The X’s & O’s
The topic of inflation has been getting a lot of attention from the mainstream media lately. People are worried that inflation is going to continue to rise and skyrocket. As with any piece of news media, it’s important that we take a step back and look at what’s actually going on. Brent, Matthew, and Joshua will discuss the current inflation environment and if this issue should be a top concern right now.
Brent Pasqua, Matthew Theal and Joshua Winterswyk
Brent Pasqua: Welcome in. We are back and we’re ready for another show. Today we’re going to be talking about inflation, and how inflation is here. And if you are planning on retirement, do you need to adjust it based on inflation? What I’m curious about today though, is, is this discussion of inflation really overblown or is it just a part of common discussion that people have nowadays?
Brent Pasqua: I’m your host, Brent Pasqua, founder of RPA Wealth Management. I’m here with Matthew Theal, certified financial planner, Joshua Winterswyk, certified financial planner. But before we jump into the fun discussion about inflation, the question I want to know is, has the cost of your grocery shopping increased over the last year?
Matthew Theal: Hey, Brent. Nice to see you today. Yeah, it actually has. It kind of started slowly. I was like, “Oh, my grocery bill looks like it’s a little bit higher.” Maybe it’s because I’m not eating out as much during the whole kind of lockdown COVID period, with all the restaurants closed. And then now just recently, I’m like, “No, I think there’s a trend here. I’m going out to eat a little bit more and my grocery bill is still 15% to 20% higher a month over… From where it was a year ago.”
Matthew Theal: So yeah, I’m definitely feeling it on my grocery shopping. It looks prices have kind of slowly crept up and $0.25 here, $0.25 there for various items adds up when you’re buying food for a whole week. So yes.
Joshua Winterswyk: To me it seemed slow and gradual, but I’m definitely noticing it. And especially as the inflation reports started to come out and I think it makes you a little bit more mindful of, “Am I really paying more?” And you start to look back and saying, “Oh, my bill was X now it’s Y,” in a year over year. So you’re definitely seeing it. And I think you see it in different grocery items, too, more than others. But it has been a slow increase that I’m not the biggest fan of.
Brent Pasqua: I think as you slowly started to see groceries increase late last year, and then end of this year, to me, it wasn’t as big of a deal because you weren’t eating at restaurants. But now people are starting to go back to the restaurant. To increase those higher bills at the grocery store, and you’re going to a restaurant? That can really cut into your budget, right?
Joshua Winterswyk: Yeah, Absolutely. It’s definitely something that you have to be mindful of because normally, and I see it just in my household, we’ll go out to eat, but we’re not really reducing our grocery bill relative to adding the dining out. We still want the same amount of food and be able to have that. So it is definitely something that you have to have awareness for is how you’re adjusting your budget with the higher increases. And now adding the luxury of going out to eat again.
Matthew Theal: Yeah, and I think going out to eat, it’s increased in price a lot too. Right? I haven’t been out that much. We’ve been doing a lot of the delivery apps and those have gone up, so I’d assume restaurant prices when you’re sitting down on the table are up too?
Brent Pasqua: Yeah. I just say don’t waste food. Use every bit you got.
Matthew Theal: Yeah. Unless it goes… unless it spoils.
Brent Pasqua: Well, of course. All right, let’s get into the hot take headlines. Drivers across east coast and south are struggling to find gasoline as stations are running dry because of the cyber hack on the Colonial Pipeline. This is leading to an increase in prices paid at the pump and long lines reminiscent of the 1970s as stations that have fuel… I’m still trying to figure out what the heck happened here and why are people putting gasoline in buckets?
Matthew Theal: That’s kind of funny. I’ve been seeing pictures of people online filling their car with gasoline and Ziploc bags and stuff. I’m like, “Oh man, that’s awful-
Brent Pasqua: Trash bags and things.
Matthew Theal: Yeah. So I guess there’s a pipeline, right, Colonial Pipeline. And it serves gasoline to this southeast and east coast of the United States. And that was hacked and it was shut down for a couple of days. And a bunch of gas stations ran out of gas. And I mean, I think were those stories two weeks old, and we’re still kind of seeing the effects of there are still some gas stations on the east coast that are dry. And so people are waiting in line just the 1970s trying to fill their car. And it’s kind of going like how it was with paper towels last March, where everyone’s starting to hoard it now.
