An Introduction to Inflation Risk in Stock Investments

By Paul Mladjenovic

Inflation can be a risk that stock investors have to deal with. Inflation is the artificial expansion of the quantity of money so that too much money is used in exchange for goods and services. To consumers, inflation shows up in the form of higher prices for goods and services.

Inflation risk is also referred to as purchasing power risk. This term just means that your money doesn’t buy as much as it used to. For example, a dollar that bought you a sandwich in 1980 barely bought you a candy bar a few years later. For you, the investor, this risk means that the value of your investment may not keep up with inflation.

Say that you have money in a bank savings account currently earning 4 percent. This account has flexibility — if the market interest rate goes up, the rate you earn in your account goes up. Your account is safe from both financial risk and interest rate risk. But what if inflation is running at 5 percent? At that point you’re losing money.

Inflation is a very real and very serious concern, and it should not be ignored when considering risk in your investment decisions.