Whether you've recently retired or are nearing the point at which you're considering hanging up your work gloves for good, the current low-interest-rate environment probably isn't helping you feel more comfortable about your financial situation.
As you're probably aware, Americans aren't the best savers. According to the April readout from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, personal savings rates in the U.S. are just 5.4%, which means we need to be able to do as much as possible with what little we're saving relative to the rest of the developed world in order to hit our retirement goal. Unfortunately, low lending rates, which have been perpetuated by the Federal Reserve since late 2008, aren't helping. Even consumers with large amounts of cash are struggling to find money market accounts or CDs yielding much beyond 1%, meaning in many instances, even in today's low-inflation environment, people are losing real money by investing in interest-bearing assets.
Worse yet, even with the Federal Reserve in monetary tightening mode, the regulatory body may not have much room to maneuver. U.S. GDP growth has been subpar, global growth concerns from China and Europe remain, and inflation has been below the Fed's long-term target. These would all be signs that point toward a very cautious approach to lending rate hikes in the coming months, and even years. That's not great news for people in their 50s and 60s who had been counting on interest-based assets to be their income producers during retirement.
Yes, you can make money in a low-interest environment
But have no fear, because there are indeed ways to make money in a low-interest-rate environment beyond just interest-bearing assets. If you're in your 50s and 60s and sweating low lending rates, then consider these three potential money-making strategies.
1. Stick with dividend stocks and reinvest
Easily the smartest move you can make is investing in high-quality dividend stocks.
Dividend stocks offer investors a number of advantages. First, they act as a beacon for investors, alerting them to a company whose business model is so sound that it can regularly afford to share a percentage of its profits with its shareholders. Secondly, dividend payments can provide some peace of mind during stock market corrections, effectively lessening the pain of investors during inevitable market pullbacks. Most importantly, though, dividends can be reinvested back into more shares of stock, which can lead to even larger dividend payments in the future, and more shares of stock. This repeating cycle is known as compounding, and it's one of the best ways to generate real wealth over the long term.
It's also worth noting that over the long run dividend stocks tend to outperform companies that don't pay a dividend. This likely has to do with the business model stability and longevity of dividend-paying companies as compared to those that don't pay a dividend.
A commonly sought after company for investors in their 50s and 60s that can help them generate real wealth is telecom giant AT&T (NYSE:T). AT&T's current yield of 4.8% is more than double the current yield of the broad-based S&P 500, and also more than double the current rate of inflation, meaning real wealth is being created.
Fundamentally, AT&T's business model is rock-solid, with the wireless telecom industry having high barriers to entry -- it costs a lot of money to lay down the required infrastructure -- and its integrated services with the addition of DIRECTV providing a platform to encourage bundling and other streaming services. It's a company for pre-retirees and retirees to give serious consideration to in this low-interest environment.
2. Don't forget about growth stocks
Secondly, investors in their 50s and 60s would be wise to consider growth stocks, which in some cases have been able to use low lending rates to their advantage.
The entire purpose of the Fed keeping lending rates low is to encourage economic growth by making borrowing costs cheaper. Low lending rates allows businesses the opportunity to hire new workers, put more money into research and development, or expand inorganically by purchasing complementary companies or product lines. If a company can use these borrowings wisely, they may be set up for superior growth over the next 5-to-10 years.
A good example here is biotechnology giant Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG), which used debt to help finance its purchase of Receptos for $7.2 billion in 2015. Receptos' lead product is ozanimod, a next-generation treatment for multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis that could bring in anywhere from $4 billion to $6 billion in peak annual sales if approved. Celgene already has the extremely dominant multiple myeloma drug Revlimid in its portfolio, and the Receptos purchase was a smart way of diversifying its revenue stream.
Additionally, Celgene has more than 30 ongoing collaborations, many of which have substantial milestone payments attached if the drugs being studied succeed. Debt could be used to finance these milestone payments. In turn, Celgene has found a way to essentially outsource some of its R&D such that it spends its money only on the most promising pipeline candidates. With double-digit percentage growth expected throughout the remainder of the decade, Celgene could be worth serious consideration.
3. Brand-name stocks can deliver big rewards
Finally, investors in their 50s and 60s shouldn't overlook the value and safety associated with investing in large, brand-name companies. Brand-name companies often have fairly loyal customers; and loyal customers are important to ensuring strong cash flow generation in both an expanding or contracting economy. These are companies that can sometimes be described as boring, but boring business models tend to allow you to sleep well at night.
A perfect example here would be retailing giant Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), which can attract cost-conscious consumers in a contracting economy, and can benefit from discretionary spending in an expansive economy. Wal-Mart's deep pockets and sheer size allow it to remain cost-competitive with nearly all retailers, and it can use its clout to ensure that it's buying product for its warehouse stores at the best possible price, thus maintaining reasonably high margins.
Wal-Mart is also using its brand-name to offer new services to its loyal customers. Wal-Mart launched its GoBank checking account services nearly two years ago, and also began offering auto insurance online in 2014. In other words, Wal-Mart is effectively making its stores and website a one-stop shop for its customers, proving the value of its brand. Companies with strong brand value often make for solid long-term investments.