Joshua Winterswyk: It’s just interesting because… I think we also talked about a hot take headline of remember when gas was… They were paying us to take the gas. That’s how much gas we had. And now this year is just a completely different scenario. A cyber hack and now we don’t have enough gas in a big portion of our country. So it’s just kind of funny that… How different one year can be.
Brent Pasqua: How does a cyber attack this happen? Does anybody know?
Matthew Theal: I have no idea how something like this would happen. I assume that you get into their admin files on their servers and somehow lock it up.
Joshua Winterswyk: I do believe it was ransomware, right? So the ransomware is they basically steal all of the data information, like your operating system and basically said, “You’re going to pay us to get it all back and working.” So they’re holding onto it like a ransom, but they’re able to hack into your systems and take it over basically.
Brent Pasqua: And does this shut down the supply chain? Is that what happens, it freezes?
Joshua Winterswyk: And I mean, it would just be you’d lose your whole operating system for the operation, right? So it’s limiting you to what you’re actually able to do.
Brent Pasqua: And I heard someone came out and apologize for this and they said they’re not going to do it again. Is that the case?
Joshua Winterswyk: I heard that this morning, too, that they said, “We’re sorry for doing this.” But I haven’t confirmed that. That was just a little snip bit in the news this morning that I heard.
Matthew Theal: You think Tesla drivers are laughing?
Joshua Winterswyk: Yes.
Matthew Theal: As all these people with their big trucks couldn’t find gas and then, “Oh, there goes a Tesla SUV on the highway speeding by at 90.”
Joshua Winterswyk: I mean, I’m just even happy with the decision for the hybrid that I have. I mean I’m not paying as much at the gas pump. I’m not as upset at the headline.
Brent Pasqua: I mean, were these memes of people putting gasoline in buckets with holes in them real? Or is this just people just making stuff up?
Joshua Winterswyk: I don’t know, but it was pretty funny.
Matthew Theal: It’s hard to say with the internet. But hey, let’s go with it that people are doing that.
Brent Pasqua: All right, let’s get into the second one. Consumer prices increased 4.2% year over year, the largest increase since 2008. This is causing some fears that inflation is here and prices will continue to rise due to government spending. Is inflation here? And that seems a big increase.
Matthew Theal: Yeah. It’s a pretty large increase. I’ll note on that 2008, too, this is actually probably worse a number than you would imagine. So in 2008, a lot of it was led by gasoline prices rising. If you all remember that in the summer of 2008 gas prices hit… Which was almost $100 a barrel and like $4 or $5 a gallon we were paying to fill up. So that led to a big increase in the CPI, which is the measure of inflation that we’re talking about. This one was led by Autocar, so used cars, and then travel spending with the increase. So yeah, it’s here. It’s a little worrisome, it’s pretty much the theme for today’s show.
Joshua Winterswyk: Yeah. And I think that… when you say worrisome, it can be. It’s something to definitely be mindful of, a variable. But I think it’s also a little bit expected. Like we’ve talked about even with groceries and the travel industry, there was pent up demand in that coming back into our economy that we kind of knew that it was going to happen a little bit, right?
Brent Pasqua: Did we know it was going to happen this soon?
Matthew Theal: Yeah, I don’t know. I think for most people, I mean, they’ve been talking about inflation since I’ve been in the industry and we haven’t seen it. So that’s since 2008, right? And I mean, now it’s 2021 and we’re finally starting to see it after the most government spending and money printing that we’ve ever seen. Yeah. I mean, it makes some sense. But really what it’s being driven by is the increase in the minimum wage. And there’s been all this talk about, “Oh, we want the minimum wage to increase for minimum wage employees.” And it’s happening. And that’s leading to an increase in prices because businesses have to raise prices to pay those employees.
Brent Pasqua: Right. I think that’s an understatement in all of this too. I mean, you could hide it under inflation or you’re going to hide it around some of what the other facts may be.
Matthew Theal: Right.
