Maybe I'm crazy, but looking at historical rates on certificates of deposit gives me the same vicarious thrill as the food magazines lining the checkout stand at the grocery store.
Both leave me feeling a little dazzled, and I'm only slightly more likely to whip up something on the cover of "Bon Appetit" than I am to find a one-year CD yielding more than 8 percent. Which is to say, neither are going to happen anytime soon. But one of them has happened before.
In October 1983, when Bankrate first started keeping track, the average one-year CD came with a 9.95 percent rate.
Bankrate began tracking the five-year CD rate and yield in 1984. At that time, the average one-year CD came with a dizzying 9.59 percent rate, the average yield was 9.86 percent and the five-year yield was 11.01 percent.
You can see by this chart that CD rates have only gone downhill since the decade that brought us "Knight Rider" and "Garbage Pail Kids." And truthfully … hasn't everything else?
Why were rates so high in the '80s?
CD rates were high 30 years ago for the same reason they're low today -- inflation, specifically the Federal Reserve's perception of inflation. The '80s came along at the tail end of skyrocketing costs between 1965 and 1980. "The annual reported rate of consumer price increase rose from 1.07 percent in January 1965 to 13.70 percent in March 1980, before declining in 1983. Measured inflation only reached its local trough of 1.12 percent in December 1986," Allen Meltzer wrote in a 2005 paper published in the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review.
As you can imagine, the cost of borrowing was pretty high back then as well. Low CD rates stink for savers -- but at least the federal funds rate isn't 20 percent, as it was briefly in 1980 and 1981.
Did you buy CDs in the '80s? I was busy buying the aforementioned Garbage Pail Kids cards then.
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