Orall Cornelius, author of "Murder Your Mortgage in Seven Years", talks about how it all started in an Economics lecture at Lancaster.

A lightbulb lit up in Orall Cornelius’ mind during a first-year lecture at Lancaster when he was introduced to the concept of Capital Accumulation. That carefully-filed thought turned into a conviction years later, that he could buy a house and pay off the £233,000 mortgage within 10 years - which he did - and authored a book as a result.

His book ‘Murder Your Mortgage in Seven Years’, which was featured on Channel Four's 'How to Live Mortgage Free with Sarah Beeny', describes how he succeeded, by overpaying and saving every spare penny, thereby saving himself and his teacher wife Carla £150,000 in the process.

Now, the father of two and a computer test analyst working for a digital testing agency called Manifesto, which builds websites for charities like UNICEF and the National Trust, Orall says that what he learned studying at Lancaster (Economics, 1995, County) enabled him to change his life. 

“It freed us to do what we want,” he reflects. ”When it comes to money, I’m in a position where I am saving rather than spending. So I am adding to my security and money is not my concern. I can choose when and if to work.” He is also studying for a Masters in Psychology.

It is all worlds away from the future he thought he faced as a 16-year-old working class youngster from Walthamstow without any GCSEs. University was not even on the radar. He is aware that his current lifestyle is only possible because of the idea that took root in his mind during that first-year lecture, of reinvesting the interest on his mortgage to cut years and tens of thousands of pounds off his mortgage term.

At 16, Orall says: “I could easily have followed the advice of the Head of Sixth Form: that the best option was to ‘join other boys like you’ (meaning other black boys), to study ‘alternative qualifications’. At a chance meeting moments later, however, a studious school friend convinced me to retake my GCSEs, which led to ‘A’ levels and then a chance to study at Lancaster.”

No one in his family had been to university but Orall fell in love with the campus on sight. He says: “When I saw the approach and the Square, I thought it was just amazing. I loved the fact that it was a little student village.”

Settling in was easy and his best friend there went on to recommend him for his first job as a computer test analyst. Orall had applied to Lancaster to do Sociology, but swapped to Economics because he felt it would benefit his career more.

He also opted for a subsidiary course in Japanese, because of the strength of the Japanese economy at the time, and loved it. This proved its worth by gaining him his first job after graduation - as an assistant to a Japanese businessman in Lancaster.

The main power of Lancaster was that it gave Orall new perspectives on life. “These new ways of thinking have stayed with me,” he says. “I was a late bloomer at Lancaster and did not have the best study skills, compared with now when I am getting distinctions for my Masters.”

The other key aspect of Orall’s time at university was gaining a vacation job with a US company which visited the campus recruiting students to sell study guides door-to-door all over the USA.

“That really changed my life,” says Orall. “Having to learn a sales pitch and waking up every day, with a specific job of selling to do, gave me the confidence to talk to anyone and aroused my natural sense of curiosity.”

After university he had moved into rented accommodation with his wife, Carla, but with a second child on the way he needed a bigger house. This was when capital accumulation, from his early Lancaster days, reared its head again.

Although Orall had succeeded in saving diligently to put together the lump sum he needed for a deposit on a three-bedroomed semi-detached house, the thought of being in debt for 25 years appalled him, as did paying back almost double the £210,000 he had borrowed. So he decided to use the principle of capital accumulation to pay it off early.

In a nutshell, Orall and his family spent seven years living as frugally as possible and squirrelling away every spare penny to pay off the mortgage. Every light had to be turned off the instant a family member left the room, food was measured to make sure nothing was wasted, clothes-buying was kept to a minimum, and trips to the cinema for the children were replaced by cheaper evenings at home playing with water pistols or watching DVDs as a family.

More importantly they made regular overpayments on their mortgage every month, based on Orall and Carla’s joint earnings, so that in early 2015, the house they bought in 2006 was theirs. Free of a mortgage, Orall left his job of 11 years and took a year out, dedicating it to writing the book, creating two websites and spending time with his daughters. He is now back at work full time.

Lancaster University opened the door into his current work as a computer test analyst, as a fellow student referred him to his first job in that field with Systems FX, after which he went on to work for a number of other companies including Enron, WPP and EDF Energy.

He says: “I have the freedom to choose. Some people do things the other way round and want to enjoy their life now and pay later, but I have paid now in order to have the choice on how I spend the rest of my life. I still keep in touch with alumni and my dream is to travel the world and visit some of the people I met during my time in Lancaster.”