Independent, Fee-Only Financial Advisor

Independent, Fee-Only Financial Advisor

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Chicken Little

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!


Or is it?


We just got the latest numbers on inflation. The data show that inflation increased 6.2% for the 12 month period ending in October of this year. That’s WAY beyond the historical average of 3% annually and stirred up the inflation ghosts of the 80s.  While we take inflation pressures seriously, we find there are some mitigating factors here and some variables that mean these numbers will moderate.


First, this is being measured against the twelve months ending in October, 2020, when we were, mostly, in pandemic mode. Much of the twelve months from November, 2019, through October, 2020, were spent in full or partial lockdown. That means we are measuring from a low point. The previous inflation rate for that period is 1.2%, much lower than the historical average.


And what determines prices? Supply and demand. And we have some weird things going on for both sides of the equation.


On the supply side, we our seriously bogged down. Factories are trying to gear back up to full steam. Ships are backed up at ports. There are not enough drivers to deliver goods. There is a multitude of variables contributing to the mess, but it’s not permanent. Gradually, we will see  the chain unkink, but, right now, inventory levels are low. Want the hottest Christmas toy? You’re going to pay big bucks.


And what of the demand side? We’ve all been hunkered down, spending less and accumulating more. As my mother used to say, “The money is burning a hole in our pockets.” And we’re not just buying stuff. Now, we are buying experiences—booking travel like there’s no tomorrow.


More people chasing fewer goods/services. It’s a recipe for classic inflation. But will we keep spending like drunken sailors? Probably not. Things will slow down. We’ll get it all out of our system and settle back into normal patterns.


And what about the biggest cost of business? Labor. Well, we are waiting to see how this pans out. Yes, the labor market is tight, and wages are increasing. Will they stick? In some cases, yes. In areas with a lot of turnover, maybe not.


Ultimately, we believe prices will moderate, but don’t expect to go all the way back down to earth. For the last decade, inflation has been in the 2% range or less. We expect it to go above historical levels in the next year or two and hover in the mid 3% range. That’s highER inflation but not HYPER inflation.


So, when it comes to inflation, it’s a little cloudy, but we don’t think the sky is falling.