Money – Pink Floyd or The O’Jays?

Pink Floyd said “it’s a gas”. The O’Jays called it “Mean Green”. Either way, it occupies a fair amount of my thinking these days. Why? Because Olson Family south is currently in a time of transition, making a host of decisions that ultimately will involve The Mean Green gas.

What are we talkin’ about here? Selling the Tallahassee house is pending, closing later this month. At the moment, per Zillow, our home is the only decent one on the market in Jupiter Farms with five acres. There’s a few that are a bit smaller; a couple of ten acre parcels too, but not with a very nice house. Either way, big money.

So there is a contemplation of moving to Maryland. Kiernan and I have developed some criteria for the new location, featuring a room for her ‘squishies’ (stuffed critters) and lots of outdoor amenities. I want to be near history. Shouldn’t be that hard to fill the bill, right?

Then there’s the ‘bigger picture’ of things economic. A few people in the know are commenting about the situation with Treasury bonds, which are currently yielding all time high interest rates. Why? Opinions differ, but it’s econ 101: more offerings than there are takers. According to some, global investor attention has shifted to some Japanese offerings, amidst fear of American hegemony and dysfunction in DC. Whaa?

Here’s the thing. Apparently sanctions have finally pissed off – nay, frightened off government investors who worry about American use of sanctions as they pertain to Treasury bill investments. They also look at the shenanigans going on in the House of Reps, likely about to cause a government shutdown with accompanying potential credit downgrade. All of these factors combine with the fact that the Fed is flooding the market with their QE holdings. Whaa again?

QE is short for quantitative easing, a way for the Fed to stimulate the economy. For many years, particularly during the “Helicopter Ben” era, the Fed bought US debt as a way to keep prices high and interest rates low – good for the government, good for the American economy. Supply and demand. Well, now Jer Powell has reversed course, and is selling back to investors same said bonds – now called QT, or quantitative tightening. Putting more debt for purchase out there means the prices go down, and guess what happens then? The yield – the percentage value of the bond – goes up.

Ten year Treasuries are what most consumer debt is tied to in terms of rates. So increasing interest rates should have a dampening effect on inflation in the US – what Jer thinks is a good idea right now. But is he wrong, and is this going to have a negative effect for quite some time? Some say yes; some say it’s temporary. Only time will tell.

In the interim, we are going to refinance our mortgage here from an expiring adjustable rate to a high, fixed rate. Does that make economic sense? Not particularly. It only makes sense from a cash flow perspective, which is what is needed at the moment. Why?

Here’s the deal. It all boils down to a few questions. How long will we live? How much of an estate will we leave our children? It’s the same conundrum that plagues many families these days. What is my priority? Making the smartest choices for both the short and the long term. Is that possible? If you’ve got a crystal ball, how about getting it out now, polishing it up and letting me know what interest rates will look like in twelve to twenty four months. That will provide the answer to that question.

But if we take a step back and look at the mess the world is in today, it gives a different perspective. Interest rate discussions are like discussions about the judiciary in Israel right now. Secondary to the fact that Hamas has breached the wall, taken prisoners and is now holding the entirety of the country hostage. Yeah, I know, we just made a big segue, but it actually illustrates my point. You worry about the small stuff until the big stuff bites you in the ass.

I think, for now, we won’t do anything. How’s that for a smart choice?

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