Recession Watch: Should I consolidate my debt by refinancing my home?


The first thing that I thought early last Tuesday morning, when I heard the news of the 3/4-point drop in interest rates, was that we were sure going to get a lot of mortgage companies dialing for dollars in the coming days. And sure enough, come 9 a.m., the phone calls started, so many mortgage brokers eager to convince me to consolidate my credit card debt, maybe take out some cash for renovations! And roll it all into a nice fixed-rate mortgage. Sounds lovely, hmmm?

Not so fast. I'm at the end of a five-year ARM, and my interest rate is about to start floating -- it can change monthly. While I've made my peace with this (there are maximum limits, but no minimum limits, to how far the rate can float; I remember my parents' 14% mortgage and sigh happily), it's really not about the sort of loan I have now. It's about the uncertainty in the future.

Consolidating your credit card debt into your mortgage has lots of perks. You can deduct your mortgage interest, for starters, and it's a good bet your interest rate on a home loan is far less than your credit card interest rate. It seems like a good idea, especially in an environment of plummeting rates.

But for all but the most disciplined and job-secure of folks, consolidating your debts into your mortgage in a recession environment is possibly the worst thing to do. Here's why: