Tag: interest rates

Can You Answer These Basic Money Questions?

The NY Post published an article Most Americans can’t answer these 4 basic money questions.   They questioned “Millennials” and “Boomers” to see who were most knowledgeable about investing.
Here are the questions – see how well you do.

  1. Which of the following statements describes the main function of the stock market?
    A) The stock market brings people who want to buy stocks together with people who want to sell stocks.
    B) The stock market helps predict stock earnings
    C) The stock market results in an increase in the price of stocks
    D) None of the above
    E) Not sure
  2. If you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2 percent per year, after 5 years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?
    A) Exactly $102
    B) Less than $102
    C) More than $102
    D) Not sure
  3. If the interest rate on your savings account was 1 percent per year and inflation was 2 percent per year, after 1 year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?
    A) More than today
    B) Exactly the same as today
    C) Less than today
    D) Not sure
  4. Which provides a safer return, buying a single company’s stock or a mutual fund?
    A) Single company’s stock
    B) Mutual fund
    C) Not sure
    D) Not sure

The correct answers are

  1. A
  2. C
  3. C
  4. B

If you had trouble getting the right answers you could benefit from the guidance of a good RIA (Registered Investment Advisor).

A Client Asks: What’s the Benefit of Inflation?

One of our retired clients sent us the following question recently:

“I can’t understand the FED condoning and promoting any inflation rate. To me inflation means that the value of money is simply depreciating at the inflation rate. Further, any investment paying less than the inflation rate is losing money. A quick review of CD rates and government bonds show it is a rare one that even approaches the promoted 2.25% rate. It seems to me to be a de-facto admission of wanting to screw conservative investors and forcing them into riskier investments… Where is there any benefit to the financial well-being of the ordinary citizens?”

I suspect that there are a lot of people who feel the same way. It’s a good question. Who wants ever rising prices?

Here’s how I addressed his question:

Let me answer your inflation question first. My personal opinion is that 0% inflation is ideal, and I suspect that you agree. However, lots of people see “modest” rates of inflation (say 2%) as healthy because it indicates a growing economy. Here’s a quote from an article you may want to read:

Rising prices reflect a growing economy. Prices typically rise for one of two reasons: either there’s a sudden shortage of supply, or demand goes up. Supply shocks—like a disruption in the flow of oil from Libya—are usually bad news, because prices rise with no corresponding increase in economic activity. That’s like a tax that takes money out of people’s pockets without providing any benefit in return. But when prices rise because demand increases, that means consumers are spending more money, economic activity is picking up, and hiring is likely to increase.

A case can be made that in a dynamic economy you can never get perfect stability (e.g. perfectly stable prices), so it’s better for there to be more demand than supply – driving prices up – rather than less demand than supply – causing prices to fall (deflation). Of course we have to realize that “prices” here includes the price of labor as well as goods and services. That’s why people can command raises in a growing economy – because employers have to bid up for a limited supply of labor. On the other hand, wages grow stagnant or even decline when there are more workers available than jobs available.

But for retirees on a fixed income, inflation is mostly a negative. Your pension is fixed. Social Security is indexed for inflation, but those “official” inflation numbers don’t take food and fuel costs into consideration, and those tend to go up faster than the “official” rate. The stock market also benefits from modest inflation.

Which gets us to the Federal Reserve, which has kept interest rates near zero for quite a while. It’s doing this to encourage business borrowing, which in turn is supposed to lead to economic expansion.  However, the actual effect has been muted because other government policies have been detrimental to private enterprise. In effect you have seen the results of two government policies in conflict. It’s really a testimony to the resilience of private industry that the economy is doing as well as it is.

The effect on conservative investors (the ones who prefer CDs or government bonds to stocks) has been negative. It’s absolutely true that after inflation and taxes the saver is losing purchasing power in today’s low interest rate environment. The FED is not doing this to intentionally hurt conservative investors, but that’s been part of the collateral damage. The artificially low rates will not last forever and the Fed has indicated they want to raise rates. They key question is when, and by how much?

The right time to invest?

time to invest

Is this the right time to invest?  Good question.

Here’s another good question:  when is the best time to plant a tree?
The answer:  “Now.”
Here’s a better answer:  “When you were a child.”

Time is our most precious resource.  A wasted moment is lost forever.  Trees take time to grow.  The same is true for wealth.

We are often asked “is this a good time to get into the market?”  The answer is that there is no better time.

Here’s why.

If you put your money in a savings account you might get about 1{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}.

At that interest rate it takes 70 years to turn $100 into $200.

If you could grow your money an average of 5{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} per year, that $100 would grow to $200 in 15 years.
If you can get 6{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}, it would take 12 years to grow to $200.
If you can get 7{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}, 11 years would get you to $200.
If you can get 8{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}, 10 years would get you to $200.

At 15{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} your money doubles every 5 years.

We are big advocates of people working hard for their money.  But we are just as insistent that money should work hard for them.  Why be a hard worker with lazy money?

Investing is one of those things that people put off.  But doing so wastes their most valuable resource:  time.

If you’re not happy with the way your money’s working for you, check out our website or give us a call.

No sales pitch, no pressure. Just good advice. That’s the reason we won the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year award from the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

Income Investing: Investors No Longer Taking a 'Fixed' Approach

While interest rates on bonds have risen slightly from the absolute bottoms, investors looking for income are still not satisfied with the rates that they can get today.  Adding to their concerns is the expectation that when the federal reserve slows “quantitive easing” interest rates will rise to significantly higher levels.  And that means that the bond they buy today will probably go down in value.

As a result, income investors are actually looking at dividend paying stocks to provide the cash flow that they need.  One other advantage of this strategy is that many companies have been raising their dividends regularly, something that bonds don’t do.

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