Prominent American stockbroker and financial commentator Peter Schiff predicts that the era of zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) is over and that U.S. interest rates will remain "much higher, forever."

He warns that a return to ZIRP by the Fed could result in runaway inflation, a collapse of the U.S. dollar, and bond market turmoil.

"What's missing from the 'higher, for longer' interest rate narrative is that it's actually 'much higher, forever,'" Schiff recently posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Schiff anticipates that persistent inflation and prolonged higher interest rates may lead to a financial crisis, ultimately affecting both consumers and investors.

A troubled outlook: Inflation and the Fed's response

Schiff's outlook is influenced by the persistence of inflation, hovering just below 4%, and the Fed's inability to squash it.

In an attempt to control post-pandemic inflation, the Fed has jacked up interest rates 11 times since March 2022, bringing them from 0.25% to 5.5%. This is a common monetary "operation" meant to make borrowing more expensive, which, in theory, should curb spending.

Although these rate hikes had an effect, inflation still remains well above the Fed's 2% target, indicating that interest rates will likely remain elevated.

Schiff criticizes the Fed's approach, arguing that the central bank has not made substantial progress in achieving its inflation target.

In a post on X, he wrote: "Today's .4% rise in Sept. CPI, including a .3% rise in core, further confirms that the Fed is nowhere near achieving its 2% annualized inflation target … When will investors finally figure out that the inflation war has been lost?"

If Schiff's pessimistic prediction materializes, and interest rates indeed remain significantly higher, the implications for personal finances and the economy could be substantial.

Potential repercussions of "much higher, forever" rates

From an economic standpoint, "much higher, forever" interest rates may result in consequences such as reduced consumer spending, tightened credit conditions, and potential challenges for businesses.

Elevated interest rates could significantly increase the cost of borrowing, affecting mortgages, car loans, credit cards, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and personal loans.

"Now people are racking up debt and borrowing at high rates and that's troublesome," said Tomas Philipson, University of Chicago economist and a former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Failing to keep up with monthly payments could lead to a debt spiral, delinquency, and damage to credit scores at a time when so many Americans are racking up record debt just to make ends meet.