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Friday, November 28, 2008

This Is A “Fill In The Blanks” Financial Crisis. Now It’s Time To Fill In Your Blanks.

The Great BailoutIn the following article, we invite you to just fill in the blanks where you see parentheses. Fill in each blank with any old Bank and see what you get:

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Banks Have Their Backs Covered. Who’s Got Yours?

On [just pick a date], the Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, the US President, and Congress agreed to give [Big Name Bank] 300 [Billions or Trillions, take your pick] Dollars in tax payer money, so [Big Name Bank] could buy [Bank About to Fail] for 1 Billion. For those who didn’t know, [Bank About to Fail], one of Wall Streets largest and best known investment bank was bankrupt. [Bank About to Fail] owed more debt than it had in value. Sounds familiar. Kinda' sounds like many people in Foreclosure. Actually, it also sounds like many homeowners not in foreclosure, who have a mortgage loan greater than the value of their home. Just like many ordinary people who have more debt than cash. But I digress. [Bank About to Fail] was in financial trouble because they were worth nothing on paper. So we heard in the news “[Bank About to Fail] must be saved.” Why? “Because if [Bank About to Fail] went under than the whole financial system could have fallen apart. “COULD HAVE”. The stock market “would have” plunged. Big investors “would have” lost lot’s of money. There “would have” been a world crises.

Now let’s think about their bailout logic, one more time. This is my take:

First: [Bank About to Fail] was about to file for bankruptcy because…THEY WERE REALLY BANKRUPT!!.

Second: The Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, the US President, and Congress determined that if [Bank About to Fail] does fail we will have a World Wide Financial Crises.

Third: The Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, the US President, and Congress “saves the day” by essentially GIVING [Big Name Bank] [Billions or Trillions, take your pick] of DOLLARS OF TAXPAYER MONEY so [Big Name Bank] could buy [Bank about to Fail] for 1 BILLION.

Fourth: The Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, the US President, Congress, [Big Name Bank], [Bank About to Fail] and All the Kings Men shake hands, hug, pat each other on the back, exclaim “JOB WELL DONE” b/c the WORLD DID NOT DESCEND INTO FINANCIAL CHAOS.

Do you see what just happened? What does it mean?

No# 1 : There are certain people and businesses TOO IMPORTANT to let go Bankrupt even WHEN BANKRUPT.

No# 2 : The Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, the US President, and Congress DO NOT NEED YOUR PERMISSION to give taxpayer money away to a BANKRUPT BUSINESS.

No# 3 : The Threat of a World Wide Financial Crises is a REALLY GOOD EXCUSE.

No# 4 : It doesn’t take a genius to figure out WHO GOT ALL THE MONEY.

No# 5 : The employees of [Bank about to Fail], who saw the value of their IRA’s or pensions drop because their [Bank about to Fail’s] stock tanked, WATCHED their MONEY they PAY IN TAXES given to…Well let’s say it WAS not given to them to SAVE THEIR IRA’s or PENSIONS.

Truth be told, it is entirely possible that had [Bank about to Fail] actually failed, there would have been a financial crises. It is equally true that if [Bank about to Fail] actually failed, there would NOT have been a financial crises. As is everything in life that could have been, WE WILL NEVER KNOW.

So the rules are made and when things get BAD there is only one Sheriff in town and that Sheriff has friends to protect.

This is history repeating itself over and over. DO FOR YOUR FRIENDS AS YOU WOULD DO FOR YOURSELF. There are those who claim that the bail out of [Bank about to Fail] created a “moral hazard” because [EVERY SINGLE BANK] will take even more risks and ask for even more bailouts because the Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, the US President, and Congress will cover their behind.

And cover their behind they have. For the first time in history, the Federal Reserve allowed Wall Street Investment banks to borrow money from the Fed at a discount (window). For the first time in history, investment banks can become commercial banks. For the first time in history, the Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, the US President, and Congress can hand out TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS of YOUR MONEY without telling YOU where it is going.

It doesn’t end there, the Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, the US President, and Congress gave [Big Name Banks] Treasury Bills (your money) in exchange for [Big Name Banks] worthless collateralized paper. YOUR MONEY FOR BAD PAPER. The paper that consists of collateral debt obligations, sub-prime mortgage backed securities, alt-a mortgage backed securities, credit card backed securities, auto loan backed securities…and the BAD PAPER list goes on and on and on…..

It all boils down to one thing. When it all hits the fan, the BIG NAME BANKS’ Peoples get together, handle their business and do what is necessary to keep their stuff together.

The question for you is “Will Your Peoples Come together, When it starts to get BAD”. It’s time to fill in your blanks.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is 5.00% APY On A 3-Year CD A Good Deal Right Now?

stock market crashWith all the chaos in the American banking system going on right now, consumers across the country are looking to for the safest place to store and grow their hard-earned dollars. The stock market crashed last week, with double-digit declines for each of the 3 major indexes. Though American equities regained some ground today, we are still dealing with a serious bear market. From the Prime Rate website:

"...Since closing with record highs on October 9, 2007, the DJIA has now lost 5,713.34 points (40.336%), while the S&P 500 Index has declined by 665.93 points (42.547%). The record high for the DJIA is 14,164.53; for the S&P 500 Index it's 1,565.15..."
Most of us don't trade individual stocks on a regular basis, but most of us are linked to stocks by our retirement savings, like 401(k) and 403(b) plans. The waning stock market is especially bad news for those near retirement, as most portfolios have lost a lot of value this year.

