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The FRED Blog turns 10!

Ten years ago, we started the FRED Blog with the idea that we could demonstrate the power of FRED, the intricacies of data, and the relevance of economics. At first, we weren’t sure there’d be an audience. But we developed our concept of starting with a FRED graph and telling a story about what it can (and sometimes cannot) reveal to us. After 966 posts, we’re still discovering new FRED stories to tell.

Our readers are curious about economic data, and they share FRED Blog stories in the classroom, include them in their economic news reporting, or discuss them on social media. We deeply appreciate our readers, who motivate us to continue for another decade. There’s much more to discover and discuss.

If you’re wondering which posts get the most attention, check out our top 10 over 10 years:

  1. What’s behind the recent surge in the M1 money supply? (2021)
  2. The Taylor Rule (2014)
  3. The puzzle of real median household income (2016)
  4. The price and weight of a bar of gold: Raise the bar at the St. Louis Fed’s Economy Museum (2020)
  5. Savings are now more liquid and part of “M1 money”: Regulation D has made savings deposits as convenient as currency (2021)
  6. Loan delinquency (2014)
  7. How to calculate the term premium: Measuring Treasuries to track yield curve inversions (2019)
  8. What’s the story with mortgage rates? Accounting for inflation’s effects (2022)
  9. New details on mortgage rates: What impact does a FICO score have? (2020)
  10. What’s up (or down) with the yield curve? Analyzing the new most-popular series in FRED

Keep in mind that older posts have had more time to accumulate readers. We also want to mention the 11th top post, which is from 2023: Was there a tech-hiring bubble? Indeed.com job postings data suggest so. Honorable mention goes to a post that was, by far, the most discussed on social media, although it barely makes the top 100 in readership: Turkey or Tofurkey? A protein price comparison for the Thanksgiving meal (2021).

Recent developments in bank deposits

What do banks do?

Banks serve as financial intermediaries between lenders and borrowers: Depositors, such as households, place their money in banks (i.e., make deposits). In turn, banks can lend this money to those who seek additional funds (i.e., make loans).

Most bank deposits are short term, in the form of checking and savings deposits. Depositors can withdraw money from their bank accounts at almost any time with little to no restriction. In other words, these bank liabilities are highly liquid.

How do banks safeguard their deposits?

To protect depositors’ money and their own financial stability in the case of unexpected and potentially large withdrawals, banks also need to hold liquid assets. Their most-liquid assets are bank reserves, which are funds that a bank deposits at the Federal Reserve.

A sufficient amount of bank reserves ensures banks can satisfy unexpected liquidity needs. So, the amount of bank reserves the banking sector holds depends on the level and composition of their deposits, including how liquid those deposits are.

What do the data show?

The FRED graph above shows the level and composition of bank deposits as a proportion of GDP:

  • Before the pandemic, total deposits were roughly 70% of GDP: 10% in checking and 60% in time and savings deposits.
  • At the onset of the pandemic, around the second quarter of 2020, total deposits jumped to 90.6% of GDP.
  • In the post-pandemic period, total deposits began to gradually decline to near pre-pandemic levels, reaching 73% of GDP by the third quarter of 2023.

The data also show that a decrease in the level of time and savings deposits is responsible for the overall decline in deposits. In fact, checking deposits have remained elevated since the pandemic, between 24% and 26% of GDP.

An increase in checking deposits relative to time and savings deposits changes the liquidity of banks’ liabilities. Savings accounts have withdrawal limits and time deposits have penalties for early withdrawals, so those deposits are slightly less liquid than checking deposits. Despite the similarity in the overall level of bank deposits, the change in the composition of deposits may lead to banks to hold more bank reserves compared with pre-pandemic periods.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for and select “Private Depository Institutions; Total Time and Savings Deposits; Liability, Level.” Using the blue sliding bar at the bottom of the graph, or the date entry box in the top right-hand corner, adjust the timespan to your desired date range. To customize the data, go to the “Edit Graph” section (orange button in the top right-hand corner). Begin by adding a series to your existing series and create a customized formula to transform or combine additional series. In this case, add “Gross Domestic Product” and use the formula a/(1000*b). Repeat for the series “Private Depository Institutions; Checkable Deposits; Liability, Level.” The third and final line (green) follows a similar process and is calculated as the total between lines one (blue) and two (red).

Suggested by YiLi Chien and Ashley Stewart.

Assets and liabilities of younger vs. older households

New insights from the Research Division

The FRED Blog has discussed recent research from Yu-Ting Chiang and Mick Dueholm at the St. Louis Fed about how household liability-to-income ratios changed between 1995 and 2019. Today we showcase another piece of their research that answers the following question: Does the age of the head of the household impact the value of their liabilities relative to their assets?

The short answer is “yes.” Older households hold substantially more assets than liabilities than younger households because they have had more time to pay off debts and accrue savings.

The longer answer is also “yes,” but with a caveat. Read on to learn more about it.

The FRED graph above shows data from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on the total value of assets and liabilities held by all US households between 1998 and 2022. The value of the liabilities has been divided by the value of the assets to observe their relative growth more easily. That liabilities-to-assets ratio peaked in 2009.

The work by the two St. Louis Fed researchers finds that, between 1953 and 2019, both older and younger households experienced faster growth in liabilities than in assets, but they did so at varying rates. The liabilities-­to-assets ratio of the young grew 21 percentage points (from 0.41 to 0.62) and the ratio of the old grew 5 percentage points (from 0.13 to 0.18). These changes are possibly driven by the increase in life expectancy and the aging of the population since the 1950s.

For more about this and other research, visit the website of the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which offers an array of economic analysis and expertise provided by our staff.

How this graph wase created: Search FRED for “Households; Total Liabilities, Level.” Next, click the “Edit Graph” button and use the “Add Line” tab to search for and add “Households; Total Assets, Level.” Last, type the formula a/b and click on “Apply.”

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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