In the midst of the Great Resignation, with employers scrambling for ways to hang on to experienced staff, financial wellness programs might be an attractive addition to the benefits bag.
That was a key finding from PwC’s annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which was conducted in January 2021 and released in April. Among those polled, 72 percent of workers who reported facing increased financial setbacks during the pandemic said they would be more attracted to another company that cared more about financial well-being than their current employer. About 57 percent of workers who hadn’t yet faced increased financial stress said the same thing.
It’s a growing business sector, too. HoneyBee, a B2B financial wellness startup, recently closed a round of funding with $5.7 million in equity, TechCrunch reported. The financial technology company grew 225 percent during the pandemic and saw a 175 percent increase in usage for its on-demand financial therapy tools. Origin also recently announced that it raised $56 million in its Series B funding round, which it will use for customer expansion, as it saw increased demand for financial planning services during the pandemic, Business Wire notes.
Although one in five workers waits until they experience a financial setback to seek guidance, when they are offered continual support, employees are more likely to be proactive with their finances. According to the PwC survey, 88 percent of workers who are provided financial wellness services by their employers take advantage of them.
Making money is definitely the cornerstone of financial wellness and increasing your income can help you obtain your goals. You do not need to be a millionaire, but it’s important to obtain some level of income stability. Being financially well starts with having a reliable income and knowing at a consistent time, you will expect to be paid a certain amount. Steady and reliable income is one of the cornerstones of financial wellness.
Even if you don’t like budgeting or planning, it’s good to set goals for yourself. You are more likely to stick with it when you have goals to reach and can see progress. By creating a plan, you are visualizing the what, why, and how you will get there. If you don’t already have a household budget, grab your most recent bank statement and look at the total amount of money you have coming into your household each month. Then, factor in fixed, required expenses – things like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and more.
f you do not have an emergency fund, now is the time to start building it. The goal of an emergency fund is to have available funds for when you are dealing with unemployment or you have an unforeseen cost. You won’t stress about the money because you have a nice cash reserve that you can access quickly. Finance experts often say that you should have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. If you have nothing in savings, putting away just $25, $50, or $100 a month is an amazing start. Ultimately, it’s what you feel comfortable with. You can also consider putting it in a high savings investment such as CIT Bank’s Savings Builder, which helps put your savings to work with very little risk.
Your credit score is another critical part of your financial health. Things like late payments, too much debt or high balances negatively affect your credit score. Keep watch over your credit report and credit score with a free credit report from places like Credit Karma. A higher credit score tells banks and lenders that you’re a reliable and less risky borrower.
Anyone who’s buying their first home has probably gotten used to stalking their bank accounts leading up to their closing making sure they’re beefing up their savings for a down payment and closing costs. According to Zillow, the median price of a home sold in America [as of December 2020] is $262,604. Putting 20 percent down on that home will cost you $52,520.
Factor in about two to five percent of the home price for closing costs, ($13,130 for five percent) and you’re easily down about $65,650 before you’ve stepped foot into your bare home. Sure, you’re trying to get to the 20 percent mark in order to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), but if you don’t factor in other costs you’ll accrue in the coming weeks and years, you might be biting off more than you can chew.
Read on to assess whether you’ll still have money left over for the things important to you after closing, or if perhaps you should be looking for a lower-priced home in order to make sure you can still maintain your lifestyle and have a beautiful space of your own.
1. Factor in Your New Bills
“A lot of people don’t bother to ask themselves what it will actually cost to live there,” says Jean Chatzky, CEO of HerMoney.com, financial editor at NBC’s “Today Show” for 23 years. Talk to someone who has a place similar to yours, whether it’s a house or a condo, that’s around the same size, in your neighborhood or building, and ask them to share their costs for heat, electricity, cable, and water. “Learning about the other associated expenses with buying this home can be eye-opening,” says Chatzky.
2. Consider Decorating Expenses
It’s important to add personal elements that will turn your house or condo into a home. “Making the home yours costs money whether you’re talking about paint or a trip… to buy all new furniture,” says Chatzky. “While purchasing a home is a big investment, it’s important to budget for the items that you’ll need to fill your home,” says Tina Rich, NYC-based interior designer. “Filling your space with furniture and accessories you’ve selected and love is what makes a house a home, so it’s important that you don’t clean out your bank account before you close.”
3. Decide Which Furniture You’ll Need First
“The best investment you can make is a quality bedroom set,” says Michael Robinson, furniture designer at American Modern Collection. “Granted, I have a biased opinion since I design bedroom collections.” He says that when people buy a high-quality bedroom set, they can have it for 25 years. “We’re a society that’s used to getting rid of stuff often and I think many often lose perspective of what quality actually is and why people used to buy quality products,” he said. Can you get a discount bedroom set under $1,000? Sure.
But it won’t likely be made from solid wood and built to last. Robinson says the Amish-made, wooden bedroom sets he designs for his company start around $5,000. This is where you should think about what you can make do with and are willing to replace in a few years, or whether you want furniture that lasts a few decades.
If you like to entertain, you might decide that a sofa is where you want to spend your money, or perhaps a dining room set. Research these prices and decide which items you want to splurge on as a quality investment right now, and which pieces you don’t mind getting second hand or cheap in order to fill your home.
4. Factor in Paint Costs
Whether you’re moving into a slightly larger condo or tripled your living size with a single family home, you’ll probably be painting it at some point. According to HomeAdvisor.com, hiring a professional to paint an average sized room (10 feet by 12 feet) costs between $380 to $790. Should you choose to paint a room yourself, paint will cost anywhere between $30 and $60 per gallon for a high-end brand that comes in three different finishes: flat, semi-gloss or high-gloss, according to the experts at HomeAdvisor.com.
Most rooms will require about two (gallon) paint cans. You’ll also need about two cans or primer ($7-15) for each wall so you’re looking at about $140 per room before you buy supplies. “I’m a fan of HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams because of its quality and it has a nice color range,” says Rich. “While there are always areas to save during a home renovation, paint isn’t one of them. Using a high quality paint—rather than an inexpensive brand—is crucial so your walls look professional and polished.”
5. Set Aside Money for Window Treatments
You’re excited to have rooms with beautiful natural light, but there are probably quite a few rooms in your new home that you’ll need to cover for privacy and protection from the sun. Not only do people often forget to set aside money for window treatments—whether that’s blinds, shades shutters, and curtains—they forget to factor in things like pets’ claws and children’s safety when purchasing these items, Robinson says. He recommends Hunter Douglas as a brand he sells through Unique Interiors in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
They’ll come out and measure each window properly to ensure you get proper-fitting blinds that are best for your home and tastes. Faux wood blinds are the most popular window treatments he sells for Hunter Douglas these days. An average price point to cover a 36-inch by 60-inch window with faux wooden blinds from that company will set you back about $200. For comparison, the cheapest faux wood blinds we found at Home Depot are about $13 and cheap shades are around $7. Granted, those cheap versions won’t likely last long.
This just goes to show, even if you don’t plan on spending a lot of money on window coverings right now, you’ll still need to set aside money for the very basics in your new home.
6. Plan for Outdoor Home Costs
If you’re moving to your first house from an apartment, condo, or townhome, you might need to invest in a snow blower for your first winter there. (Consider looking for a certified refurbished one to save money.) You may need a new lawn mower, weed wacker, or a sprinkler system for your lawn. Have a front patio or back deck that needs furniture and an umbrella? That’ll be a few hundred dollars.
