What does 'mortgage one's future' mean in this context? I am aware of the literal meaning of 'mortgage' as a loan taken out from a bank to buy a house. Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives the following definition of the phrase:

chiefly US, disapproving : to borrow a large amount of money that will have to be paid back in the future The city has mortgaged its future to pay for the new stadium. —sometimes used figuratively Some critics say that she has mortgaged her political future on a program that is likely to fail.

They don't specify what exactly the figurative meaning is about. The second example means something like 'to put her future at stake'.

The phrase occurs quite often in political contexts like this presidential address where it as I understand means 'to use some of the money now which has to be paid back later to future generations'.

What synonyms would you suggest? Is it close to 'put one's future at risk/jeopardize one's future'?

2 Answers 2


Generally, it means to take some advantage now that will have to be paid for later, with a risk of losing something of great value if the "repayment" can't be made. Similar to how if we can't pay the mortgage on a home, the home can be re-possessed by the lender.


If I take out a mortgage on a property, it is a loan that I promise to pay back in instalments. If I fail to pay then I lose the money I have already paid and I lose the property. In a sense I am gambling that I will always have enough money to pay. If I am unlucky enough to fall sick and be unable to work, I can't pay the mortgage and I lose my home as well.

Most people are optimists about this. When they are young, they imagine that will always be healthy and always have as good a job as they do now. It's a good idea to take out insurance on the loan but insurance involves paying extra money to the insurance company!

In this case I believe it means the following:

You invest considerable amounts your time and/or money in some course of action. If the action turns out to be a failure you may never be able to regain your investment. This could be in terms of money or reputation.

Let's say I am the boss of a failing business. I try desperately to keep it afloat by throwing good money after bad and by working all hours of the day. Eventually I have to admit defeat but by then I am in debt. I am exhausted, I no longer have the energy of youth on my side. It is very difficult to come back from that although some people manage it.

So, in effect, it is a gamble that your future will turn out the way you hope. If it doesn't you may lose everything.

Let's see if others agree with my answer.

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