Sunday, April 17, 2011

MetLife Crisis

I recently paid my house off. It’s one of those rites of passage that we go through as we get older, like menopause and prostate trouble. My final payment went to MetLife last week, and a huge burden has been lifted, kind of like when I got divorced, except that I will no longer be sending money to someone who views me only as a source of income.

I thought that my friends would be happy for me. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to them, I am making a huge financial mistake. “Without a mortgage you have no tax write-off,” they tell me, in the same tone of voice they would use to tell a 4-year-old not to poop in the yard.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the only reason you get a tax write-off is that you pay a lot of mortgage interest, and you never get back in taxes even half of what you pay in interest. For example, if you pay 30% of your income in federal and state taxes, then you will get less than one dollar in tax savings for every three dollars you pay in interest. In order to save, say, $6000 in taxes, you’d have to pay $20,000 in interest. Net loss: $14,000. But none of my friends seem to be able to grasp this, so I can only conclude that they – and I say this with the utmost love and respect – have the IQ of toe cheese.

Now, I realize that we can’t all be smart at everything. For example, there are one or two things that I am clueless about: tact, dating, fashion, manners, hygiene, intimacy, discretion, couth ... okay, it’s more than one or two things. So I cut my friends some slack for being unable to do basic math. I only wish they’d cut me the same slack when I tell my date that I think our waitress is cute.