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Navigating Through Uncertain Economic Times

How do you plan for uncertain economic times? While it is hard to predict what will happen, there are steps you can take to prepare, and Blue is here to help!

You walk up to the counter, but you’re already filled with dread. You’ve been feeling the sticker shock of rising prices for groceries, gas, and utilities, but this pain seemed to have slipped your mind in the spirit of the holidays. As the cashier rings up your purchase, you flinch as your suspicions are confirmed: the same turkey that cost $22.93 last year is now $28.96, an increase of 21%! You pay the cashier and shuffle out of the store; your spirit dampened a bit. Sound familiar?

According to most forecasts, inflation is expected to gradually fall over the next 18-24 months before returning to normal sometime in 2024. It’s important to remember, though, that a falling inflation rate is still inflation. In other words, a fall in the rate of inflation is not the same as a fall in prices. While a handful of products may experience falling prices, most will continue to see price increases for the foreseeable future, although the rate of increase may slow.

Because of this, it is generally preferable to purchase major items today if you can afford to do so. Major purchases include things like automobiles and homes, as well as durable goods such as washers, dryers, and kitchen appliances. Because prices are likely to rise, purchasing now is generally a less expensive option if you can afford it.

To reduce expenses today, many recommend looking at opportunities to trim discretionary spending to free up more of your budget for necessities. Further, you could try purchasing generic products rather than pricier name brands. Depending on your situation, you could also benefit by negotiating cable or insurance bills, resulting in savings that can protect you against rising prices elsewhere. By freeing up space within your budget, you will be better able to weather whatever the future may bring.

Beyond spending concerns, a bit less obvious is the impact of inflation on your savings balances. While inflation will not reduce the balance of your savings, rising prices serve to reduce the purchasing value of those savings whenever they are needed in the future. Planning for things like retirement, a child’s college, or even future vacations becomes much more difficult in an inflationary environment.

With this context, be sure to evaluate your savings to ensure you are earning the best return possible. Look to structure your accounts by utilizing products such as certificates of deposit (CDs) or term shares that typically pay higher rates. Laddering termed products across multiple time horizons, from short- to long-term, will enable you to earn a higher return that better keeps pace with inflation. Most financial institutions, including Blue, offer tailored products to meet your needs.

Also, be sure to keep a portion of your savings in a liquid account as a buffer against emergencies. If you do not have an emergency fund today, consider starting one. The Accelerated Savings product from Blue is designed to reward you for starting your savings journey.

It may also make sense to contact your financial advisor and review your investment portfolio within the context of the current environment. Financial advisors are trained to help you through challenging times like these and will ensure you are best positioned within your preferred level of risk, all in a diversified way. You should also regularly review the risk tolerance of your portfolio to be sure it is consistent with your investing goals.

As interest rates rise, also be sure to evaluate any outstanding debt. Consider paying down high-interest, variable-rate debt first to protect yourself from the rising rate environment. Balance transfer campaigns can be a great opportunity to lower credit card rates and keep debt balances from spiraling out of control. Tools such as the “debt snowball” can also be effective for ridding yourself of higher-interest debt. If you are looking to purchase a vehicle or home, consider something a bit less expensive to offset the higher cost of borrowing. Be sure to not put yourself in a situation in which your monthly payments may become more than you can afford if prices on goods and services continue to rise rapidly.

Most importantly, ensure you have a relationship with a financial partner like Blue that will support your lifetime financial needs. As a not-for-profit financial cooperative, we exist to serve you in both good times and bad. Please reach out and engage with us if you are ready to discover pathways to realize your possibilities. You can start your pathway to discover your possibilities by clicking here.

Neal Weber

Chief Financial Officer

Neal Weber joined Blue in 2012 and now serves as Chief Financial Officer, overseeing financial strategy, accounting and finance, data analytics, corporate assets, and deposit & loan operations.

Prior to his current role, Neal was an experienced financial analyst for the credit union before moving into management roles and eventually serving as Vice President of Finance for over five years. Neal is committed to serving the community he loves, and currently volunteers on several non-profit boards, including for the COMEA Shelter as well as holding the position of board treasurer for STRIDE Learning Center.

A native of Wheatland, Wyoming, Neal is a Certified Management Accountant and University of Wyoming graduate with a B.S. in Finance. In addition, he is a High Honors graduate of Western CUNA Management School. He and his wife have a daughter and three sons, and enjoy hiking, camping, and all that nature has to offer in the Cheyenne area.

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