Situation Analysis
You can’t hide from inflation but, there are ways you can fortify your finances to mitigate its effects and even get ahead of it. Here are some ideas.

What to do Now to Guard Against Rising Inflation

What to do Now to Guard Against Rising Inflation

Inflation has struck with a vengeance, reaching levels not seen in more than 40 years. Though the Federal Reserve is focused on bringing it under control, it may be too little too late as prices continue to skyrocket. All inflationary cycles eventually come to an end, but it’s difficult to know how much longer this one will last. But that doesn’t mean you and your finances must succumb to it, as there are ways to mitigate its effects and, in some cases, make inflation work for you.

How Inflation Impacts Your Finances

We can see the effects of inflation every day at the grocery store and the gas pump. That’s the real-time impact on your pocketbook. However, inflation has a much broader impact on your finances that can endure for years or even decades. It’s essential to grasp how inflation seeps into your finances at all levels so you can take the proper steps to guard them.

Inflation Reduces Your Purchasing Power

With inflation, your dollars today are worth less in the future. Even with inflation running at a moderate 3% rate, it can cut your purchasing power in half over a 23-year period. That means the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for ten people, which costs $53 today, will cost $106 in the future.

Higher inflation, such as what we are experiencing today, can cut your purchasing power more quickly. If current inflation should moderate to 7%, your purchasing power will be reduced by half in ten years. That can be particularly troublesome for people near or in retirement who must make their income last a lifetime.

Inflation Diminishes the Value of Your Savings

While your spending power goes down, so does the ability of your savings to grow. Anytime the inflation rate exceeds the growth rate of your savings or investments, you are actually losing money. Thanks to rising interest rates, the rate on savings accounts has increased to an average of 0.08%. But with inflation running at more than 9%, the average savings account is losing more than eight percent. If the S&P 500 maintains its average return rate of the last 20 years or 8.91%, at 9% inflation, investors are not quite breaking even.

Inflation Causes Interest Rates to Rise

To counter inflationary pressure, the Federal Reserve must increase short-term borrowing rates, which leads to banks increasing consumer loan rates. The purpose is to reduce the amount of demand that drives inflation higher. Increased borrowing means less money to spend on items such as cars, big appliances, and mortgages.

Steps to Guard Your Finances Against Inflation

While you can’t hide from inflation, there are ways you can fortify your finances to mitigate its effects and even get ahead of it.

Convert Variable Debt to Fixed

Borrowers with variable-rate debt are feeling the impact of rising interest rates. Rates on credit cards, adjustable-rate mortgages, and some personal loans have been rising. You could consider locking in your debt costs by switching your variable-rate debt to fixed-rate debt. Although interest on fixed-rate mortgages has been increasing, their still low enough to benefit from an adjustable-rate conversion. If you’re carrying credit card debt, you should try to pay it down as soon as possible or replace it with a fixed-rate personal loan.

Accelerate Large Purchases

Prices of durable goods have been rising, but if high inflation persists, they can be expected to rise some more. If you have been planning on purchasing a big-ticket item, such as a large appliance, car, or home improvement, you could be better off making that purchase now.

Invest in Hard Assets

Assets such as real estate and commodities are inflation eaters—meaning they move in tandem with inflation, sometimes even outperforming it. Real estate is a good inflation hedge because landlords can always increase their rents, increasing the property’s value. If you’re reluctant to own real properties, you can benefit from the same effect by investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Commodities such as energy products, industrial and precious metals are also a good inflation hedge. However, they can be volatile investments over time, so you may want to limit your exposure to commodities.

Add TIPS to Your Portfolio

TIPS, or Treasury Inflation-Protection Securities, are government-backed bonds that adjust their rate based on the Consumer Price Index. The higher the rate of inflation, the higher your yield.

Don’t Keep Your Money in Cash

You should always have enough cash (liquid savings) on hand to cover emergency expenses. But shifting all your assets to cash would be a mistake in a high-inflation environment. Consider instead diversifying your investment among high-quality, dividend-paying stocks that tend to perform well even in times of inflation. You can find low-cost exchange-traded funds that invest in portfolios of blue-chip stocks.

While it’s impossible to avoid the ravages of high inflation completely, you can mitigate its impact by fortifying your finances. It would be essential to work with your financial advisor to conduct a thorough assessment of your finances and where you can take some reasonable steps to help you come out stronger on the other end.

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