How to Survive Hyperinflation

Hyperinflation is inflation on steroids. Inflation may be known as the silent tax, there is nothing silent about its hyper sibling. It is as in-your-face as it gets.

Imagine the price for a gallon of milk rising a dollar a month for the next year, and you'll have a small idea of its impact.

And when the "real" value of money drops like that over a very short period of time, a complete economic breakdown is not far behind.

What is Hyperinflation

The rapid loss of purchasing power (or devaluing of a currency) is called "hyperinflation". This means that more of your money is needed to buy less of what you want.

Basically, a country's currency (money) becomes virtually worthless (i.e. you need to start buying things with million dollar bills).

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe
Buying 3 Eggs in Zimbabwe?
That will be $100,000,000,000 please...

In the United States, an inflation target of 2% is gospel when it comes to monetary policy. Realistically, we could handle an annual inflation around 5% without much adjustment to daily life. Hyperinflation would be in the neighborhood of 25% per year.

Before you think that's high, Argentina made due with 100% annual took 500% for things to really turn south.

How Hyperinflation is "Controlled"

Hyperinflation is a result of out of control inflation. So "controlling" it is a bit of a misnomer. However, this doesn't stop the government from trying. The tools of choice are wage controls and price ceilings.

Any type of price/wage control disrupts the natural push and pull between supply and demand. Usually, this results in shortages, hoarding, under-the-table arrangements, and black markets.

When a government enacts price ceilings, they force companies to limit the prices of their products, in an attempt to keep prices at a level that people can afford.

The downside is that hyperinflation also increase the the costs of making a product, and companies cannot pass these increases on to customers without getting government approval. As a result, companies produce less and shortages arise.

Wage controls come in several forms, including salary freezes, mandated salary increases, fringe benefit limits. For instance, your employers may be forced to give you a 6% cost of living increase this year...regardless of whether you performed poorly or were in line for the corner office promotion.

What you can do

In a hyper-inflationary environment, money management becomes critical to any kind of financial success, be it business or personal. In particular, your ability to quickly convert income into assets is key.

Cash is trash (as Robert Kiyosaki is fond of saying), because its value falls so quickly. You'll want to have it invested in assets that will increase in value (in order words, you'll be focused on improving your personal balance sheet).

At the same time, you'll want to avoid credit like the plague. Get paid in cash, so you can quickly put it towards an asset purchase. Have gift cards? Use them immediately. As prices rise, your gift card balance won't.

When investing, expect a lot of volatility and adjust your decision-making process accordingly by keeping your timeframe short (i.e. assets that are short-term and/or very liquid).

Investments like certificates of deposit, bonds, loans etc. must be short-term or avoided all together.

Stock selection will also be critical, because corporate profits would be hammered by price controls and we'll probably see weaker companies file for bankruptcy.

Those insurance policies you have aren't dynamic, so they'll only cover a fraction of your costs during the period of hyperinflation.

Be prepared for shortages too. You might find that your stash of Twinkies is suddenly worth its weight in gold...literally!

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