Today’s forecast: yield-starved investors forced into the market by seemingly permanent low interest rates will continue to be collateral damage. For some, that collateral damage may involve more than the loss of income opportunities… many could be wiped out completely.
I asked the participants in a discussion group: “If there were safe, fixed-income opportunities available paying 5-7%, would you move a major portion of your portfolio out of the market?”
They all answered a resounding, “Absolutely.”
Participants relying on their nest eggs for retirement income said they felt forced into the market for yield. Their retirement projections weren’t based on 2% yields, the rough rate now available on fixed-income investments. They’d planned on 6% or so. What other choice do they have now?
The Federal Reserve knows seniors and savers are collateral damage. Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has openly acknowledged that the Fed’s low-interest-rate policy is designed to prompt savers to take more chances with riskier investments. In their book Code Red, authors John Mauldin and Jonathan Tepper shine a harsh light on that policy, writing:
Central banks want people to take their money out of safe investments and put them into risky investments. They call it the “portfolio balance channel,” but you could call it “starve people for yield and they’ll buy anything.”
I have to agree with Mauldin and Tepper.
The collateral damage inflicted upon seniors and savers is twofold. First, it’s the loss of safe income opportunities. The Fed’s low-interest-rate policies have saved banks and the government an estimated $2 trillion in interest alone. $2 trillion added to the balances of 401(k) and IRA accounts would sure bolster a lot of desperate retirement plans.
But there’s no sign the Fed will reverse its low-interest-rate policies in the foreseeable future. So, yield-starved investors, including throngs of baby boomers maturing into retirement age each day, play the market and risk their nest eggs in the process.
The Federal Reserve has succeeded in forcing savers to take billions of dollars out of fixed-income investments to hunt for better yields. Take a look at the chart below showing the S&P 500’s performance since 2004. The Index has almost tripled since its 2009 bottom. There hasn’t been a major correction in well over 1,000 days.
When the bubble burst in 2007, the S&P took a 57% drop. I had friends just entering retirement who suffered