A great way to beat or manage the impacts of inflation is by putting together an investment portfolio that can protect the value of your money long-term. This includes investments like gold, commodities, stocks, real estate, and Treasury inflation-protected securities (or TIPS bonds).

What Is an Inflation Hedge?

Inflation is the increase in prices of goods and services in the economy. This means that it gets more expensive to purchase things including groceries, apparel, and cars. Even monthly expenses like rent, insurance and your energy bill can cost you more. Inflation hedges are assets that perform well in inflationary environments and thus counteract the effects of high inflation.

The best inflation hedges are the safest investments that appeal to long-term investors with low risk tolerance. They offer a safe place for asset allocation amid rising inflation.

Probably to no surprise, you know that inflation is a hot button issue for many Americans today. As prices of goods and services keep rising in the U.S. and around the world, it puts pressure on consumers who are left with less income.

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"Hedging" against inflation simply means investing in assets that tend to retain their purchasing power.

The result: inflation slowly chips away at your purchasing power as the value of a dollar diminishes. The economy can withstand a healthy amount of inflation but the unpredictable heights it has reached today is causing a lot of uncertainty. Investors must ask the question, how to position themselves to hedge against inflation? What is the best way to use any extra money or cash savings in this scenario?

Inflation has been running rampant all year. The consumer price index (CPI) measures the average change over time in prices urban consumers pay for a market basket of goods. CPI rose 8.2% (seasonally adjusted) over the latest 12-month period, staying elevated at 40-year highs.

The phenomenon of rising prices has weighed on financial markets, too. The S&P 500 is down about 19% so far this year. (That's a bad thing if your investment objectives include generating passive income from index funds.) Homebuyer demand is also down as interest rates are on a steady rise. And commodity prices have been volatile with the prices of oil and raw materials frantically swaying.

Another important factor is the Federal Reserve Bank’s priority in using monetary policy to combat inflation by increasing interest rates to quell consumer demand in the economy. At the same time, trillions of dollars have been added to the money supply by the central bank in the past two years. This dynamic has exacerbated economic challenges and frankly rising interest rates have done little to push down inflation so far.

Let's look at asset classes that are the most appropriate inflation hedges.

Best Hedges Against Inflation

1. Gold

The yellow precious metal has been a time-tested investment. Gold has weathered inflationary environments well historically. Investors turn to gold and other precious metals for their characteristics that preserve investor purchasing power. They are therefore considered by many to be inflation-proof. Gold is a durable, tangible and scarce asset that has steadily increased in value over time.

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Gold bullion has a long history of serving as an inflation hedge.

But unlike gold miners and other companies, physical gold does not generate cash flow or provide dividend payments. Rather it serves as a store of value over a long period of time. While gold sometimes hasn’t been living up to its potential recently, gold prices rose more than 7% over the last six months. Gold still remains in demand today. Investors can purchase gold through an exchange-traded fund (like the SPDR Gold Shares ETF), buy physical bullion, or invest in individual gold mining stocks to get exposure to gold's benefits.

2. Commodities

Commodities encompass various natural resources and agricultural products. Commodity prices are a solid inflation hedge because their prices tend to ebb and flow with the economy. Inflation, which has reached astronomical heights this year, has actually benefited commodities. This is because consumers and businesses use commodities such as oil, energy and natural gas, agriculture, among others in both good and poor economic conditions.

oil rally chart

Crude oil prices tend to rally during inflationary periods.

Crude oil has been one of the best performing commodities this year. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude, which serves as the global benchmark for oil, is up more than 9% this year-to-date, outperforming many other asset classes. Natural gas is another strong commodity performer this year. The S&P GSCI Natural Gas Index, which is a benchmark for performance in natural gas is up an outstanding 71.5% year-to-date.

3. Stocks

Stocks have historically held up well against inflation. In a diversified portfolio, stocks are the growth engine that help compound investment returns over time. However, stock investing comes with higher risk compared to the bond allocation of a portfolio. Stocks are subject to volatility and their values can fluctuate for a variety of different reasons.

In 2022, stock prices performed poorly. But taking a long-term view, stock market returns, on average, easily beat inflation. According to Investopedia, the average annual return of the S&P 500 since 1957 through December 2021 is 11.88% in terms of share price appreciation.

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Over the long run, the stock market is an excellent way to grow or preserve wealth, even if the economy isn't growing.

It’s best to look at stock of companies that can still generate cash flow and maintain or even grow profits during recessionary economic periods. Consumer staples stocks like Walmart, Target, or Coca-Cola fall into this category. People will still need to buy products they use daily like toothpaste, shampoo, and personal care products regardless of how the economy is performing.

4. Real Estate

Another tangible asset, real estate is considered one of the best hedges against inflation because this market is strongly linked to the economy. As prices in the economy rise, income from real estate investments like rent tends to rise with it. For example, if you are a landlord of a rental property, you have the ability to increase the price of rent for tenants in different economic cycles.

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Owning real estate can produce a steady cash flow of rental income for an investor.

However, real estate investing comes with its own risks. Investing in physical real estate is a long-term investment regardless of home prices—it’s not easily bought and sold on the market like stocks. You also must pay property taxes. Furthermore, when interest rates rise (like they are today), demand for new real estate declines because homebuyer mortgage payments will be higher versus when interest rates are lower.

But you don’t have to invest in physical real estate. Real estate investment trusts or REITs are companies that own or invest in income-producing properties. These securities are real estate stocks and can be bought and sold on a major stock exchange.

5. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS)

Investing in TIPS is another way to hedge against inflation. What are TIPS? TIPS are Treasury securities whose value rises and falls with the CPI, the measure for inflation mentioned earlier. This means that the value of your principal that’s invested in TIPS will rise as inflation increases or adjust if there is deflation over the long run. In addition, you will receive interest payments every six month according to the fixed interest rate the bond is sold at, serving as profit for TIPS holders.

treasury bond

Treasury bonds are considered some of the safest assets for investors to own.

Another perk: As government bonds, TIPS are considered lower risk investments since they’re backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. On the flip side, bond investments tend to be lower yielding compared to the higher returns of individual stocks. You can think of TIPS as an insurance policy against short-term inflation.

How to Apply Inflation Hedges to Your Investing Strategy

Even if you're not an experienced investor, having some form of protection from the effects of inflation is important. Each of the options listed above is a good candidate for inclusion in your investment portfolio, depending on your financial goals. The pertinent question is: Which inflation hedge is the best of the best?

There is no clear-cut answer, unfortunately. Not every inflationary period is an exact copy of the previous one. As economic conditions vary, the performance of the assets listed above will likely differ from one another. Picking the ultimate winner is indeed a difficult task.

The key to dealing with this economic uncertainty is diversification. Diversifying your investments simply means holding a mix of different assets. Your goal is to get exposure to different groups of asset classes. Ideally, the performance of these assets will be non-correlated. This means their prices don't consistently move in the same direction all the time. It's the equivalent of not putting all of your eggs in one basket.

As long as your investment strategy is diversified with good inflation hedges, you should be insulated from the worst impacts of high inflation. Do your due diligence and seek professional financial advice from a financial advisor.

Written by Paulina Likos


Read more about investing from the authors at Gainesville Coins:

Tax On Gold: Don't Overpay Your Gold Taxes!

Best Commodities to Invest In: Analyzing 4 Different Sectors

Gold Investment Returns: What Investors Should Expect

Investing in Gold vs Silver

Silver Investment Returns: Analysis for Investors

How to Diversify Your ETF Portfolio

Why You Can't Buy Gold or Silver at Spot Price

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