26 ways to combat inflation in your own life

After my last blog, where I described the reasons we are experiencing high inflation this year, you might be asking “What can I do to combat inflation in my own life?” As I consulted with my team members, financial professionals that work with retirees all day every day, we came up with twenty-six inflation-fighting ideas that will help the retiree, or those nearing retirement. Some of these ideas will have a huge impact, other ideas are less significant but are things that you may not have thought of previously. 

I found it interesting that as we compiled our list, it morphed from being merely an inflation-fighting list into a commonsense checklist of things that every retiree should consider going through as a matter of just being financially responsible. Obviously, not every one of the money-saving ideas on our list will apply to your specific situation, but some will. We are confident that every one of you will benefit from going through this list in your own situation and that you will end up saving money by implementing the applicable ideas. These savings will be helpful for you to maintain your lifestyle as you are squeezed by inflation. 

Investing: 

Investment mistakes early in retirement can be devastating and there are no do-overs. So, I first wanted to remind you of the inflation-fighting capabilities of your investments before we talk about any other inflation-fighting/money-saving ideas.  

1. Remember, the price we pay for inflation-beating investments is having to endure temporary periods of volatility. Volatility is not risk, the synonym for volatility is unpredictability and in the short-term, equities are certainly unpredictable. You wouldn’t be human if this year’s stock market hasn’t caused you concern, but you need to stay the course and not let yourself be frightened out of owning a piece of some of the most profitable corporations the world has ever known. Compound interest has helped you accumulate the nest egg that you now have. Keep the miracle of compound interest alive during retirement by owning equities. Hold on to your equities if keeping up with inflation is your objective.

2. Have a plan. We follow our proprietary Perennial Income Model™ to create an income plan that protects our retirees’ short-term income from stock market downturns while protecting their long-term income from the ravages of inflation. The Perennial Income Model helps to strike the right balance between owning less-volatile types of investments and owning the more-volatile inflation-fighting equities in a portfolio. It matches your current investment allocation with your future income needs. Do yourself a favor and learn how the Perennial Income Model can help you create your retirement income plan. To learn more about the Perennial Income Model, order a free copy of my book, Plan on Living, here.

3. Have faith in the future and follow your plan. We are not facing an investment apocalypse. Market conditions are cyclical, and we will continue to experience good as well as bad economic cycles. A well-thought-out investment and retirement income plan should have built within itself a contingency plan to deal with economic downturns and periods of market turbulence. In fact, your plan should not just help you to navigate volatile markets it should assist you in taking advantage of them. Don’t allow yourself to get derailed from your plan.

Income:

4. If you haven’t started Social Security yet, consider delaying applying for your own benefit until age 70. Beyond the built-in annual cost of living adjustments of Social Security, your benefit will increase by 8% each year that you delay from your full retirement age until age 70 by simply waiting. Your full retirement age is somewhere between age 66 to 67 depending on your year of birth. Receiving 24%-32% more each month in Social Security benefits for the rest of your life can be a handsome inflation-fighting boost.

5. Go back to work. Statistics show that almost half of all retirees go back to work after two or three years of retirement and they go back to work for reasons beyond satisfying income needs. In other words, they get bored, and work satisfies their need for social interaction and the need to be part of something bigger than themselves. Find a part-time job that is interesting to you for a day or two a week. With a nationwide worker shortage, there are endless opportunities for retirees to find the kind of job they would enjoy with the flexible schedule that they desire. Being engaged in something that interests you, while picking up a couple of bucks to help with inflation can be realized…have fun!

Energy: 

6. Replace light bulbs and fixtures with LED. LED bulbs last longer and use 25% less electricity than outdated light bulbs that you still might be using in your home.

7. If you are regularly away from your house during the day,  program your thermostat. Don’t heat or cool an empty house. You can drop your electric and gas bills by as much as 10% by adjusting your home temperature by a few degrees. Open a window in the summer or wear a sweater in the winter to offset the mild changes in temperature.

8. Take advantage of the energy-saving programs offered by your power and gas companies. Utility companies provide valuable energy-saving tips and even will send representatives to your home to help you recognize where you could substantially save on your energy bill. They will also keep you up to date with rebates and tax credits that are available to you as you update your home. This service is free or available at minimal costs.

9. Save gas by better organizing your errands. Knock out all your errands in one trip versus three or four separate trips.

10. Don’t run your appliances until they are full, specifically your washer, dryer, and dishwasher.

Shopping/Spending: 

11. Don’t be shy about asking for senior discounts. We found a website, www. seniorliving.org, that keeps a list of discounts available to seniors or those approaching retirement. It provides dozens of discounts and covers everything from grocery shopping to cruises. We found that many of these discounts are not well known, nor are they advertised by the companies offering the discounts. You will have to know about these discounts in advance and you will have to specifically ask for many of these discounts.