“Are you comfortable allowing things to look wild and beautiful, or do you want everything manicured beautifully every single month?” asks Chatzky. She suggests talking to a new neighbor about pricing. You could say: “Your landscaping is beautiful. Do you mind recommending the person who does it? Oh, and by the way, how much does it cost?” she suggests.
7. Account for Moving and Assembly Costs
Make a list of what you’re taking with you, what gaps you have, and do some shopping ahead of time so you can figure out what these items are going to cost, suggest Chatzky. If you’re shopping at IKEA or a store where the furniture needs to be put together and you are not capable of doing that yourself, you’re going to hire somebody to do it, so how much is that going to cost?
How much are the shipping fees? How much is it going to cost to have it moved? Whether you’re renting a moving truck and doing the move yourself and with friends, or hiring professional movers, you’ll be spending anywhere from about $200 to over $1,000. (Based on large truck rentals at uhaul.com, factoring in gas and mileage and taxes.)
8. Prepare for Home Maintenance Costs
“Your home inspection is a good road map to the expenses you’re going to have in the near future and you should pay close attention to that,” warns Chatzky. Harvard research shows you should plan on spending one to two percent of the value of your home every year on maintenance, says Chatzky. “Even if you don’t spend it in year one or year two, you’re likely looking at triple the expenses in year three.”
Now that you have an idea of the types of costs coming down the pipeline once you scrape out your savings account, budget for them in advance. “Think about how you’re going to use the place, how you’re going to live in the place, and what it’s going to cost you to get it into that particular kind of shape you want it in,” says Chatzky.
By: Diana Kelly
Diana Kelly is a freelance writer, consultant, and freelance writing coach. She loves taking fitness classes, squeezing in mini-workouts between articles deadlines, hanging out with her adopted puppy, Jackson, and hiding messes in closets and drawers.
This story is part of CNBC Make It’s One-Minute Money Hacks series, which provides easy, straightforward tips and tricks to help you understand your finances and take control of your money.
Managing your finances and setting a monthly budget can be challenging. But if you’re overwhelmed with where to start, the 50-30-20 strategy can simplify the process. The plan divides your income into three broad categories: necessities, wants, and savings and investments. Here’s a closer look at each.
50% of your paycheck should go toward things you need
This category includes all of your essential costs, such as rent, mortgage payments, food, utilities, health insurance, debt payments and car payments. If your necessary expenses take up more than half of your income, you may need to cut costs or dip into your wants fund.
20% of your paycheck should go toward savings and investments
This category includes liquid savings, like an emergency fund; retirement savings, such as a 401(k) or Roth IRA; and any other investments, such as a brokerage account. Experts typically recommend aiming to have enough cash in your emergency fund to cover between three and six months worth of living expenses.
Some also suggest building up your emergency savings first, then concentrating on long-term investments. And if you have access to a 401(k) account through your employer, it can be a great way to save a portion of your income pre-tax.
30% of your paycheck should go toward things you want
This final category includes anything that isn’t considered an essential cost, such as travel, subscriptions, dining out, shopping and fun. This category can also include luxury upgrades: If you purchase a nicer car instead of a less expensive one, for example, that dips into your wants category.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to money management, but the 50-30-20 plan can be a good place to start if you’re new to budgeting and are wondering how to divide up your income.
While that may not be realistic, there are some simple things you can do right now to improve your money situation. Try these five steps for successfully managing your personal finances. Another bonus? If you stick to these five tips, your financial problems may start to diminish, and you can start reaping the rewards of lower debt, saving for the future, and a solid credit score.
Take some time to write specific, long-term financial goals. You may want to take a month-long trip to Europe, buy an investment property, or retire early. All of these goals will affect how you plan your finances. For example, your goal to retire early is dependent on how well you save your money now. Other goals, including home ownership, starting a family, moving, or changing careers, will all be affected by how you manage your finances.
Once you have written down your financial goals, prioritize them. This organizational process ensures that you are paying the most attention to the ones that are of the highest importance to you. You can also list them in the order you want to achieve them, but a long-term goal like saving for retirement requires you to work towards it while also working on your other goals.
Below are some tips on how to get clear on your financial goals:
Set long-term goals like getting out of debt, buying a home, or retiring early. These goals are separate from your short-term goals such as saving for a nice date night.
Set short-term goals, like following a budget, decreasing your spending, paying down, or not using your credit cards.
Prioritize your goals to help you create a financial plan.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Alan Howard paid $59 million for a Manhattan townhouse in March. Just two months later he obtained a $30 million mortgage from Citigroup Inc.
Denis Sverdlov, worth $6.1 billion thanks to his shares in electric-vehicle maker Arrival, recently pledged part of that stake for a line of credit from the same bank. For Edgar and Clarissa Bronfman the loan collateral is paintings by Damien Hirst and Diego Rivera, among others. Philippe Laffont, meanwhile, pledged stakes in a dozen funds at his Coatue Management for a credit line at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
In the realm of personal finance, debt is largely viewed as a necessary evil, one that should be kept to a minimum. But with interest rates at record lows and many assets appreciating in value, it’s one of the most important pieces of the billionaire toolkit — and one of the hottest parts of private banking.
Thanks to the Bronfmans, Howards and Sverdlovs of the world, the biggest U.S. investment banks reported a sizable jump in the value of loans they’ve extended to their richest clients, driven mainly by demand for asset-backed debt.
Morgan Stanley’s tailored and securities-based lending portfolio approached $76 billion last quarter, a 43% increase from a year earlier. Bank of America Corp. reported a $67 billion balance of such loans, up more than 20% year-over-year, while loans at Citigroup’s private bank — including but not limited to securities-backed loans — rose 17%. Appetite for such credit was the primary driver of the 21% bump in average loans at JPMorgan’s asset- and wealth-management division. And at UBS Group AG, U.S. securities-based lending rose by $4 billion.
“It’s a real business winner for the banks,” said Robert Weeber, chief executive officer of wealth-management firm Tiedemann Constantia, adding his clients have recently been offered the opportunity to borrow against real estate, security portfolios and even single-stock holdings.
Spokespeople for Howard, Arrival and Laffont declined to comment, while the Bronfmans didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Rock-bottom interest rates have fueled the biggest borrowing binge on record and even billionaires with enough cash to fill a swimming pool are loathe to sit it out.
And for good reason. With assets both public and private at historically lofty valuations, shareholders are hesitant to cash out and miss higher heights. Appian Corp. co-founder Matthew Calkins has pledged a chunk of his roughly $3.5 billion stake in the software company — whose shares have risen about 145% in the past year — for a loan.
“Families with wealth of $100 million or more can borrow at less than 1%,” said Dan Gimbel, principal at NEPC Private Wealth. “For their lifestyle, there may be things they want to purchase — a car or a boat or even a small business — and they may turn to that line of credit for those types of things rather than take money from the portfolio as they want that to be fully invested.”
Yachts and private jets have been especially popular buys in the past year, according to wealth managers, one of whom described it as borrowing to buy social distance.
Loans also allow the ultra-wealthy to avoid the hit of capital gains taxes at a time when valuations are high and rates are poised to increase, perhaps even almost double. Postponing tax is a “significant benefit” for portfolios concentrated and diversified alike, according to Michael Farrell, managing director for SEI Private Wealth Management.
