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Low interest rates affect fixed income investments

Jill Barshay Aug 3, 2010

Low interest rates affect fixed income investments

Jill Barshay Aug 3, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: We do bond yields most every day in the numbers, but they tend to go by pretty quickly unless you’re listening real close, so I’ll mention them here. The yield on the 10-year T-note is at 2.91 percent today. That is low, to say the least. Great, if you’re in the market for a mortgage or running a company that wants to expand. IBM went to the bond market yesterday and raised a billion and a half dollars paying only 1 percent. Low rates do carry associated costs, though, for both the economy and people.

From New York, Jill Barshay reports.

Jill Barshay: People who watch the credit markets say low interest rates are a sign that the economy is growing slowly, or, maybe, not at all.

Michael Hanson is a senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Michael Hanson: It’s not so good from an economy-wide perspective, because it is a sign that there is less demand for credit, there’s less demand for borrowing.

It’s also not so good if you’re like Robert Kirkner. He’s a retired airline mechanic. Like many retirees, his savings are tied up in fixed income investments. These low rates are killing him. He’s got to reinvest a CD that matures next month. Right now, it pays 4.5 percent.

Robert Kirkner: I’m going to get about half of that.

Kirkner gets that the Fed is pushing interest rates lower, to try to get banks to lend more. But it’s not fair to him.

Kirkner: What it does, it gets the economy humming and takes the money out of the pocket of people who worked all their lives.

Financial planners hear stories like Kirkner’s all the time. Frank Armstrong is the president of Investor Solutions. It’s an investment advisory firm in Florida.

Frank Armstrong: Those that have tried to exist on say, CD or Treasury bill income, are in fact suffering. They’re not getting the kinds of returns that they were used to.

There’s no easy solution. Armstrong tells his retiree clients to put part of their savings into stocks to boost returns. But you’ll need enough cash savings on the side to weather stock market downturns.

In New York, I’m Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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