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Will The U.S. Federal Reserve Go Digital?

Updated: Mar 17

Last week, the Federal Reserve (the central bank of the U.S.) published an official report as a "first step" towards discussions between the Federal Reserve and stakeholders about Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). With China already leading the world with the roll out of its digital yuan program, other nations are looking at the possibility of moving towards currency digitization.

In the U.S., we already are a largely cashless society. Our paychecks are electronically deposited, and apps like CashApp, Venmo, and PayPal offer those with little or no access to banking a way to transact and participate in the economy. Some establishments don't even accept cash anymore.

True story -- I used cash the other day and despite the register telling the cashier what the change was, she had no idea had to count it out. I had to tell her which coins to grab. If that itself is not indicative of the state of cash in society, I don't know what is. Is that a math problem, cash problem, or both? Either way, it's not looking good. Will learning to count money be removed from the k-12 curriculum like cursive handwriting was?

Anyway, while no policy or decision has been made as to whether or not the U.S. will adopt a digital currency program, they did have this to say:

"The Federal Reserve is committed to soliciting and reviewing a wide range of views as it continues to study whether a U.S. CBDC would be appropriate. Irrespective of any ultimate conclusion, Federal Reserve staff will continue to play an active role in developing international standards for CBDCs."

In short, the U.S. Federal Reserve is in no rush to be "first" to this stage; they would much rather get it right.

You can read the full report here: Money and Payments: The U.S. Dollar in the Age of Digital Transformation

A disclaimer in the report states: "The paper is not intended to advance any specific policy outcome, nor is it intended to signal that the Federal Reserve will make any imminent decisions about the appropriateness of issuing a U.S. CBDC."

Basically, they are saying don't get too excited. There are no digital currency programs or policy (yet). But it clearly is a topic on the table for serious discussion at the Fed, which is where monetary policy is born, so it'd be smart to keep an eye on this.

Federal Reserve Background

Early Years: Established a national check-clearing system and used dedicated telegraph wires to transfer funds between banks.

1970s: Developed an automated clearinghouse (ACH) system that offered an electronic alternative to paper checks.

2019: Committed to building the FedNow Service, which will provide real-time, around-the-clock interbank payments, every day of the year.