Brent Pasqua: All right. Well, let’s get into retirement planning corner. We’re going to continue on this inflationary conversation. But now that we are looking at the reopening data, it’s becoming clear that prices are rising. Inflation data we just adjusted and suggest that prices are rising. The goal of today’s show, we really just want to talk about if you’re thinking about retiring and you’re concerned about inflation, how do you plan around this? How do you know? Do you have to make adjustments to your portfolio? Do you need to make adjustments to your plan? Do you plan for more expenses going to be in the next five to seven years? You’re later in your retirement, is it going to be impactful? If you’re younger? Let’s go through some of these things. But let’s first start off as just a basic summary. What is inflation?
Matthew Theal: Yeah, I’ll take this one. So it’s essentially when prices rise on goods and services. So that could be food prices, that be auto prices, that could be the price of a TV. It’s just the general rise of prices.
Brent Pasqua: And how do we really know when inflation hits?
Joshua Winterswyk: Well we use a metric or an economic indicator called the CPI, like Matt had mentioned, consumer price index. And that basically measures over different timeframes of what that price level increase, or potentially decrease, in our economy is. So we use that indicator to basically tell us. So how do we know? Well, we can go directly to that indicator and it’ll tell us what’s going on.
Matthew Theal: Do you know what’s interesting, too, here is you could just look at the CPI and be like, “Oh, up 4%,” kind of like you would the S&P 500. “Oh, the S&P 500 is up 1% or 2%. But inside the actual CPI index is a bunch of different categories. And you should probably look at those various categories to see what’s going up on what’s going down. Like we said, this last one was travel and auto-related. So it’s just interesting to see how that changes over time to really see if inflation’s here or if this is just a one-time blip in the radar.
Joshua Winterswyk: Yeah, because there is a big difference even between the used cars and trucks and the overall CPI right now. So I think that’s a great point that you make, that you do have to kind of be mindful of which categories are leading them. And was it expected, like we talked about a little bit. Used cars, groceries, other retail spending or travel. So I think that’s important to making sure when you’re trying to analyze the inflation of looking deeper into that CPI number.
Matthew Theal: There’s very few used cars that you could sell for a profit. Do you think if someone bought a used car in 2020, 2019, they could sell it for a profit today based on how much used car prices are up?
Joshua Winterswyk: I don’t know. That’s a good question, but something to look into. Are you going to look at your car? Are you going to maybe turn a profit-
Matthew Theal: Well, no, I didn’t buy a used car. So, I mean, I don’t know. But I’d be interested if someone looked like, “Oh I bought this car for $12,000 used in 2020, and now I could sell it for 13.” And it’s like, “Wow, that’s pretty good.”
Joshua Winterswyk: Yeah.
Brent Pasqua: I mean, if you’re thinking about your own personal finances, how do you really gauge, or how would you even know how much inflation is impacting you?
Matthew Theal: I think the easiest way was how… with the question you asked at the start of the show. What’s your grocery bill look like? What’s your eating out bill look like? How much are you paying when you go to the movies? Little things that. I mean you’re seeing it directly hit your pocket that way.
Brent Pasqua: I mean, do you think we can be in a position here pretty soon where it felt so many of our conversations were with people who were either retired, not retired, young, old, doesn’t matter. We’re talking about how much money they didn’t spend last year and how much they were able to accumulate and save because they weren’t traveling, they weren’t doing all the extra entertainment. But do you think that you could see that savings dwindle very quickly because of inflation?
Matthew Theal: Yeah, especially, I mean, if you’re going on to travel, I mean, I think… Was it two or three shows ago? We were talking about our summer travel plans and I was saying how it’s just too expensive right now for me to get out there.
Joshua Winterswyk: And you’re not even seeing it. And just another example of where you’ll be able to really notice is even, like the summer concert series as they’re being rolled out and even sporting events. So you log in and what used to be a $35 ticket is now $55. And then also the service fees are higher. So you can just see that just by shopping for some entertainment this summer of the prices you were paying before to compare to this rollout of the new events this summer.
Brent Pasqua: Yeah. Because I mean, I guess you could already see this coming where it’s like, “Well, these businesses weren’t operating for the last nine months.” So we’re going to go make up for what we weren’t able to earn last year. And all these people have extra money, so guess what we’re coming after all that extra income and savings.
Matthew Theal: Yeah. I mean, that’s a good way to look at it too. And then also, I mean, take a home remodel, right? I mean, that’s an increase in price. You need lumber, you need hardwood flooring, you want stone. Maybe redo your kitchen. That’s all 10 to 20% higher than it was two years ago.
