It hasn’t even been 24 hours since Fed Chair Janet Yellen told Congress that the Federal Reserve may be closer than ever to hiking interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade, and already, there’s already been an uproar from the market in anticipation. The Washington Post reported that mortgage rates have surged as of Thursday morning due to talks of the possible Federal rate hike from Chair Yellen. Although economic and job growth has slowed recently, Yellen told the House Financial Services committee the economy is performing well. But a decision on whether to hoist rates at the Fed’s Dec. 15-16 meeting will depend on economic reports in coming weeks, she said.
While rates are most likely rising next month, this makes us question whether or not these changes will affect retirement in any adverse way. There’s some speculation that Federal Reserve doesn’t want Americans to retire, that they want to keep rates as low as they have to encourage spending, and deter saving in order to prolong retirement. While there might be some truth to that, it is far from the grand conspiracy that some claim it to be. And unfortunately, no one can say with certainty whether the effects of a hike will be mostly positive or negative until it happens. For those who hope to retire someday, that uncertainty is disconcerting at best.
When it comes to long-term debt, increased rates directly affects how much it costs banks to borrow from one another, and subsequently, to consumers, the cost of borrowing will also increase. For those who have say, a variable rate mortgage loan or are in the market to borrow money for a large purchase, the fed rate hike will make borrowing slightly more expensive. The best thing to do if you’re in either of those situations is to either lock in today’s low rates or work to eliminate potentially expensive debt that could eat away at retirement savings.
With equities, experts say that in preparation of a hike, that investors should do what’s called ‘sector rotation’ within portfolio and should think about selling some stocks from industries that perform well during falling rate environments, such as apparel, retail, construction, durable goods and autos, and buying stocks in industries that perform well during rising rate environments, such as energy, consumer goods, utilities, food and steel products.
Experts suggest that when it concerns bonds, investors should get out and look for safer options. The reason for this is because history shows when interest rates go up, bond values go down, and since most people use bonds to protect their money, when interest rates go up, bonds will no longer hold the title of safe. As the Fed begins to solidify its plans, retirement savers will need to move some of that money into other securities to offset the price drop.
Retirement savers should not be afraid when the Fed initiates its first interest rate hike in more than nine years. Our economy and markets have been through them many times before and weathered the storm. As always, asset allocation within your self-directed IRA, or 401K, and persistence remain the most important ingredients to retirement success.