Inflation as Retirement’s Silent Killer

Here’s some eye-opening statistics for you: At a conservative inflation rate of 2.5%, your dollar today will be worth about 78 cents in 10 years. That same dollar will be worth only 61 cents in 20 years, and only 48 cents in 30 years. Think about how that could impact your lifestyle in retirement.

One of the greatest increases we’ve seen is in the cost of health care, something retirees must prepare for. As has been mentioned before in other posts, today it is estimated that a couple retiring at age 65 will need $260,000 to meet health care costs.

As you look toward retirement, everything will likely cost more, from needs, such as medical expenses and food, to enjoyment of a social lifestyle. How can you help prepare for the inevitable?

It all starts with a sound and thoughtful retirement income plan. If you don’t have a strategy for inflation, it can seriously diminish your purchasing power. So, you must take the necessary steps to help protect yourself now and discover some strategies to help you stay one step ahead of inflation.

Inflation can be dangerous for retirees, especially ones who rely on fixed incomes. Let’s say your fixed income in retirement is $50,000, and that seems to be enough because your yearly expenses are less than that. Let’s say your income need is $40,000, providing a $10,000 surplus.

Here’s the rub: Although your income is fixed, expenses are not and will continue to rise because of inflation. Eventually your $40,000 in annual expenses could grow to $60,000, which would clearly be a problem if your income is fixed at $50,000!

One thing you can do to help reduce the impact of inflation is to include an inflation assumption in your calculations of how much annual income you’ll need. Another important step is maintaining an investment portfolio that can potentially provide returns well above the inflation rate.

As you plan for your retirement:

1. Build potential “big ticket expenses” into your retirement plan

That way if you get hit with unexpected or unplanned expenses, you’ll be better prepared. If a new product is developed that will make your life easier, such as a driverless car or eye surgery that allows you to see better than you have in years, you’ll be glad that you built in that buffer.

2. Assume a reasonable rate of inflation.

From 1982 to 2011, the CPI-E (Consumer Price Index for the Elderly) increased at an average rate of 3.1%, while Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers rose at an average rate of 2.9%.

3. Prepare to be flexible in the future.

While no one can predict the future, it’s essential to be as flexible during retirement as you were during your working years. When inflation is high, plan to be more frugal and reduce those extra expenses as much as possible while still enjoying your retirement. Take advantage of senior discounts. Vacation closer to home. Volunteer to be an usher for your favorite plays and concerts to enjoy the entertainment without the expense.

Following those three steps won’t solve all your retirement questions, but they will go a long way to helping make sure you aren’t overlooking retirement’s silent killer.

Of course, no one can predict exactly what inflation will do. But it’s a safe bet it won’t disappear — and even a mild inflation rate, over time, can erode your purchasing power and even set back your retirement lifestyle.