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Inflation is on the horizon

Is Inflation on the Horizon?

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The specter of inflation has long been absent from the American economy. In fact, inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), has remained below 4% since 2008, has averaged only 1.74% in the past 10 years, and came in at a tepid 1.36% for 2020.1 Rather than inflation, policy makers in recent years have been more concerned with the prospect of deflation — a drop in prices — especially at the outset of the pandemic, when the inflation rate dipped below zero for three consecutive months.

But the tide may be about to shift. With the end of the pandemic in sight, renewed fears of inflation have emerged, as fiscal stimulus kicks in and the economy bounces back.

  • The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond has increased 71 basis points since the start of the year, from 0.93% on December 31, 2020 to 1.64% on March 12, 2021, stoked in part by inflation fears.2
  • A post-pandemic surge in demand is expected by many economists, as vaccinated consumers come out of hibernation and the economy reopens.
  • Restaurant, travel, and entertainment businesses are poised to bounce back, and then some, as people celebrate their refound freedoms and make up for lost time.
  • Huge stimulus packages have injected trillions into the U.S. economy, with the latest topping $1.9 trillion in aid.
  • Record low mortgage rates have helped bring about a thriving housing market, and all the spending that goes with it.
  • A booming stock market has made investors feel richer and more likely to spend.
  • Oil demand is set to tick up as people start commuting and traveling again.
  • Major infrastructure spending, a top priority of the Biden administration, is in the wings and would add further stimulus.

Not So Fast

While all these factors point to possible price hikes, a return to a 1970s-style inflationary cycle is not likely. For one thing, the U.S. economy still has a ways to go before fully recovering from the pandemic. Unemployment remains above 6%, and GDP is still well below its pre-pandemic level. A full recovery is generally not expected until 2022.

For another, different structural factors have conspired to keep inflation low in recent years, and they likely will help contain a rise in the future as well.

  • Global competition in goods and labor markets has had a negative effect on prices.
  • Technological advancement has brought down the price of goods and services. It’s also increased labor productivity, reducing unit labor cost.
  • An aging population has helped keep prices in check, in that elders tend to spend less in general.
  • The Federal Reserve has shifted away from its inflation-hawk policies, and kept interest rates low.
  • Since inflation has been so low for so long, inflation expectations are low, and businesses are less inclined to increase prices as a matter of course.

This is not to say that inflation won’t edge up in the coming months. Many economists predict a surge in late spring, when year-over-year comparisons will be magnified by the negative readings in 2020. But they also predict that inflation will eventually settle back toward the Fed’s 2% target.

Staying Ahead of Inflation

For many, inflation fears are less about an uptick in today’s prices than they are about an erosion in the value of tomorrow’s savings. Over time, even a moderate amount of inflation can take a toll on an investment portfolio. That’s why it’s important to maintain a growth element in your investment mix.

Over the long run, stocks may provide the best potential for returns that exceed inflation. While past performance is no guarantee of future results, stocks have historically provided higher returns than other asset classes. Between 1926 and December 31, 2020, the annualized return for a portfolio composed of stocks in the S&P 500 index was 10.34% — well above the average inflation rate of 2.86% for the same period. The annualized return for long-term government bonds, on the other hand, was only 5.76%.3

Keep in mind that stocks do involve greater risk of short-term fluctuations than other asset classes. Unlike a bond, which promises a fixed return if you hold it until maturity, a stock can rise or fall in value based on daily events in the stock market, trends in the economy, or problems at the issuing company. But if you have a long investment time frame and are willing to hold your ground during short-term ups and downs, you may find that stocks offer the best chance to stay ahead of inflation.

Notes:

1Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Consumer Price Index, 1913-, retrieved February 23, 2021.

2Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, Daily Treasury Yield Curve Rates.

3Source: DST Retirement Solutions, LLC, an SS&C company. Stocks are represented by the S&P 500 index. Bonds are represented by a composite of returns derived from yields on long-term government bonds, published by the Federal Reserve, and the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Government Long index. Inflation is represented by the change in the Consumer Price Index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

                                                                                                                                                                            

This material was prepared by LPL Financial. This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. There is no assurance that they views or strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal. Any economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and are subject to change. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indexes are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Getting prepared to retire

Retiring? Take Control of Your Assets

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Retiring? Take Control of Your Assets

After years of saving and investing, you can finally see the big day — retirement. But before kicking back, you still need to address a few matters. Decisions made now could make the difference between your money outlasting you or vice versa.

