As has been our family’s tradition for nearly two decades, we spent last weekend on Mackinac Island. It was certainly a very busy place to relax, thanks to the invasion of the Republicans, their famous dignitary, and his Secret Service detail.
Our main event is a family bike ride around the island. And, since we’ve always had a young child (or three or four) along for the ride, a stop at the half-way point for an ice cream cone is required. Denying them, for any reason, just doesn’t feel like an option!
This year’s ride struck me as especially relevant to today’s economic situation. Our whole weekend felt under threat of rain, but enough pockets of sun peeked through to keep us optimistic. It felt a bit like watching the global economy stumble while ours grinds forward.
Our weekend plans, similar to the way business leaders, consumers and central bankers feel today, were somewhat impacted by the weather forecast. Just like the Fed did last week with their second straight interest rate cut, we decided to plow ahead with our predetermined plans and mounted our bikes.
A debate has been going on for years about how the Fed and other global central bankers will deal with the next recession. In a world of super-low interest rates and super-large budget deficits, the fear is the traditional tools of interest rate cuts and fiscal stimulus will be unavailable next time around. All that would remain would be the unconventional tool of quantitative easing and, possibly, even the untested tool of negative interest rates.
While the forecast is still uncertain, the future is fast approaching and the debate is growing more intense. Like children with thoughts of ice cream dancing in their heads, investors don’t typically sit around waiting for rate cuts. They often act up and force the action. So, the Fed is now pedaling around the island, too, and investors have a strong hunch about where they are going to stop.
As we approached the halfway point, our youngest knew we’d stop. It’s what we always do. We placed our ice cream orders just as we heard the thunder in the distance. Moments after we took our first licks, the rest of our family didn’t even hesitate and hopped back on their bikes.
After our ice cream bliss, and as the dark clouds grew closer, we finally headed back. Of course, the rain arrived immediately, and the cold wind began to really hit us in the face. As the Fed likely feels today, we weren’t at all dressed appropriately. And, just as the Fed so obviously wants for investors, even if it’s not their mandated purpose, all I wanted was to be a hero for my kid!
Wet and cold and pedaling uncomfortably fast, it was then that my daughter delivered her piercing wisdom, “Hey Dad, sometimes ice cream isn’t worth it!” It really made me wonder if the Fed was listening.
Jason P. Tank, CFA is both the owner of Front Street Wealth Management, a purely fee-only advisory firm and the founder of the Money Series, a non-profit program committed to providing open-access to financial education, for all. Contact him at (231) 947-3775, by email at Jason@FrontStreet.com and at www.FrontStreet.com