Edge-ucation / Investing Coaching

Everything You Need to Know About the Worst Investments During Inflation

  • Austin Still

    Austin holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Saskatchewan and brings over 10 years of investing experience. With a belief the most important decision investors make when buying stocks is the price paid, Austin aims to blend growth with value by finding companies with accelerating growth combined with a discounted valuation. More specifically, Austin’s expertise lies in the technology sector, identifying businesses showing strong growth, a lasting competitive advantage, and sound fundamentals, paired with a valuation that supports further stock price appreciation.

    View all posts
Man with his head on a desk in defeat with a crashing line graph behind him | 5 Ways to Avoid Losing Money in the Stock Market

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Characterized by the rising prices of goods and services, inflation erodes purchasing power and can profoundly impact investment returns. In such times, making smart investment choices becomes more critical than ever.

The trick to successful investing during times of high inflation lies not in avoiding the stock market altogether but in understanding how inflation interacts with different asset classes. While certain investments can serve as effective hedges against inflation, others usually significantly underperform.

Today, we’re going to explore the complexities of inflationary investing, highlighting investments that tend to underperform and offering insights into strategies for protecting your portfolio. We’ll examine why certain assets, like long-dated bonds and growth stocks, are particularly vulnerable in an inflationary environment and discuss ways to lower your risk when inflation is out of control.

Inflation and Investments

Inflation: Introduction, Types & Causes | Investopaper

Image Source: Inflation: Introduction, Types & Causes | Investopaper

Inflation is an economic reality characterized by a general increase in prices and a decrease in the purchasing power of money. Essentially, when inflation occurs, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services than it did before. This devaluation can have a significant impact on both the economy and individual investors.

The causes of inflation are varied, often stemming from an increase in the money supply, rising production costs, rising input costs, or various demand-pull factors. Governments and central banks monitor and manage inflation rates to maintain economic stability, using tools such as interest rates and monetary policy to either encourage or lower inflation.

One key measure used to assess inflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). CPI tracks the average change over time in the prices paid by consumers for a standard basket of goods and services, effectively reflecting changes in the cost of living.

As the CPI rises, it signals an increase in inflation, indicating that the purchasing power of money is declining. Understanding the CPI and its implications is crucial for investors, as it directly affects investment returns and where overall financial markets will trend.

Common Pitfalls in Inflationary Times

Inflationary periods can be an investor’s worst nightmare. Financial markets typically underperform, and central banks begin to restrict their monetary policy to bring inflation back down. All this usually leads to slower economic growth and an increased risk of a potential recession.

During these challenging times, many investors begin to panic and make investment decisions based on fear instead of logic.

To help investors understand what not to do when inflation begins to rise, below are some common pitfalls retail investors make when investing during high inflation.

Ignoring the Impact of Inflation on Cash Holdings

Many investors perceive cash and cash equivalents as ‘safe’ assets, especially during turbulent market conditions. However, during periods of inflation, this strategy can backfire. The primary issue with holding too much cash in an inflationary environment is the erosion of its purchasing power. As prices rise, the value of cash savings diminishes, leading to a significant loss in real terms. This makes it crucial for investors to carefully balance their cash holdings and seek investment options that offer protection against inflation.

Overlooking Inflation-Adjusted Returns

A common oversight in investment analysis is failing to consider inflation-adjusted returns. Investors often focus on the nominal returns of their investments, disregarding the fact that inflation can significantly eat into these gains.

This can lead to a misleading assessment of an investment’s performance. It’s essential for investors to evaluate the real rate of return, which accounts for inflation, to understand the true value of their investments over time.

Misjudging the Safety of Bonds

Bonds, particularly long-term fixed-rate bonds, are often viewed as stable and low-risk investments. However, in times of inflation, the fixed income from bonds may not keep pace with the rising cost of living, leading to a decrease in purchasing power. This issue is particularly relevant for long-term bonds, as they lock in interest rates that may become unattractive if inflation rises. Investors need to be cautious about over-relying on bonds during inflationary periods and consider shorter-term bonds or inflation-indexed bonds as potential alternatives.

