Inflation, the general increase in prices over time, erodes the purchasing power of your money. As a result, the value of your savings decreases, especially if your money is in low-interest accounts that barely keep pace with it.
However, inflation can also have positive effects on your debt. As the dollar value decreases, so does the real value of your debt, making it easier to pay off over time. A 2020 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that during periods of moderate inflation, borrowers tend to benefit from the reduced debt burden.
Balancing debt repayment and saving requires an in-depth understanding of collection costs, inflation, and interest rates and how they interfere with your financial goals. This article aims to help you strike a balance between debt repayment and saving by offering executable tips. So read on to find out more.
Prioritizing High-Interest Debt and Emergency Savings
High-interest debt, such as credit card balances, can be crippling in the long run. According to Experian, the average credit card interest rate in 2021 was around 16.45%. Compared to the average inflation rate of approximately 2-3%, high-interest debt significantly outpaces inflation and diminishes financial stability. Therefore, it’s crucial to prioritize paying off high-interest debt before building substantial savings.
Simultaneously, establishing an emergency fund is essential to cover unexpected expenses, such as medical emergencies or job loss. In addition, financial experts typically recommend saving three to six months of living expenses in an easily accessible account. Therefore, by addressing high-interest debt and emergency savings, you can create a solid financial foundation to weather the storms of inflation and other economic challenges.
Harnessing the Power of Investments in an Inflationary Environment
While traditional savings accounts may struggle to keep pace with inflation, certain investment assets can help protect your savings. Historically, stocks and real estate have demonstrated the potential to outperform inflation. For example, a Morgan Stanley report revealed that since 1928, the average annual return of the S&P 500 has been around 9.8%, outpacing the average inflation rate.
Inflation-protected securities, such as Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), can also play a role in a diversified portfolio. TIPS adjust their principal and interest payments based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), thus providing a hedge against inflation.
Notably, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased by 5.4 percent from June 2020 to June 2021, which is the largest 12-month advance since 2008. So by balancing risk and reward in your investments, you can counteract the negative impact of inflation on your savings and work towards building long-term wealth.
Debt Repayment Strategies to Counteract Inflation
Refinancing high-interest debt can help you take advantage of lower interest rates during periods of inflation. For example, if you have a mortgage with a 6% interest rate and the current market rate is 4%, refinancing could save you thousands of dollars in interest payments over time.
Accelerated payment plans, such as bi-weekly payments, can also minimize the impact of inflation on your debt. Paying more frequently, can reduce the outstanding principal faster, ultimately lowering the overall interest paid on the debt. A Bankrate study showed that using this approach on a 30-year mortgage could save an average of $65,000 in interest payments over the loan term.
While tackling debt, balancing your repayment efforts with long-term financial goals, such as retirement or homeownership, is essential. Consider creating a plan that allocates a portion of your income towards debt repayment and another portion towards saving for future goals.
Adapting Your Financial Plan as Inflation Fluctuates
Inflation is not constant, and neither should your financial plan. Regularly reviewing and adjusting your debt repayment and savings strategies helps you stay on track to meet your financial goals. Keep an eye on economic indicators, such as changes in interest rates and inflation trends, to make informed decisions.
Staying flexible and adaptable is crucial in managing your finances. For example, if you receive a windfall or a salary increase, consider allocating a portion to debt repayment or bolstering your emergency fund. Alternatively, reevaluate your plan and adjust your approach if you encounter financial setbacks.
Balancing debt repayment and saving during inflation requires a well-rounded understanding of inflation’s impact, prioritizing high-interest debt and emergency savings, harnessing the power of investments, employing smart debt repayment strategies, and maintaining adaptability in your financial plan.