12. Life has become so much easier since we have evolved into online shoppers. Online shopping has also made it easy to comparison shop and find the best deals. Take a couple of extra minutes to compare items as you make your online purchases. We found two websites, Honey and RetailMeNot, that assist you in online shopping. Both websites show you some of the best available coupons on the internet to help you get the best deal possible.

13. Shop your pantry or freezer first. How many times have you run to the grocery store to buy an item, only to later find that same item sitting on a shelf or in your freezer at home. All of us are guilty of wasting food and money as we throw out food that has exceeded its expiration date. According to Feeding America, “Each year, 108 billion tons of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion in food thrown away annually. Shockingly, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted.” The key to avoiding waste is to take the time to better organize your pantry and food storage.

14. Try using store brands over name brands.

15. Barter – I’m not suggesting that you haggle over everything but, look for opportunities to get a better deal. You will be shocked at the discounts you will receive as you ask one simple question as you book hotel rooms, rent cars, and hire services. Try asking, “is that the best you can do?” That question has saved me thousands of dollars over my lifetime.

16. Audit your own credit card statement. Are there subscriptions that you can eliminate that you no longer use? Gym memberships, multiple streaming services that you don’t use, and magazines that are never read are the most likely culprits.

17. Make an extra effort to pay off debt, especially adjustable-rate loans. Specifically, be mindful to not carry a balance on your credit cards month to month.

18. Consider a lower-cost cellphone plan. With WIFI being so prevalent, maybe that unlimited data plan might not be necessary.

19. Load up on nonperishable items when they go on sale.

20. Work off a budget. It may have been years since you followed a budget but following a budget can be useful to help limit impulse purchases.

21. Do your kids a favor and sell the stuff you don’t use anymore. All who have had to clean out a deceased parents’ home know what I’m talking about. Learn how to sell your unwanted items on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and more. You will be shocked what people will buy, and who knows, that collectors’ edition Barbie doll that has been hiding in your basement for decades might be worth thousands.

22. Be strategic as you consider making major purchases such as houses. Interest rates will have to rise to cool down the economy. As rates rise, people will be forced out of the housing market and house prices will necessarily drop. Be patient and thoughtful as you consider your next big purchase.

Travel: 

23. Investigate cash back rewards and frequent flier discounts offered by your credit cards and learn to use them.

24. Consider vacationing closer to home during inflationary times. People come from all over the world to visit the national parks and vacation destinations that are often within driving distance of our homes. Make a bucket list of regional getaways that you would like to see.  Your next “thrifty” vacation may end up being one of your most enjoyable.

Insurance: 

25. Shop for lower auto and car insurance rates. It’s amazing the money that you will save as you shop around. You may also consider raising your deductibles for additional savings. As long as you are talking to your insurance agent, check out how much your house is insured for. The recent inflation has raised the value of your home. Is your home adequately insured?

26. Don’t lapse or cancel that old life insurance policy that you no longer need…sell it. There are viatical companies that will sometimes pay top dollar for life insurance policies that no longer fit your needs. You get paid for your policy and you free yourself from having to pay future insurance premiums.

Before I end, I want to mention some developments regarding inflation that have occurred since our last blog was published. Last week our elected officials announced a student loan forgiveness program that promised to forgive the loan obligation for billions of dollars’ worth of loans. Essentially, the government will be going further in debt to pump billions of dollars into an already overheated economy. During the same week, Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chairman announced a plan to aggressively raise interest rates to quell inflation. 

So, our politicians are stepping on the gas pedal while the Federal Reserve is stomping on the brakes. I wish to point this out to you to help you understand that until policies in Washington D.C. are changed, higher inflation rates will be with us. So, in the short term, we are going to have to learn how to live with higher inflation rates than what we have been accustomed to. I hope the ideas I shared with you will offer a little relief. 

Hang in there, this too shall pass! 

If you have questions, or concerns, or would like to review your personal retirement situation, please click here to schedule a complimentary consultation. You can also click here to learn more about the Perennial Income Model mentioned above in the second fighting inflation idea.

Inflation 101: Understanding the ‘why’ behind today’s inflation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported a whopping 9.1% year-over-year increase in the inflation rate – This is the highest in forty years and many economists suggest that inflation will get worse before it starts to get better. To put a 9.1% inflation rate in perspective, one million dollars today has only $909,000 worth of purchasing power compared to just one year ago.

Americans are facing higher prices for food, fuel, and housing and are grasping for answers about what is causing inflation, how long it will last, and what they should personally be doing to combat its effects.