Underestimating Stock Market Volatility

While stocks are often turned to as a hedge against inflation, they come with their own set of risks. The stock market can be highly volatile, and not all stocks perform well during inflationary periods. Certain sectors may be more sensitive to inflation and interest rate hikes, leading to underperformance. Investors should be wary of putting all their eggs in the stock market basket and instead focus on diversifying their portfolios, including stocks from sectors that historically perform better in inflationary environments.

Overreliance on Traditional Inflation Hedges

Traditional assets like gold and real estate are often considered good hedges against inflation. However, their performance is not uniformly positive during all inflationary periods. These assets can be subject to other market dynamics and risks, making them less reliable as a hedge in certain conditions. Investors should be cautious not to overinvest in these assets and consider them as part of a broader, diversified investment strategy.

Chasing High Yields Without Considering Risk

In an effort to combat diminishing returns during inflation, investors might be tempted to chase after high-yield investments.

However, these higher returns often come with higher risks, such as credit risk or market volatility. It’s important for investors to thoroughly assess the risk profile of high-yield investments and not be swayed by attractive returns alone, as these could potentially lead to significant losses.

Neglecting Sector-Specific Influences

Different sectors react differently to inflation, which can significantly impact investment returns. For example, sectors like energy and commodities might fare better during periods of high inflation. On the other hand, sectors that are more sensitive to interest rate hikes, such as technology or consumer goods, may underperform. Investors need to understand these sector-specific dynamics and adjust their investment strategies accordingly to mitigate risks and capitalize on potential opportunities.

Overlooking Global Economic Impacts

Inflation is not solely a domestic concern; it has far-reaching global implications. International markets and foreign currencies can be affected by inflationary trends in major economies, impacting global investment returns. Investors need to consider the international aspects of inflation, particularly if they hold or are considering investments in foreign markets or currencies.

Avoiding these pitfalls requires a careful approach to investing during inflationary periods. By recognizing and addressing these common mistakes, investors can better position their portfolios to withstand the challenges posed by inflation and not overreact when financial markets begin to favor certain investments over others.

Top 4 Worst Investments During High Inflation

Do Not Enter sign | What Are the Worst Investments During Inflation? 3 Stocks to Avoid.

Image Source: What Are the Worst Investments During Inflation? 3 Stocks to Avoid. | Yahoo Finance

Understanding which investments typically fare poorly during high inflation is just as important as understanding which assets could outperform.

To help our readers protect their portfolios should inflation begin to reignite, here are the top four investments that are generally considered under-performers during periods of high inflation:

Long-Dated Bonds

Bonds | FINRA.org

Image Source: Bonds | FINRA.org

Long-dated bonds are particularly vulnerable during times of high inflation. These bonds lock in interest rates for extended periods, which can be detrimental when inflation rises. As inflation increases, the fixed interest payments from these bonds lose real value, eroding the purchasing power of the returns. Furthermore, rising inflation often leads to higher interest rates, which in turn causes the market value of existing bonds to decrease as newer bonds offer higher yields.

Cash and Cash Equivalents

Fanned-out $20, $50, and $100 bills | Rainy day funds and how much cash to have on hand – The Prepared

Image Source: Rainy day funds and how much cash to have on hand | The Prepared

Holding large amounts of cash or cash equivalents, such as money market funds or short-term CDs, can be a poor strategy during high inflation. These assets typically offer very low interest rates that do not keep pace with rising inflation, leading to a decrease in real purchasing power over time. While cash provides liquidity and safety in terms of nominal value, its real value diminishes as the cost of goods and services increases.

Growth Stocks

5 Growth Stocks to Buy for 2024 | InvestorPlace

Image Source: 5 Growth Stocks to Buy for 2024 | InvestorPlace

Growth stocks tend to significantly underperform during periods of high inflation. These stocks trade at high valuations based on future earnings expectations. However, as inflation rises, central banks typically increase interest rates to combat the inflationary pressure. Rising interest rates will reduce the present value of future earnings, making growth stocks less attractive. Additionally, higher borrowing costs and reduced consumer spending can negatively impact the earnings potential of these companies.

