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Finance: What do low interest rates mean for you?

The debt ceiling ... the U.S. Loses its triple A credit rating ... Earthquakes on the East Coast  is the world coming to an end? Probably ... (not) but with all these recent anomalies it certainly feels like we are in the Twilight Zone. It has been almost 3 years since the Fed cut its key rate to almost zero. August 9th, the central bank said rates are likely to remain there until at least mid 2013. Even though that doesn’t bode well for the stock market’s prognosis in the future, there are some pros and cons.

The benefits may not flow so easily. Consumers are showing few signs of wanting to borrow, bank and insurance companies profits are most likely going to suffer and with the stock market sliding, pensions and 401ks face years of low returns. For consumers, low rates mean cheap loans for everything from a new home to a new car. For the many baby boomers nearing the end of their working lives, low rates also deliver meager returns on fixed income investments. With the stock market well below it’s 2007 highs, that is going to be particularly painful.