WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve's record-low interest rates have shrunk income for savers but cut costs for borrowers. Chairman Ben Bernanke is among the beneficiaries.
Bernanke's latest financial disclosure form, released Thursday, shows he refinanced his Washington home in 2011. He took out a 30-year mortgage with a fixed 4.25 percent rate, replacing one taken out in 2009 that carried a 5.375 percent rate.
Both mortgages were valued at between $500,000 and $1 million. The government requires top officials to estimate only ranges for their financial assets rather than an exact figure.
The Fed has held its key short-term interest rate at a record low near zero since December 2008. It's also pursued unconventional programs to try to lower long-term rates and boost the U.S. economy after the worst recession since the Great Depression.
In his disclosure documents, Bernanke's assets outside of his home were estimated to range between $1.1 million and $2.3 million. That was unchanged from last year.
Bernanke's choices for his personal finances run mainly to no-frills investments that emphasize safety such as annuities and U.S. Treasury securities. He did have between $1,000 and $15,000 in a stock mutual fund – the Vanguard International Growth Fund, the filing showed.
As in past years, Bernanke's largest holdings were two annuities managed by TIAA-CREF. Both are part of a retirement plan he set up while teaching at Princeton University. One is a fixed annuity plan, the other a variable annuity.
An annuity provides an investor with a series of regular payments. With a fixed annuity, the payments don't vary. With a variable annuity, payments can fluctuate depending on the performance of the underlying investment.
The value of each annuity was estimated at between $500,000 and $1 million. Bernanke earned between $30,000 and $100,000 combined from the two annuities last year.
Bernanke also earned money from royalties from two college textbooks he wrote. The earnings from one were estimated at between $50,000 and $100,000, the other at between $100,000 and $1 million. This was the largest amount he received last year outside his Fed salary. His salary this year totals $199,700, the same as earned by a Cabinet secretary.
The government also released disclosure forms for the other officials on the seven-member Fed board. This group, along with the heads of Fed's 12 regional banks, take part in the meetings eight times a year in which interest rate policies are set.
According to documents released as part of his Senate confirmation, the richest member of the Fed board is Jerome Powell, a former private equity executive. Powell, along with former Harvard professor Jeremy Stein, took office as Fed board members this year after being nominated by President Barack Obama.
Powell, who once worked at investment bank Dillon Read & Co. and also the Carlyle Group, had investments that ran into the tens of millions of dollars, the disclosure forms showed. Those investments were detailed in a disclosure filing that ran to 196 pages.
By contrast, Bernanke's 2011 disclosure form totaled seven pages.