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Personal Finance Lessons From the Pandemic

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But I do have three mortgages: two (a conventional mortgage and a home-equity loan) on our house in New Jersey, plus another mortgage on our small house in Cape Cod. They add up to a big monthly nut, something I kept pondering during all the time I was stuck at home.

When income was coming in on a regular basis, I always paid more than I had to each month on each mortgage, because I considered prepaying a kind of forced savings. But I wasn’t particularly strategic about it. I just paid in random amounts, rounding up what was due. For example, if the mortgage payment was $3,772.16, I would write a check for $4,000, with the additional money going to pay down principal. I did that with all three loans.

The mortgages have different interest rates. From now on, I am going to put all extra payments toward the one with the highest interest rate, the home equity loan in New Jersey. That makes the most economic sense. (This assumes there will be enough money coming in to do this.)

Before the pandemic, I never really thought about my potential Social Security benefits. I remember playing golf with a buddy nearly four years ago, on the day I turned 62, and he said, “Congratulations, you can now take Social Security.”

When I got home, I went to the Social Security website and discovered if I applied for benefits immediately, I would get 75 percent of the benefits I would receive at age 66, my “full retirement age.”

I didn’t apply. There was no reason to. I didn’t need the money, and I hated the idea of taking a 25 percent haircut. So about 10 minutes after logging off the website, I forgot all about it. But during my long quasi lockdown, I realized that the money might come in handy, and I became curious about how much I might receive.

Well, if I can wait until age 66, which is right around the corner, I would receive about $3,000 a month, according to the retirement calculator on the Social Security website.

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