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Understanding the Invisible Thief: Inflation


Understanding the Invisible Thief: Inflation

Introduction

In this blog post, we look at the concept of money's purchasing power, highlighting the ineffectiveness of traditional saving methods against inflation, and we illustrate it with practical examples involving the purchasing power of $100 over 30 years and changes in median monthly household income. The blog underlines the necessity of strategic investments to combat inflation and finishes with a call for financial planners to understand and plan for the impact of inflation.


Deceptive Erosion of Wealth: Inflation

Inflation is a powerful factor that has a subtle but considerable influence on financial stability. Although well acknowledged, its significant impact on individual savings and purchasing power is sometimes overlooked. The fundamental impact of inflation lies in the way it reduces the value of savings over time, rather than merely being a general increase in prices.


This erosion is misleading since it does not affect the numbers in a bank account physically, but it reduces what those numbers can buy or afford in practical terms. Since there won't be any overt symptoms, your financial strength will gradually decline due to this unseen erosion, which implies that the same amount of money will eventually have less purchasing power.


The Misleading Nature of Money’s Value

The purchasing power of money is fundamental to both economics and personal finance, although it is usually neglected in day-to-day financial choices. The quantity and quality of products and services that may be purchased with a certain amount of money is referred to as purchasing power. Every year, inflation erodes this purchasing power; as prices rise, the same amount of money buys less.


Traditional saving strategies, such as keeping money at home in your safe or in basic savings accounts, may appear safe since the monetary value remains constant. These approaches, however, do not safeguard against the progressive loss of buying power caused by inflation. This can result in a large decrease in the real worth of savings over time, reducing an individual's capacity to maintain their level of life and accomplish financial goals.


The $100 Example: 1993 vs. 2023

Consider the following scenario: In 1993, someone stores $100 in a home safe. They could buy roughly 35 gallons of milk for $2.86 per gallon. In 2023, while milk costs $4.50 per gallon, the same $100 will only purchase about 22 gallons. Despite having the same amount of money, the significant change in the quantity of milk available over a 30-year period clearly highlights the degrading effect of inflation on purchasing power.


Inflation and Median Monthly Household Income

Inflation and Median Monthly Household Income

The median monthly household income in the United States in 1993 was $2,839. Assume a gallon of milk at the time cost $2.86. This money can then be used to buy 992 gallons of milk.


In 2022, with a median monthly salary of $6,215 and assuming the cost of a gallon of milk has risen to $4.50, this money can now buy around 1,381 gallons of milk.


Although the number of gallons per dollar spent on milk has increased nominally, the value per dollar spent on milk has dropped. Each dollar buys less milk in 2022 than it did in 1993, demonstrating the effect of inflation on buying power. As a result, even rising salaries may not be enough to compensate for the decreases caused by inflation. This concept is critical because it emphasizes the difficulty of sustaining living standards in the face of growing expenses.


Understanding Inflation: The Subtle Value Reducer

Inflation, like an unseen thief, progressively reduces the real worth of money. Unlike a traditional thief who steals money fast, inflation devalues it over time and may go unnoticed.


Protecting Your Money Against Inflation

Think about making a variety of investments to guard against inflation. Keeping money in a house safe ensures its safety, but it does not protect against the value loss caused by inflation. Appreciating assets, stocks, real estate, inflation-indexed bonds are all wise investments.


While stocks offer growth potential, real estate can appreciate and generate rental income. Inflation-indexed bonds adjust for inflation, preserving purchasing power.


High-yield savings accounts, while not outpacing inflation, offer better returns than regular savings accounts, providing a safer, yet modestly growing option for your funds.


Conclusion

Understanding and preparing for the impact of inflation is critical for smart financial planning. Saving money is not enough; thinking about its future worth and protecting its purchasing power through strategic investments is critical to preserving and perhaps expanding wealth over time.

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