Sam Huszczo CNBC

Inflation is back (for now): Here’s how to optimize your portfolio for rising prices

Ryan Ermey | CNBC | August 23rd, 2021

Don’t panic over rising prices

Even if tomorrow’s inflation numbers come in much higher than expected, investors shouldn’t begin considering it a long-term problem, says Ma. “If we get into May and June of next year and rental prices and wage inflation have not come down, that may be a sign that it’s an ongoing, broad-based trend,” he says. “It would be a clear sign to re-evaluate inflation concerns.”

Although it may seem like a long time to wait, resist the urge to put a large chunk of your portfolio in an asset class that’s typically used to fight inflation, says Sam Huszczo, a certified financial planner and founder of SGH Wealth Management in Southfield, Michigan.

“The easy answer has historically been gold, but over the short term, it’s hard to predict what direction it’s headed in,” he says. The yellow stuff is down about 15% over the past 12 months, and its historical record as a hedge against inflation is spotty.

A big move into Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, government bonds that pay higher interest rates as inflation rises, isn’t going likely to give you much comfort in the long term, either. While TIPS can help protect a bond-heavy portfolio against inflation, stock investors are unlikely to be impressed with the returns. The yield on 5-year TIPS was recently -1.7%, meaning that if inflation were to hover around 3% annually, you’d earn 3% minus 1.7%, for an annual return of 1.3%.

“In this moment, there’s no silver bullet out there for inflation,” says Huszczo.

Adjust your stock holdings to hedge against inflation

If you think inflation is here to stay, consider optimizing your portfolio for rising prices. That doesn’t mean making wholesale changes to your core investments. Rather, consider using sector ETFs to beef up your investments in companies and industries that can potentially benefit from inflation, and paring back your exposure to firms that will be hurt the most.

Favor industries that can easily pass on rising costs to consumers, especially businesses that sell a product that consumers have no choice but to buy. Energy firms are a good example: “You have to put gas in your car no matter what,” Huszczo says. “We’re forced to do that.” Industrial and materials firms are other potential inflation beneficiaries for the same reasons.