We're not there yet, but …

ugly-dog… who knows?

Inflation may just rear its ugly head, as Modern Gal suggests:

My bet is that the long-term successful investors (like Warren Buffet) see the next big cyclical turn as being the threat of global inflation.  And by this, I mean not inflation as in 3-4%, but I mean a change in cycle to having structurally higher inflation for a number of years.  While nominal wages have (mostly) risen, real wages have not kept up with inflation for many workers.  This is the problem called the money illusion.  In other words, because your paychecks are growing larger over time, you think that you think of this as a raise or cost of living increase.  In fact, if the cost of living outpaces your raises, you have in effect gotten poorer, or your salary has lost real value.

I don’t normally talk about things that you can’t do today – and, the things that I do talk about often need to be adjusted for which part of the Making Money Cycle you are in – but, I will make a couple of suggestions and you can bookmark this post in case inflation does hit before I get a chance to write a follow up post 🙂

Firstly, what is high inflation?

To me, ‘high’ and ‘low’ are pretty meaningless terms in an inflationary context, but Modern gal suggests “let’s say inflation crept up to 5% a year … not many people are expecting a shift to a very high inflation rate, like 10%.”, which seems like a pretty reasonable range to work with, if you ask me.

Modern Gal then suggests that inflation-adjusted securities such as TIPS are sensible high-inflation strategies …

… but, here is what I think, IF you think inflation is heading up and you are in this stage of the Making Money Cycle:

Making Money 101

No great change here; get your spending under control; avoid consumer debt (although, strangely enough, it’s actually slightly BETTER for you if inflation rises AFTER you accrue the debt because your payments stay fixed – unless interest rates also rise – but, your income rises due to ‘cost of living increases’); and save money … but, if this is all you do, that inflation will eat up a lot of the benefit; as Modern Gal says:

Let’s say you have $100,000 in savings today, but you want to hold off spending until retirement.  If you decide to put your savings under a mattress (meaning you earned zero interest or dividends), in 25 years time, at a 3% inflation rate, your $100k would be the equivalent of about $48k in the future.  But let’s say inflation crept up to 5% a year, a rate that was not unusual a decade ago. Under this scenario, your $100k should be thought of as less than $30k in 25 years time.  And, if we end up with double digit inflation at 10%, the 100k adjusted for buying power in today’s dollars looks like a measly $9230.

The key Making Money 101 change (although, this is a strategy that I also recommend in the current low inflation / low interest rate environment) is to lock in your interest rate on your own home, ideally before the high inflation (which can often trigger higher interest rates) kicks in.

Making Money 201

Here, we want to take advantage of inflation which tends to push the prices of things up: the higher the rate of inflation, the more prices go up …

… so, the trick is to buy something that will rise in price with (or over) inflation BUT pay for it in current-day dollars.

What can do THAT???

Well, real-estate can, particularly in the USA where you can leverage an unusual quirk of the lending industry: you see, you can buy real-estate that will go up in value as surely as your can spell I N F L A T I O N …

… and, you can buy it with the Bank’s money and lock that ‘price’ in for up to 30 years (on some residential property).

So, that $535 payment (at 5.75% fixed interest for 30 years) STAYS at $535 even as the $100,000 property doubles in value to $200,000 over time … and, the higher the inflation rate, the quicker the property doubles … no matter what happens, your payments stay the same.

Obviously, if spending $535 p.m. was ‘good value’ when the property was $100k, it must be twice as good value when the property reaches $200k!

So, if you know that high inflation is increasing your property portfolio more rapidly, why wouldn’t you buy as much as you can get your hands on if:

a) Current interest rates seems low, and

b) If you felt that a period of higher inflation was coming?

Making Money 301

We are obviously not looking to acquire more debt, here, but there’s no reason to pay off debt either IF:

1. The interest rate has been locked in at levels lower than current interest rates, and

2. You can’t put the money to work for you in ‘safe’ investments elsewhere, and

3. The properties produce enough ‘spare’ (after mortgage interest, costs, and provisions against future vacancies and repairs/maintenance) cash-flow to satisfy your daily needs.

If the property meets these criteria then it’s probably reasonable to assume that your income (i.e. rents) will keep pace with inflation, as probably will your capital (i.e. the building itself).

Of course, if you haven’t already bought the property by the time that you stop work [AJC: a MUCH better word than ‘retire’ for us 49-years-young-stopper-workerers 😉 ], then I would advise that you look at these alternatives:

i) Real-estate (this time, bought with very high deposit / very low borrowings … if any), and/or

ii) TIPS – Treasury Inflation Protected Securities … although, you will have ideally bought these while inflation was still low(er) as competition for these may have pushed prices up / yields down, and/or

iii) Dare I say it: dividend stocks (or, any portfolio of stocks that you are happy to sell down a portion of each year to create your own ‘dividend’

…. but, avoid cash, or cash-equivalents (CD’s, non-inflation-protected bonds, etc.) as inflation will almost literally gobble these up!

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