Time is on your side when it comes to inflation, as long as you have some thoughtful preparation.

Are you worried about inflation? Many people underestimate the wealth-destroying power of this unstoppable force, but reducing the real-world value of your dollars by a modest 3.5 percent a year will cut your nice, fat nest egg in half in just 20 years.

Unless, of course, you do something to protect your assets. Here are a few easy strategies.

  1. A great TIP: The best bet right now may be TIPS. No, not stock information from your barber-but Treasury Inflation Protected Securities. These government-backed security papers rise and fall with inflation, so you're nearly guaranteed to stay ahead of it for the life of your investment. If it sounds tasty already, it gets even more delicious. Experts are saying that this very unusual economic environment is currently depressing the interest rates on regular Treasury bills. That's good news for TIPS buyers, as they effectively lock in an extra percentage point or so on their rates, which are calculated from a combination of Treasury bill data and inflation trends.
  2. Open a new business: Let the entrepreneurial spirit move you. When you're the boss, you can adjust the prices on your products and the fees on your services as the economy changes.
  3. Boost your earnings: If corporate life is your speed, continue doing a great job, and most employers will give you a decent annual raise. If that's not enough, though, consider a part-time side gig to keep your income ahead of the inflation curve. Or, better yet-look for a day job that pays more money. It's called a career nowadays, not a lifetime job.
  4. Hoard what you can, when you can: Fill your gas tank to the rim every time, and don't go back to the gas station until you nearly have to get out and push. Gas prices go up all the time, so you might as well buy as much as possible at today's slightly lower prices. The same goes for any imperishable goods you find at a fire sale-pack your garage, your pantry, and the laundry room to the ceiling with toothpaste, paper towels, and lawn fertilizer because you're beating inflation every time that you do.
  5. Buy a house. Mortgage rates are low, and home values traditionally increase at least as fast as inflation. The recent housing crash is a rather rare event, and a buyer's market of epic proportions is following in its wake. Wouldn't you love to be a first-time homebuyer today?
  6. Don't forget stocks! The market will eventually return to its historical 11 percent annual returns, so a simple portfolio with nothing but market index securities will keep you well ahead of the inflation game in the long run.

Time can destroy your savings-or grow them to new heights. If you don't stuff dollar bills under your mattress and follow these simple tips to beat inflation, you should be fine.

Published on August 7, 2008