Here’s how to set yourself up to maintain your buying power as a senior.
Surging inflation forces businesses to adapt
Prices for U.S. consumers jumped 6.8% in November compared with a year earlier as surging costs for food, energy, housing and other items left Americans enduring their highest annual inflation rate since 1982. (Dec. 10)
In case you haven’t noticed, inflation has been rampant lately. The cost of everything from gas to groceries to apparel has gone way up, and we could be in for many more months of high consumer prices before things start to settle down.
But while this recent bout of inflation is fairly extreme, some degree of inflation is normal, especially over time. In fact, if you’re many years away from retirement, you can bet that pretty much all of your expenses will end up rising substantially between now and the time you leave the workforce for good.
If that’s a concern of yours, it’s understandable. Though Social Security is designed to give seniors raises, known as cost-of-living adjustments, to help them maintain their buying power in the face of inflation, often, those raises fall short.
That’s why it’s important to take steps of your own to combat inflation. And choosing the right investments could be your ticket to doing just that.
► The Daily Money: Get our latest personal finance stories in your inbox
An aggressive portfolio is the smart way to go
Ideally, you’ll be saving for retirement in an IRA or 401(k) plan so you have money at your disposal outside of Social Security later in life. But it’s important to invest your savings wisely to put yourself in a strong position to maintain your buying power down the line.
To this end, loading up on stocks is a good bet. Though stocks are risky, and they carry more risk than bonds, they also tend to deliver higher returns. And you’ll need those strong returns to grow your money at a robust enough pace to beat or keep up with inflation.
Let’s say you contribute $500 a month to a retirement plan over a 40-year period. If you go heavy on stocks, it’s fair to assume that you’ll generate an average annual 8% return, because that’s a bit below the stock market’s average. Stick to that plan, and you’ll end up with a little over $1.5 million. That’s a nice chunk of money to access at a time in your life when earning money from a job may not be an option (or an option you want to exercise).
► Retirement no-no’s: Why you shouldn’t borrow or withdraw from your 401(k)
These funds are a good bet for a couple of reasons. First, because all index funds are passively managed, they tend to charge very low fees (unlike some of the other funds you might find in your 401(k) plan). Also, S&P 500 index funds in particular offer instant diversification, since they effectively track the broad market.
► Retirement planning: How to protect your savings in a bear market
Don’t let inflation fears drag you down
Inflation is part of our economic cycle, but it also has the potential to make retirement financially stressful. By investing your savings strategically, you can do your part to give yourself an edge, even as the cost of living climbs over time.
Offer from the Motley Fool
The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook: If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,728 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.