Don’t Let Inflation Ruin Your Retirement
Louis J. Butera, CFP® | October 14, 2022
If you’ve been listening to the news lately, you’ve likely been inundated with stories about rampant levels of inflation and a looming recession. And it’s not just news outlets that paint a grim picture. Going to the store for everyday necessities, filling up your gas tank, and routine doctor appointments have all become exponentially more expensive, creating fear and anxiety for those who live off a fixed income or plan to in the near future. It’s hard not to worry when your expenses keep rising but your income stays the same.
So, is all hope lost? Certainly not! Below are 6 steps you can take to combat inflation and safeguard your retirement savings for years to come.
Why Is Inflation a Threat?
Inflation is the general rise in the price of goods and services over time. It is a normal part of a growing economy, but over the past year, it has become a major obstacle for those who are nearing retirement or have already retired.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a common measure of inflation, reached 9.1% in June 2022, the highest it’s been in 41 years. Though it has slowed slightly in recent months (reaching 8.5% and 8.3% in July and August), it is significantly higher than the Fed’s target rate of 2% per year.
As the cost of goods rise, many retirees are left with a fixed amount of income for the rest of their lives. Too much of an increase in cost can quickly price retirees out of the comfortable retirement they worked so hard to build.
What Can You Do to Safeguard Your Savings?
Though inflation has continued to rear its head, thankfully there are steps you can take to minimize the impact.
Reassess Your Budget
The first step in overcoming inflation is to understand its impact on your overall financial plan. The unfortunate fact is that most people have unlimited wants with only limited resources. Inflation exacerbates this issue by making every dollar you earn worth less than it was worth the day before. So, a good way to cope with a high-inflation environment is to reassess your budget and make adjustments where you can.
For retirees, this might mean cutting back on discretionary expenses such as traveling, recreation, or going out to eat. You could even reassess your living situation and downsize to a smaller home or condo if it makes sense for your overall financial plan.
Reassessing your budget is an especially useful tactic when the market is in a downturn. The more you can avoid withdrawing from your portfolio to pay for everyday expenses, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
If you are aware of upcoming costs that could place strain on your finances, you can plan ahead and make cuts to other areas of spending in order to compensate. Even if you don’t expect your lifestyle to change all that much, taking a look at your budget and reassessing your spending is never a bad idea.
Borrow Sooner Rather Than Later
It may seem counterintuitive to take out a loan during a high-inflation environment, but inflation is actually good for borrowers. Because it causes the value of your money to decline over time, funds borrowed today will be paid back with money that is worth less than it was when it was originally borrowed.
This isn’t to say you should start excessively borrowing money for things you don’t need. Rather, if you know you have a large purchase coming up, like buying a home or a vehicle, borrowing sooner rather than later can enable you to get more value out of the money you’re going to spend anyway.
Another great way to overcome inflation is to consider Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS), which are U.S. government-backed bonds periodically adjusted to account for inflation. Like all U.S. Treasury bonds, they will not earn the highest rate of return, but your purchasing power will remain intact, and the risk of default is low due to backing by the government. An alternative to TIPS is Series I savings bonds, which are also adjusted for inflation and provide the added benefit of tax-advantaged college funding.
Diversify Your Income
Retirees often have several sources of income, but they are usually relatively fixed in amount. If your expenses are greater than these income sources, you will be forced to draw from your investment assets. An effective way to avoid, or reduce, portfolio withdrawals is to diversify your income. Not only will this improve your portfolio longevity and provide you with more flexibility in retirement, but it will also help minimize the impact of inflation.
Diversified income streams act in much the same way that diversified investments do. They allow for less demand on any single income source so you have the flexibility to handle increased costs or unforeseen events without depleting your portfolio reserves. There are many ways to diversify your income, including:
- Invest in real estate. Owning rental properties is a great way to earn passive income without dipping into your retirement savings. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are another popular option.
- Continue to earn active income. You could also pursue a passion, become a freelancer, or work for a nonprofit. You will earn less than what you’re making now, but these options will provide flexibility and a form of income diversification that will keep your retirement savings safe from inflation.
- Use dividend-paying stocks. Often considered an annuity-like cash stream, dividend-paying stocks give company earnings to investors, typically once a quarter. The top dividend-paying stocks even raise their payouts over time. This not only gives you an income stream, but you can also reinvest the dividends to pursue more growth.
Consider Alternative Investments
Alternative investments are another option in the fight against inflation. Most have low correlation with standard asset classes, which can smooth portfolio volatility. Hard assets, like real estate, timber, oil, and gold, may have an inverse relationship with stocks and bonds during periods of higher inflation. Because of these differences in behavior, including them in your portfolio may provide broader diversification, reduce risk, and increase returns.
Put Idle Cash to Work
You may think that the best way to ride out the uncertainty storm is to stockpile loads of cash in the bank. While this does keep it safe from volatility, it does nothing to protect you from inflation. Each day your funds sit idle, inflation will eat away at your purchasing power. This issue can be minimized by making sure even your reserve funds are earning a competitive interest rate.
For instance, high-yield savings accounts are paying 2.5% interest as of October 2022. While this is still a far cry from the 8.3% inflation rate, it is much better than the 0% interest you would earn from most checking accounts.
There are other options that can improve your interest rate while still keeping your funds relatively safe, including money market accounts, certificates of deposit, and short-term Treasury bills. No matter which option you choose, managing your excess cash with inflation in mind is the best way to improve your portfolio longevity and safeguard your retirement.
Is Inflation Threatening Your Retirement?
Are you worried about your retirement amidst historically high inflation and extreme market volatility? If so, it doesn’t have to be that way. At Butera Wealth Management, we can create a customized plan to help you minimize the impact of inflation and protect your retirement for years to come. Schedule a free, no-obligation phone call by contacting us at 484-455-2661 or email@example.com to learn how our 2nd Opinion Service can make a difference in your financial life.
Louis Butera is the founder and president of Butera Wealth Management, LLC, an independent wealth management firm operating out of Newton Square, Pennsylvania. With over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, Louis specializes in serving pre-retirees who hold management or executive roles, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. In 2015, he started his own firm with the express goal and vision of fostering meaningful relationships with clients to help them pursue financial independence and prepare for retirement. Louis and the Butera team provide a customized process to help their clients plan for every aspect of their financial life. Trust has always been key for Louis, and with this foundation, he has helped guide his clients through many different market cycles and life milestones.
Louis is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Ithaca College. When he’s not working with his clients, Louis enjoys being outside, playing golf, skiing, and leading an active life with his wife, Michelle. They are both great supporters of local charities and their community. To learn more about Louis, connect with him on LinkedIn.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which strategies or investments may be suitable for you, consult the appropriate qualified professional prior to making a decision.
No strategy assures success or protects against loss.
All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.
Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) help eliminate inflation risk to your portfolio as the principal is adjusted semiannually for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index – while providing a real rate of return guaranteed by the U.S. Government. TIPS are subject to market risk and significant interest rate risk as their longer duration makes them more sensitive to price declines associated with higher interest rates.
Investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) involves special risks such as potential illiquidity and may not be suitable for all investors. There is no assurance that the investment objectives of this program will be attained.
Alternative investments may not be suitable for all investors and should be considered as an investment for the risk capital portion of the investor’s portfolio. The strategies employed in the management of alternative investments may accelerate the velocity of potential losses.
This material was prepared for Louis Butera’s use.