Inflation is set to reach 4% this year. What does it mean for your spending power?

By Mark Galligan

From the State Pension triple lock to the cost of living, Covid-19 is affecting economic figures. As the economy reopens, you may have noticed the price of things has risen. From your grocery shopping to days out, inflation means the cost of living is rising and could reach 4% this year.

A small amount of inflation is often seen as a good thing. Prices gradually rising can encourage demand, but higher levels of inflation can suggest demand is outstripping supply and that the economy is running into difficulties.

The Bank of England carefully monitors inflation and can take steps to keep it in check. It has a target of 2% inflation each year, but the inflation rate for 2021 could be double this.

The pandemic impacts the cost of living

According to the central bank’s latest Monetary Policy Report, inflation is expected to temporarily reach 4% in the near term. It notes that this rise largely reflects the impact of the pandemic as the economy recovers, which has led to higher energy and goods prices. However, the report adds inflation is projected to return close to the 2% target in the medium term.

The rate of inflation can seem small, even when it’s double the target. Yet, this can add up to more than you think and affect your short- and long-term finances. It means you could see your day-to-day expenses creep up in line with rising prices.

It works in reverse too and you can see the impact when looking at how the value of money has changed. Let’s say you had £1,000 in 2000. According to the Bank of England, in 2020 you’d need £1,721.35 to achieve the same spending power due to the impact of inflation.

So, inflation means your outgoings are rising, while some of your assets and income are gradually becoming less valuable. If you don’t consider inflation when financial planning, you could end up with an unexpected shortfall.

Retirement is a good example of this. If you set out the level of income you need at the start of retirement and expect to draw the same income for the rest of your life, you’re likely to find it’s not enough to maintain your lifestyle in your later years. You need to consider how the rising cost of living will affect the income you need.

Could rising inflation lead to interest rates rising?

Interest rates have been at record lows for 12 years. The Bank of England first slashed interest rates during the 2008 financial crisis, and has kept them low to support the economy ever since.

While no announcement has been made, the Bank’s latest report does hint that it would be willing to raise interest rates to reduce inflation if necessary. For some, it would be a welcome move, but it could cost others money.

For savers, rising interest rates could help their money keep pace with inflation. Current interest rates mean it’s likely that money held in a savings account has fallen in value in real terms over the last decade. An increase in rates could provide an opportunity for savings to grow in real terms.

For borrowers, it would mean outgoings rise further. The interest you pay on a mortgage, credit card, or loan, for example, will also rise if you’re on a variable rate.

Whether an interest rate rise is good for you will depend on if you’re a saver or borrower.

How can your savings beat inflation?

While rising interest rates could help savers maintain their spending power, it’s unlikely large rises will happen any time soon. It’s far more likely that the Bank of England will make gradual increases to the interest rate, and it could take years for it to be on par with the rate of inflation.

If you want to maintain or grow your spending power, your money will need to work harder. There are several ways of doing this, and, in some cases, investing your money can provide a solution.

Investing does come with risks, and values can rise as well as fall. However, historically, investment values have risen, despite short-term volatility, and it can be a way to increase the value of your money in real terms if returns outstrip the pace of inflation.

When investing, it’s important you set out what your goals are and consider your risk profile. You may be tempted to invest money held in your savings account, but if it’s part of your emergency fund, it should be readily accessible and investing likely isn’t the right option for you.

Whether you’re a professional or a retiree, inflation has an impact on your finances.

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Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

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