4 Ways to Protect Retirement Savings From Inflation

When planning for retirement, retirees often forget to consider inflation.

When planning for retirement, retirees often forget to consider inflation. The current inflation rate is 1.9%. Longer-term, the average between 1914 and today stands at 3.26%.

That might not sound significant. However, even a 2% inflation rate will increase one’s cost of living by about 50% over 20 years. If that rate rises to 4%, prices will more than double in the same amount of time. Federal and state pensions usually adjust for inflation, but most private pensions do not.

For this reason, most people who face a long retirement need a strategy for dealing with inflation. People contemplating major investment decisions should contact their financial advisor. However, four investment vehicles offer inflation protection that can protect the asset values of retirees while minimizing risk.

Invest in Dividend Aristocrats

A dividend aristocrat is any company in the S&P 500 that increases its dividend at least once annually for a minimum of 25 consecutive years. The list of dividend aristocrats for 2019 stands at 57. It includes companies such as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and ExxonMobil (XOM).

Investors who buy these stocks should remember that no stock has to pay a dividend. The longer a dividend streak runs, the more the value of a stock depends on dividend increases. A dividend aristocrat that cuts its payout could see its value suffer for years or even decades. For this reason, these companies tend not to end annual payout increases if they can avoid doing so.

Risk-tolerant investors might choose to buy individual stocks. Investors who are more risk-averse can purchase a dividend aristocrat exchange-traded fund such as the ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index (NOBL). The payout on NOBL fluctuated over time. However, it rose from just under $1 per share in 2015 to $1.44 per share in 2018, an increase of about 44%. Over that same period, inflation rose by 5.94%.

Investor comfort levels with stocks vary. However, regardless of risk level, dividend aristocrats offer rising dividends that can produce the extra income needed to combat inflation.

Consider Real Estate Investment Trusts

REITs act as a stock portfolio with real estate holdings. These companies own or finance real estate that generates income through different types of property. Most focus on one property type such as offices, apartments or industrial sites. Others diversify into several property types, while some concentrate on mortgages only.

If a company in the U.S. becomes an REIT, it must distribute at least 90% of the net income from its properties as dividends. In exchange, all property-related income becomes exempt from federal income tax. REITs trade like a stock but allow investors to invest in real estate without the tenant and maintenance issues involved with buying and managing rental property directly.

Should inflation move higher, rising property values should increase the value of the stock in the long run. Inflation would also lead to rising rents. Thanks to the 90% payout requirement, higher rents will generally take dividend payouts higher over time. This gives investors both protection from a declining currency along with a generally reliable source of cash flow.

Utilize Commodities

In business terms, a commodity is defined as “any unprocessed or partially processed good.” Gold, oil, cotton, corn, orange juice and electricity are all examples of commodities. These resources serve as the building blocks of civilization, and thus hold some measure of value. By contrast, the government-backed currencies we typically use to buy these commodities tend to lose value over time.

Commodities often see wild fluctuations in value. Hence, it’s not recommended that investors speculate in these products to build wealth, or hiding gold bars and raw cotton in your home. Most investors should instead turn to general commodity ETFs. The largest in existence is the Invesco DB Commodity Tracking Fund. DBC and similar funds own a basket of diversified commodities. Over time, these funds should rise as the dollar loses value. Moreover, diversified funds protect investors should an individual commodity crash. Best of all, with these ETFs, individual investors can benefit from rising commodity prices within the convenience of a brokerage account.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities

TIPS are bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury. They differ from other bonds in that the principal amount adjusts with inflation. TIPS tie the principal amount to the consumer price index. This principal amount can rise with inflation or fall with deflation. Twice a year, TIPS adjust the amount of principal according to the CPI and pay interest on the new principal value.

TIPS offer benefits besides the CPI adjustments. Because they are U.S. Treasuries, they have virtually no risk of default. Further, should deflation occur, TIPS guarantee 100% of the principal amount upon maturity of the bond.

However, investors should remember that conventional bonds tend to figure some level of inflation risk into their rates. The interest rate on TIPS does not. Hence, in a low-inflation environment, TIPS investors may see a lower return. For this reason, TIPS investors should also add conventional bonds to their portfolios in case of lower inflation.

Keep reading about 10 effects of inflation and how you can protect your money now.

By Will Healy for

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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