There are no easy answers or painless solutions when it comes to the inflation problem. Before we jump into how long it will last and what can be done to resolve it, we need to define what is causing inflation in the first place.

What is Inflation?

Stated in its simplest terms, “inflation happens when too many dollars are chasing after too few goods and services”. So, inflation is really a supply and demand problem. When there is an equilibrium between the supply of goods and services and demand (money available to spend), inflation is in check. When the demand outpaces the supply of goods and services, inflation accelerates. Once this concept is understood, we can dissect what is limiting the supply of goods and services and what is driving demand.

The Supply Issues Impacting Inflation

A couple of events have contributed to the limited supply of goods and services:

First: The COVID pandemic in early 2020 led to lockdowns and numerous restrictive measures by governments around the globe to stop the spread of the virus. These government-imposed lockdowns disrupted the global supply chain as factories were shut down and maritime ports were closed. Currently, COVID continues to affect worldwide supplies as China, the world’s largest manufacturer, is still troubled by shutdowns as they try to get on top of the COVID pandemic still plaguing their nation.

Second, The United States went from being energy independent just a couple of years ago to once again being forced to purchase oil in the world markets. U.S. production has decreased while our consumption has increased. The inevitable result of this supply/demand imbalance is inflated oil prices. Higher oil prices serve as a catalyst to higher prices in all other parts of the economy as higher energy prices increase the cost to produce and ship goods.

The Demand Issues Impacting Inflation

Consumers are spending big. When the pandemic started, the personal saving rate in the United States was sitting at an all-time high. With large amounts of savings on hand, the federal government sending out relief checks to individuals and businesses, and employees sitting at home with shopping at their fingertips, the U.S. consumer spent a lot of money. And the spending spree isn’t over, with unemployment numbers sitting at all-time lows, employees are either finding better paying jobs or are requiring higher wages from existing employers. These higher wages continue to encourage high demand for the limited goods and services available.

Additionally, with the pandemic mostly behind us, there is a pent-up demand from people looking to travel and vacation once again. If you have traveled recently, you would have noticed the inflated prices of airline tickets, rental cars, hotel rooms, restaurants, and more.

So, how long will high inflation rates be with us?

There are thousands of economists attempting to answer this question, all with different opinions. So, how long this recent inflation acceleration might last is anybody’s guess. However, there is a consensus on how the inflation supply/demand equilibrium will be brought into balance. The inflation rate will decrease as consumer spending slows down, or in other words, when the demand for goods and services is reduced. Two of the main ways demand is reduced is either by raising interest rates, by the economy suffering a recession, or both.

Raising Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve has the responsibility to monitor the economy and implement policy to maintain the equilibrium between supply and demand, in other words, keep inflation in check. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to slow consumer demand and subsequent price growth. This policy response means that the economy will surely head for a slowdown. We have already seen how higher interest rates and higher borrowing costs have begun to cool off the housing market. The question — and big uncertainty — is just how much federal action will be needed to bring inflation under control.

Having A Recession

A recession is when the economy shrinks. This is a more painful and less desirable way to slow consumer demand, but it can work towards taming inflation. During a recession, the overall economy struggles, corporations make fewer sales and become less profitable. Workers are laid off and unemployment surges.

The hope is that the Federal Reserve can raise interest rates just enough to slow consumer demand without throwing the country into a recession. This optimistic scenario, often called a soft landing, is difficult to orchestrate and despite the best efforts by the Federal Reserve board, can still end up throwing the economy into a recession.

In our current environment, the so-called soft landing is especially challenging. As the Federal Reserve tries to reign in demand with higher interest rates, they have zero control on the supply side of the equilibrium. If supply chain shortages persist, the Federal Reserve will be required to raise interest rates more drastically to slow the demand enough to bring higher prices under control. It’s an economic tightrope, we will see if the Federal Reserve can walk it.

What will not help inflation?

Currently, there is talk on Capitol Hill of sending out additional stimulus checks to help the U.S. consumers pay for high gas prices and other goods. This is indeed a noble thought, but terribly misguided. The demand side of the equilibrium is already out of balance. In other words, there is already too much money chasing too few goods and services. Going into more debt, to throw more money at a problem caused by too much money pursuing too few goods and services is not the answer. We cannot spend our way out of inflation and any attempt to do so, will only result in higher inflation.

Conclusion

We have addressed the causes of inflation and talked about how the rate of inflation will be reduced. In our next blog we want to get personal. We will be going over the personal dos and don’ts of managing higher interest rates and making good decisions concerning your investments during recessionary times.

If you have questions, concerns, or would like to review your personal retirement situation, please click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.