Securing Your Bacon and Oreo Future
Stuffing money under the mattress earning next to nothing (e.g., 1.3% on a on a 1-year CD or a whopping 1.59% on a 5-year Treasury Note) may feel secure and safe, but how protected is that mattress money, when you consider the inflation eating away at its purchasing power?
We’ve all been confronted by older friends and family members proudly claiming, “When I was your age, (“fill in XYZ product here”) cost me a nickel and today it costs $5,000!” Well guess what…you’re going to become that same curmudgeon, except 20 or 30 years from now, you’re going to replace the product that cost a “nickel” with a “$15 3-D movie,” “$200 pair of jeans” and “$15,000 family health plan.” Chances are these seemingly lofty priced products and services will look like screaming bargains in the years to come.
The inflation boogeyman has been relatively tame over the last three decades. Kudos goes to former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who tamed out-of-control double-digit inflation by increasing short-term interest rates to 20% and choking off the money supply. Despite, the Bernanke printing presses smoking from excess activity, money has been clogged up on the banks’ balance sheets. This phenomenon, coupled with the debt-induced excess capacity of our economy, has led to core inflation lingering around the low single-digit range. Some even believe we will follow in the foot-steps of Japanese deflation (see why we will not follow Japan’s Lost Decades).
The Essentials: Oreos and Bacon
Even if you believe movie, jeans, and healthcare won’t continue inflating at a rapid clip, I’m even more concerned about the critical essentials – for example, indispensable items like Oreos and bacon. Little did you probably know, but according to ProQuest’s Historic newspaper database, a package of Oreos has more than quadrupled in price over the last 30 years to over $4.00 per package – let’s just say I’m not looking forward to spending $16.00 a pop for these heavenly, synthetic, hockey-puck-like, creamy delights.
Beyond Oreos, another essential staple of my diet came under intense scrutiny during my analysis. I’ve perused many an uninspiring chart in my day, but I must admit I experienced a rush of adrenaline when I stumbled across a chart highlighting my favorite pork product. Unfortunately the chart delivered a disheartening message. For my fellow pork lovers, I was saddened to learn those greasy, charred slices of salty protein paradise (a.k.a. bacon strips), have about tripled in price over a similar timeframe as the Oreos. Let us pray we will not suffer the same outcome again.
It’s Not Getting Any Easier
Volatility aside, investing has become more challenging than ever. However, efficiently investing your nest egg has never been more critical. Why has efficiently managing your investments become so vital? First off, let’s take a look at the entitlement picture. Not so rosy. I suppose there are some retirees that will skate by enjoying their fully allocated Social Security check and Medicare services, but for the rest of us chumps, those luxurious future entitlements are quickly turning to a mirage.
What the financial crisis, rating agency conflicts, Madoff scandal, Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, AIG collapse, Goldman Sachs hearings, FinReg legislation, etc. taught us is the structural financial system is flawed. The system favors institutions and penalizes the investor with fees, commissions, transactions costs, fine print, and layers of conflicts of interests. All is not lost however. For most investors, the money stuffed under the mattress earning nothing needs to be resourcefully put to work at higher returns in order to offset rising prices. Putting together a diversified, low-cost, tax-efficient portfolio with an investment management firm that invests on a fee-only basis (thereby limiting conflicts) will put you on a path of financial success to cover the imperative but escalating living expenses, including of course, Oreos and bacon.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in KFT, GS, Lehman Brothers, AIG (however own derivative tied to insurance subsidary), or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.