Frustrated by the fact that your savings account isn’t paying you any interest? It could be worse. Imagine putting $10,000 into your savings account, getting no interest and you have to pay the bank $60 per year in addition to any bank fees. No longer does the bank pay you, rather you pay the bank for the privilege of lending them your money.
It’s called negative interest rates and the concept is catching on in other parts of the world as an extreme attempt to grow their economy. Over 7 trillion dollars worth of government bonds have been sold worldwide with yields below zero. This is a new tool for central banks to shore up their struggling economy. The problem is that it’s unproven. There aren’t many, if any, cases of negative interest rates being used by world economies up until now. No one knows what the unintended consequences will be from using this kind of policy. At $7 trillion, this is one giant global experiment!
These aren’t small emerging markets experimenting with this policy. Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, and Japan currently have negative interest rates. So does the European Central Bank. Janet Yellen, the US Fed Chair, has not ruled out the use of negative interest rates in the future and several other countries are in the process of making interest rates negative.
So what’s the appeal? Imagine being paid to borrow money. Would you rather pay $10,000 upfront for a new roof or pay $9,500 for a new roof spread over several years? If you thought 0% loans to buy a new car was enticing, imagine how many cars would be sold if it became cheaper to take out a loan than to pay upfront. The purpose is to punish savers and encourage spending and investing, by both consumers and businesses
A grand and global experiment is occurring right now, one that every economist in the world is trying to understand.