Barry Glassman, CFP

Barry Glassman, CFP®

His vision for starting GWS was to deliver investment strategies and wealth management services typically available at the highest levels of wealth. Today, clients benefit from these sophisticated financial services targeted to meet their unique needs.

Barry Glassman, CFP talks to Mark Miller of Reuters about how rising interest rates could yield a big change in retirement security.

Will higher interest rates save retirement for seniors?

The recent bond market rout may be bad news for bond investors and anyone planning to refinance a mortgage anytime soon. And it’s certainly not what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had in mind when the Fed launched its massive $600 billion bond-buying spree.But if the trend toward higher interest rates continues, it will be very good news for retirees starved for low-risk return on their portfolios.

Ultra-low interest rates have helped banks, corporations and government to stabilize in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, but they’ve been nothing but bad news for retirees. People living on fixed incomes have been forced to cut expenses, eat into principle or rely on higher-risk fixed income investments or stocks.

The problem isn’t limited to interest rates. The erosion of traditional defined benefit pensions means that just 20 percent of private sector workers can count on monthly pension income. And Social Security is replacing a smaller percentage of income due to the increasing full retirement age implemented in 1983, rising Medicare Part B premium deductions and more Social Security income is subject to income tax.

Inflation also poses a big threat to retirees. Social Security hasn’t paid a cost-of-living adjustment for the past two years and its formula doesn’t recognize the higher rates of medical inflation experienced by seniors. Near-zero interest rates on money market funds and certificates of deposit exacerbate inflation’s impact.

But rising rates could yield a big change in the outlook for retirement security. Barry Glassman, president of Glassman Wealth Services, thinks that’s just where we’re headed. “We’re coming to an end, in the near term, of the Fed artificially keeping rates low. And high deficits mean the supply of debt from the government won’t stop – but demand from the Fed to buy it will. “That means we’ll see interest rates heading higher – not into the stratosphere, but a plateau higher than we’re at today. It could take 18 to 24 months, or it could happen in six months.”

Glassman argues that “retirement could be saved for a lot of people” if long-term certificates of deposit get to five percent sometime in the two years. “If retirees can earn 5 percent with very low risk, that will be very competitive with a higher-risk option like stocks. At that interest rate, there will be a huge wave of demand from retirees who will want to lock in at that rate for 10 years. They’ll take money out of money markets and the stock market to do it.”

If Glassman is right, this could represent a huge shift in the investment landscape as the baby boomer age wave accelerates and demand for low-risk investments accelerate. As Glassman puts it: “Five percent is the new eight percent.”

What will higher rates mean for housing? Not much, Glassman argues. He thinks most people who can refinance their mortgages already have done so. And the government can’t keep rates at ultra-low levels indefinitely in hopes that housing will recover. “Housing’s recovery will be much more sensitive to employment than interest rates,” he says. “Getting the jobless rate down will do more for housing than anything else.”

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