Critics say such loans are just one more wedge in America’s ever-widening wealth gap. “Asset-backed loans are one of the principal tools that the ultra-wealthy are using to game their tax obligations down to zero,” said Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.
While using public equities as collateral is the most common tactic for banks loaning to the merely affluent, clients further up the wealth scale usually have a bevy of possessions they can feasibly pledge against, such as mansions, planes and even more esoteric collectibles, like watches and classic cars.
One big advantage for the wealthy borrowing now is the possibility that rates will ultimately rise and they can lock in low borrowing costs for decades. Some private banks offer mortgages on homes for as long as 20 years with fixed interest rates as low as 1% for the period.
The wealthy can also hedge against higher borrowing costs for a fraction of their pledged assets’ value, according to Ali Jamal, the founder of multifamily office Azura.
“With ultra-high-net worth clients, you’re often thinking about the next generation,” said Jamal, a former Julius Baer Group Ltd. managing director. “If you have a son or a daughter and you know they want to live one day in Milan, St. Moritz or Paris, you can now secure a future home for them and the bank is fixing your interest rate for as long as two decades.”
Securities-based lending does comes with risks for the bank and the borrower. If asset values plunge, borrowers may have to cough up cash to meet margin calls. Banks prize their relationships with their richest clients, but foundered loans are both costly and humiliating.
Ask JPMorgan. The bank helped arrange a $500 million credit facility for WeWork founder Adam Neumann, pledged against the value of his stock, according to the Wall Street Journal. As the value of the co-working startup imploded, Softbank Group Corp. had to swoop in to help Neumann repay the loans and avert a significant loss for the bank.
A spokesperson for JPMorgan declined to comment.
Still, for the banks it’s a risk worth taking. Asked about securities-backed loans on last week’s earnings call, Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Sharon Yeshaya said they’d “historically seen minimal losses.” Among the bank’s past clients is Elon Musk, who turned to them for $61 million in mortgages on five California properties in 2019, and who also has Tesla Inc. shares worth billions pledged to secure loans.
“As James [Gorman] has always said, it’s a product in which you lend wealthy clients their money back,” Yeshaya said, referring to Morgan Stanley’s chief executive officer. “And this is something that is resonating.”
Once upon a time, in the (somewhat mythical) past of traditional defined benefit pensions, your employer protected you from the risk of outliving your money in retirement, by acting, more or less, as an insurance company providing an annuity. With that benefit receding into the past, many experts have been hoping that Americans with 401(k) plans would avail themselves of annuities on their own, to give themselves the same sort of protection, and, indeed, the SECURE Act of 2019 made it easier for those plans to offer their participants an annuity choice, and, when surveyed, 73% of those participants said they would “consider” an annuity at retirement.
At the same time, though, Americans distrust annuities — in part because traditional deferred annuities had high fees and expenses and only made sense in an era predating IRAs and 401(k)s, when they were attractive solely due to the limited tax-advantaged options for retirement savings. But that’s not the only reason — annuities, quite frankly, aren’t cheap.
How do you quantify the value of an annuity? In one respect, it’s subjective and personal: do you judge yourself to be in good health, or does family history and your list of medications say that you’ll be one of those with the early deaths that longer-lived annuity-purchasers are counting on? Do you want to be sure you can maintain your standard of living throughout your retirement, or do you figure that you won’t really care one way or another if you have to cut down expenses once you’re among the “old-old”?
Here’s some good news: using the costs of actual annuities available for consumers to purchase in June 2020, and comparing them to bond rates which were similar to the investment portfolios those insurance companies hold, the authors calculated “money’s worth ratios” that show that, for annuities purchased immediately at retirement, the value of the annuities was between 92% – 94% (give-or-take, depending on type) of its cost. That means that the value of the insurance protection is a comparatively modest 6 – 8% of the total investment.
But there’s a catch — or, rather, two of them.
In the first place, the authors calculate their ratios based on a standard mortality table for annuity purchasers — which makes sense if the goal is to judge the “fairness” of an annuity for the healthy retirees most likely to purchase one. But this doesn’t tell us whether an annuity is a smart purchase for someone who thinks of themselves as being in comparatively poorer health, or with a spottier family health history, and folks in these categories would benefit considerably from analysis that’s targeted at them, that evaluates, realistically, whether annuities are the right call and whether their prediction of their life expectancy is likely to be right or wrong.
In the second place, the 92% – 94% money’s worth calculation is based on the typical investment portfolio of insurance companies, approximated by the returns of BBB-rated bonds. This measures whether the annuity is “fair” or not, in that “moral” sense of whether the perception that the company is “cheating” is customers is real (it’s not).
But these interest rates are very low. The authors, in addition to their calculations of “money’s worth,” back into the implied discount rate from the annuity costs themselves. For men aged 65, that interest rate is 2.16%; for women aged 65, 2.18%.
Now, imagine that you compare this annuity to an alternative plan of investing your money in the stock market, earning 7% annual returns, and believing you can predict your death date (or not really caring if you fall short or end up with leftover money for heirs).
The cost of the protection offered by the annuity, the guarantee that you will never run out of money, and that you will not suffer from a market crash, is very expensive indeed — when you compare apples to oranges in this manner, the money’s worth ratio is, according to my very rough estimates, more like 60%, meaning that about 40% of your cash is spent to purchase the “insurance protection” of the annuity.
And, again, that’s not because insurance companies are cheating anyone; that’s solely because of the wide gap between corporate bond rates and expected returns when investing in the stock market— a gap which was particularly wide in the summer of 2020 when this study was competed, but remains nearly as wide now.
As it stands, Moody’s Baa rates are in the 3% range; in the 2000s, they were in the 6% range, and in the 1990s, from 7% – 9%. Although this drop in bond rates is good news for American homebuyers because this marches in tandem with mortgage rates, it makes it far harder for retirees to manage their finances in ways that protect them from the risks that they face in their retirement.
Perhaps interest rates in general, and bond rates specifically, will increase as we leave our current economic challenges, but there’s no certainty, and as long as this gap between bond rates and expected stock market returns remains so substantial, retirees will be challenged to find any sort of safe investment that makes sense for them. Which means that what seems like a great benefit for Americans looking to borrow money — for mortgages, car loans, credit cards — can pit the elderly against the young in a generational “us vs. them” contest.
Yes, I’m a nerd, and an actuary to boot. Armed with an M.A. in medieval history and the F.S.A. actuarial credential, with 20 years of experience at a major benefits consulting firm, and having blogged as “Jane the Actuary” since 2013, I enjoy reading and writing about retirement issues, including retirement income adequacy, reform proposals and international comparisons.
An annuity is a series of payments made at equal intervals. Examples of annuities are regular deposits to a savings account, monthly home mortgage payments, monthly insurance payments and pension payments. Annuities can be classified by the frequency of payment dates. The payments (deposits) may be made weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or at any other regular interval of time. Annuities may be calculated by mathematical functions known as “annuity functions”.
An annuity which provides for payments for the remainder of a person’s lifetime is a life annuity.
