What is 'Easy Money'

Easy money, in academic terms, denotes a condition in the money supply. Easy money occurs when the U.S. Federal Reserve allows cash flow to build up within the banking system as this lowers interest rates and makes it easier for banks and lenders to loan money. Therefore, borrowers can acquire money more easily from lenders.

BREAKING DOWN 'Easy Money'

Easy money occurs when a central bank wants to make money flow between banks more easily thanks to lower interest rates. When banks have access to more money, interest rates to customers go down because banks have more money they want to invest. The Federal Reserve typically lowers interest rates and eases monetary policy when the agency wants to stimulate the economy and lower the unemployment rate. The value of securities often initially rises during periods of easy money, when money is less expensive. But if this trend continues long enough, it can eventually reverse due to fear of inflation. Easy money is also known as cheap money, easy monetary policy and expansionary monetary policy.

Inflation

The Federal Reserve must carefully weigh any decisions to raise or lower interest rates based on inflation. If an easy monetary policy may cause inflation, banks might keep interest rates higher to compensate for increased costs of goods and services. Borrowers might be willing to pay higher interest rates because inflation reduces the amount of a currency's value. A dollar does not buy as much during inflation, so the lender may not reap as much profit compared to a time of low inflation.

How Easy Money Works

An easy monetary policy may lead to lowering the reserve ratio in banks. This means banks get to keep less of their assets in cash, which leads to more money going to lenders. Because more cash goes out to borrowers, the interest rates lower. Easy money has a cascade effect that starts at the Federal Reserve and goes down to consumers.

As an example, during an easing of monetary policy, the Federal Reserve may instruct the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to purchase Treasury-backed securities on the open market. The purchase of these securities gives money to the people who sold them on the open market. The sellers then deposit any excess funds into a savings account. The extra money in savings accounts gives banks more money to invest.

Banks can lend the new deposits or invest them in other ways because most of this new money comes to lenders above the minimum reserve amount. Lenders then earn money on the interest for loans and deposit money into other bank accounts. Borrowers spend the loans on whatever they choose, which, in turn, stimulates other economic activities. The process continues indefinitely until such time the Federal Reserve decides to tighten monetary policy.

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