Brent Pasqua: For people who are thinking about retirement or retirees. I mean, what types of goods and services do you think that they’re going to be looking at where they’re going to really feel the impact of inflation?
Matthew Theal: So I wrote down a few, I’m sure Josh has some good ones too. But the three I came up with, I think food. You’re definitely going to see it in food. You probably already are. If you’re trying to take a trip wherever your retirement travel plans were, you’re going to definitely see it there based on the prices that we’re seeing. And then when you go buy that new car. Car prices are going up. There’s a semiconductor shortage right now in cars. So all the new cars, they don’t have enough chips to put in them. So the ones that are coming over from overseas and sitting on dealer lots are going up in price because they don’t have enough supply.
Joshua Winterswyk: And also just to add, I mean those are all great examples. But then also to add for expenses to be mindful of is the remodel, right? A lot of times when you’re going into retirement, you’re looking at potentially moving, you’re looking at remodeling your home or doing an addition. And all of those housing costs are going up. So it is something to be extremely mindful of. If you’re planning that big event, whether if it’s moving or updating your house.
Brent Pasqua: I always hear like in common discussions, people talk about inflation, whether it’s with clients or with just people in general, like, “Oh, the government shouldn’t be spending or it will create inflation.” Is inflation really that bad for the market though?
Matthew Theal: It’s tough to say. I think in the short term it could definitely hurt stocks. They could go through a period where they do drop as a stock is really just a reflection of a business, right? That’s all you’re doing. And as businesses grapple with higher inflation, it’s going to increase their costs until they can increase prices. And that’s kind of most likely what we’re going to see happen in the summer. So again, I mean, stocks could be in for a bumpy road. But over time it just means higher profits, right? Hopefully.
Joshua Winterswyk: And also you just have to, I remember that inflation… because I agree with you, Brent, it gets brought up in so many conversations. We have to remember that it is just one variable. There are so many other variables that are affecting not only the stock price, but the market. And yes, we have to be mindful of inflation, but I don’t think that it’s the only indicator that’s telling us whether asset prices appreciate or depreciate.
Brent Pasqua: I think that with so many people who have 401k plans and they have their own… They’re investing in funds, they’re investing in portfolios. Our clients are built on a very strategic portfolio. Many people have portfolios and they have their investments. How does inflation really impact those portfolio returns?
Matthew Theal: It impacts it, right? But let’s take a look back at last year. So last year was a great year for the stock market. Depending on the amount of stocks you had in your portfolio, you should have made somewhere between 8% to 30% returns. I know that’s a wide range. But if you had more bonds, you’re going to make less, if you have less bonds, you probably made more. Oh, and you shouldn’t have touched your portfolio last year. If you just let it sit there, right? You went through the crash and you got the recovery. You did really, really well. If you made call it 15% portfolio return last year and inflation’s at four, well you’re still up. Great, you made 11% real return. So you’re sitting pretty, but if you didn’t invest and you pulled out or you have too many bonds or you weren’t in the right stock funds and you didn’t do that, cover that inflation, well now you’re trailing. You’re poorer today. It’s a pretty simple way of looking at it.
Brent Pasqua: So how do you sort of offset that? I mean, are there any portfolio strategies for dealing with inflation?
Matthew Theal: Yeah, I mean, you definitely want to have the right mix of stocks to bonds in your portfolio. You want to have the right funds selected in your portfolio. And you want to, in a way, not overtrade your portfolio. And doing all that, you’re going to get returns that beat inflation over time. So when you hear inflation, you’re not too concerned about it.
Joshua Winterswyk: I think that that’s one, another testament to just creating a projection even of growth from your portfolio and factoring in inflation with your expenses. I know we always talk about creating a cashflow report. That’s something that’s a really good tool to understanding how inflation is going to impact your portfolio growth over the next five, 10, 15 years. Because we’re not building a portfolio for the next three months. Most likely it’s going to be a bit longer time horizon. So creating that projection or that example of inflation factored in with the expected rate of return of your portfolio, really kind of help you understand, is it really make or breaking or hurting you in the short or long-term.
