More interest rate cuts likely

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has suggested he's entertaining the thought of more interest rate cuts. He says that cuts are possible this year to help the housing downturn and problems in the credit market.

What does that mean for you? Well "interest rate cuts" don't directly affect consumers. When the Federal Reserve talks about a cut, they're talking about the rate at which banks lend money to one another overnight. All day long the banks are cashing checks and taking in deposits, and at the end of the day they have to settle up between themselves. At night, some banks are short on cash and some have extra. The Federal Reserve determines the rate at which they will loan money to each other overnight. That's what rate we're talking about.

But even though the "interest rate cut" doesn't affect consumers directly, it affects them indirectly.... and you can benefit! You will typically see consumer lending rates go down when "the rate" goes down. Most likely, those of you with a home equity line with a variable interest rate will see a drop in your rate. Those who are looking to refinance debt may likely see lower rates from banks and mortgage brokers. So if you're a borrower, you should be happy to see that your rates could go down a bit this year.

Now if you're a saver, a drop in the interest rate actually hurts you, because the rates on your savings account and money market will probably go down. Sorry. There are always winners and losers in the consumer finance game. Don't let it stop you from saving though. You may need those funds for a rainy day.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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