Why inflation matters to
By Jeroen Blokland,
Published on July 7, 2023
In the third episode of Inflation and Investing, we are going back to the basics. Now that we have just experienced a massive wave of inflation – something many people did not think possible – it makes sense to look at the impact of inflation on wealth.
Jeroen Blokland, founder of True Insights - offering independent investment research and portfolios enabling investors to implement a comprehensive and proven multi-asset investment approach.
The not-so-silent killer
Let’s start with one of the well-known inflation charts, showing how inflation eats away capital over time. The chart below shows the declining (real) value of EUR 10,000 in cash over time for four different inflation scenarios, ranging from 1% to 4%.
For example, if you keep that EUR 10K under your mattress for ten years (120 months), with a constant inflation level of 2.0% – the target of many central banks around the globe – its real value will decline to EUR 8,189. That’s a ‘loss’ of over 18%. If we move to an environment of structurally higher inflation, for example, 3%, the loss grows to 26%. Inflation is often called the silent killer, but based on the data above, it isn’t really that silent. Doing nothing with your money will cost you big time.
Why people invest
Inflation is a key and straightforward reason people invest (and save.) They want to stay ahead of inflation to preserve purchasing power. So, what do they invest in? Nearly all investment portfolios contain at least some equities and bonds. This is unsurprising, as these asset classes represent more than 80%(!) of the total investable universe and represent the two common ways for companies and governments to attract capital (equity and debt). But equally important, they have rewarded investors over time by beating inflation. The chart below shows the cumulate return on US Equities (S&P 500 Index) and US Treasuries going back to 1973 (when US Treasury data became available) against US headline inflation. As you can tell, even when the high inflation environment of the late 1970s and early 1980s is included, equities and bonds beat inflation in the long run. The same is true for Equities and Treasuries outside the US.
However, the fact that Equities and Treasuries beat inflation over time does not mean they are insensitive to changes in inflation. Quite the contrary. As it turns out, the level of inflation has a big impact on future returns.
At this stage, it’s important to recognize that there are many ways to reflect a relationship between market returns and inflation. For example, the chart below is commonly used by ‘experts’ to show that equities returns are high when annual inflation is low and low or negative when annual inflation is high.
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Hi, I'm Jeroen Blokland and I've been what they call a multi-asset investor for a long time. After working for Robeco, one of the largest investors in the Netherlands, for more than 20 years, I founded my own company: True Insights
True Insights provides independent investment research that helps you make better investment decisions and expands your knowledge of the financial markets. We will keep you informed of all important market developments and show you how to respond to them. We create well-diversified investment portfolios that invest in more than just stocks and bonds.
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