There is a battle, a tug of war, if you will, between savers and borrowers in this country.
Lament for savers
Savers ‘ side, the conditions are terrible. Interest rates on certificates of deposit (CDs) fell significantly at the point where the average rate for a 1 year CD is 0.55% and only 1.63% for a CD 5-y.
Think about that for a while … your money locked up for 5 years only 1.63% earning!
Other savings vehicles are struggling too. For example, a popular Fund that holds corporate bonds by Wells Fargo, AT & T, Wal-Mart and other American companies of blue chip has an average duration of 12 years and currently produces approximately 3.75%.
Which is 3.75% of interest expense. Assuming the tax rate is 33%, you’re left with an effective return, net of tax of 2.5% that my friend, is below the historical average of 3% inflation.
So while your bond investment is better than the Bank in cash and to some extent protects you against inflation, you still end up with 0.5% lower purchasing power every year.
So savers may not be too happy about this.
While borrowers rejoice
Borrowers have on the other hand, the time of their lives. Last week, the fixed-rate mortgage average 30 years hit the lowest level of 4.19%. The kicker here is that mortgage rates should really be more than 0.5% lower-3.8% range-based on their correlation with interest rates on Treasury bonds.
Rates are however unlikely to go much lower, so here’s a tip: If you’re in the market for refinancing, expected probably isn’t going to help a lot.
Also, my customers are borrowing millions to 2.15% to finance their activities.
Seems a little unfair
Without taking a moral position, it seems a little unfair that savers, who in some sense are the “good guys” creating wealth for their future capital, contributing to economic growth and saving for a rainy day, are punished for the actions of irresponsible greedy borrowers and lenders. Borrowers got in over their heads, do not take precautions and now am getting loan modifications and reductions on the money they need. Banks experienced huge losses due to bad loan practices and caused this drop in rates at ultra-low levels.
However, this kind of discussion doesn’t get us anywhere. What happened, happened-just or unjust.
So where do we go from here, and how to profit from all this?
What can borrowers
Take a look at your finances from a borrower’s perspective.
First: refinance your mortgage now if you can because interest rates probably aren’t going to fall much lower.
Second: shop, shop, shop for a better rate on your credit card. Borrowing costs are falling all around so why should pay the same old high rate credit card? Find banks that are hungry to lend you money as small institutions and credit unions and avoid mega-banks that have all the money they need.
Third: take a business loan if you need money. Banks are loosening up and make enough low-interest loans that are very interesting, despite the risk of slower business in this weak economy.
However, use common sense and good judgment as you take on more debt. Take the “good” debt that funds your house purchase or assets that appreciate in value. Stay away from taking on bad debt for asset devaluation can ill-afford such as a new car or boat. If you have to take the bad debt, both short term and pay very quickly.
What can savers
Now the hard part: finding deals as a saver.
First: try a longer-term CD that will adjust higher if rates go up. There is little worse than locking your money in a 5-year CD at 1.50% just to see prices rise 5% two years from now.
Second: consider buying bonds with maturities of 5 years or less. These bonds still yield more than CDs, but make sure you know what you are buying-if the company goes bankrupt, you could lose a good chunk of your investment “safe”.
Third: consider buying high dividend paying blue chip stocks. Warren Buffett recently said that stocks are cheaper than bonds now, and he is right. There are many solid companies out there whose dividend yields are in excess of 3%. For example, Altria currently has a dividend yield of 6% and a solid history of consistent dividend payments.