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What's the deal with inflation?

Would you blow your nose on a $100 bill? Dive into Zimbabwe's jaw-dropping hyperinflation journey, demystify the buzz around inflation's bite on your buck, and uncover savvy strategies to keep your finances flourishing.

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February 16, 2024

2 min read

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Key takeaways:
  1. Zimbabwe's Extreme: In 2006, money was virtually worthless due to hyperinflation.
  2. What's Inflation: Prices rise, and your dollar's value drops. It's tracked by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  3. Guard Your Money: Diversify with investments like real estate or I-bonds to combat inflation's impact.

In this article

      In Zimbabwe in 2006, it was more cost-effective to clear your sinuses with a hand-full of cash than with a box of tissues.

      Inflation was so severe that a single roll of toilet paper cost $145,750. A loaf of bread? $1 billion.

      By November 2008, Zimbabwe's year-over-year inflation rate reached 89.7 sextillion percent. For those of you counting at home, that's 21 zeros....

      There's been a lot of talk about inflation lately.

      Between steep gas prices and $13 Philly Cheesesteaks, consumer prices in the United States are rising at the fastest rate in 30 years. Some inflation isn't a bad thing — the Federal Reserve plans for a healthy inflation rate of 2% every year. As you can see on the chart below, we're at over 6% today.

      Lots of factors play into this: labor shortages, increased spending, the Great Resignation, and supply chain issues. But there's hope that it's temporary. Have a listen to The Daily Inflation episode for best and worst case scenarios.

      What's inflation?

      "Back in my day, I could go to the movies for .25 cents." Yep, your grandma was talking about inflation. Inflation is when prices for goods or services go up overtime, and your dollar doesn't buy you as much it used to.  

      How is it measured?

      Oh, this old thing? The Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculates the change in prices over the years using a hypothetical 'basket of goods'. It's a list of common household items like lightbulbs, ballpoint pens, and frozen peas.

      This year, hand sanitizer was added to the 'basket of goods' for obvious reasons. And white chocolate was removed  for... also obvious reasons. While it serves a purpose, the CPI has its flaws.

      Why can't we just print more money?

      It might've worked for the Money Heist team, but printing more money just makes every dollar less valuable. Here, this might help. (It might not answer your question, but it'll take you on a journey).

      The Playbook take

      Some inflation is good. Too much is bad. The money in your savings account is worth less every day it sits there. And the stuff you buy at the supermarket or the plumber you need to fix your toilet? Also more expensive.

      Some things to consider:

      • If you have enough money in your emergency fund, consider moving some into real estate and stocks — they're more likely to appreciate in line with inflation. On the flip side, bonds and bank accounts are slower to keep up with inflation, or they don’t keep up at all.
      • Look into government I-bonds. They’re government-backed treasury bonds  that do a great job of keeping up with inflation. Like an IRA or 401k, you know they’re probably a good thing because the government limits contributions.
      • Take a big, long, deep breath. One of the best things you can do for your money is make a plan and stick with it. If you need a hand, we can help.
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