Variability of payments
Fixed annuities – These are annuities with fixed payments. If provided by an insurance company, the company guarantees a fixed return on the initial investment. Fixed annuities are not regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Variable annuities – Registered products that are regulated by the SEC in the United States of America. They allow direct investment into various funds that are specially created for Variable annuities. Typically, the insurance company guarantees a certain death benefit or lifetime withdrawal benefits.
Equity-indexed annuities – Annuities with payments linked to an index. Typically, the minimum payment will be 0% and the maximum will be predetermined. The performance of an index determines whether the minimum, the maximum or something in between is credited to the customer.
Another month, another explosive rise in home prices. May’s median annual housing price rose 23.6%, a new monthly record. Buyers are still buying, helped by low interest and mortgage rates. But since housing construction hasn’t kept pace with demand and economic growth, it will take more housing production to reduce long-term pressure on prices.
The buying pressure in housing markets is setting records. Although home sales fell slightly in May compared to April, houses aren’t sitting very long on the market. According to the National Association of Realtors, total housing inventory is down 20.6% from a year ago. Properties only last on the market for an average of 17 days, and 89% of sales in May “were on the market for less than a month.”
Given this high demand, we’d expect supply to respond. Ronnie Walker at Goldman Sachs notes housing starts are rising, hitting their highest levels since 2006. But it isn’t cooling the market off. But Walker says despite these higher starts, “red-hot demand has brought the supply of homes available for sale down to the lowest level since the 1970s.”
Walker expects a “persistent supply-demand imbalance in the years ahead.” New construction will come online, and more sellers eventually will enter the market, but his model foresees “home prices grow(ing) at double digit rates both this year and next.”
Tight future markets are confirmed by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS). In their 2021 report, these experts say “the supply of existing homes for sale has never been tighter,” and is at its lowest level since 1982.
So where are the houses? What happened to supply and demand? JCHS notes several reasons for underproduction, but the primary blame goes to restrictive local policies such as single-family zoning, minimum lot sizes, parking requirements, etc. A 2018 survey of over 2700 communities found “93 percent imposed minimum lot sizes” with 67 percent requiring lots of at least one acre in size and sometimes more, many in suburban towns.
What about big cities? Despite perceptions that there’s a lot of development in many cities, not much housing has been built in some. Between 2010 and 2018, jobs in New York City increased by 22% “while the housing stock only increased four percent.” Jobs in San Francisco and San Mateo counties rose by over 30% between 2010 and 2019, while new housing permits only rose by 7%.
There are strong political biases in these cities against more construction, but other liberal places are re-examining their housing policies, especially single-family zoning. A New York Times 2019 analysis confirmed that many cities’ land area is dominated by single-family zoning —70% in Minneapolis, 75% in Los Angeles, 79% in Chicago, 81% in Seattle, and 94% in San Jose. Combined with excessive parking requirements, zoning policy effectively takes land out of production while pushing its price sky-high and preventing multifamily options.
Cities’ anti-development policy means new housing is pushed further out in the metropolitan area, adding to suburban sprawl, longer commute times, and environmental damage. Ironically, some progressive environmental groups have allied with anti-development forces, with the net result of fostering suburban sprawl.
In New York City, the left Sunrise Movement has joined with many other groups to oppose “upzoning” for higher density and more development in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, one of the wealthiest in the nation. In contrast, Berkeley California, one of the most liberal cities in the nation, has voted to end single family zoning, persuaded by the argument that such policies result in racially segregated neighborhoods and lack of affordable housing for people of color.
But it isn’t just liberal cities that face this problem. Even though red states like North Dakota, Utah, and Texas lead the nation in home building, a recent study found that only four of America’s 25 largest metropolitan areas “built enough homes to match local job growth.” And much of that growth was in outlying suburbs, adding to sprawl and pollution.
Urban economist Ed Glaeser locates a good deal of the problem in the rising power of local citizen groups, especially existing homeowners. Their housing investments often rise in value with scarcity, and they usually like the existing neighborhoods where they reside and don’t want new residents.
This creates an “insider/outsider” problem that limits housing. As Glaeser notes, current homeowners don’t “internalize the interests of those who live elsewhere and would want to come to the city…their political actions are more likely to exclude than to embrace.” These anti-housing groups often are labelled “NIMBYs”, for “Not In My Back Yard.”
In response, so-called “YIMBYs” (Yes In My Back Yard) are pushing for policies such as relaxed zoning, allowing multi-family housing (at least duplexes to quadplexes) on single family lots, and allowing denser housing near mass transit stops (“TOD”, for “Transit Oriented Development.”). They are having some success, but anti-development forces are deeply entrenched and politically powerful in many places around the country.
But would more development create not just housing, but add to affordable housing? What about the impact on low-income and non-white families, who could face rising rents or displacement from gentrification while still not being able to buy a house? In my next blog, we’ll look at the tangled racial history of housing development and home ownership. Unless renters and lower-income people can be mobilized to support development, NIMBY opposition to more housing will be hard to overcome.
I’m an economist at the New School’s Schwartz Center (https://www.economicpolicyresearch.org), currently writing a book for Columbia University Press on cities and inequality. I have extensive public sector experience studying cities and states. I’ve served as Executive Director of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy, Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Research at New York State’s Department of Economic Development, and New York City Deputy Comptroller for Policy and Management. I also worked as Director of Impact Assessment at the Ford Foundation.
Any collapse of the U.S. housing bubble has a direct impact not only on home valuations, but mortgage markets, home builders, real estate, home supply retail outlets, Wall Street hedge funds held by large institutional investors, and foreign banks, increasing the risk of a nationwide recession. Concerns about the impact of the collapsing housing and credit markets on the larger U.S. economy caused President George W. Bush and the Chairman of the Federal ReserveBen Bernanke to announce a limited bailout of the U.S. housing market for homeowners who were unable to pay their mortgage debts.
If you are working with an eye toward retirement or even semi-retirement, you are probably (hopefully) saving more than you could in the past in your retirement accounts. You may have paid off the mortgage and paid for college and other heavy expenses of raising children. That all sounds like you are on your way, except for one big problem I call the “ticking tax time bomb.”
I’m referring to the tax debt building up in your individual retirement account, 401(k) or other retirement savings plans. And, as I wrote in my newest book, “The New Retirement Savings Time Bomb,” it can quickly deplete the very savings you were relying on for your retirement years. But there are a few ways you can avoid this problem.
While you may be watching your savings balances grow from your continuing contributions and the rising stock market, a good chunk of that growth will go to Uncle Sam. That’s because most, if not all, of those retirement savings are tax-deferred, not tax-free.
The funds in most IRAs are pretax funds, meaning they have not yet been taxed. But they will be, when you reach in to spend them in retirement. That’s when you quickly realize how much of your savings you get to keep and how much will go to the government.
The amount going to the Internal Revenue Service will be based on what future tax rates are. And given our national debt and deficit levels, those tax rates could skyrocket, leaving you with less than you had planned on, just when you’ll need the money most.
So, that’s the dire warning. But you can change this potential outcome with proper planning and making changes in the way you save for retirement going forward.
You can begin by taking steps to pay down that tax debt at today’s low tax rates and begin building your retirement savings in tax-free vehicles like Roth IRAs or even permanent life insurance which can include cash value that builds and can be withdrawn tax-free in retirement.
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For 2021, you can contribute up to $26,000 (the standard $19,500 contribution limit plus a $6,500 catch-up contribution for people 50 and older). With some Roth 401(k) workplace plans, you might be able to put in even more.
