What's cookin' for your nest egg

Your nest egg will have a better chance of growing into an omelet under the new banking law signed this week. This is the far-reaching legislation we looked forward to last summer when federal regulators began to pay attention to the nation's inflation-embattled small savers with a few minor administrative actions.

At that time, while the double-digit sky became the limit for those with large amounts to invest, passbook savers were allowed a measly quarter-percent increase in interest. The ceiling went from 5.25 percent to 5.5 percent in savings institutions and from 5 percent to 5.25 percent in commercial banks. It will go up only another quarter percent over the next 18 months under the new law. But the direction of decontrol will have been established. Over six years passbook ceilings will be phased out entirely.

The delay will give thrift institutions time to get into consumer credit and other ventures newly permitted to them. They prevailed in Congress with the argument that other wise the anticipated higher rates to savers would cut into their earnings too much and raise mortgage rates too high. Small-saver groups that wanted immediate action were not convinced.

But a slow boat to China is still one that is on the way. Without at least the prospect of fairer interest for citizens of lesser means the government could hardly expect any enthusiasm for the increased saving that it calls for and that the country needs. The present rate of some 3 percent of disposable personal income is too low, though perhaps understandable when the inflation rate remains three times as much.

In addition to provisions directly applicable to individuals, the new law includes banking measures whose effects ripple to individuals, too. For example , it seeks to improve Federal Reserve System control of the money supply by requiring that all banks, not just members of the system, set aside comparable reserves against their deposits.

At the moment, various investment institutions are making all sorts of arrangements to permit small savers to participate to some degree in the current high interest rates -- though usually without the federal insurance that protects passbook accounts. When the economy returns to more normal conditions, the old custom of the passbook nest egg shoulp reap the advantages being prepared for it by the new legislation.

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