Calculating Your Retirement Needs

First, figure out how much income you may need. When retirement was years away, this exercise may have involved a lot of estimates. Now, you can be more accurate. Consider the following factors:

  • Your home base — Do you intend to remain in your current home? If so, when will your mortgage be paid? Will you sell your current home for one of lesser value, or “trade up”?
  • The length of your retirement — The average 65-year-old man can expect to live about 17 more years; the average 65-year-old woman, 20 more years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Have you accounted for a retirement of 20 or more years?
  • Earned income — The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2022, 23% of people aged 65 or older will still be employed, almost twice the proportion that prevailed in 2002.1 If you continue to work, how much might you earn?
  • Your retirement lifestyle — Your lifestyle will help determine how much preretirement income you’ll need to support yourself. A typical guideline is 60% to 80%, but if you want to take luxury cruises or start a business, you may well need 100% or more.
  • Health care costs and insurance — Many retirees underestimate health care costs. Most Americans are not eligible for Medicare until age 65, but Medicare doesn’t cover everything. You can purchase Medigap supplemental health insurance to cover some of the extras, but even Medigap insurance does not pay for long-term custodial care, eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental care, private-duty nursing, or unlimited prescription drugs. For more on Medicare and health insurance, visit Medicare’s consumer website.
  • Inflation — Although the inflation rate can be relatively tame, it can also surge. It’s a good idea to tack on an additional 4% each year to help compensate for inflation.

Running the Numbers

The next step is to identify all of your potential income sources, including Social Security, pensions, and personal investments. Don’t overlook cash-value life insurance policies, income from trusts, real estate, and the equity in your home.

Also review your asset allocation — how you divide your portfolio among stocks, bonds, and cash. Are you tempted to convert all of your investments to low-risk securities? Such a move may place your assets at risk of losing purchasing power due to inflation. You may live in retirement for a long time, so try to keep your portfolio working for you — both now and in the future. A financial advisor can help you determine an appropriate asset allocation.

                            Robber Baron: Inflation

Here’s how a 4% inflation rate would erode $400,000 over a 25-year period. Because inflation slowly eats away at the purchasing power of a dollar, it’s important to factor inflation into your annual retirement expenses.
 Retiring? Take Control of Your Assets

 

  This example is hypothetical and for illustrative purposes only.

A New Phase of Financial Planning

Once you’ve assessed your needs and income sources, it’s time to look at cracking that nest egg you’ve built up. First, determine a prudent withdrawal rate. A common approach is to liquidate 5% of your principal each year of retirement; however, your income needs may differ.

Next, you’ll need to decide when to tap into tax-deferred and taxable investments. The advantage of holding on to tax-deferred investments (employer-sponsored retirement plan assets, IRAs, and annuities) is that they compound on a before-tax basis and therefore have greater earning potential than their taxable counterparts.2 However, earnings and deductible contributions in tax-deferred accounts are subject to income tax upon withdrawal — a tax that can be as high as 39.6% at the federal level. In contrast, long-term capital gains from the sale of taxable investments are taxed at a maximum of 20%.3 The key to managing taxes is to determine the best strategy given your income needs and tax bracket.

Also, tax-deferred assets are generally subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs) — based on IRS life expectancy tables — after you reach age 70½. Failure to take the required distribution can result in a penalty equal to 50% of the required amount. Fortunately, guidelines do not apply to Roth IRAs or annuities.2 For more information on RMDs, see the IRS’s RMD resource page or call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.

A Lifelong Strategy

A carefully crafted retirement strategy also takes into account your estate plan. A will is the most basic form of an estate plan, as it helps ensure that your assets get disbursed according to your wishes. Also, make sure that your beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and life insurance policies are up-to-date.

If estate taxes are a concern, you may want to consider strategies to help manage income while minimizing your estate tax obligation. For example, with a grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT), you move assets to an irrevocable trust and then receive an annual annuity for a specific number of years. At the end of that period, the remaining value in the GRAT passes to your beneficiary — usually your child — generally free of gift taxes. Another option might be a charitable remainder trust, which allows you and/or a designated beneficiary to receive income during life and a tax deduction at the same time. Ultimately, the assets pass free of estate taxes to a named charity.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the financial decisions that you must make at retirement. The most important part of the process is to consult a qualified financial professional, a tax advisor, and an estate-planning attorney to make sure that you’re prepared for this new — and exciting — stage of your life.

                   How Much Can You Withdraw?

This chart can give you an idea how much you could potentially withdraw from your retirement savings each year. For example, if you begin with $400,000 in assets and expect an average annual return of 5% over a 25-year retirement, you could potentially withdraw $18,000 per year. Withdraw more than that each year and you may outlive your money. Also consider: This chart doesn’t take income taxes into account, which can range from 10% to 35%, depending on your tax bracket.
 Retiring? Take Control of Your Assets
Assumes 5% average annual return, and that withdrawal rate is adjusted for annual 4% inflation rate after the first year. This example is hypothetical and for illustrative purposes only. Investment returns cannot be guaranteed.

 

1Source: Labor Force Projections to 2022, Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2Withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts prior to age 59½ are taxable and may be subject to a 10% additional tax. Neither fixed nor variable annuities are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and they are not deposits of — or endorsed or guaranteed by — any bank. Withdrawals from annuities may result in surrender charges.

3A 3.8% tax on unearned income may also apply.

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