Then, see if you can convert some of your existing 401(k) funds either to your Roth 401(k) or to a Roth IRA. Once you do this, you will owe taxes on the amount you convert. The conversion is permanent, so make sure you only convert what you can afford to pay tax on.
Don’t let the upfront tax bill deter you from moving your retirement funds from accounts that are forever taxed to accounts that are never taxed.
Similarly, you can convert your existing IRAs to Roth IRAs, lowering the tax debt on those funds as well. The point is to not be shortsighted and avoid doing this because you don’t want to pay the taxes now. That tax will have to be paid at some point, and likely at much higher future tax rates and on a larger account balance.
It’s best to get this process going now, maybe even with a plan to convert your 401(k) or IRA funds to Roth accounts over several years, converting small amounts each year to manage the tax bill.
If you have been contributing to a traditional IRA, stop making those contributions and instead start contributing to a Roth IRA. Anyone 50 or over can put in up to $7,000 a year ($6,000 plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution) and you can do so for a spouse even if that spouse is not working.
If one of you has enough earnings from a job or self-employment (and you don’t exceed the Roth IRA contribution income limits), each of you can contribute $7,000, totaling $14,000 in Roth IRA contributions each year. That will not only add up quickly, it will add up all in your favor because now you are accumulating retirement savings tax-free.
Once the funds are in a Roth IRA or other tax-free vehicles (like life insurance), those funds compound tax-free for you.
The secret is to pay taxes now. It’s so simple, but also so counterintuitive that most people don’t take advantage of this and end up paying heavy taxes in retirement that could have all been avoided.
EdSlott is a Certified Public Accountant, an individual retirement account (IRA) distribution expert and author of “The New Retirement Savings Tax Bomb.” He is president and founder of Ed Slott and Company, providing advice and analysis about IRAs.
In a sluggish economy or an outright recession, it is best to watch your spending and not take undue risks that could put your financial goals in jeopardy. What happens to the economy during a recession can negatively impact your personal finances and wealth. However, by being prepared and taking a few simple steps to reduce your risks, you can improve your chances of weathering the financial decline. Below are some of the financial risks everyone should avoid taking during a recession.
When the economy is in a recession, financial risks increase, including the risk of default, business failure, and bankruptcy.
Avoid increasing, and if possible reduce, your exposure to these financial risks.
For example, you’ll want to avoid becoming a cosigner on a loan, taking out an adjustable-rate mortgage, and taking on new debt—all of which can increase your financial risk during a recession.
If you’re an employee, you’ll want to do everything you can to safeguard your job, such as performing top-notch work and improving your productivity.
If you’re a business owner, you might need to postpone spending on capital improvements and taking on new debt until the recovery has begun.
Becoming a Cosigner
Cosigning a loan can be a very risky thing to do even in flush economic times. If the individual taking the loan does not make the scheduled payments, the cosigner could be responsible to make them instead. During an economic downturn, the risks associated with cosigning a note are even greater, since the person taking out the loan has a higher chance of losing their job—not to mention the cosigner’s own elevated risk of ending up unemployed.
Cosigning potentially leaves you on the hook for the life of a loan. Consider other ways to help the borrower if you can.
That said, you may find it necessary to cosign for a family member or close friend regardless of what is happening in the economy. In such cases, it pays to have some money set aside as a cushion. Or, instead of cosigning, it may even be preferable to assist with a down payment or other types of assistance rather than leaving yourself on the hook for a cosigned loan on an ongoing basis.
Taking out an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage
When purchasing a home, you may choose to take out an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). In some cases, this move makes sense (as long as interest rates are low, the monthly payment will stay low as well). Interest rates usually fall early in a recession, then later rise as the economy recovers. This means that the adjustable rate for a loan taken out during a recession is nearly certain to rise.
While interest rates usually fall early in a recession, credit requirements are often strict, making it challenging for some borrowers to qualify for the best interest rates and loans.
But consider the worst-case scenario: You lose your job and interest rates rise as the recession starts to abate. Your monthly payments could go up, making it extremely difficult to keep up with the payments. Late payments and non-payment can, in turn, have an adverse impact on your credit rating, making it more difficult to obtain a loan in the future.
Instead, assuming you have decent credit, a recession may be a good time to lock in a lower fixed rate on a mortgage refinance, if you qualify. However, be cautious about taking on new debt until you see signs the economy is recovering.
Taking on New Debt
Taking on new debt—such as a car loan, home loan, or student debt—need not be a problem in good times when you can make enough money to cover monthly payments and still save for retirement. But when the economy takes a turn for the worse, risks increase, including the risk that you will be laid off. If that happens, you may have to take a job—or jobs—that pay less than your previous salary, which could eat into your ability to pay your debt.
In short, if you are considering adding debt to your financial equation, understand that this could complicate your financial situation if you are laid off or have your income cut for some reason. Taking on new debt in a recessionary environment is risky and should be approached with caution. In the worst-case scenario, it could even contribute to bankruptcy. Pay cash if you can, or wait on big new purchases.
Taking Your Job for Granted
During an economic slowdown, it is important to understand that even large corporations can come under financial pressure, leading them to reduce expenses any way they can. That could mean scaling back on operating expenses, cutting dividends, or shedding jobs.
Because jobs become so vulnerable during a recession, employees should do all they can to make sure their employer has a favorable opinion of them. Coming to work early, staying late, and doing top-notch work at all times is no guarantee that your job will be safe, but doing those things does increase your chances of staying on the payroll. From an employer’s perspective, it makes more sense to cut marginal workers rather than reduce hours or wages for their more productive employees. Make sure that you are not a marginal worker.
Taking Risks With Investments
This tip applies to business owners. While you should always be thinking about the future and investing in growing your business, an economic slowdown may not be the best time to make risky bets. Early on in a recession is not the time to stick your neck out. Later, as soon as the economy starts to show signs of sustainable recovery, is the time to start thinking big when prices for capital purchases and labor costs for new hiring are low.
Especially avoid investment projects that would require you to take on new debt to finance.
For example, taking on a new loan to add physical floor space or to increase inventory may sound appealing—particularly since interest rates are likely to be low during a recession. But if business slows down—another side effect of recessions—you may not have enough leftover at the end of the month to pay interest and principal on time. Wait until interest rates just start to tick upward and leading economic indicators for your market or industry turn up
The Bottom Line
There’s no need to live a monk’s existence during an economic slowdown, but you should pay extra attention to spending and be wary of taking any unnecessary risks. Even in the midst of a significant economic downturn, there are many positive steps you can take to improve your situation and recession-proof your life. These include implementing a realistic budget, establishing an emergency fund, and generating additional sources of income.
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Mortgage rates are historically low, according to the Washington Post, but won’t stay that way forever. If you bought a home within the last five to seven years and you’ve built up equity, you might be thinking about refinancing.
A refinance can lower your payments and save you money on interest, but it’s not always the right move. In fact, these three mistakes could end up costing you in the long run.
3 Biggest Mortgage Refinancing Mistakes
Mistake #1: Skipping out on Closing Costs When you refinance your mortgage, you’re basically taking out a new loan to replace the original one. That means you’re going to have to pay closing costs to finalize the paperwork. Closing costs can range from 2% to 5% of the loan’s value. On a $200,000 loan, you could pay $4,000-$10,000.
