We Fools don't suffer Ben Bernanke much, if at all.
Some days he's destroying the financial system. Other days he needs a chill pill. Still others he's a bail bondsman. To read our site is to wonder if the Harvard-trained economist is, well, a moron.
But of course he isn't.
Don't get me wrong. My Foolish colleagues have a point; risk does need to be repriced, and with the current crisis, there are only two ways for that to occur -- either through higher interest rates or lower asset prices. For now, asset prices are taking the beating.
How about a little gratitude?
Yet we Fools who have a little debt -- OK, a lot of debt -- owe Bernanke a thank-you. Sooooo ... thanks Ben. I appreciate the relief.
Unsure of what I'm talking about? Let's cover three ways to take advantage of the Fed's gift right now.
- Cheaper equity. Home equity lines of credit are often pegged to short-term interest rates. Specifically, when the Fed lowers its overnight lending rate to banks, HELOC rates should follow. Yet mortgage lenders such as Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM ) and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) are sometimes slow to react -- they'd rather you paid more, not less, interest. Don't stand for it.
- Cheaper credit. If mortgage lenders are lazy, card issuers such as Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , American Express (NYSE: AXP ) , and Citigroup (NYSE: C ) are even worse. There's a good reason for that; as lending rates fall, the spread between lending and borrowing rates increases and, thereby, aids profits. But that's a gimmick and you needn't tolerate it, especially if you have decent credit.
- Cheaper goods. Interest rates have fallen to the point where 0% balance transfer offers have become available. That's a boon to those who have debt. But what about those who don't? Home improvement can be done on the cheap, thanks to firms such as Citigroup, which will mail you a check to take advantage of a 0% deal. Cash it, buy that new dishwasher, and then deposit the cash you would have used to pay off the appliance into a high-yield savings account. Collect the interest till the debt comes due.
Believe it or not, deals like these aren't hard to find. Not if you use an online service such as Mint.com, which presents you with money-saving opportunities as it helps you track transactions the way Quicken and Microsoft Money do. (Free access to Mint is available here.)
Mint not your flavor? No problem. Our savings center features plenty of ideas for how to put your money to work. And our credit center can be a life vest for those drowning in a sea of credit card bills. Both resources, like Mint, are 100% free.
Bernanke has been anything but perfect. He's even been punk'd. But there's no denying that, for average, debt-dunked Fools like me, cheaper is better when it comes to borrowed money.
Thanks again, Ben.
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