Joseph and his partner have made all the right moves. They carry no credit consumer debt, but they’re still burdened with student loans and a mortgage. They’re barely able to make ends meet, and are worried about what this means for the future.

I am 30 years old and in my last year of a Master’s program. I will graduate with $125,000 worth of student loans, whose monthly payments will be approximately $925/month for 25 years (my undergraduate loans are, luckily, paid off). The interest rate on $80,000 is 4.25%, $45,000 is 8.00%.

I own a home with a mortgage of $165,000 with an interest rate of 6.625%, with mortgage payments (including homeowner’s insurance and real estate tax) of $1,400/month, to be paid off in 27 more years. There is approximately $65,000 in equity. I have no credit card debt at the moment.

My partner has $35,000 in graduate student loans at an interest rate of 4.25% and no credit card debt. Currently, she makes $35,000 at her job and is contributing to a company-matched 401k. When I graduate, I will likely make between $30-35,000/year.

We hope to have two children within the next four years. We are very frugal with spending, but at the moment just about make ends meet. We have one used car that we inherited from our family. When I graduate, the money I earn will just about off-set my student loan payments. We hope to throw any extra towards the principal of the mortgage.

Even under that scenario, though, we would only be able to pay off the mortgage in 15 years, and the student loans still in 25 years. Is there something we are missing?

Before the readers answer, I’d like to note that while paying off a mortgage early is a good idea for some (I hope to do so, for example), it’s not a necessity. Mortgages aren’t “good debt”, but they’re relatively innocuous. According to most experts — including my accountant — the choice between carrying a mortgage or paying it early is a “wash”. In other words, it makes little difference financially. (It can make a huge difference psychologically, though.) I suspect this is another case, like the recent broke New Yorker, where it’s best to simply be patient, continue making smart choices, and let time work its magic.

This article is about Ask the Readers, Planning