Brent Pasqua: I mean, as we’re starting to think about the income that retirees are going to create. And from an expense standpoint, you need to probably plan on for inflation over time. But what are some of the income strategies that we can deal with with inflation?
Matthew Theal: Yeah. This is a tough question to answer. So the first one is kind of looking at your social security, right? Most retirees are going to be on social security. They should be getting a COLA bump coming for 2021. It should be a fairly large based on the numbers we’re seeing. But we’ll see what the government decides to do there. It’ll probably be less. Right, Brent?
Brent Pasqua: Right.
Matthew Theal: But you’ll still get a bump. In your portfolio, as long as it’s been invested properly, it should have grown over the last five years. And the market’s up, the five-year returns look great. That ten-year returns look great. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to adjust your income slightly higher to meet the rising prices that we have today. Especially if you had an advisor who set up your retirement plan.
Brent Pasqua: So what’s interesting to me, too, is we’ve spent a lot of time together working on the withdrawal strategy. And we looked at all the different rates of which someone can withdraw for income in retirement to make sure that their assets sustain for the rest of their life. And we factor for inflation, but inflation seems really high. I mean, does that 4% withdrawal strategy still actually work?
Joshua Winterswyk: I think it depends on the timeframe, right? I mean, 4% I think is a general good rule of thumb because we know that, yes, there’s periods that inflation can be higher. And we’re talking about inflation, but it’s only been… Yes, it’s increased, but we’re only seeing these numbers for a short amount of time as well. Like Matt had mentioned earlier, we haven’t seen inflation for a while. We’ve kind of been waiting on it and it’s never really hit us yet. We’re finally seeing just the the tip of it. And we don’t even also know how long it’s going to be around for. So I do think that the 4% rule is a good starting place. Do I think it’s a cure all to every income strategy? No because there are again more variables to not only the portfolio construction. But I think that it is a good place to start.
Matthew Theal: Yeah. I agree with Josh. And then if you’re still working, I mean right now is a good time to go to your employer, you probably need to ask for some sort of raise if you haven’t gotten one, right? With prices rising so much. If you’re-
Brent Pasqua: Don’t get any ideas, Matt.
Matthew Theal: No, no, I don’t have any ideas. But I mean, if your salary is stagnant, right, it’s gotten more expensive to live. It’s pretty simple.
Brent Pasqua: Is work… are employers coming out and giving cost of living adjustments or are planning to with this inflation? I mean, have we heard any of that data?
Matthew Theal: From my understanding, most of the large employers are up to almost 15 to 17 an hour. I believe Chipotle and Uber both said by next year it will be possible to easily make 100,000 a year as a driver or an employee at Chipotle serving line food.
Joshua Winterswyk: And that is one side effect of inflation as prices go higher, there’s wage increases. So, or hopefully there is. And I think that that is a great tip, Matt. I think we don’t talk about it enough is when we’re talking about wealth and saving money we don’t talk about as much of also asking to make more money. Right? If you deserve it, you’ve worked hard over this last year. That’s a big part, I think, in wealth creation is making sure that you have that personal growth with your income, right? If you’ve been working hard and you deserve it, go out there and here’s the push to go ask for more money because that’s going to help you through these times.
Brent Pasqua: Yeah. If you haven’t gotten a raise in a while, or you just, you’re afraid to ask for a raise, I think right now is a very good time to do that. There’s jobs everywhere. And with inflation coming, you cannot sit at your same income. You have to get some cost of living adjustment. Things are just going to get more expensive. I mean, if four… Okay. So let’s talk about one last thing with younger people. I mean, is there any recommendation, Matt, that you would give to a younger person to offset some of this inflation that we’re starting to see?
Matthew Theal: Besides asking for a raise, just investing in stocks. I mean, if stocks drop, right, it would be a good buying opportunity. Get some of your savings to work after your emergency fund. And you got 10 to 30 years to let it grow.
Brent Pasqua: Yeah. Maybe track your expenses. Watch it closely. Compare to last year’s data. I mean, I think that could be helpful. Josh, for you, I mean, is there anything that you would recommend to somebody getting close to retire or in retirement that you would give them recommendation to offset inflation?
