Inflation is on the rise in Canada and rose to 3.7 percent in July, 2021. This is the biggest jump since May, 2011 and is mainly due to more sectors of the economy reopening and consumers having where to spend their money. While pay rates are set to trail inflation, salary increase budgets are unlikely to catch up with inflationary pressures in 2021. Plus, it is not guaranteed that salaries will go up across all sectors of the economy. Inflation is robust but fortunately, there are ways to protect your wealth and fight the effects of inflation. From buying real estate and investing in stocks to alternative investments and portfolio diversification, there are time-tested strategies to protect your money.
1. Buying Real Estate
Investing in real estate may sound counterintuitive given that the average selling price is $688,000. Prices rose by 38 percent in 2020 alone. In most cases, Canadians looking to buy a home need to apply for a loan. As it turns out, however, the cost of borrowing decreases when wages increase and prices are on the rise. Average home prices are also rising faster than the consumer price index which makes investing in real estate a good hedge against inflation.
Additionally according to the Canadian Real Estate Association, home prices tend to be skewed by listings in expensive metropolitan markets such as Vancouver and Toronto. CREA tracks the house pricing index which gives a more accurate picture in terms of the types and number of properties sold.
2. Investing in Stocks and Bonds
There are investments that actually benefit from inflation, such being energy and retailers stocks. Energy companies profit when inflationary pressures are driven by oil price increases. Retailers also hike prices and considering the pandemic e-commerce boom, investing in e-commerce stocks can be a good idea.
Some equities both benefit and contribute to inflationary pressures, for example, metals, grain, lumber, and crude oil. It makes sense to buy shares in commodity companies either through mutual funds and exchange-traded funds or directly.
Investing in government bonds is yet another way to protect your money from inflation. What portion to dedicate to fixed income depends on how soon you will need cash and your risk tolerance. As a rule, government bonds offer income and security but the shorter the maturity, the lower the yield. That is because investors face less risk of interest rate increases. Bonds with longer maturity are more sensitive to interest rate fluctuations. The choice of shorter maturity depends on factors such as income requirements, nearing retirement, and the need to diversify investments.
3. Alternative Investments
The price of alternative investments such as silver, gold, and cryptocurrencies is also rising in the long run. As they are risky, dedicating a small portion to alternative investments only makes sense. At the same time, they are thought to not only retain their purchasing power but to outperform when inflationary pressures arise.
Also, there is a wide array of investment options to look into, besides bonds and stocks, each with its proposition, value, and risk factor. The range of solutions includes derivative contracts, commodities, antiques and art, managed futures, hedge funds, venture capital, and private equity.
The category of alternative assets is vast, indeed, but there are some factors to consider when building a portfolio. First, investors can choose to own assets such as farmland, commodities, precious metals, and real estate indirectly or directly. They can either buy physical assets or shares like, for example, invest in shares of gold or gold bars. The same is true for other assets such as real estate or farmland. When buying shares, the asset is tied to physical property, thus giving investors a choice between financial and physical assets.
Some alternative investments are classified as risky, such being the case with farmland. The value of farmland has steadily risen on an annual basis over the last three decades. There are no signs of slowing down in the short term, given the demand for commodities and agricultural products. In fact, farms will need to significantly increase production to meet growing demand as global population growth continues.
An alternative solution is to invest in inflation-linked bonds which are pegged to the consumer price index. In this case, the interest and principal rise and are adjusted for inflation. There are many benefits to investing in inflation-linked bonds such as less risk and volatility and higher returns compared to conventional bonds. A word of caution should be mentioned here, however. When deflation occurs, the bond principal will fall below par value, with interest due on the inflation-adjusted principal. Investors are likely to incur capital losses if deflationary pressures persist. The longer the maturity, the more vulnerable bonds become to interest rate fluctuations.
4. Portfolio Diversification
Building a diversified portfolio is an excellent hedge against inflation. The types of assets that can protect an investment portfolio against inflationary pressures include US stocks and REITs, treasuries, TIPS, commodities, emerging stocks, gold, European and Pacific stocks, and international REITs. Real estate investment trusts, for example, buy a diverse range of real estate that is rented out and produces solid returns. There is also an option to invest in international and US REITs and many have done so since the 2008 US market crush. The fact is that REITs invest in both commercial and residential real estate and are more diversified than conventional real estate portfolios. This means that they are more stable and less risky in case of rising inflation and economic shocks.
5. Consider a Fixed-Rate Mortgage Loan
There are currently variable-rate mortgages offered at about or even less than 1 percent. Getting a variable-rate mortgage sounds tempting as it looks like borrowing for nothing but it comes with a hitch. The fact is that a significant increase in mortgage rates could translate in hundreds and even thousands of dollars in interest over the loan term.
In comparison, five-year fixed-rate mortgages are currently available at about two percent. Regardless of inflationary pressures and rate fluctuations, borrowers pay two percent over the course of the mortgage. Locking in a variable-rate loan is a good idea when inflation is rising.
Investing in stocks, alternative assets, and real estate is worth considering given that high inflation could last for years. According to chief economist with Bank of Montreal Douglas Porter, inflation rates could remain at 3 – 5 percent for a year or even two. The outlook for the U.S. is similar, with prices and inflation rising until 2023. In fact, inflation south of the border is higher than in Canada, reaching 5.4 percent in June. Canada, however, is behind the U.S. on the path to economic recovery which is a red flag when it comes to recessionary pressures. Investing in physical and financial assets now can help mitigate the effect of expected rising inflation. With a variety of inflation-proof stocks such as energy and utilities and exchange traded funds, there are plenty of options to hedge against inflation.