Low Interest Rates and Senior Citizens

By: Don McNay
By: Don McNay

In my book, Wealth Without Wall Street: A Main Street Guide to Making Money, I encourage people to make four economic moves:

In my book, Wealth Without Wall Street: A Main Street Guide to Making Money, I encourage people to make four economic moves:


1.   Join the Move Your Money movement that Arianna Huffington started. Move your money from a Wall Street "Too Big to Fail" bank to a local bank or credit union.


2.   Get Rich Slowly. Put some of your money in safe, long term vehicles like annuities and savings accounts. Diversify your investments and think long term. Don't put all your eggs in one basket.


3.   Get rid of debt and eliminate credit cards.


4.   Look at being self-employed or starting a small business.


The people are most inclined to follow this "common sense advice" are senior citizens.

Many seniors live on fixed incomes. They paid off their mortgage and don't have credit card balances. They have money in retirement plans, but many of the plans' assets are invested in fixed accounts.


 Many are in a position where they are retired from a primary employer. They would like to follow a dream of owning a small business or earning income being self-employed.


The person who stands in their way is Ben Bernanke.


If you follow what the Federal Reserve is doing, all moves are designed to protect Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.


Pushing interest to near zero is great for Wall Street banks but terrible for fixed income investors. Low long term interest rates also favor Wall Street over Main Street.


Low interest rates have not helped consumers buy a new home or refinance. The additional bureaucracy makes it difficult for a buyer to get a loan.


As Joe Nocera pointed out in a New York Times column, it is almost impossible for a credit-worthy small business to get a loan from a Wall Street bank.


Bernanke's actions only help one group of people: Wall Streeters.  Low interest rates do make it easy for Wall Street to earn quick and easy profits.


And Ben is not doing a very good job of helping anyone.


The headlines say that stocks are headed for their worst decline since 2008. Cardhub.com said that consumers added $18.4 billion to their credit card load in the second quarter of the year. That is 66 percent higher than what they added last year and the highest number since 2008.


Bernanke and the Federal Reserve has pumped trillions of dollars into "Too Big to Fail" banks on Wall Street.


They made enough money to pay themselves million dollar bonuses.


The rest of us on Main Street are suffering -- especially small business people and seniors.

If you did the opposite of what Bernanke was suggesting for the past decade, as John Paulson and others did before the crash in 2008, you would have made a fortune.


Senior citizens are not in an economic position to bet against Wall Street. They are risk adverse and don't have the massive amount of money to "bet" in the markets.


Bernanke's strategy is out of touch with Main Street. It plays well to Wall Street-centric media like Time Magazine, which named him "Person of the Year" in 2009.  But it kills Main Street growth.


A focus on a decent rate for savers and people with fixed incomes would circulate money on Main Street. Focusing the Federal Reserve on cutting through the red tape and making it easier for small businesses to get loans would spur activity and get the economy moving.


Taking a long term view, rather than reacting to Wall Street's thirst for quarterly results, would calm the markets and give people confidence to invest.


If Bernanke would get out of his Washington-Wall Street world and see how the rest of us live, he might change his policies.


At this point, he certainly could not do any worse.


And the nation's seniors would certainly benefit.

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