Whither the US Dollar? Inflation remains a threat to SaddleBrooke

VIA SBINSIDER and numerous sources| May 28th, 2023

Almost all retirees always have a concern: No matter how much money they have in the bank, we worry that we will burn through our savings before our allotted time on earth is up. This is not irrational. We all know of fellow residents or retired friends and relatives that have had to downsize or move in with their adult children for financial reasons. Compounding the worry are the actions of the Federal Government in concert with the Federal Reserve.

Inflation, the never-ending destroyer of wealth, has lessened of late in reaction to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates and cooling the real estate sector and the IPO funny money markets.  Congress too, plays a role in that it is in control of fiscal policy-how much the Federal Government will spend annually-which had increased tremendously under President Biden.

Inflation is a deliberate policy

The Federal Reserve meets regularly as a Board of Governors and sets monetary policy-whether to increase the money supply, thereby trying to boost the economy or raise rates to slow it down. The key thing is setting the annual growth of the supply of money and it is usually 2-4% which means to retirees that their money in savings is going to be worth less by that same amount every year. The deliberate inflation policy is designed to allow the economy to grow organically by providing the funds needed to grow business activity. But sometimes, like now it gets out of control.

COLA to the Rescue?

The aftermath of the inflation ravaged economy of the late 70’s spurred Congress to try and protect income and savings from the very inflation Congress and the Federal Reserve had created. COLA, for Coast of Living Adjustment, is meant to maintain the purchasing power of Social Security and other retirement plans funded by the taxpayers. It is an extremely complex process and experts have argued for years as to what cost components should be included in the index that sets the COLA. In 2022 the adjustment was 5.9% and in 2023 8.7%. 

Do COLAS work ?

Depends on you and your financial situation. Most SaddleBrooke residents are NOT solely dependent on Social Security. But with the overall stock market down about 10% since December of 2022 and inflation in the sectors most residents purchase, food (up 11%),  gas and electricity (15%)  most of us are treading water.

On the other hand, citing Social Security Administration data, CNBC reported this week that about 12 percent of men and 15 percent of women “rely on their monthly Social Security check for nearly all of their income,” with “nearly all” defined as 90 percent or more.

Check this table and you can get a handle on where we have been vis-à-vis inflation since 1929 (we al remember that year):

