The latest official update on our red-hot inflation situation came out yesterday. No matter how the mainstream media spins it, the reality isn’t pretty.
Whether you’re an American saving for retirement, or you’re already retired, the “tax that no one voted for” continues to eat away at your purchasing power.
The news isn’t all bad, however. Gas prices finally eased by 10.6% in August, due in part to Biden’s controversial move to tap strategic oil reserves intended for non-political emergencies.
Even so, the price at the pump is still up over 25% from this time last year. (So really, this is only good news to those with short memories.)
If, like most Americans, you eat food, then you may have noticed some surprised at the grocery store. Here’s how the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) put it:
The food at home index rose 13.5% over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending March 1979. The index for other food at home rose 16.7% and the index for cereals and bakery products increased 16.4% over the year. The remaining major grocery store food groups posted increases ranging from 9.4% (fruits and vegetables) to 16.2% (dairy and related products).
Inflation has been persistently near or at 40-year highs since January 2021. That means, for the last 21 months, Americans have had a more challenging time trying to figure out just how much food and gas (let alone discretionary expenses) are likely to cost next year – let alone a decade from now! That makes saving for retirement mostly guesswork. For those who are already retired, you have my sincere sympathies. I hope the brutal combination of a bear market in stocks and skyrocketing prices on everything else haven’t robbed you of your financial security.
But maybe it has… Today’s “battle-weary” retirees and those of us still saving up for retirement are losing confidence altogether. As you’ll see, losing confidence can lead to decisions that cost a lot of money…
“46% are missing out on wealth-generating opportunities”
According to a Blackrock survey of Americans saving for retirement, about 63% report being on track, which sounds pretty good. (The problem is, that number is down 5% from the year prior – oh well, it could be worse.) The pandemic played a role -- 23% of respondents reported saving less money post-pandemic.
Fully 87% of Americans were worried about inflation, which makes sense. This next part doesn’t, though… Only about one-third of those worried about inflation increased their savings rate. Why? Lots of possible reasons. Consider that we’re only beginning to see the end of the Everything Bubble – stocks don’t seem safe. Bonds plunge when interest rates rise. Cash? Well, keeping your savings in cash is the equivalent of burning 8% of your purchasing power every year. Overall, the combination of worrying about inflation but not saving more money shows a lack of confidence in finding any asset that’s safe in such volatile times and that doesn’t lose value month after month.
Speaking of cash, perhaps the most disturbing thing we learned is 46% of Americans saving for retirement reported keeping most of their savings in “just cash.”
Now, I’m not a certified financial analyst or a certified public accountant, but I can use a spreadsheet – so I can tell you this seems like a terrible idea.
My bank offers a 0.5% APY for savings accounts. Keeping my savings in cash at my bank is a losing proposition! I suppose I could lend my dollars to the Federal government instead – they’re paying 3.75% APY for a 10-year Treasury. Nope – I’m still losing faster to inflation than I’m winning.
But if you don’t trust stocks (and considering the S&P 500 is about 46% overvalued according to the Shiller PE ratio, I don’t blame you) – what are we supposed to do with our retirement savings?
If all we have are bad choices, which is the best of the bad options?
Consider inflation-resistant investments (urgently)
Let’s be honest: times are tough right now for all of us. As individuals and as a nation, we’re facing challenges we haven’t seen in four decades. You may feel like all hope is lost, and there isn’t a way out.
Don’t give up just yet. Don’t downsize your dreams or your lifestyle.
The good news is you have options. Take a few minutes to learn about inflation-resistant investments. Remember – simply keeping up with inflation right now is the equivalent of an 8% return on investment. In addition, they can help you plan for future expenses in “real,” inflation-adjusted dollars.
Proper diversification can help reduce the stomach-churning volatility your savings experience in uncertain times. So-called “alternative” investments, especially physical precious metals like gold and silver, are the historical safe havens of choice for a good reason. The right allocations can help you face even the most turbulent times like these with confidence.
Whatever you decide, please don’t just keep your retirement savings in cash. When average interest rates on savings accounts are 0.1% and even the best yield just 2-2.5%, inflation will devour your purchasing power. The sooner you act, the more of your future you’ll save.
Peter Reagan is a financial market strategist at Birch Gold Group. As the Precious Metal IRA Specialists, Birch Gold helps Americans protect their retirement savings with physical gold and silver. Based in the Los Angeles area, the company has been in business since 2003. It has an A+ Rating with the BBB and hundreds of satisfied customer reviews.
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