Protecting Your Emergency Fund From Inflation
Your emergency fund may be rapidly losing value.
Despite your best efforts and planning, you and your family’s first line of financial defense might be eroding day by day. And it’s all because of inflation.
Here’s what’s happening…
Inflation is the steady increase of prices over time. A jug of milk that costs $2.85 one year could cost $3.00 the next. On average, prices have inflated at 3.25% annually since 1914.¹
But in 2021, inflation exploded. The market faced a perfect storm of low interest, pandemic-fueled supply chain problems, and consumers returning to stores. Demand soared while supply shrank.
The result? Consumer prices increased 7% in 2021, the highest rate since 1982.²
That means everything is increasing in price… including the services you need in emergencies.
But here’s the problem—it’s a challenge for your emergency fund to outgrow inflation.
Why? Because above all else, your emergency fund must be both accessible and stable. What good is an emergency fund if you can’t use it in a pinch or if it gets leveled by market fluctuations?
And good luck finding an account that’s accessible, stable, AND pays interest that’s greater than inflation. In today’s climate, it can be difficult to find a “high interest” savings account that pays more than .5%. Read that again. Not 5%. Point 5 percent.
The question then, isn’t if your emergency fund can outgrow inflation. It’s about minimizing the damage.
Here are two ideas that may make the difference between financial success and disaster in the face of emergencies…
Increase your income. It’s simple—the more you earn, the better positioned you are to navigate emergencies. Look for ways to increase your income through side hustles, a new opportunity, or even negotiating higher wages with your current employer.
Just remember—not all sources of income are created equal. The income from your job, for instance, has two critical weaknesses…
- It may dry up if an emergency stops you from working
- Wages haven’t kept pace with inflation for decades
In short, the best sources of income for emergencies work even when you can’t, and empower you to control your own wage.
Some options are…
Turning a hobby or passion into a side-hustle Starting a business that eventually becomes self-sustaining Creating and selling duplicatable items like books, courses, music, etc.
Split your emergency fund. If you have a substantial emergency fund you could split it between two accounts. One half would grow slowly but remain easily accessible and stable. The other half would grow faster but be less accessible and more volatile.
Be warned—this strategy will only work if you have substantial emergency savings. Before you opt for this approach, consult with your financial professional.
Shielding your emergency fund from inflation is possible, but it takes the right strategy. It’s always wise to consult with a licensed and qualified financial professional before committing to a strategy.
¹ “United States Inflation Rate: Stats,” Trading Economics, https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/inflation-cpi#:~:text=Inflation%20Rate%20in%20the%20United,percent%20in%20June%20of%201921.
² “Inflation reaches highest level since 1982 as consumer prices jump 7% in 2021,” Paul Davidson, USA Today, Jan 12, 2022, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2022/01/12/cpi-2021-consumer-prices-climbed-7-2021-fastest-pace-since-1982/9178235002/
³ “For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades,” Drew Desilver, Pew Research, August 7, 2018, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us-workers-real-wages-have-barely-budged-for-decades/