Warren Buffett saw inflation coming early on — 8 tips to help you come out ahead
Rising prices and uncertainty about how long they’ll last are putting Americans in a bad mood.
Inflation was worse than expected in November, with consumer prices soaring 6.8% from a year ago. That inflation rate was the steepest in more than 30 years, with gasoline, housing, food and cars leading the way.
When prices began accelerating earlier this year, some experts, including the “Oracle of Omaha,” sounded the alarm.
“We are seeing substantial inflation,” Warren Buffett told attendees at his Berkshire Hathaway company’s annual shareholders meeting in May. “We are raising prices. People are raising prices to us, and it’s being accepted.”
Here are eight strategies to help you worry less about the impact on your finances — or even help you come out ahead — while inflation flares.
1. Increase your earning power
When inflation flares up, you can think of it in two basic ways. One is that prices are increasing, another is that the dollar is losing value. Either way you look at it, earning more money is a pretty safe solution.
If you’re out of work or one of the millions of people leaving their jobs in the Great Resignation, consider using whatever extra downtime you have to develop your skill set and position yourself for a bigger paycheck.
You can use those skills to start a freelance side hustle, or check out the latest job postings to land a new job with a larger salary and more opportunities to advance.
2. Play the stock market
Stocks have historically outperformed inflation to a significant degree, making them one of the strongest hedges against high-flying prices.
You can use inflation to your advantage by investing in sectors of the economy that may benefit from rising prices, including food, technology, building materials and energy.
Many innovative apps can help you invest in the market. Weigh the pros and cons of each, find the right one for your financial needs and get in the game.
3. Get precious
Fears of inflation usually bring new attention to hard assets such as gold and silver. Both commodities performed well over the past five years, with the value of gold rising by 52% over that span, and silver’s increasing by about 49%.
You can hold precious metals directly by purchasing coins or bars, or you can take a more hands-off approach and invest in exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, that include commodities in their holdings but trade like stocks.
One popular investing app can help you add gold or silver ETFs to your investments.
4. Capitalize on the scorching real estate market
Real estate has proven to be one of the most reliable long-term investment plays you can make. The U.S. housing market has been on a serious upward trajectory in recent years.
If you’re ready to buy your first home, or already own a house and want to trade up, compare mortgage offers to find your best rate. Mortgage rates are still historically low — the average 30-year home loan recently fell below 3% again.
The lowest mortgage rates tend to go to the borrowers with the highest credit scores, so do what you can to raise your credit score a few notches.
5. Be wary of loans with adjustable rates
When inflation heats up, interest rates often rise. If you’re carrying any adjustable-rate debt, like a credit card balance or home equity line of credit, an uptick in inflation will result in higher interest charges.
That is especially true for mortgages. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, you may want to talk to your lender about refinancing and opting for a fixed rate instead.
That’ll guarantee that you’ll pay the same interest rate until you decide to sell your home — or refinance again at an even lower rate.
6. Bring down your debt
If you’re carrying significant debt, but a mortgage refi or rate swap isn’t suitable for you, there are still options to reduce the interest you’re paying creditors.
One proven method for slashing the cost of your debt is to take out a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
By rolling all of your high-interest debt into a single loan, it’ll be much easier to budget around a single payment to one lender rather than several.
7. Cut all the costs you can
You’ve probably noticed by now that most of the suggestions here involve spending money. But cutting expenses is also an excellent hedge against inflation.
If you haven’t checked insurance rates lately, there’s a good chance you’re paying more than you should. So do some comparison shopping, and you may find a better deal on your car insurance or save hundreds of dollars a year by uncovering a cheaper homeowners policy.
And don’t turn up your nose at coupon clipping, because even Buffett famously does that. Next time you’re shopping on the web, try a handy tool that scans the internet to find better online prices.
8. Stay the course
Not everyone believes inflation’s recent spike is a sign of long-term problems. Warren Buffett has noted that Americans still have money to spend.
“People have money in their pocket, and they pay the higher prices,” he told his Berkshire Hathaway devotees in May.
So if you’re comfortable enough with your current finances to absorb the higher prices, you may want to ignore the hype. And, generate some extra income in the stock market without much effort, by using a popular app that helps you invest your “spare change”.
By Clayton Jarvis