How the Pandemic Affects Inflation in the US

Inflation has been affecting the economy since the beginning of the United States, but in the years of the pandemic inflation rates have been rising higher than they have in the past 30 years. To understand what this means for your personal finances, we first have to understand what inflation is and why the pandemic has affected it so strongly. 

Inflation, in simple terms, is an increase in the price of goods or services due to weakening currency caused by different economic triggers. These triggers can be things like surges in product demand, production cost increases, supply chain breakdowns, or changes in the house market. All of these changes occurred in the past two years with the COVID-19 pandemic with jobs being lost in production, product demand, and border closures causing issues in the importation of goods. 

So what was the consequence of the pandemic on inflation? The Federal Reserve aims to keep inflation at 2% or less each year. There was a 2.3% increase in 2019, slightly above average but nothing to worry about. In 2020, inflation rose 1.4% which was reassuring since so many people were out of jobs and had to work harder to fight the effects of inflation during such uncertain times. In 2021 as the pandemic trailed on, inflation rose 6.8%! This is the biggest jump the country has seen in 30 years since the Great Stagflation of the 70’s and 80’s. 

From 2020 to 2021 Americans are paying significantly more for the same amount of goods and services. Americans are paying 29.7% more for  used cars, 5.6% more for clothing, and 4.6% in energy. These price increases are being felt even in categories of necessity. For example, Americans are paying 8.3% more in food and 6% more in healthcare than they were in 2020. These prices are rising due to the sharp rise in inflation rates, but why does inflation go up during times like these?

One of the major theories of inflation is the demand-pull theory which explains that when demand outpaces the availability of products or services, overall prices will rise. This makes sense in these times of the pandemic since so many people are losing their jobs which means there are less people working to bring goods and services to the public. 

So we understand now that inflation is inevitable especially in times like these, so what can we expect from ongoing inflation trends? Well, it’s not all bad news. It has been noted that inflation and unemployment rates are inversely correlated, meaning that as inflation rises, the unemployment rate goes down. In 2021 unemployment dropped to 4.2% even with the nearly 7% increase in inflation. We can also expect higher wages with the average hourly wage rising 5% in 2021. The negative side of inflation is the rising cost of living which is continuing to rise each year. With the cost of living rising each year it is important to make sure your finances are protected. 

Learn how to protect your finances and prepare for the effects of inflation in the infographic below: 

Post Pandemic Payments Through Buy Now Pay Later

The pandemic changed almost every aspect of our daily lives–even down to the way that we pay for things. Buy now pay later (BNPL) is a way to pay for goods and services over a period of time without worrying about hidden fees and growing interest from credit cards. During the pandemic, this new way to pay grew in popularity due to so many people being stuck at home unable to work and experiencing differing levels of financial insecurity. Now that restrictions are lifted and more people are getting back to work, people are still using BNPL for its many benefits.

One of the largest groups of people that are using BNPL are millennials. Millennials were the largest group during the pandemic that were fresh out of school in the workforce and had less stable forms of income. Many millennials were out of work while still having to deal with loans, rent, and other bills, so BNPL was a great alternative to take care of some of these costs. Even post pandemic millennials are still preferring BNPL over traditional payment methods because it takes the stress out of paying for some larger bills.

Another group of people that are using BNPL are pet owners. Pet owners have to take care of things like the cost of food, grooming, and the most expensive part of pets–vet bills. Vet bills can add up very quickly, and worrying about money and a sick pet can be very stressful which is why so many pet parents are using BNPL to alleviate some of this stress. Only about 18% of people have pet insurance that can help them cover the cost of vet bills, so the remaining pet owners have to figure out how to cover the remaining costs. 49% of pet owners take at least a month to pay off their bills–sometimes more. BNPL allows for pet owners to take the time they need without worrying about interest rates that can come from paying through credit or taking out loans. 

Even if you’re not a pet owner–you more than likely have to go to the doctor or the dentist and BNPL has been growing in popularity in these fields. 71% of Americans who visit the dentist frequently would use BNPL over traditional payment methods.  Only about 32% of people are able to pay their healthcare bills off immediately, and 30% plan to pay for their next visits using credit. While credit has been a useful form of payment for decades, we all know the additional costs that come along with using this method. Yearly fees, interest rates, and extra costs almost always follow credit payments, but not with BNPL

People who use BNPL appreciate the lack of interest rates and the security within the rates they are given that stay fixed while you work to pay off bills. While many people are able to work well when following a budget, sometimes situations will arise that can completely throw off a budget. Even the most successful budgeters can benefit from BNPL. With this new method of payment gaining popularity, 71% of Americans who visit the dentist frequently would use BNPL over a traditional payment. Learn more about BNPL in the infographic below:

Kane Tanaka, World’s Oldest Living Person, Turns 119

Photo: CNN

According to great-granddaughter Junko Tanaka, the world’s oldest living person, Kane Tanaka, celebrated her 119th birthday.

“Great achievement. (Kane Tanaka) reached 119 years of age,” Junko wrote on Twitter, with a photograph of her great-grandmother, whom she saw in December. “I hope you’ll continue to live life cheerfully and to the fullest.”

Junko also shared a photo of two commemorative Coca-Cola bottles that Tanaka received for her birthday. The beverage company personalized the labels with her name and age.

“Birthday gift 1: Introducing the presents received for Kane’s birthday. Really appreciate this gift. Coca-Cola company made a commemorative birthday bottle. It seems (Kane) is still drinking Coca-Cola as usual,” Junko tweeted.

In March 2021, Junko spoke to CNN and during that time, Kane was preparing to carry the Olympic torch ahead of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. Junko started the Twitter account in January 2020 to memorialize Kane’s life.

“I might be biased because I’m related to her but I think it’s kind of amazing — I wanted to share that with the world and for people to feel inspired and to feel her joy,” Junko said.

Kane was born in 1903 and married a rice shop owner at 19. She then worked in the family store until she was 103.

Tanaka has survived many historical events, including two world wars and the 1918 Spanish flu. Her life has spanned 49 Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

“I don’t remember her talking much about the past … She’s very forward thinking – she really enjoys living in the present,” Tanaka’s grandson, Eiji Tanaka, told CNN last year.

According to her family, Tanaka now lives in a nursing home in Fukuoka prefecture, where she keeps her mind and body engaged by doing math.

In 2019, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized her as the world’s oldest living person.

In September 2021, Spain’s Saturnino de la Fuente García was recognized as the world’s oldest living man at 112 years old. Born in 1909, he endured the Spanish Civil War as a shoemaker.

According to a press release from Guinness World Records, he said the secret to a long life is “A quiet life… and do not hurt anyone.”

Kane received congratulatory messages from Twitter users on her birthday.

“It’s awesome that at 119 years old she can look straight at the camera and make a peace sign,” said Twitter user @TuNatoron.

“Congratulations!! Please always stay healthy,” said Mee-san, another Twitter user.