose of freeing up more cash to use to pay off a mortgage quickly. Imagine you're currently spending a small fortune to heat, cool, and maintain a 3,000-square-foot home. Even if selling that property and downsizing doesn't enable you to buy another one outright, your associated monthly savings (both mortgage- and maintenance-related) might allow you to swing a 15-year loan rather than a 30-year one, thus allowing you to enter retirement without housing debt.

3. Refinance

If your credit score has improved since you first signed your mortgage, or interest rates are more favorable now than they were back then, refinancing your home could very much make sense. The problem, however, is that if you exchange one 30-year loan for another, you'll reset the clock on your mortgage, thus increasing the likelihood that you won't pay it off in time for retirement. However, if you swap a 30-year mortgage for a 15-year term (which you might be able to swing if you snag a far more favorable rate), you'll do the opposite -- increase your chances of entering retirement without a mortgage payment.

Remember, kicking off retirement with some remaining mortgage debt isn't the end of the world, especially if you work those monthly payments into your senior budget. But if you'd rather shake that burden before leaving the workforce, accelerating your payment schedule, downsizing, and refinancing are several viable options that might help you achieve that goal. And that way, you'll have one less bill to worry about during your golden years.