I Am Grateful for The Conservative Ways of Credit Unions

Back in 2003, when the Federal Reserve dropped the fed funds target rate to 1.00%, which in turn caused the U.S. Prime Rate to drop to 4.00%, I was very interested in a credit card on offer from my credit union. The APR was 6.99% fixed, and the typical credit line for this particular Visa® card was $5,000. I wanted this card bad, not just because of the interest rate, but also because it was from my credit union, and I knew that the term and conditions associated with this card would be more consumer-friendly than any card on offer from any traditional bank.

When I applied for the card, my application was met with fierce resistance. My credit score wasn't that bad, but I was, and still am, self-employed, so my credit profile must have caused one or more red flags go up. The loan offcredit cardicer who reviewed my application asked for 2 years of tax returns and proof that I was making the money that I claimed I was making on the application. I submitted all the documentation they wanted (took about a week to fax it all), but, in the end, my application was rejected. I did not received a canned "dear john" letter from the credit union. The loan officer called me at my home and explained that the credit union could not approve my credit card application because I did not have enough collateral with them, i.e. I did not have enough cash on deposit. I was told that I could reapply at any time. That rejection was painful, but I understood: the best credit cards on offer from the best financial institutions will only go to consumers who are very secure financially. If I had around $5k in my saving or checking account, I probably would have been approved.

Play it very safe; lend conservatively; don't lend unless the member has been thoroughly vetted. It's because my credit union stuck by these principles that it has managed to avoid the financial ravages caused by the excesses of Wall Street investment banks and the debt associated with lending hundreds of thousands of dollars to first and second homeowners who couldn't afford the monthly payments. Wall Street banks like Citigroup® chased the 11%-13% returns promised by super risky mortgage-backed securities, and, when the subprime fiasco was unfolding last year, ended up paying 11% on a loan from the sovereign wealth fund owned by oil-rich Abu Dhabi. Bottom line: Citi® was relegated to subprime borrower status because they got sloppy and too greedy. They were, in essence, issued an 11% APR subprime credit card by a foreign government that makes unbelievable sums of money for doing next to nothing. How's that for irony?

Is 5.00% APY On A 3-Year CD A Good Deal Right Now?

Right now, financial institutions are really into Certificates of Deposit (CD's),credit union CD rates as evidenced by the high yields being offered these days. A week ago, my credit union was offering -- and they were pushing this offer very hard -- a generous 5.00% APY on a 3-year CD (CD's are called Share Certificates at credit unions), which may seem kinda' weird, because, as you can see in the screen capture image I've posted to the right, the rates on offer for 42 and 60 months are lower. Should be: the longer you let them hold your money, the better the interest rate you get, right?

The target rate at which most healthy American banks and credit unions can borrow overnight funds from each other via the Federal Reserve -- the target fed funds rate -- was lowered to 1.50% last Wednesday, and is expected to be lowered again at the October 29 FOMC meeting. With all the turmoil in the credit markets, the Fed has allowed financial institutions to borrow vast sums at very low interest rates and for terms much longer than overnight[1][2][3]. But the prospect of locking in a rate of 5% for 3 years is very tempting for my credit union, because they know how rates are going to look about a year from now.

With all the money the Fed is dumping into the American and international banking systems, the price we'll all have to pay for the Fed delivering truckloads of cheap cash at the doorsteps of our bankssavings and nest egg is inflation. A lot of money is being dumped in an effort to loosen up frozen credit markets, and this will inevitably translate to high inflation down the road. The Fed will respond to runaway inflation by raising interest rates, no matter how anemic the economy is. Since all that money that'll be sloshing around in the economy is likely to cause inflation to accelerate at a fast clip, the fed funds target rate (FFTR) will likely be raised to a relatively high level. The median FFTR from 1990 to now is 4.5%; the average is 4.367%. Don't be surprised if the FFTR is 6.0% or higher 12 months from now.

So if my credit union can lock in 5% for 3 years, and the FFTR will go to 6.0% or higher within 12 months or so, then you can see that my credit union will have gained the advantage by the time the CD matures.

So, is investing in a 3-year CD @ 5.00% APY a good idea right now? Absolutely! But, if you can, go for a 12-month CD for now, or reserve as much cash as possible for next year. When the Fed ends the next cycle of raising the FFTR, I'm betting that you will be able to get even better returns with 3-5 Year CD's, so much better that I'm confident it'll be worth the wait.

Yes, I am grateful for my credit union. My Roth IRA has continued to grow despite all the nonsense going on in the banking system. And I'm confident that I have nothing to worry about.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

My Personal Economic Stimulus

With tax season here and Bush's economic stimulus check on it's way (one day), I can see myself buying lots of great things I might not otherwise purchase without a lump sum of money at my disposal.

I think we all have such daydreams -

However, when I come back to reality, I realize that such splurging would be unwise. My husband and I are going to revitalize our savings, take care of some small remaining debts, and then get some necessities for the kids. And maybe a nice meal at a swanky restaurant.

That's it.

Consumer borrowing is up, up, up, and the outlook is so bleak that the Fed is helping banks hit by the mortage lending crisis by auctioning fresh cash so that short term borrowing isn't disproportionately funded by credit card debt. Apparently, many of us are carrying even more credit card debt because home refinancing is down. Strapped for cash, people are just charging it.

However, those of us with growing families, good jobs, and businesses (home businesses, too) should do well during refund season, helping to bring balance back to our personal finances. We are going to be as responsible as we can with ours. That's an economic stimulus that will continue to pay off in the future.

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