Fed Chair Janet Yellen announced Dec. 16 that the central bank would raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade. Any further monetary tightening will be gradual and contingent on continued economic health, she explained, projecting that rates would rise 3 percentage points in three years. What should the average consumer make of all this economic commentary? Here’s who wins and loses.
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BAD FOR HOMEOWNERS
A modest one-time Fed rate increase won’t rock the housing market. But longer term, homeowners will likely feel hangover effects from years of easy money. Anyone with an adjustable-rate mortgage will eventually take a hit, would-be buyers won’t be able to stretch their budgets as far, and the upward trajectory of home prices since the housing crisis could stall out.
BAD FOR PEOPLE WITH CREDIT-CARD DEBT
Most credit-card interest rates move in lockstep with the Fed’s target–so get ready for your monthly minimum payment to tick up. The good news? If you’re paying the national average of 15% interest on a big credit-card debt, 15.25% isn’t much worse. But smart folks could use this early warning as a nudge to pay down their balance faster.
GOOD FOR SAVERS
Long-suffering savers, who have earned virtually zero interest on their bank deposits for years, welcomed the news with caution. It’ll take years for rates to rise appreciably, banks aren’t in a hurry to pass along the benefits to customers, and the Fed could reverse course in the meantime. Still, earning a modest return on savings accounts and CDs is better than next to nothing at all.
UNCLEAR FOR STOCK INVESTORS
Because the rate bump had been anticipated for months, stock prices mostly adjusted in advance. Historically, though, rising interest rates mean a falling equities market; stock valuations tend to fall 10% in the year after the hiking begins, according to Goldman Sachs. But the Fed’s move also signals a sunny economic outlook; if it’s right, stronger corporate earnings should follow.
This appears in the December 28, 2015 issue of TIME.