One of the more mysterious areas of the economy is the role of the Fed. Formally known as the Federal Reserve, the Fed is the gatekeeper of the U.S. economy. It is the central bank of the United States -- it is the bank of banks and the bank of the U.S. government. The Fed regulates financial institutions, manages the nation's money and influences the economy. By raising and lowering interest rates, creating money and using a few other tricks, the Fed can either stimulate or slow down the economy. This manipulation helps maintain low inflation, high employment rates, and manufacturing output.

­In this article, we'll visit the mystical world of the Fed and talk about terms like monetary policy, discount rates, and open market operation. We'll find out just what kinds of tasks fill Ben S. Bernanke's day, and see how his and the Federal Reserve Board's decisions affect our everyday lives.