No-closing-cost mortgages are available, but there is a catch. To make up for the money they’re losing up front, the lender may charge you a slightly higher interest rate. Over the life of the loan, that can end up making a refinance much more expensive.
Here’s an example to show how the cost breaks down. Let’s say you have a choice between a $200,000 loan at a rate of 4% with closing costs of $6,000 or the same loan amount with no closing costs at a rate of 4.5%. That doesn’t seem like a huge difference but over a 30-year term, the second option could cost you thousands more in interest.
Mistake #2: Lengthening the Loan Term If one of your refinancing goals is to lower your payments, stretching the loan term can lower your cost each month. However, you could pay substantially more in interest over the life of the loan.
If you take out a $200,000 loan at a rate of 4.5%, your payments could come to just over $1,000. After five years, you’d have paid more than $43,000 in interest and knocked almost $20,000 off the principal. Altogether, the loan would cost you over $164,000 in interest.
If you refinance the remaining $182,000 for another 30 year term at 4%, your payments would drop about $245 a month, but you’d end up paying more interest. And compared to the original loan terms, you’d save less than $2,000.
Mistake #3: Refinancing With Less Than 20% Equity Refinancing can increase your mortgage costs if you haven’t built up sufficient equity in your home.
Generally, when you have less than 20% equity value the lender will require you to pay private mortgage insurance premiums. This insurance is a protection for the lender against the possibility of default.
For a conventional mortgage, you can expect to pay a PMI premium between 0.3% and 1.5% of the loan amount. The premiums are tacked directly on to your payment. Even if you’re able to lock in a low interest rate, having that extra money added into the payment is going to eat away at any savings.
The Bottom Line
Refinancing isn’t something you want to jump into without running all the numbers. It’s tempting to focus on just the interest rate, but while doing so, you could overlook some of the less obvious costs.
FOUR Reasons NOT To Do a Mortgage Refinance: Don’t Make These Costly Mistakes // With record low mortgage interest rates, there is a surge of homeowners doing a refinance home mortgage. HOWEVER, a refinance of your mortgage isn’t for everyone. In this video, I share refinancing mortgage pros and cons as well as how to refinance your mortgage the right way. I also give a brief real estate market update with a reminder about a new fee for those who are thinking about going through the mortgage refinancing mortgage process.
Money is the engine of the economy. It is the facilitator of trade and specialization. However, few people ask themselves: where does our money come from? This article discusses the process of money creation at banks and central banks. The analysis is based on the respective balance sheet.
How the Federal Reserve creates money out of thin air — a balance sheet analysis
This section shows how money is created at the Federal Reserve (Fed), the central bank of the United States. The Fed acts as the bank for the government and as bank for other commercial banks. The Federal Reserve is known to be the “lender of last resort” with the ability to bail out commercial banks. The following analysis is based on the balance sheet of all Federal Reserve Banks combined as published in the annual report 2019 by the Federal Reserve.
The balance sheet of the Fed consists of assets on the one side and liabilities on the other side — just as any company’s balance sheet. The sum of all assets must always be equal to the sum of all liabilities. This is based on the concept of double entry bookkeeping which requires two entries in the balance sheet for every transaction. Assume you are keeping a balance sheet for your personal finances. When you go shopping and pay with cash for food, then there are two entries: a reduction in cash and an increase in food. This fact of every transaction requiring two entries will be important in the further analysis.
Treasury securities and the general account of the treasury
First, we discuss the entries of the Fed’s balance sheet relating to treasury. On the asset side there are „Treasury securities“. On the liability side there is the entry „Treasury, general account“. Treasury securities are bonds issued by the government with varying length and interest rate. The Federal Reserve Bank bought more and more of these government bonds over time thereby providing funding to the government. In 2019, the Fed has claims on the government of more than USD 2.4 trillion. The government is expected to pay this sum with future tax payments by the people since this is the major revenue stream of governments.
But how did the Federal Reserve fund the money for buying government bonds? By creating it out of thin air. Here comes the double entry bookkeeping into play. On the liabilities side, we find the operational account of the treasury which sums up to USD 403 billion. We see that the Fed can easily create new money by expanding the credit sheet. The book value of the government bonds is placed under „treasury securities“ as assets . This process involves an intermediary bank that buys the government bond from the government which is then sold to the Federal Reserve. Thus, the process is in fact even more complex. An illustration of the process can be found in the end of the article.
The central bank also creates money by issuing a credit to banks. The value of the loan is noted on the asset side of the central bank and the money loaned is added to the deposit account of the bank on the liabilities side.The process is explained in the figure below.
The government may issue unlimited amounts of government debt and thereby finance its activities. The Fed may infinitely buy government bonds thereby closely collaborating with the government. The annual report states that any surplus of the Fed’s income is transferred to the Treasury which clearly lines out that the Fed works for the government (see screenshot below). In contrast, any company who takes on more and more debt would face higher interest rates due to increased risk. At a certain stage, the company would not be able to take on more debt. On the other side, the government can loan money infinitely through collusion with the Fed who buys treasury securities to the lowest interest rate.
Federal Reserve Notes
Printing new money can be either exercised through book money or by literally printing new money, i.e. Federal Reserve notes. The annual report of the Fed says that “Federal Reserve notes are obligations of the United States government“ which means that by holding a Federal Reserve note one owns a claim on future tax payments — this concept lies at the heart of government backed money. Essentially, the taxpayer is the collateral for Federal Reserve notes. In 2019, the Federal Reserve notes outstanding accumulate to more than USD 1.7 trillion.
Mortgage-backed securities in the Federal Reserve balance sheet
We have discussed the most important entry on the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve which is the claim on the government bonds on the asset side and the general account of the treasury on the liability side. The Federal Reserve, however, does not only hold government bonds as collateral for the Federal Reserve notes. The second largest entry on the assets side of the Fed’s balance sheet are mortgage-backed securities. The entry „Federal Agency and Government-Sponsored Enterprise Mortgage-Backed Securities“ comprises purchases of mortgage-backed securities from “government-sponsored enterprises” such as the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) & Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac). This means that the Fed owns the claims on house owners’ debt obligations. In general, the buyer of a mortgage-backed security (MBS) has a claim on the real estate in case of credit default. So in case of defaulting MBS, the ownership of the real estate is transferred to the Federal Reserve Bank.
But where did the Federal Reserve receive the funds for buying MBS? The central bank may simply create the money to buy assets as discussed in an article from the Bank of England. The central bank does so by adding the value of the assets on the asset side of the balance sheet and by inserting the funds for the assets to the seller’s bank account. Quantitative Easing works according to the same principle: The central bank buys government bonds from other banks thereby creating the funds out of thin air. The bank accounts can be found in the row “Depository institutions“ which is further explained in the next section.
Bank accounts at the Fed and the reserve requirement
Banks are obliged to hold a certain percentage of their liabilities as reserve at the central bank called “reserve requirement”. The reserve requirement of all banks combined is noted in the row “Depository institutions” on the liability side of the central bank. The central bank primarily holds government bonds and MBS as a reserve for the banks’ deposits. This means that the people’s savings are not more secure with higher reserve requirements since these savings are backed by not necessarily “safer” investments. Essentially, savings can be only considered “safe” when assuming unlimited bank bailouts.
