The whole purpose of investing is to turn money into more money – it’s to be able to buy more things than you bought in the past. However, why not put all your money into savings? If I can lose “all” my money in the stock market, why not play it safe and keep everything in savings? There are two reasons. 1) You probably want to grow your money, not simply keep it safe. And 2) the value of money goes down over time. Wait, you might be asking, isn’t $1 always worth $1?
Yes and no. While $1 will always be the same, the amount that $1 can purchase generally goes down over time. Let’s use an example. Let’s say you have a small collection of 10 Legos. While you really love Legos, you only have these 10, so you tend to be really careful with them – you like them a lot.
One of your friends offers you an apple for one of your Legos. You refuse because you don’t want to have 9 left. However, a few months later, after Christmas and a birthday, you have received 36 more Legos. Your friend comes to you again and asks to trade one apple for two Legos. While you don’t like the idea of giving away more Legos, you don’t mind as much any more because you now have 36. So you do the deal.
What changed? Why were you willing to give more Legos up for an apple when before you wouldn’t even trade one for one? That’s because the Legos became less rare. This has to do with supply and demand. While demand for Legos stayed relatively the same, the supply increased, which decreased the value of the Legos relative to the apples.
We could get really technical with economics but for now the general principle can ring true with money as well. As the amount of money out in circulation, both physical and electronic, increases, the perceived value, and therefore the purchasing power of those dollars, decreases. In the last 100 years, inflation has gone up at about 2 to 4% per year.
The scary thing is that inflation continues even when your money isn’t growing. For example in 2008 when the whole real estate market and stock market crashed, inflation continued. Meaning, not only did stock investors lose 37% on their money, they also lost an additional 3%+ in purchasing power! Ouch!
In times of great economic panic gold often increase in price because it can act as a fear mechanism for investors when times get tough. When people in the market see inflation increasing and economic certainty decreasing, they often view gold, which has been used as money for literally thousands of years, as a safer location for their money.
The bottom line: real estate and stocks are fantastic investments for anyone looking to outpace inflation over long periods of time.