Inflation: How will it impact you?

Higher costs could be just the start of myriad problems to come for providers, insurers, and patients alike.

All eyes are fixated on inflation this year as escalated CPI numbers continue to roll in and the demand for post-pandemic goods and services remains high. Naturally, arguments regarding the breadth and depth of inflation are being made on both sides. Some economists feel the inflated numbers truly are transitory, as Fed Chairman Powell insisted for the better part of the first half of the year, while others are sure that rates will either steady or rise over the next few years. If inflation is here to stay, millions of Americans and many sectors of the US economy will suffer the burden of higher costs. 

Inflation should be a key concern for physicians in the coming months years. Not only could a higher rate of inflation affect your own purchasing power and rate of return on your investment portfolio, but it could affect your professional industry as a whole. In fact, it could be argued that higher costs could be just the start of myriad problems to come for providers, insurers, and patients alike. 

Purchasing Power

Inflation results when too many dollars chase too few goods, leading to decreased purchasing power. Simply put: the more demand there is for goods and services, the more things cost; the more things cost, the less you can buy.

What we typically see happen in inflationary cycles are industries raising prices to consumers to combat raising costs. Consumers, in turn, pay more for just about everything from food to housing to healthcare. Higher salaries and better benefits are seldom offered to offset living expenses. So, we start to feel the pressures of inflation when it suddenly costs more to fill up the gas tank or buy the same foods at the grocery store.

Of course, most Americans likely won’t feel the pinch of a 1%-3% price increase too severely, unless they are in the market to purchase from one of the industries that have picked up tremendous momentum since the days of lock-down. Sectors that have seen record post-pandemic growth and elevated prices as a result include travel and leisure activities, used cars, and housing. Luckily, homes, cars, and vacations aren’t recurring purchases and most often take place sporadically and are largely discretionary expenses. But if you notice your dollars aren’t quite stretching as far as they used to, you can thank fiscal stimulus and a rapid economic recovery for putting a squeeze on your budget.

Investments and Rate of Return

Unfortunately, inflation doesn’t just affect purchasing power, but erodes the real rate on return on investments, as well. Say, for example, you hold Treasury Bonds that yield 1.5%, but inflation hovers at 4%. This means your investment’s real rate of return is actually -2.5%. You are essentially paying to hold these bonds!

This investment holds no value as long as inflation outruns its rate of return. Luckily, history has shown that global stock market returns can dramatically outpace inflation, which is why equities are typically the most popular hedge against it. Of course, equities are not beyond the reach of inflation’s erosive power but do generally outpace it for a positive yield above inflation.

The Healthcare Industry

Inflation’s impact on the healthcare industry could be severe. Not only could higher inflation widen the gap between public and private reimbursement—forcing physicians to charge more from their private sector clients—but also cause a spike in insurance premiums. Fewer payers would be able to tolerate upticks in the cost of healthcare related costs, resulting in less insured or underinsured patients.

Over time, insurance companies may try to use their growing market power to limit provider reimbursements, narrow their networks, or reduce patient access to medical care. This is not even to mention the pressure that doctors and hospitals will feel from both sides as they simultaneously contend with higher office costs and tightening revenue.

There are few in healthcare that do well in a higher inflationary environment, so it is important to have the right personal financial safety nets in place to offset these potential professional setbacks.

Triage Your Financial Situation Before Inflation Looms Higher

When inflation is low, it’s easy to overlook how rising prices affect your day-to-day life; when inflation is high, many financial realities in your personal and professional life can change. Many of the challenges that arise from inflation cannot be controlled, but many can be mitigated with the proper planning.

About the Author
Julianne F. Andrews, MBA, CFP®, AIF® began her career in financial planning in 1988 and co-founded Atlanta Financial Associates in 1992, merging into Mercer Advisors in 2020. She specializes in working with physicians and executives in the healthcare industry. Her passion for working with physicians comes from being a pediatrician’s spouse for more than three decades. Julie has been featured on Forbes’ list of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors since 2017 as well as Forbes’ Best-in-State Wealth Advisors since 2018. Julie can be reached at jandrews@merceradvisors.com.
Disclaimer
All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of publication and are subject to change. Some of the research and ratings shown in this presentation come from third parties that are not affiliated with Mercer Advisors. The information is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed or warranted by Mercer Advisors.
The ranking of the Forbes “Top Women Wealth Advisors” and “Best-In-State Wealth Advisors,” was developed by SHOOK Research and is based on in-person and telephone due diligence meetings to evaluate each advisor qualitatively, a major component of a ranking algorithm that includes: client retention, industry experience, review of compliance records, firm nominations; and quantitative criteria, including: assets undermanagement and revenue generated for their firms. Investment performance is not a criterion because client objectives and risk tolerances vary, and advisors rarely have audited performance reports. Rankings are based on the opinions of SHOOK Research, LLC and not indicative of future performance or representative of any one client’s experience. Neither Forbes nor SHOOK Research receive compensation in exchange for placement on the ranking. For more information: www.SHOOKresearch.com.
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All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author, are as of the date of publication, and are subject to change. The information discussed is believed to be accurate but is not guaranteed or warranted by Mercer Advisors. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.