Ben Bernanke Is Optimistic, and Funnier than You Think

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Speaking in Denver this week at Schwab IMPACT, former Fed chair Ben Bernanke shared thoughts on what was really happening during the 2008 financial crisis, how he is optimistic for the future, and he even cracked a few jokes.

The 2008 financial crisis was basically a panic, Bernanke said, and it made economists realize a comprehensive response was needed. That came, in perhaps the biggest form, as TARP—which Bernanke called one of the most successful and least popular government programs ever.

He also refuted the conventional wisdom of many that by September 2008, it was simply time to let big companies fail. In fact, Bernanke said, letting Lehman fail was not a choice, but a necessity only after failing to find a buyer; failing to find a solution.

Now retired from the Fed, but continuing on as an economist at the Brookings Institution, Bernanke expressed overall optimism when he said a huge financial crisis is often followed by a deep recession, but we are now approaching a more stable economy.

“The United States is still a good place to invest in; to live in,” he said.

Yes, we have an aging population, he said, but compared to other industrialized countries, we are younger and are experiencing more growth in the labor force, and we also have technological advantages over the rest of the world.

Bernanke kicked off his talk by joking about how he is often mistaken for former Fed chair Alan Greenspan, and he kept the banter light throughout by quipping later on when asked if he thought the movie Too Big to Fail (based on Andrew Sorkin’s book) was an accurate portrayal of the actual events: “I didn’t see the movie because I saw the original,” then added how they couldn’t get George Clooney to play him in the film, so they went with Paul Giamatti.

In the end, one thing in particular from Bernanke’s talk that really stands out for me, is what he referred to as the most important lesson gained from the financial crisis: that the Fed is now much more focused on financial stability. That should makes us all feel a little more optimistic.

Schulaka Carly_resizedCarly Schulaka
Journal of Financial Planning
Financial Planning Association
Denver, CO

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