I’ve written several times about inflation in these pages. The true inflation rate in the United States at present appears to be 8% to 10% annually, far higher than the derisory “official” figures. I’ve also lived in a relatively high-inflation society, in South Africa during the 1980’s and 1990’s, and seen what happens in other African nations when inflation gets out of hand (Zimbabwe being the most famous recent example). It’s very unfunny to have to live under such conditions.
Venezuela provides an object lesson in the impact of hyperinflation on ordinary citizens and businesses, as the Economist points out.
… in Venezuela, where the inflation rate is in the tens of thousands [of percent], things that people elsewhere would shun for fear they will lose value have become stores of real wealth.
That is why you can see scaffolding and other signs of a building boom dotted around Caracas, the capital of a country that has endured an economic collapse. Businesses need to park their earnings where they will not be wiped out by inflation. A smaller-scale response to galloping prices is the emerging “egg economy”. Eggs hold their value better than cash, for a while at least. They make for a convenient currency, too. It is easier to carry around a half-dozen eggs than a trunkful of banknotes. And many tradespeople would be happier to receive the eggs.
There are plenty of lessons from Venezuela’s calamity, including for ordinary savers. An often-overlooked one concerns personal finances. In stable countries, the penalty for a careless approach to saving can hit you a long way in the future. It might be the drawn-out misery of a meagre income in retirement, say. In Venezuela bad decisions lead to ruin—and rather quickly. Keeping your head above water takes great care. A sure way to go under is to keep money in bolívares for any longer than it takes to buy essentials.
. . .
When protests against Nicolás Maduro, the autocratic president, were at their height last year, some foreigners hoped to snap up homes at fire-sale prices. But there were no bargains. Property was too valuable as an inflation hedge. For a while, a car was as much a savings vehicle as a way to get from A to B. It was once possible to sell one for more than the purchase price in dollars.
. . .
Venezuela … thus provides a vivid lesson in why ordinary folk should pay closer attention to how they manage their money. Even quite small changes can make a big difference to long-term returns. To Venezuelans such wisdom is essential, because when you are coping with hyperinflation, the long term is next week.
There’s more at the link. Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.
The same lessons were evident in Zimbabwe during the nightmare years recently, and in Weimar Germany almost a century ago. We should take heed, because the prospects of severe inflation in the USA are a lot stronger than many people suspect – particularly when our own government lies to us about how bad it already is.