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Markets and economy

Inflation: What to know and what to do

Learn more about inflation and how it can affect the markets and your investments.
5 minute read
  •  
September 19, 2022
Markets and economy
Market volatility
Inflation
Article
Market & economy insights

Rising inflation brings about concern for many, but our time-tested investment philosophy—and a long-term focus—can help any investor navigate choppy waters. 

What is inflation?

Inflation happens when prices rise and purchasing power decreases. This can be the result of a simultaneous high demand for and low supply of goods and services. Consumers have money and want to spend it, but since not enough goods are being produced, prices move skyward. 

In this inflationary environment, as with any period of high uncertainty, investors should reflect on their goals, time horizon, and tolerance for risk. If you determine that you need to make a change after that analysis, you should consider it carefully before making any sweeping changes (such as switching all your investments to cash). … Often times, a moderate adjustment will suffice.

—Jim Dunn, Financial Advisor, CFP®

How has inflation affected the markets?

Inflation has been historically low for most of the last 40 years, so the level of inflation we’re experiencing now is unsettling. When inflation increases, interest rates tend to rise, which can cause both bond and stock prices to fluctuate. This can be especially challenging for companies as they plan capital expenditures, budgets, and payrolls. For many investors, this could be their first experience with inflation and they may be wondering how to proceed.

When should I make a portfolio adjustment during high inflation?

In this inflationary environment, as with any period of high uncertainty, investors should reflect on their goals, time horizon, and tolerance for risk. If you determine that you need to make a change after that analysis, you should consider it carefully before making any sweeping changes (such as switching all your investments to cash). It’s important to put what’s going on into perspective and decide if it truly warrants an adjustment to your portfolio. Oftentimes, a moderate change will suffice. A diversified portfolio will give you the best chance at increasing purchasing power over the long run.

If you don’t think your portfolio needs any modifications but you still want to hedge against inflation risk, you can make spending adjustments. Reducing spending during periods of high inflation can help make your investments last, but won’t feel like a permanent change; you can always increase, decrease, or maintain your spending level, depending on your situation and the market environment.

When should I NOT make a portfolio adjustment during high inflation?

Don’t make adjustments to your portfolio in haste. It’s crucial that you take time to think about what makes the most sense for you and your long-term needs. Even if your risk tolerance has changed, your asset allocation shouldn’t change that much. We also discourage spontaneous changes based on hearsay; just because someone on the news or online makes a recommendation doesn’t mean it’s right for your portfolio.

Instead of veering to avoid bumps in the road, we recommend you stay the course and focus on your long-term goals—your future will thank you for it.

Want to hear more about investing during periods of high inflation?

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All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest. Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Investments in bonds are subject to interest rate, credit, and inflation risk. Investments in stocks or bonds issued by non-U.S. companies are subject to risks including country/regional risk and currency risk.