Last month was the longest month I can ever recall. Minutes felt like hours and days felt like weeks. I’m glad that we’ve finally turned the page from April into May. In the years ahead, I believe we’ll look back at this time as the end of one economic cycle and the beginning of another.
To clarify, although we haven’t yet defeated the Coronavirus beast, I believe science has it cornered. I’m confident we’ll defeat it over the next year. From a financial perspective, I think we’re at a pivotal point for our nation’s economy and our individual financial futures.
To begin, a lot of people saw their livelihoods disappear in the blink of an eye. From a regular, dependable income stream, and through no fault of their own, they went to nothing. Zip. Zero. Just like that.
In an attempt to provide a monetary lifeline, Uncle Sam distributed checks to individuals, provided forgivable loans to small businesses and propped up large corporations. All of it with borrowed money, at a time when our nation’s debt is already beyond comprehension.
With so many individuals out of work, contributions into Social Security also took a hit. Prior to the Corona shutdown, the Social Security trustees projected the program would have major issues beginning in 2035.
Now that fewer workers are contributing, I suspect the day of reckoning will be earlier than expected.
With all that’s going on, I’m telling my clients to prepare for a significant cost of living increase in the years ahead. I think most households should anticipate that as well. As our economy climbs out of a hole there will be many bargains, including fuel and airline tickets. But as the economy exits the hole and begins to strengthen, many bargains will disappear and prices will escalate.
With all the newly printed money in circulation, there are simply more dollars chasing a limited supply of goods. That translates into price increases at the point of sale.
Keep in mind that a lot of our manufacturing is currently done in China, including the vast majority of our pharmaceuticals. Painfully discovering the danger of dependence on others for critical medical supplies, I anticipate a push to bring most manufacturing back to the U.S. And when it does return to our shores, consumers will likely be looking at even more price increases.
And then there are taxes. When Uncle Sam comes to grips with a debt so large it’s beyond comprehension, I believe we’ll soon see a tax increase. I don’t pretend to be an economist, but based on a lifelong career as a financial advisor, and with all that’s happening at the moment, I see Uncle Sam as captain of our ship. And we’ll be setting a new course through uncharted waters.
We’re at the beginning of a new chapter for America. An astronomical national debt, combined with the determination to bring manufacturing back, will likely cost many households a lot more to maintain their previous lifestyle.
In the years to come, I believe we’ll look back and understand what an enormously pivotal time it was in our nation’s economic history. And I think the best way to prepare for the new normal is to anticipate the cost of living increase that may soon be upon us.