Oct 072014
 

Difficult to Refinance

You know the credit market is tight when the former Chair of the Federal Reserve can’t even refinance his mortgage. 😛 If that’s of interest to you, you’re not a loan. 😀 Ben Bernanke graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics in 1975 from Harvard University. He later received his Ph.D. in economics at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT.) Bernanke once even taught as a professor at Princeton University. He was also the chairman of the Department of Economics there from 1996 to 2002. But perhaps he is most notably known as serving 2 full terms as chairman of the central bank of the United States. He had control over the monetary policy of the world’s largest reserve currency. In other words he was arguably the most powerful and financially influential person on the planet.

So imagine everyone’s surprise when his request to refinance his mortgage was denied. 😯 As the Chair of the FOMC his salary was nearly $200,000 a year. However since he no longer has an impressive W-2 (T4 slip in Canada) he does not meet the requirements anymore of someone with a “stable income.” Nevermind he now makes $200,000 each time he presents a speech. Or that he currently has a $1 million book contract. Or that his net worth is over $2 million. All the bank sees is a person who was working over the last 11 years, and is now unemployed. The metrics by which financial institutions decide who to give loans to is flawed to say the least. Anyway the balance on Ben Bernanke’s mortgage back in 2011 was $672,000. It was a 30 year fixed-rate loan at 4.25% interest rate.

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Many financial news sites have already discussed this story. However hardly anyone is talking about the most important question. Does it seem strange that a multi millionaire, who has always made a lot of money, still have a $672,000 mortgage at age 61???

Perhaps it shouldn’t. 🙂

The reason why Ben Bernanke likes to stay in debt

My investment strategy has always been to follow what the top 1% of the richest are doing with their money. Ben Bernanke’s behaviour of using leverage is perfectly in line with other like minded individuals.

Here’s why it makes sense to take on debt, even when he could pay off his mortgage at any time if he wanted to. It’s because interest rates are at rock bottom. 🙂 He printed a lot of money during his position of power that insured rates will continue to stay low for years to come. Every dollar that the Fed creates out of thin air becomes a dollar of DEBT that the United States people have to bear. The only reason the economy is still holding itself together is because the cost to service debt (the interest rate) is low. Rates have been so low for so long that people and government alike have become addicted to cheap money. With a record amount of debt the country simply can’t afford the cost of those debts to increase any time soon.

Ben Bernanke bought his house on Capital Hill in 2004. Today his home has appreciated in value by $126,468, and the stock market has gone up by nearly 100%. This means by using the bank’s money to buy a property he was able to free up his own savings to invest in the profitable stock market.

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Plus, by flooding the banks with so much money, Ben Bernanke made sure that the U.S. will have positive inflation. Most people don’t like inflation because it eats away at the value of their savings. But this same reason is precisely why it helps those who have debt. Inflation in the U.S. is currently at 2% a year. This means 2% of Ben’s mortgage balance of $672,000 will be paid off automatically by this time next year. That’s $13,400 of real wealth gain, created passively and discreetly thanks to the monetary policy that he purposefully designed, which is an environment of low interest rates with modest inflation. Inflation is created to help the U.S. government pay down its massive $17.8 Trillion national debt. However it benefits personal debts as well.

Printing money also has the effect of propping up the financial markets because: a.) it creates more financial transactions and activities. And b.) the market needs to build in future inflationary pressure. And using leverage in a rising stock market can multiply the returns! Furthermore. borrowing money to invest means the interest that one pays on the loan is tax deductible. 🙂

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If Ben had paid for his house in cash (used no debt) then he probably couldn’t have bought one nearly as expensive. A smaller, cheaper home would not have appreciated as much as his actual, larger home did. So he would have missed out on part of that $126,468 tax free gain from his appreciating residence. Not to mention all the stock market gains he would have missed out on too.

In other words Ben has brilliantly engineered the financial system to reward those who use leverage and debt to build up their financial assets. His successor to the Fed, Janet Yellen, is most likely going to continue the monetary policy that Ben had put in place. So far Yellen has done nothing but print even more money on top of the balance sheet that Ben left behind.

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Dec 202013
 

Fed Taper

The Federal Reserve announced earlier this week that they will begin to taper their bond/mortgage program from $85 billion a month to just $75 billion starting from January next year. I was a little surprised when the stock markets jumped on this news. I suppose investors believe the economy is doing better. What does this mean for regular folks? Not much. It’s a pretty small taper relatively speaking so I expect stocks to continue going up in early 2014 🙂 There are many online trading brokerages such as Motif that makes it easy for anyone to invest in the markets. I’m planning to do some more investing next week.

CPP Reform Talks

Also this week, the Canadian finance ministers gathered to discuss policies. One hot topic talked about was enhancing the Canada Pension Plan (U.S. Social Security equivalent.) The concern is that some Canadians aren’t saving enough for retirement on their own. So one proposal is to increase the contribution rate, effectively forcing people to save more, which will allow for higher pension benefits at retirement age 🙂 I wouldn’t mind paying more into this public pension fund if it means I can get more out of it when I retire. But what really grinds my gears is that the earliest you can start receiving benefits is at age 60, which makes it difficult for people who want to retire earlier like myself 😕 I currently pay about 5% of my income into the CPP program every year, but if I wanted to retire at 45 I would have to delay the fruits of my contributions by 15 years. There’s no choice to retire early and receive a reduced pension like you can in the private sector (>_<)

Positive News For Consumers

Credit monitoring company TransUnion recently said it expects loan delinquency rates to decline next year, “falling to 1.66% at the end of 2014 compared with 1.76% forecast for the fourth quarter of this year.” Less people defaulting on their loans must mean it is becoming easier for Canadians to handle our consumer debts. Yay! I guess there’s no rush to pay back my $69K of consumer debt between my various lines of credits 😀

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I just saw a cool camera pen in London Drug’s flyer. I don’t have a lot of money in my bank account right now. I guess I’ll have to dig deeper into my LOC again lol. I should also probably get a new fridge this holiday. The one I currently have is over 20 years old 🙂 #AddictedToCheapCredit

Video of the Week

This is why we haven’t sent any people to the moon in decades…

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Blog roundup – Below are personal finance and other articles from around the web this week.