WASHINGTON (AP) — Janet Yellen, the White House’s choice to lead the Federal Reserve starting next year, is known as a meticulous perfectionist, an unusually accurate prognosticator and a firm believer in the use of Fed policy to reduce unemployment.
She also owns a substantial stamp collection. She met her future husband in the Fed’s cafeteria. And in graduate school, she took such precise notes that they later became a textbook of sorts for future students.
Here’s a look at the public and private Yellen:
A sharp forecaster
In the nearly 12 years that Yellen has expressed her views in statements and policy meetings and provided economic forecasts, she’s built an enviable batting average.
From the damage that a bursting housing bubble could cause the U.S. economy to the steps the Fed needed to take to fight the Great Recession, Yellen often saw more accurately into the future than many others. Transcripts of the Fed’s policy meetings document the trend.
One example: In December 2007, the Fed’s official forecast was for continued growth. Yellen was unconvinced. The transcripts show she pushed her colleagues to take unusually aggressive action against the threat of a downturn. She lost the argument. The Fed approved a small quarter-point cut in a key short-term interest rate rather than the bolder half-point cut Yellen favored.
“Any more bad news could put us over the edge, and the possibility of getting bad news — in particular, a significant credit crunch — seems far from remote,” Yellen argued.
December 2007, it later turned out, was the month when the Great Recession officially began. Less than a year later, the financial system was engulfed by its worst financial crisis in 70 years.
The private and publich side
Shy and quiet outside the classroom. Firm and direct when making a point in class.
That’s how former students and colleagues recall Professor Janet Yellen, who spent more than a quarter century teaching economics at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
When Victor d’Allant took Yellen’s introduction to macroeconomics class in 1986, his first impression was of a “tiny” woman facing down a room of 125 opinionated students. Many were eager to challenge her on economic theory. Yet d’Allant recalls that Yellen would disarm her most forceful intellectual antagonists with confidence and the ability to reason.
“She was always very good about staying calm,” d’Allant said. “She said, ‘Let’s think about this carefully.’ That is an art that not so many professors have, not so many professionals have. To force this other person to go deeper into their thinking and understand the consequences of their thinking.”
From stamps to stocks
Yellen and her husband, Nobel Prize-winning economist George Akerlof, have held a mix of big-company stocks and investment funds in a trust.
And they share a fondness for stamps.
The two held between $4 million and $13 million in assets as of Yellen’s financial disclosure report for 2012. Their stamp collection was valued at between $15,000 and $50,000
Their individual stock holdings included Conoco Phillips, DirecTV Group, E.I. DuPont, Pfizer, Office Max and Raytheon.
Through the University of California, they also hold retirement accounts in funds invested in bonds, stocks and insurance company contracts.
In addition, Yellen and Akerlof receive payments from a University of California pension, or defined benefit plan. And Yellen owns retirement funds managed by TIAA-CREF dating to her days as an assistant professor at Harvard in the 1970s.