In 2019, the total sum of bank deposits at the Fed accounted for more than USD 1.5 trillion. The percentage of reserves banks need to hold in reserve at central banks is set by central banks. In March 26, 2020 this percentage was set to zero. This means that banks are not required to hold any money in reserves for the debt they give out. However, for being able to serve the claims of customers, they should hold a certain amount of money as reserve. The amount of money which banks hold at central banks that exceed the minimum reserve is called “excess reserve”. The Fed has not charged negative interest rate for excess reserves yet but the ECB has already started to do so. This means that banks holding money at the ECB have to pay for doing so. This puts great strain on banks so they have an incentive to give out more debt to make money from the debt related interest.
Can commercial banks create money individually out of thin air?
There is an ongoing discussion on whether commercial banks may create money individually out of thin air in the process of credit creation. This section first discusses the theoretical background followed by empirical evidence supporting the hypothesis that commercial banks create money out of thin air. It also reflects the view of central banks, which clearly shows that banks can create money from nothing.
Banks as custody providers and investment vehicles
The theoretical part refers to Rothbard’s analysis on money creation in his book „Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market“ first published in 1962, page 801 forth following. Rothbard started his argumentation with banks acting as custody providers during the gold standard which means that gold was used as a currency (in contrast to government-backed fiat money which is essentially backed by future tax payments).
Rothbard explains the concept of money creation with the hypothetical example of the „Star Bank“ offering custody services to the public. For storing 5000 ounces of gold, the bank issued warehouse receipts covering exactly 5000 ounces.
Now the bank decided to perform investments with their clients’ money to increase their revenue. The bank lends out the saver’s money to others, in turn the bank offers an interest rate to their customers. The bank now acts as an investment vehicle. Since the savers want to withdraw their money every now and then, the bank holds some gold in reserve. This gold in reserve is not used for investment purposes. So the bank acts as both: custody provider and investment vehicle.
If more people want to withdraw their money than the bank has reserves, then the bank goes bankrupt. This happened in the past in so-called „bank runs“. This problem could have been mitigated by the bank clearly separating their business as investment vehicle and as custody provider. In such a scenario, the customer can decide which portion of his money he aims to invest and get interest for and which portion of the money he aims to place in custody where he needs to pay custody fees for the service. Also, the bank should be required to be transparent about which investments the people’s money flows to, which is not the case in the current financial system.
The process of money creation through credit creation at commercial banks
In the process of credit creation, an entry on the asset side of the balance sheet is created depicting the claim of the bank on the debtor. Since the system is based upon double entry bookkeeping, a corresponding entry is required. This means that the money that is lent out has to come from somewhere.
The process of credit creation is explained with another example of the Star Bank illustrated in the screenshot below. The asset side shows that 5000 ounces are kept in custody and 1000 ounces of gold were given out to debtors (I.O.U’s from Debtors — I.O.U. refers to “I owe you”). The liability side shows that warehouse receipts worth 6000 ounces of gold were given out. We assume that exactly 1000 ounces more gold were inserted by customers which was then lent out. This means that the debt money originates from the savers depositing their money in the bank. So, the money was merely shifted from saver to debtor where the bank acts as financial intermediary.
This is no problem when the bank first asks their customers whether they agree with this particular investment because in the end, these customers bear the risk of default. The bank becomes the investment vehicle and intermediary for this particular transaction.
But what if the bank creates more warehouse receipts than the total sum of the gold the bank holds in custody and the gold lent out? This is „the creation of new money out of thin air, by issuing receipts for nonexistent gold“ which is called „monetization of debt“ (Rothbard, 1962, p. 809). We use the example above, however, now assuming that the bank created 1000 pseudo warehouse receipts that are not covered by gold. In fact there are only 5000 ounces of gold but the bank acts as if there were 6000 ounces of gold by giving out 6000 pseudo warehouse receipts. In the process of lending out money, 1000 new warehouse receipts were created which are not covered by gold. These are fake money certificates created in the process of debt issuance. So essentially, the bank has issued more money certificates than it can actually redeem. If more customers claim their gold than the bank holds in custody, then the bank goes bankrupt if it is not bailed out.
According to Rothbard „It is, in fact, difficult to see the economic or moral difference between the issuance of pseudo receipts and the appropriation of someone else’s property or outright embezzlement or, more directly, counterfeiting. Most present legal systems do not outlaw this practice; in fact, it is considered basic banking procedure.“ (Rothbard, 1962, p. 809)
When banks engage in fraudulent behavior, they would normally lose customers. Also, other banks would stop lending money to the fraudulent bank. This allows sound checks between banks on their risk and credibility. This was stopped through the nationwide check-clearing system called „Federal Reserve“ which can bail out even the most fraudulent bank. The Federal Reserve published a document explaining its purposes and functions which says the following:
„By creating the Federal Reserve System, Congress intended to eliminate the severe financial crises that had periodically swept the nation, especially the sort of financial panic that occurred in 1907. During that episode, payments were disrupted throughout the country because many banks and clearinghouses refused to clear checks drawn on certain other banks, a practice that contributed to the failure of otherwise solvent banks [Note author: if the banks were solvent they would not need a bailout]. To address these problems, Congress gave the Federal Reserve System the authority to establish a nationwide check-clearing system.“ (Source: Federal Reserve System Publication, Purposes and Functions)
For evidence on whether commercial banks may individually create money out of thin air, we may either look into the source code of the banking system or we look at empirical data. The source code is unfortunately undisclosed. So we may only look at empirical data.
Empirical study on whether commercial banks may create money out of thin air
This section refers to the study “Can banks individually create money out of nothing? — The theories and the empirical evidence“ by Professor Richard Werner. In this study, the cooperating bank granted a loan of 200 000 EUR of maturity under 4 years to Richard Werner. A snapshot of the balance sheet was taken before the transfer and on the next day when the transaction was completed. The study showed the following balance sheet movements of the „Raiffeisenbank”:
We see an increase of around 170 000 EUR on the liability side in the entry „claims by customers“. This entry corresponds to the „pseudo warehouse receipts“ in the analysis of Rothbard. It is quite unlikely that customers inserted so much money as savings on the day regarded. But what else could have moved this entry so much? Let’s remember the mechanism of how central banks created new money — maybe a similar mechanism is applied with commercial banks. Central banks create new money by recording the issued loan as an asset on the asset side and by entering the corresponding money into the banks’ accounts. Commercial banks could make use of the same principle: They can note the loan amount on the asset side and insert this money in the bank account of the debtor. In this process, the credit sum would be added to both sides of the balance sheet: the “claims on customers” on the asset side (the debt) and the “claims by customers” on the liability side of the bank (the loaned money).
A snapshot directly before and after the transaction would have given us more clarity but this is the best to work with for now. The 170 000 EUR of increase in claims by customers is close to the credit sum but does not cover it entirely. So let’s have a look at the other major movements on the balance sheet. Apart from the increase in the claims by customers, we see an increase in cash on the asset side and a decrease in „claims on financial institutions“. This indicates that other banks paid the debt they had with the „Raiffeisenbank“. Since we do not have the balance sheet of all customers and debtors of the Raiffeisenbank, it is not possible to say with absolute clarity which transaction was a pseudo transaction and which was not. But we can have a look at what the central authorities say on Money creation.
