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Raising interest rates is the quickest way to move the economy forward

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139445633 e2fabef491 m Raising interest rates is the quickest way to move the economy forward
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Suppose you buy a valuable piece of art for $15,000.  Further suppose that a month later a major economic slowdown occurs and as a result, the amount of money art buyers are paying drops substantially.  Perhaps today, if you wanted to sell the art, you might be able to sell the painting for $10,000.  If you intended to sell the painting, what would you do?  Most likely, you would try to wait for the market to correct and try to recoup the initial investment.  You aren’t motivated to sell the piece of art.  It’s not costing you anything not to sell it, so why not hang on to it.

But what if you bought that piece of art on credit?  Even at a relatively good interest rate of 5 percent, you would still be losing over $60 a month in interest and spending about $300 per month in total payments.  Having that piece of art costs you money every month.  In this case, you are much more motivated to sell the art for $10,000.

However, what if you had a credit card that carried zero interest (or in the range of 0 to 0.25%) and if you can borrow money on that card at will without fees.  In this case, you are not losing substantial money to interest and you can borrow more money whenever cash flow gets tight.  In this case, your debt no longer pressures you to move the problem forward.  Although the market has priced your painting at $10,000, you are behaving as if it is still worth $15,000.  You are arguably denying or deferring reality. 

Now I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with this delusion.  Everyone can bury their head in the sand, but these people should be penalized to clinging to delusions.  But these days, banks do not feel the pinch.

In a market correction, asset holders need to substantially mark down the price of their assets to get them sold.  In a macroeconomic sense this is called “finding the bottom” where prices come down to a point where sufficient buyers are available to meet demand.  Once the market finds its bottom, new growth occurs. 

150x103 Raising interest rates is the quickest way to move the economy forward
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

For years now, banks have reaped the benefits of policy based on monetary theory.  After making loans to millions of people who couldn’t afford them, banks should have been suffering from huge cash flow issues due to the lack of payments and loss of principal on these assets.  However, since banks can borrow money at will from the Federal Reserve at essentially no cost to them, banks have plenty of cash to meet their needs.  Banks have little motivation to turn around their growing foreclosure inventories by reducing prices. 

Because of this false support of overvalued properties, real estate property values continue to fall, not in a quick fashion, but a slow laborious multi-year fashion. When the correction could have taken a year or two, real estate values are still falling.  Wise potential home buyers see this and are choosing not to buy.  It is important to note that record low mortgage rates also played a huge role in driving home sale prices up.  Home buyers realize that once interest prices do rise, there will be even more downward pressure on home prices. 

These phenomena add up to one conclusion, sellers are hesitant to sell and buyers are hesitant to buy.  Raising interest rates, though painful in the short term, may offer the best hope for escaping the economic holding pattern we’ve been in for years.

 Raising interest rates is the quickest way to move the economy forward
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56,000 Broken Promises

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“Things fall apart.  The center cannot hold.”  ~ William Butler Yeats

The economic downturn of 2008 through 2010 hit many people hard.  I would like to share with you a story of one way I was hurt through the downturn.

I have worked closely with real estate investors since 2005.  One of the tools real estate investors use frequently is private money, where one investor or pool of investors lends to others for the purpose of acquiring or fix up a new property.  Instead of going to a bank, these private loans are very useful in jumping on opportunities quickly.  In 2006 and 2007, I made three such loans.  For two of these loans I took advances from credit lines to increase my gains to partially fund the loans.  The third loan came from my individual retirement account.  All told, I lent a total of $56,000 of my and other people’s money.  Each of these investments are no longer performing.  The interest in one loan was exchange for property interest which may never pay me back any part of my investment.  The second loan was put into a business property.  A few months after the loan was made, the business owner started having difficulty and eventually turned over operation of the business to our investment group.  Unfortunately, the owner had eroded much of the value of the business prior to turning it over.  The business no longer has the necessary earnings to make loan payments to me.  It is unknown when this investment may ever start paying dividends.  Today, I learned that my third loan will be lost when the investor declares bankruptcy.

In each of these cases, I had chosen to lend to individuals with great reputations and in deals which looked to be fantastic based on reasonable assumptions.  Unfortunately, this downturn has been exceptional.  Each of these individuals has been either ruined or are treading water.  Each individual has broken a promise to me.  I have lost over $56,000 in principal, several thousands of dollars more in lost interest, and have been left with over $30,000 in debts that became my responsibility.

I cannot blame the others for the debts I had to assume.  I knew the risks involved.  But I am a man who knows statistics.  What are the odds that all of the investments go belly up?  The problem is that when the world goes upside down, chances are, all of them will go belly up and they do.

An unpaid debt is a broken promise.  Whenever such a promise is broken it often leads to the breaking of further promises.  When the income that was promised to me did not pan out, I was no longer able to keep the promises I made.  I have to live with that.  For a person who values integrity, few things hurt more than breaking your word.  It caused me untold amounts of personal pain and problems in my personal relationships.

Learning the lessons of financial responsibility too late put me in a position that I felt I had to put myself in a vulnerable position in order for me to get out from the mountain of debt and obligation that I had built for myself.    My poor decisions early in life set me up for unjustified financial risk taking later in life.  It took losing everything to give me a chance to start over.  I will do it right this time.   I have dedicated myself to help others avoid the challenges I made for myself.  As you read and follow my comments, know that the comments have been fashioned by hard times and difficult experiences.

 56,000 Broken Promises
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