If you want to finance a big purchase like a car or wedding in 2024, don’t expect to get much of a break on interest rates.
The Federal Reserve didn’t announce any additional interest rate hikes when it met Wednesday, but it did change its forecast for 2024.
The Fed now expects its benchmark federal funds rate to close out 2024 at an effective rate of 5.1%, which is higher than its June forecast of 4.6%. That means that borrowing costs for loans, auto financing and credit cards will remain pretty much the same through 2024, as the current effective rate is 5.33%.
If you’re already struggling to cover credit card payments or other loans, avoid taking on more debt in 2024, says Eric Croak, certified financial planner and president of Croak Capital. Instead, focus on paying down high-interest debt, especially credit cards, if you can.
“Not all debt is created equal, and credit card debt is by far the worst,” he says.
Since the Fed started raising interest rates in March 2020, the average interest rate for credit cards has climbed from 16% to nearly 21%, according to Bankrate data. That’s “loan shark territory,” Barry Glassman, a certified financial planner and member of CNBC’s Advisor Council, previously told CNBC.
Aside from paying down high-interest debt, you should have a good idea of how much your monthly debt payments are and how those might change, especially if you have debt that comes with adjustable or variable rates.
Anything with an adjustment rate “will get hit the hardest” when it renews, especially if you were used to lower interest rates, says Croak. This could include credit cards, but also mortgages, student loans, home equity lines of credit and personal loans.
For instance, the monthly payment for a $400,000 mortgage would increase by about $500 if the interest rate were to increase from 5% to 7%.
Identifying adjustable-rate loans before they renew at a higher rate will allow you to plan ahead, either by cutting expenses or avoiding new loans.
Take advantage of increased savings rates, too
On the plus side, cash is back, so to speak: Rising interest rates have increased the annual percentage yield for high-yield savings accounts from near-zero to about 5%. Rates on one-year certificates of deposit are also decent, paying over 5%. (Check out these lists of the best CD rates and the best high-yield savings accounts from CNBC Select.)
With savings accounts offering improved interest rates, consider topping up your emergency fund “if you haven’t done so already,” says Jonathan Swanburg, a CFP in Houston.
The cash equivalent of three to six months of expenses is commonly recommended to help you avoid covering unexpected costs with increasingly expensive credit card debt.
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