A few days ago I was driving to Tallahassee, Fla., for my sister’s graduation when something interesting happened. I stopped to get gas. Now, I’ve never seen pumping gas as an exciting activity, but I did find it interesting when my wife said, “Wow. Gas is only $3.52 a gallon.” My wife, it seems, is quite an optimist. Because gas was a few cents less per gallon where we stopped than it was at the previous exit, she saw that as a deal.
I know that gas prices have been a source of great frustration for many people lately. It pains me to spend in excess of $50 to fill up my gas tank when 10 years ago it was a rarity that I would spend more than $10 at the gas station. Unfortunately, steadily rising gas prices have become a reality for us lately. And, as a result of gas prices rising, many other things have risen in price.
So, what can we expect to happen with prices in the future? Over the short term prices of goods and services fluctuate. They go both up and down. Over the long term, prices trend upward across the board. If you are too young to have experienced this for yourself, ask your parents or grandparents what they paid for their first house or car. You might also want to ask them what they paid for a gallon of gas, a month’s worth of electricity and water, or a movie when they were growing up. I’d bet that they’d be glad to tell you all about it.
So, what is the average person to do? There is no magic bullet, but there are some steps that you can take to ease the burden. On a short-term basis, this comes down to one of two things: consuming less gas, or rearranging your budget so that you spend less in another area to allow for more gas money.
On a long-term basis, there are some ways to plan ahead so that you shouldn’t have to make those sacrifices in the future. One of the most common ways to combat the effects of inflation is to invest some of your money into stocks of good quality companies. The reason this has worked in the past is because stocks of good quality companies have traditionally grown at a rate higher than inflation. Of course it is always important to have a balanced portfolio and not have too much in any one investment or investment class. Therefore, certificates of deposit (CDs) and bonds do have a place in most peoples’ portfolios; however, if you do not have some of your long-term investment dollars in a place where they can grow faster than inflation, then you are exposing yourself to the very real problem of having a fixed income in a world where the cost of goods and services in steadily increasing.
If you are not sure what the appropriate mix of stocks and bonds is for you, you should consult your financial advisor.
Your financial advisor will be able to help you figure out how to invest your money properly after taking into consideration your risk tolerance, time horizon, and the amount of money that you will need to meet your goals.
Recently gas prices have been a sobering reminder that prices do go up. But, armed with the right knowledge and a sound plan, you can stay ahead of the game so that you will be prepared for the future.
Jeff Hupman is a financial advisor with Christian Values Investing.