Fixed Income Annuities

Wooden stamps reading "fixed income" | 4 Alternatives to Annuities for Fixed Retirement Income

Image Source: 4 Alternatives to Annuities for Fixed Retirement Income | Yahoo Finance

Fixed income annuities, which provide regular payments over a certain period, can be a risky choice during high inflation. The payments from these annuities are fixed and do not adjust for inflation, leading to a decline in the real income over time. For retirees or investors relying on these payments for a significant portion of their income, high inflation can severely impact their financial security.

Strategies to Mitigate Risk During Inflation

Could TIPS Ladder Funds Help Mitigate Inflation Risks? | Nasdaq

Image Source: Could TIPS Ladder Funds Help Mitigate Inflation Risks? | Nasdaq

Inflation presents a unique challenge to investors, affecting different asset classes in very different ways. As inflation rises, the key to preserving and growing your investments lies in implementing effective strategies that mitigate these risks.

This section is dedicated to exploring effective (but still simple) approaches that can help investors navigate through the turbulent waters of an inflationary economy.

Diversification Across Asset Classes

This goes without saying, but one of the most effective strategies to mitigate risk during inflation is diversification. By spreading your capital across different assets (such as stocks, mutual funds, real estate, and/or commodities), investors can reduce the impact of inflation on their overall portfolio. Diversification helps because different assets react differently to inflationary pressures; while some may lose value, others will gain or remain stable.

Focusing on Inflation-Resistant Investments

Certain investments tend to hold up better during periods of inflation. These include Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), which are government bonds specifically designed to combat inflation. Real assets like real estate and commodities such as gold and oil can also serve as hedges against inflation.

Exploring International Markets

Investing in international markets can offer a hedge against domestic inflation, especially in countries where the inflation rate is lower. It should be noted, however, that this strategy requires careful consideration of currency risks, geopolitical stability, and the global economic environment. Investing in international markets should be done thoughtfully to ensure it aligns with the investor’s overall risk tolerance and investment goals.

Staying Informed and Flexible

To say economies and markets are dynamic during times of high inflation is an understatement. Incoming data, reports, and other information will have a large impact on financial markets as investors try to stay one step ahead of central banks and inflation rates. Given this, staying up-to-date about economic trends, CPI readings, and monetary policies is vital. Flexibility in investment strategy is also crucial. Investors should be prepared to adapt their strategies in response to changing economic conditions, ensuring their investment decisions are based on current realities rather than outdated assumptions.

Final Word

To be blunt, inflation can be one of the worst environments for investors, as high inflation almost always leads to prolonged economic trouble and slowed growth.

Hopefully, though, this article gives some insight into not only the risks of high inflation but also the asset classes to avoid, the strategies to rely on, and the heightened importance of staying focused on your long-term investment goals.

Inflationary periods are inevitable, and in truth, hard economic times make for great buying opportunities, especially regarding companies whose share prices have dropped due to many investors not having a well-thought-out strategy.

Investors who understand the likely consequences and outcomes of high inflation will be able to position themselves to not only protect their portfolios but also to come out of high inflation periods with a stronger and more resilient portfolio.


We are not brokers, investment, or financial advisers; you should not rely on the information herein as investment advice. If you are seeking personalized investment advice, please contact a qualified and registered broker, investment adviser, or financial adviser. You should not make any investment decisions based on our communications. Our stock profiles are intended to highlight certain companies for YOUR further investigation; they are NOT recommendations. The securities issued by the companies we profile should be considered high risk and, if you do invest, you may lose your entire investment. Please do your own research before investing, including reading the companies’ public filings, press releases, and risk disclosures. The company provided information in this profile, extracted from public filings, company websites, and other publicly available sources. We believe the sources and information are accurate and reliable but we cannot guarantee it. The commentary and opinions in this article are our own, so please do your own research.

Copyright © 2023 Edge Investments, All rights reserved.

  • Austin Still

    Austin holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Saskatchewan and brings over 10 years of investing experience. With a belief the most important decision investors make when buying stocks is the price paid, Austin aims to blend growth with value by finding companies with accelerating growth combined with a discounted valuation. More specifically, Austin’s expertise lies in the technology sector, identifying businesses showing strong growth, a lasting competitive advantage, and sound fundamentals, paired with a valuation that supports further stock price appreciation.

    View all posts

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