YEAR INFLATION RATE YOY4 FED FUNDS RATE*5 BUSINESS CYCLE (GDP GROWTH)67 EVENTS AFFECTING INFLATION8
1929 0.6% NA August peak Market crash
1930 -6.4% NA Contraction (-8.5%) Smoot-Hawley
1931 -9.3% NA Contraction (-6.4%) Dust Bowl
1932 -10.3% NA Contraction (-12.9%) Hoover tax hikes
1933 0.8% NA Contraction ended in March (-1.2%) FDR’s New Deal
1934 1.5% NA Expansion (10.8%) U.S. debt rose
1935 3.0% NA Expansion (8.9%) Social Security
1936 1.4% NA Expansion (12.9%) FDR tax hikes
1937 2.9% NA Expansion peaked in May (5.1%) Depression resumes
1938 -2.8% NA Contraction ended in June (-3.3%) Depression ended
1939 0.0% NA Expansion (8.0% Dust Bowl ended
1940 0.7% NA Expansion (8.8%) Defense increased
1941 9.9% NA Expansion (17.7%) Pearl Harbor
1942 9.0% NA Expansion (18.9%) Defense spending
1943 3.0% NA Expansion (17.0%) Defense spending
1944 2.3% NA Expansion (8.0%) Bretton Woods
1945 2.2% NA Feb. peak, Oct. trough (-1.0%) Truman ended WWII
1946 18.1% NA Expansion (-11.6%) Budget cuts
1947 8.8% NA Expansion (-1.1%) Cold War spending
1948 3.0% NA Nov. peak (4.1%)
1949 -2.1% NA Oct trough (-0.6%) Fair Deal, NATO
1950 5.9% NA Expansion (8.7%) Korean War
1951 6.0% NA Expansion (8.0%)
1952 0.8% NA Expansion (4.1%)
1953 0.7% NA July peak (4.7%) Eisenhower ended Korean War
1954 -0.7% 1.25% May trough (-0.6%) Dow returned to 1929 high
1955 0.4% 2.50% Expansion (7.1%)
1956 3.0% 3.00% Expansion (2.1%)
1957 2.9% 3.00% Aug. peak (2.1%) Recession
1958 1.8% 2.50% April trough (-0.7%) Recession ended
1959 1.7% 4.00% Expansion (6.9%) Fed raised rates
1960 1.4% 2.00% April peak (2.6%) Recession
1961 0.7% 2.25% Feb. trough (2.6%) JFK’s deficit spending ended recession
1962 1.3% 3.00% Expansion (6.1%)
1963 1.6% 3.5% Expansion (4.4%)
1964 1.0% 3.75% Expansion (5.8%) LBJ Medicare, Medicaid
1965 1.9% 4.25% Expansion (6.5%)
1966 3.5% 5.50% Expansion (6.6%) Vietnam War
1967 3.0% 4.50% Expansion (2.7%)
1968 4.7% 6.00% Expansion (4.9%) Moon landing
1969 6.2% 9.00% Dec. peak (3.1%) Nixon took office
1970 5.6% 5.00% Nov. trough (0.2%) Recession
1971 3.3% 5.00% Expansion (3.3%) Wage-price controls
1972 3.4% 5.75% Expansion (5.3%) Stagflation
1973 8.7% 9.00% Nov. peak (5.6%) End of gold standard
1974 12.3% 8.00% Contraction (-0.5%) Watergate
1975 6.9% 4.75% March trough (-0.2%) Stop-gap monetary policy confused businesses and kept prices high
1976 4.9% 4.75% Expansion (5.4%)
1977 6.7% 6.50% Expansion (4.6%)
1978 9.0% 10.00% Expansion (5.5%)
1979 13.3% 12.00% Expansion (3.2%)
1980 12.5% 18.00% Jan. peak (-0.3%) Recession
1981 8.9% 12.00% July trough (2.5%) Reagan tax cut
1982 3.8% 8.50% November (-1.8%) Recession ended
1983 3.8% 9.25% Expansion (4.6%) Military spending
1984 3.9% 8.25% Expansion (7.2%)
1985 3.8% 7.75% Expansion (4.2%)
1986 1.1% 6.00% Expansion (3.5%) Tax cut
1987 4.4% 6.75% Expansion (3.5%) Black Monday crash
1988 4.4% 9.75% Expansion (4.2%) Fed raised rates
1989 4.6% 8.25% Expansion (3.7%) S&L Crisis
1990 6.1% 7.00% July peak (1.9%) Recession
1991 3.1% 4.00% Mar trough (-0.1%) Fed lowered rates
1992 2.9% 3.00% Expansion (3.5%) NAFTA drafted
1993 2.7% 3.00% Expansion (2.8%) Balanced Budget Act
1994 2.7% 5.50% Expansion (4.0%)
1995 2.5% 5.50% Expansion (2.7%)
1996 3.3% 5.25% Expansion (3.8%) Welfare reform
1997 1.7% 5.50% Expansion (4.4%) Fed raised rates
1998 1.6% 4.75% Expansion (4.5%) LTCM crisis
1999 2.7% 5.50% Expansion (4.8%) Glass-Steagall repealed
2000 3.4% 6.50% Expansion (4.1%) Tech bubble burst
2001 1.6% 1.75% March peak, Nov. trough (1.0%) Bush tax cut, 9/11 attacks
2002 2.4% 1.25% Expansion (1.7%) War on Terror
2003 1.9% 1.00% Expansion (2.9%) JGTRRA
2004 3.3% 2.25% Expansion (3.8%)
2005 3.4% 4.25% Expansion (3.5%) Katrina, Bankruptcy Act
2006 2.5% 5.25% Expansion (2.9%)
2007 4.1% 4.25% Dec peak (1.9%) Bank crisis
2008 0.1% 0.25% Contraction (-0.1%) Financial crisis
2009 2.7% 0.25% June trough (-2.5%) ARRA
2010 1.5% 0.25% Expansion (2.6%) ACA, Dodd-Frank Act
2011 3.0% 0.25% Expansion (1.6%) Debt ceiling crisis
2012 1.7% 0.25% Expansion (2.2%)
2013 1.5% 0.25% Expansion (1.8%) Government shutdown. Sequestration
2014 0.8% 0.25% Expansion (2.5%) QE ends
2015 0.7% 0.50% Expansion (3.1%) Deflation in oil and gas prices
2016 2.1% 0.75% Expansion (1.7%)
2017 2.1% 1.50% Expansion (2.3%)
2018 1.9% 2.50% Expansion (3.0%)
2019 2.3% 1.75% Expansion (2.2%)
2020 1.4% 0.25% Contraction (-3.4%) COVID-19
2021 7.0% 0.25% Expansion (5.9%) COVID-19
2022 6.5% 4.25% Contraction (-1.6%)
2023 2.7% (est.) 2.8% (est.) Expansion (2.2%) March 2022 projection
2024 2.3% (est.) 2.8% (est.) Expansion (2.0%) March 2022 projection
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John Gault
8 months ago

The real value of our 401K.s continue to drop. The way it is going, even dog and cat food will be too expensive for our SaddleBrooke generation. Thank you big spenders in Washington!