Joshua Winterswyk: I think that just also taking a look at your investment portfolio as a whole, looking at your whole balance sheet. Because you might already even have some inflation hedges in there, right? Like housing or your real state property. So should you or even really be that concerned, right, when you really look at your overall balance sheet and the way that your assets are distributed. So I think that awareness right now, as these metrics are changing and the economy is going through a little bit of a shift, have that awareness of your own plan and seeing if you do have any of those hedges already built in, or maybe you can even potentially add something prior to retirement.
Matthew Theal: What are housing prices up, 10, 20% over the last year and a half of being on the market?
Joshua Winterswyk: Yeah, just crazy. And I mean, here in Southern California, we’ve experienced this directly. Matt and I, and Brent, I know that you’re mindful of all of these increases with the housing. Anyone that’s looking at buying or selling or has been over this last year and a half, or just turn on the news can see how dramatically housing prices have gone up. And if you are the homeowner, it’s good for you, right?
Matthew Theal: Yeah. Houses are a hot commodity right now.
Joshua Winterswyk: Yes they are.
Brent Pasqua: All right, so let’s get into the last part of the show. Let’s get into RPA recommends. I’ll kick this one off today. As summer is now upon us or at least approaching us very quickly. One thing that we know with inflation also is people are doing more spending. My recommendation would be for people to use a website we’ve talked about in the past. Potentially go to nerdwallet.com and actually do a review on that site about the credit card that you’re using. I would possibly go and look at what you’re using your credit card for. So do you want… are you spending more on groceries? Are you spending more on gasoline? Are you spending more on travel?
Brent Pasqua: And make sure you get a card that gives you rewards in the area that you want your rewards in. Do you want cash back? Do you want money back for airline travel and for your trips coming up? And make sure that you’re getting the right percentage of cash back rewards on things that you’re spending money on. Because the question I ask so many people, I was like, “What credit card are you using?” Oh, they’re just using some general one that they got with their bank or they signed up when they were 18 years old. Go back and actually do a review of your credit card and trying to get something that’s going to give you a decent amount of returns. Because some of them will give you cash back on 1%. Some could be as high as three, four, 5% on the thing you’re spending money on. I think it’s a great way to add a little money back in your pocket, offset a little inflation here.
Matthew Theal: That’s awesome, Brent. I don’t have a good product today, but I’ll stick with the inflation and salary, I guess, discussion we’ve been having. And if you haven’t got a raise in a while, do some research, figure out what your position makes in your zip code or state. And then go to your employer and ask for a raise. Lay out your case as to why you deserve one and hopefully if you’re a good employee, the employer will be crazy to lose you and they’re going to give you that said raise because it’s really hard to hire employees right now. Number two, if that doesn’t work, go get a job, offer from another company and tell your employer I’m leaving unless you match this. That’s how you get a raise in the world.
Joshua Winterswyk: Great tips. I like both of them. The credit card thing, Brent, we’ve always talked about maximizing rewards on credit cards. And I think that it is key. I really maximizing that. Speaking of credit cards, Costco has a good credit card. My recommend comes from a product at Costco. I do have a puppy that loves to play fetch and Costco has a Nerf gun that shoots tennis balls up to 75 feet. I think maybe I liked it even more than my dog, but he loves it. But it was pretty fun to get that ball and that gun and shoot it across the yard and have him run out and chase it. But a pretty cool product from Costco. Thought I’d go fund today with any of the dog lovers out there, go to Costco, get the Nerf gun that shoots tennis balls for your dog.
Matthew Theal: That sounds pretty cool.
Brent Pasqua: Great exercise for the dog and makes it probably a pretty nice to be able to play with them that.
Joshua Winterswyk: Yeah, he loves it. So really cool. He really enjoyed it. So any of the dog owners, run out to Costco, use your good credit card and buy that toy for them.
Brent Pasqua: Well, as advisors, we love helping people and that’s why we do it. Ever since we started doing financial planning since the beginning, we’ve always planned for inflation and what can happen with inflation in retirement and expenses and how to work around it when those times come. We know that they’re going to come. But if you’d more information or to schedule an appointment with any of us, please go to RPAwealth.com, schedule a complimentary consultation. You can also download our ebook from the website. If you’d like show notes, please go to retirementplanplaybook.com. Love to hear your feedback. We always appreciate you listening to the show. We’ll talk to you soon.
Joshua Winterswyk: Thank you.
Matthew Theal: Thank you.
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