Friday, May 2, 2008
OVERRATED FRIDAYS: Low Interest Rates
Unlike many college students today, when I graduated in the late 1980s, I did so debt free. That was due in part to the fact that I didn't go away to school, but opted, instead, to attend my local state university, live at home for half of my college tenure, and also work various housecleaning/waitressing/graphic design jobs while attending classes. I also got a degree in, ah-hem, Art History, not medicine or law. So there you have it. We liberal arts majors come cheap.
Anyway, not only did I graduate debt free, I also graduated with a nice little nest egg of savings. Because that's what I and my peers had been taught to do. You earned money, you paid your bills, and you put the leftovers in a savings account. If I remember correctly, interest rates were at about 11 percent in those days, a real incentive to savings. So much so that even dumb-ass liberal arts majors knew that to save was to earn. And you could earn even more by investing those savings in things like short term Certificates of Deposit and the stock market. It wasn't just Moi doing this. A friend of mine was already a landlord by the age of 22. Another had saved enough to start a small business. I wasn't as ambitious, but still, I could easily afford things like lunch out every day and yearly vacations, despite the fact that I was making squat as secretary to one of Albuquerque's most gung-ho ambulance chasing lawyers.
You know what that same job pays today? About $1.00 per hour over squat. You know what my former nest egg earns today? If you're lucky, about 2.5 percent.
Which boggles my mind. Wages are stagnant. Inflation is rampant. But the Fed just keeps encouraging us to spend, spend, spend. From now until the end of time. On somebody's else's dime. Those freaks among us who do save? Who refuse to grab the gusto and go ahead and purchase things we can't afford? The gub'ment just sighs and shakes its fingers at us. And lowers the interest rate yet another half percent to "stimulate" the economy.
What should be a totally free market is, instead, nothing more than a precariously built gub'ment directed house of cards, whose rickety foundation, a joint venture between the Federal Reserve and the credit card companies, can only support so much. It's not a matter of if it will all come tumbling down. It's just a matter of when.