Central banks’ view on money creation in the banking system
Both articles have found that banks and central banks create money by issuing debt. More precisely, the debt is noted on the asset side as a claim on the debtor and the related money is inserted in the deposit account of the debtor. This fits very well to what was explained above.
Both articles have found another mean for money creation namely in the process of buying assets. When a bank or central bank buys an asset, the asset is placed on the asset side of the balance sheet and the related money is placed in the account of the seller of the asset on the liability side.
Concluding, we have great evidence that both banks and central banks create money out of thin air in the process of credit creation and also in the process of asset purchases.
Next, we look at the occurrence of pseudo receipts in history.
Pseudo receipts in the history of money
The most prominent case of pseudo receipts happened during the Bretton Woods System which was in place from 1944 to 1971. In this time period, the US dollar was fixed to gold at USD 35 per ounce of gold. All other currencies were in turn fixed to the US Dollar. The Federal Reserve held the gold in reserve to which the US dollar was pegged to. This means that the Federal Reserve was the only custody provider that held the gold in reserve which is an extreme centralization of trust. Everyone trusted that the Federal Reserve does not create pseudo warehouse receipts, i.e. more US dollars than are covered by the gold reserves. In the 1960s, the first speculators did not trust the Fed anymore and assumed that more US dollars were created than there were gold reserves. This has led to a revaluation of currencies and eventually to the collapse of the Bretton Wood System. Now, the US dollar is pegged to nothing and the Fed may print infinitely.
Note: Here you find one source on Bretton Woods (notice the framing „speculative attacks“ and „confidence problem“ by the public instead of „deception“ and „fraud“ committed by the Fed).
Money alternatives that cannot be created out of thin air
We learned that depositing one’s money in service custody allows the custody provider to easily instigate fraudulent behavior by issuing fake warehouse receipts. We can prevent this by holding our assets in self-custody. But which alternative money is most suitable for self-custody? In the following, Bitcoin and gold are compared as money alternatives.
Bitcoin can be sent over distance almost immediately without a third party. Gold either requires physical shipping which is very slow and comes with a great risk of losing the funds or the gold is held in service custody and merely the ownership is shifted. Storing one’s money in custody requires trust in the custody provider to not issue pseudo receipts. Bitcoin in turn can be held by the individual and can be sent over distance directly to the recipient. Bitcoin does not depend on a trusted centralized authority — Bitcoin is trustless. Moreover, if bitcoin are stored at a custody provider who gives every customer a separate Bitcoin address, then the customer may verify whether the bitcoins are still there 24/7 over the network. This is why Bitcoin is superior over gold even in the situation of custody.
According to Bloomberg, central banks have bought more and more gold just recently. Some people are arguing that the government may introduce a new coin that is backed by gold when the fiat system crashes. But wait! Didn’t the central banks create more US dollars than there was gold in reserve during the Bretton Woods System? Yes. If your government says that a new fiat is issued which is backed by gold where gold is stored in a centralized custody, why should you trust them not to create pseudo receipts if they did so in the past?
Bitcoin is the way out.
I would like to thank Murray Rothbard for his extraordinary logic in laying out the concept of money and its creation. I also thank Professor Richard Werner for conducting the empirical study on money creation at commercial banks. Great thanks to my proofreaders Ben Kaufman, Keyvan Davani and Márton Csernai. I highly appreciate your support in improving this article. Any feedback from subsequent readers is highly welcome!
Note on fractional reserve banking
It is important to differentiate between two different definitions of fractional reserve banking:
Reserve refers to the percentage of money held in custody which is not lent out. So, a portion of the savers money is held in custody (reserve) and the rest is invested.
Reserve refers to the percentage of money actually covered by the underlying asset. Gold standard: Only a portion of the money certificates is backed with the underlying asset, the rest are pseudo warehouse receipts. Fiat system: The bank may create money in the process of debt issuance.
Note that with fiat money, it is difficult to differentiate money and money substitutes because both are based on nothing and essentially fake. This is why the definition “money may be created in the debt issuance process” is used.
In a monetary system where money cannot be created through accounting fraud in the process of debt issuance, debt and credit simply show the obligations between people. In such a system, money would be distributed from e.g. the savers account to the debtors account where the bank acts as financial intermediary (see first example by Rothbard in this article). So, fractional reserve banking as per the first definition does not lead to more money created. However, money in custody and money invested should be clearly separated thereby laying on a sound monetary system that is scarce. Bitcoin enables this.
The implications of the second system where money may be created out of thin air by banks and central banks have found deep consideration in the article. We have strong evidence that banks and in particular central banks create new money in the process of debt issuance through accounting fraud. Even the reserves behind the central bank money, which among other things consists of the banks’ minimum reserves, can be used by the central banks for risky investments, which makes the whole concept of minimum reserves ad absurdum. We may conclude that both definitions of Fractional Reserve Banking hold in the current system. The first concept of Fractional Reserve Banking is organic to a sound monetary system. The latter is inorganic and can be only facilitated with fraud or unsound money coming with great distortions to the economy.
Note on whether fiat money is debt or money
Emil Sandstedt brought up the very interesting question on whether fiat money is money or debt during our Podcast with Keyvan Davani. I would consider fiat money as both: debt and money and I lay out why in the following.
Federal Reserve notes are per definition part of the “monetary base” which is the most superior money. Money is in fact differentiated into certain categories (monetary base, M1, M2, M3). So, Federal Reserve notes are money in the narrow sense. In general, the longer the deposit maturity of a savings deposit, the lower its rank in the monetary hierarchy per definition. However, Federal Reserve notes are a claim on future tax payments (see chapter Federal Reserve Notes). Since future tax payments are a form of debt, Federal Reserve Notes can be considered both: money and debt.
Per definition, the other forms of debt generated through credit creation are not considered money in the fiat system but rather as a “counterpart of M3”. On the other side, one can buy things with the money that one received through the credit. So this money can be used as a medium of exchange. This is a reason why this debt can be considered “money”.
This article has not focused on this differentiation for reasons of simplicity. In the end, what one calls calls “money” is based on definitions. Since money created through debt issuance can be used for payments, it is valid to consider it as money as it was done in this article. But also, it is justified to call central bank money as debt since these are a claims on future tax payments — claims on debt. Therefore, I like the term “debt money” implicating that the fiat system is based on debt and that this money is used as a medium of exchange.
Interesting side note: Only central bank money is considered money by government decree.
Illustration of quantitative easing
Quantitative easing involves the purchase of government bonds by the central bank. But the treasuries are first sold to the secondary market. In the process below the treasury is first bought by a pension fund, then by a bank called “Citibank” and then by the Federal Reserve. Alexander Bechtel explains this process very well in this video.
By Stefanie von Jan / Freedom and truth seeker, economist for a free market for money, deep into Austrian Economics and Bitcoin, advocate for safe and beneficial technologies
A brief look at how money has evolved over time from being printed on valuable substances (commodity money), to merely representing those valuable substances (commodity-backed money), to not representing anything at all (fiat money). Created by Grant Sanderson. View more lessons or practice this subject at http://www.khanacademy.org/economics-… AP Macroeconomics on Khan Academy: Welcome to Economics! In this lesson we’ll define Economic and introduce some of the fundamental tools and perspectives economists use to understand the world around us!
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