by Paul Mulligan
Back in December of 2008, the Federal Reserve instituted a zero interest rate policy in an effort to curtail the effects of what is now commonly called the Great Recession. For the past seven years, borrowers have been able to take advantage of these lower interest rates. But with the economy now improving, the Fed is beginning to raise interest rates once again. This policy change can have a very real impact on American families, including your own.
Here are some of the primary ways that a higher interest rate may affect your family, along with ways to offset the negative and accentuate the positive:
More expensive mortgages: If your family is looking at either purchasing or refinancing a home, now is the time to act. A fixed-rate mortgage will enable you to lock in today’s comparatively low interest for the term of your mortgage. A variable-rate mortgage, on the other hand, is tied to the Fed’s raising and lowering of interest rates, so it will become more expensive if rates go up. New buyers should, therefore, consider taking advantage of a fixed-rate loan. If you own a home, you should consider refinancing for one of two reasons: either you currently have a variable-rate mortgage or your fixed-rate mortgage was set at a high interest rate prior to the zero interest rate policy being enacted. This may be the last chance to capitalize on the Fed’s policies before rates increase. Speak with your banking institution to see if you can benefit.
Higher annual percentage rate (APR) on credit cards: When the Federal Reserve cut interest rates in 2008, fixed-rate credit cards basically disappeared from the market. If your card was issued and your rate fixed prior to 2008, you will not be affected if rates go up. But a large number of credit card owners whose lending rates are variable—and tied to interest rates—may experience an immediate rate increase, including on any existing balances. For credit card holders, the best thing you can do is plan ahead. When working up your monthly budget, be sure to set aside an extra amount relative to the outstanding balance on your credit card. If you’re using a new credit card, try not to overextend yourself before you know what a rate hike will mean for your finances.
Higher returns for savings accounts: There is some good news for consumers when it comes to higher interest rates. Those with money stashed away in savings accounts will see increased returns. In the age of the zero interest rate policy, savings accounts accrued minimal interest. With a rate hike, savings accounts will become more viable savings vehicles again. If you have been able to put money aside in a savings account, keep it there. If you don’t have a savings account, now might be a good time to open one.
While even the brightest financial minds can’t always predict what the Fed will do with interest rates, you can prepare for the ups and downs by reviewing your finances in these three areas. To learn more about how to safeguard your financial interests with a Fed hike looming, call or stop by any office of The Milford Bank.