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Leverage on a house can be a good idea if there are no cash flow issues for the borrower. However, since a house has the tangible value of living in it, I tell clients to try to at least have their house mortgaged at no more than 50% of the value of the home when they get towards retirement. This allows them flexibility to borrow in an an emergency without needing mortgage insurance, and withstand real estate fluctuations (contrary to the belief of flippers and many wannabe real estate investors of the past decade, real estate can go down in value, as we are seeing, and will continue to see for a couple more years).

It is true that funding investment vehicles like Roth IRAs and 401k plans can be priortized over paying down a mortgage, this is especially true for people more than a decade from retirement, but in general, other investments, e.g. life insurance, don't make the math or overcome the "I can live in my house argument." About the only situation where having a fat mortgage (in the 70-80% range of home value) and buying life insurance is for those with $million+ homes and household income over $160k (current Roth phase-out for couples) or individual income over $100k.

Universal life policies have been blowing up, that is the cash value hasn't come close to accumulating as projected rates and the policies require more premium than anticipated, since these policies were made popular in the 1980s with the tax-free IRC 1035 exchange. What was double bad for a lot of those policy holders is that because of the way the policies were often funded with lump sums and high early premiums that were supposed to phase out (paid-up is a lie), is that there were huge tax problems when the policies lapsed.

Universal life is an efficient way to buy death benefit, but it is no better than U.S. bond (some tax advantage to boot), without the govt guarantee, for cash value accumulation.
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