Tom Purcell: Beating inflation is laughable
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 1, 2022
In these inflationary times it’s not easy to laugh as you watch the value of your hard-earned savings being destroyed.
But I chuckled out loud when I read some of the tips offered by Bloomberg News to beat inflation, which is at its highest point in more than 40 years.
Since Americans have enjoyed low inflation and stable consumer prices for a long time, Bloomberg explains, Americans are “a little rusty on basic inflationary-era tactics.”
Bloomberg turned to the long-tortured people of Argentina for guidance, as they have become experts at navigating hyperinflation rates as high as 50 percent in a typical year.
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The tips the Argentines offer are the polar opposite of everything my Depression-era parents taught my sisters and me about managing our money — nutty tips that suddenly make sense in a nutty world.
Here’s the first one: spend your paycheck immediately.
Why put money in the bank where its purchasing power will decline in value every day, when you can buy a new refrigerator, sofa or some other big-ticket item that will cost more a month from now?
In these goofy times, the sooner you buy it, the less you will pay for it.
Another tip: borrow lots of money.
If you can borrow a million today at a 3 percent annual rate and the inflation rate continues at 7 percent, you will enjoy a 4 percent gain.
That is, as today’s dollars inflate, it will be easier for you to repay the loan in the future.
Even this English major can see that makes sense — sort of.
Another tip: buy cars.
That was certainly my strategy in my spendthrift 20s, when I lived paycheck to paycheck, in part because I always had to have a nice ride that I couldn’t afford.
I can’t believe any news outlet would encourage Americans to put their money into automobiles, traditionally a horrible, rapidly depreciating investment.
But in a world turned on its head — there is a shortage of cars due to a shortage of computer chips used in their manufacture — even new and old cars are soaring in value.
My father has lost a fortune in cars over his lifetime, as they depreciated 30 percent or more the day he drove them off the car lot.
Finally, he got lucky. He leased a 2020 Kia. A year from now when his lease is up he will make the payoff of $13,500 and keep the car because it will be worth significantly more than that.
Bloomberg offers some traditionally sensible tips, such as buying inflation-linked bonds, which increase in value as inflation increases.
Bloomberg also suggests buying a home, which also makes sense, as a house is a great hedge against inflation. Though good luck finding one at a reasonable price, as housing values have soared.
COVID has caused considerable market disruptions that have contributed to rising prices and our inflation woes.
The federal government’s stimulus spending, massive borrowing and especially its continuous money printing are major drivers of inflation.
I wish we had confidence that our political leaders had a sound strategy to solve this problem — a problem largely of their own making — but we don’t.
I’m surely not alone in my worry that financial matters may get plenty worse before they get better.
Until then I’ll demonstrate my investor acumen by squandering my hard-earned savings on a shiny new car I can’t afford.
Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.