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Here’s what: Financial planners gave us the lowdown on how to get through record-high inflation
Like most Americans, I’ve been experiencing dizzying sticker shock in recent weeks.
I went grocery shopping over the weekend and kept whisper-shouting “Inflation!” and shaking my head every time I reached for an item I’d normally buy without thinking but could no longer justify the expense (for example: $8 for blueberries!). I stopped at the gas station, too, and had to wonder if I was back in California when I saw a Philadelphia pump priced at over $5 a gallon.
All told, I probably spent $30 or $40 more on food and gas than I would have a few months ago.
I decided to get some professional help: I asked five financial planners I know and trust to share exactly what they’ve been telling their clients about how to beat inflation.
1. Be smart about where you’re keeping cash
If you’ll need your cash in less than a year, Atlanta-based financial planner Malik S. Lee suggests keeping it in a high-yield savings account. “These accounts should increase their rates as the Fed’s fund rate continues to rise,” he says. For cash you plan to use in the next one to three years, Lee says he’s directing clients to Series I savings bonds that currently pay 9.62% ($10,000 limit) and multi-year fixed annuities that pay over 3.5% (and have no annual limit).
2. Focus on critical home repairs only
Chloé A. Moore, a financial planner based in Atlanta, says her high-earning clients have mostly been fortunate enough not to feel the effects of inflation. Things among homeowners have been slightly more complicated, though.
Moore says some clients who may have wanted to make repairs or improvements to their homes have had to put their plans on pause as the cost of materials continues to rise. For now, she says, they’re focused on making only “critical repairs or upgrades that would significantly improve their quality of life.”
3. Reconsider your home purchase if rising mortgage rates would stretch your budget too thin
With housing prices rising all over the country, it can feel like this is a “now-or-never” moment to buy a home. Who knows if prices will stop rising, and if they do, will you be priced out? But even though the market is on fire and buying a home may feel urgent, Santa Barbara, California-based financial planner Natalie Taylor says she’s helping clients calculate what rising mortgage rates would mean for their budgets, which may mean now isn’t the time.
“I’ve been calculating how much of a difference in monthly payment there would be for every 0.25% of additional interest so that clients have a clear understanding of what higher rates mean for them specifically,” she says.
She also recommends Series I bonds for those looking to protect their emergency funds from inflation.
4. Get to know your spending
Spending in an inflationary environment can be hazardous to your financial plans, especially if you don’t know how much more you’re spending now than you used to. Philadelphia-based financial planner Charles Weeks says he stresses the importance of tracking your spending with clients.
“If you don’t know you spend $250 a month on groceries you may not realize you are now spending $300,” he says. “But if you know your normal spending you can tell when prices are increasing and adjust accordingly. Possibly cutting back or buying cheaper replacements.”
5. Be prepared for inflation to stick around
No one wants to hear this, but financial planner Malcolm Ethridge of Rockville, Maryland, says high prices on food, gas, and entertainment may be around for a while longer, likely another year or so. “That’s primarily due to the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise rates a couple more times through the remainder of this year,” he says. “If they see demand as still being high enough to warrant a couple more rate hikes, then there is certainly potential that inflation could continue to creep up a bit more from here.”
So what can you do? Keep breathing and do your best to budget accordingly. Things will settle down eventually, though we may just have to get used to higher prices.
— Stephanie Hallett, senior editor of Personal Finance Insider
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