Inflation soared to 7% in March, hitting a fresh 30-year high after fuel prices surged, increasing pressure on the Bank of England to increase interest rates again.
The problem for savers is that higher inflation means their money is ultimately worth less.
The rise in the cost of living is mainly due to petrol prices as well as groceries. It is expected that inflation will continue to rise to 8.7% by the end of the year and average 7.4% for 2022.
When inflation is rising, those who save into deposit accounts may look to redirect their money into investments to get potentially better return.
You need to be willing to take on more risk, however, as unlike cash bank accounts, investments can fall as well as rise and you could get back less than you invest, or lower returns than you might otherwise have achieved.
Here are some investment strategies to consider for trying to stay ahead of inflation over the longer-term.
Invest in the stock market
An inflationary backdrop can benefit investors because during such periods companies will often increase their product prices when their underlying costs start to rise. As a result, company earnings may have the potential to keep up with inflation, yet there is no guarantee.
While shares offer growth potential, they can be risky. Opting for a fund which invests in a wide spread of stocks is less risky than putting your money into just a handful of shares. When you invest in a fund, your and other investors’ money is pooled together. A fund manager then buys, holds and sells investments on your behalf.
Funds can invest in companies in the UK or globally to give you exposure to regions such as Asia, America and Latin America as well as markets closer to home in Europe. You can check out the Barclays Funds List which helps narrow down the huge range of funds available.
Alternatively you could invest in a low-cost tracker fund, which will simply mirror the performance of a particular index, such as the UK’s FTSE 100.
If you are considering investing in the stock market using shares or funds, remember that the value of your investment can fall as well as rise and you could get back less than you invest.
Find out more about funds
Invest in property
Real estate and property in general, is known for typically staying ahead of the cost of living over the long term. But while buying a property outright is quite an elaborate step to take to beat inflation, you can still access the asset class by going for a fund which invests directly in bricks and mortar. This can be risky, however, as if you are a homeowner you already have exposure to the residential property market.
By doing so it helps you to not only diversify your portfolio away from just bonds and shares but also spread your money across a broad range of properties, such as office buildings as well as industrial and retail parks.
This can help with diversification by ensuring that if one or more buildings are unoccupied for a period of time, the other properties can still generate income. The rents paid by tenants, which are often linked to inflation, can provide a stable and sometimes rising income while over time, property values could potentially appreciate.
However, commercial property prices can be volatile and when the economic backdrop becomes uncertain many buildings may fail to attract a sufficient number of tenants or tenants could become solvent and default on rents, which means values and investment returns are very likely to fall. While the demand for space has been impacted by the pandemic and the shift to work from home more, some might want to consider it as part of their long-term investment strategy.
In addition, it is vital to remember that property is an illiquid asset, in other words it cannot be sold quickly. This means that if values start to fall and investors try to get their money out en masse, fund management groups can impose so-called ‘lock-in’ periods, which means you will have to wait until the firm sells some of its assets before you can get your money back.
Commodities can often be viewed as a hedge against the rising cost of living. When an economy is expanding, consumers and corporations are generally financially better off and as a result they typically spend more.
In such an environment, supplies can be squeezed and companies start charging more for their services and goods, including raw materials and commodities. For example, when the price of oil rises, the cost of petrol and diesel on the forecourts follows suit. But commodity prices can be highly volatile and investing in the asset class is not for the risk averse.
If you are considering putting some money into commodities, consider exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which track the price of both individual as well as baskets of commodities. In addition, there is no shortage of actively managed funds, which invest in shares of commodity and commodity related firms.
Find out more about what impact inflation and deflation can have on your investments
Invest using a tax-efficient wrapper
It’s not just how you invest your money that can help combat inflation, but the investment vehicle you use. Investing via a pension or stocks and shares ISA means you don’t pay tax on your returns. With pensions, you get tax relief from the government, boosting your investments immediately, but you can’t touch your money until you reach 55 (57 from 2028). Meanwhile a stocks and shares ISA is a good choice for investing as it allows easy access.