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Purchasing Power

With the inflation rate, anything Jerome Powell says, and interest rates at the top of everyone’s news feed lately, deciphering the economic jargon can be monumental. We’ll use this article to dig into inflation so that our readers can have a foundational understanding of these economic indicators.

Simply put, financial inflation is the decline of purchasing power in an economy caused by rising prices ( Economists worldwide look at purchasing by defining the change through several inflationary descriptors. These include inflation, disinflation, deflation, hyperinflation, stagflation, demand-driven inflation, and monetary-driven inflation. These factors can impact the purchasing power of all goods and services. Knowing these terms should help navigate through some of the complex economic discussions.


How is inflation calculated/reported?

Calculating inflation is quite complex, but a simplified way of understanding the calculation is to compare the price of a good or service today to the price of the same good or service at a previous time.


For example, in March of 2023, a bushel of apples cost $20; today, the same bushel is $22. That would be an inflation of 10% ([22-20]/20). As you can imagine, this can get very complex. What you need to know is inflation is reported in many ways, but the values that are important for our readers to track are the consumer price index (CPI), wholesale price index (WPI), and core CPI. The difference between the CPI and core CPI is that core CPI excludes volatile energy and food prices, and CPI includes all components.


For extra credit, read about PCE (personal consumption expenditures) the Feds use this as a core metric in rate determinations. We will explore this in full detail in an upcoming post.


Inflation as a lever

Not inflation levers, but inflation as a lever. While inflation levers are also important to understand, the purpose of this title is to bring some imagery to the article.


Think of our economy as a lever completely perpendicular to the wall, sitting at zero. If we move the lever up by 2-3%, we have grown by an inflation rate of 2-3%. If we pull it down slightly to 1%, we are in a state of disinflation compared to our previous state. Lastly, if we move the lever past zero so that the lever is negative, we are in a state of deflation.



  Inflation = >0

Disinflation = + value, but decrease from the previous period

Deflation = inflation< 0 (also referred to as negative inflation)


Hyperinflation and Stagflation

These two descriptors are two opposite sides of inflation.


Hyperinflation is a disastrous scenario in which inflation exceeds 50% in one month. With the Fed's inflation goal of 2%, when inflation hits 3%, 4%, or even 5%, many news and media outlets bubble up reports of possible hyperinflation. Remember, hyperinflation has happened in the past, though it is very rare.  


On the other hand, stagflation can also be a destructive economic scenario. Stagflation is defined by slow economic growth, high inflation, and a high unemployment rate. This is incredibly difficult to solve because solutions that arise for one variable tend to impact the other variable negatively. Some debate that in June 2022, the U.S. economy experienced stagflation, though this is not widely accepted.


Demand Driven Inflation

John Maynard Keynes originally proposed the theory that demand drives inflation (1883-1946). He theorized that aggregate demand, the total amount of demand for all finished products and services (including import/export and government spending), was the primary driver for inflation. As supply changes and demand impact pricing, inflation would rise/fall accordingly. This is defined by the two broad inflationary descriptors known as cost-push inflation and demand-pull inflation. Cost-push inflation starts with the production costs for manufacturers. As production costs increase, companies ‘push’ this cost to the consumer by raising prices. Demand-pull inflation results when demand for a product or service exceeds the supply; thus, the price increases.


Money Supply

Similar to the supply and demand dynamics of demand-driven inflation, the supply of money can also be a driver of inflation. Those who believe in the supply of money as the driver of inflation believe that the cost of capital and the velocity at which money is exchanged are primary drivers of inflation, even more so than the supply and demand drivers.


Key takeaways

Inflation can be confusing, and it's no fun when it hurts my pocket. It is important to remember that low/moderate inflation is a good thing. Inflation around 1-3% indicates good economic growth; hyperinflation (>50%) and deflation highlight a troubling economy.  The Feds have various tools in their monetary and fiscal policies to control inflation and track inflation closely based on personal expenditures. Though, as consumers, we have minimal individual direct impact on inflation, there are factors we can control to limit the effects of inflation on our personal finances. Limiting how lifestyle inflation or lifestyle creep influences our decisions requires a solid understanding of our goals and psychological decision-making.

Our excellent financial coaches at Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers can work with you and provide the tools and tips to walk you through budgeting strategies to help you live realistically within your income. To make sure your money value continues to grow ahead of inflation, consider talking to one of our Financial Advisors. They’ll show you how to achieve your financial goals while increasing your money along the way.

Purchasing Power: The highs and lows

March 18, 2024

Summit Puri

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