Pity the Savers, Not
|Thursday, 13 September 2012 14:34|
As the Fed has attempted to push interest rates down with the purpose of boosting the economy, there have been numerous stories mourning the situation of savers who see little return on their money. The NYT gave us such a piece on Tuesday.
While those who have all their savings in short-term assets like savings accounts and money market funds are seeing low returns, the low return story does not apply to all savers. Of course those who have money in the stock market have done quite well, with prices nearly double their lows from 2009.
However, even people who do not have money in the stock market would have done well if they had put money in long-term bonds. The graph below shows the price of a 30-year bond that comes due in 2037, assuming that it was bought in 2007 with a 5 percent yield (roughly the interest rate at the time).
Source: Smart Money Bond Calculator.
The bond that our troubled saver purchased in 2007 for $10,000 would be worth a bit more than $14,000 in today's low interest rate environment. That isn't exactly the sort of situation that would normally call for violin music.
As a practical matter, there are people who are losing in this story, but realistically there are not a lot of people who both have substantial savings (enough that the interest makes up a big share of their income) and who kept it exclusively in short-term assets.
There are no policies to increase growth that leave no one harmed. (If you think you know of one, then you haven't thought through the implications of the policy carefully enough.) The winners from a policy to boost growth through lower interest rates vastly outnumber the losers. The biggest grounds for complaint is that the Fed did not go far enough.