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Unintended redistributions of purchasing power

Inflation can cause redistributions of purchasing power that hurt some and help others. People who are hurt by inflation include those who are holding a lot of cash, whether it is in a safe deposit box or in a cardboard box under the bed. When inflation happens, the buying power of cash is diminished. But cash is only an example of a more general problem: anyone who has financial assets invested in a way that the nominal return does not keep up with inflation will tend to suffer from inflation. For example, if a person has money in a bank account that pays 4% interest, but inflation rises to 5%, then the real rate of return for the money invested in that bank account is negative 1%.

The problem of a good-looking nominal interest rate being transformed into an ugly-looking real interest rate can be worsened by taxes. The U.S. income tax is charged on the nominal interest received in dollar terms, without an adjustment for inflation. So, a person who invests $10,000 and receives a 5% nominal rate of interest is taxed on the $500 received—no matter whether the inflation rate is 0%, 5%, or 10%. If inflation is 0%, then the real interest rate is 5% and all $500 is a gain in buying power. But if inflation is 5%, then the real interest rate is zero and the person had no real gain—but owes income tax on the nominal gain anyway. If inflation is 10%, then the real interest rate is negative 5% and the person is actually falling behind in buying power, but would still owe taxes on the $500 in nominal gains.

Inflation can cause unintended redistributions for wage earners, too. Wages do typically creep up with inflation over time eventually. The last row of [link] at the start of this chapter showed that average hourly wage in the U.S. economy increased from $3.23 in 1970 to $19.55 in 2014, which is an increase by a factor of almost six. Over that time period, the Consumer Price Index increased by an almost identical amount. However, increases in wages may lag behind inflation for a year or two, since wage adjustments are often somewhat sticky and occur only once or twice a year. Moreover, the extent to which wages keep up with inflation creates insecurity for workers and may involve painful, prolonged conflicts between employers and employees. If the minimum wage    is adjusted for inflation only infrequently, minimum wage workers are losing purchasing power from their nominal wages, as shown in [link] .

U.s. minimum wage and inflation

The graph shows that nominal minimum wages have increase substantially since the 1970s. However, with the inflation adjustment, the minimum wage has actually decreased in comparison to the 1970s.
After adjusting for inflation, the federal minimum wage dropped more than 30 percent from 1967 to 2010, even though the nominal figure climbed from $1.40 to $7.25 per hour. Increases in the minimum wage in between 2008 and 2010 kept the decline from being worse—as it would have been if the wage had remained the same as it did from 1997 through 2007. (Sources: http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/chart.htm; http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?cu)

One sizable group of people has often received a large share of their income in a form that does not increase over time: retirees who receive a private company pension. Most pensions have traditionally been set as a fixed nominal dollar amount per year at retirement. For this reason, pensions are called “defined benefits” plans. Even if inflation is low, the combination of inflation and a fixed income can create a substantial problem over time. A person who retires on a fixed income at age 65 will find that losing just 1% to 2% of buying power per year to inflation compounds to a considerable loss of buying power after a decade or two.

Questions & Answers

discuss the fourth pillar of wages and price stability
enlighten me please
Do we have calculation in macroeconomics
Wilberforce Reply
What will be the multiplier, when MPS is 0, 0.4, 0.6, and 1? What will it be when the MPC is 1, 0.90, 0.67, 0.50, and 0? How much of a change in GDP will result if firms increase their level of investment by $8 billion and the MPC is 0.80? And If the MPC is 0.67?
Ayesha Reply
what are the side effects of government policies
narayan Reply
Government policy can influence interest rates, a rise in which increases the cost of borrowing in the business community. Higher rates also lead to decreased consumer spending. Lower interest rates attract investment as businesses increase production.
if there is a negative technology shock to the economy in short run the firms production cost will go up and labor goes down and thus consumption and production will be lower than before. the government can spend to create jobs and central Bank can lower the interest rates
what are marlet prices
Jaheim Reply
price which includes net indirect taxes
what is aggregate demand
Kalkidan Reply
what is micro economics
A-dip Reply
microscopic study...
microeconomics is study of individual, household and firms of division making and allocation of resources.
Join me in Vietnam
what a pure economics. must have downloaded by mistake.
microeconomics is the study of an individual unit in an economic system or an household
what really cause inflation?
Urey Reply
what is trade deficit
vivek Reply
is ther forgon alternative. is the amount sacrifice of one thing to gain another thing
what is enflation rate?
Mohibullah Reply
Is it inflation rate sir
This is the annual rate of increase of basic household goods and services and measures also the cost of living and doing business in a country. it's a important information when making for forecast or business plans.
this is continuous increase of overall price level
the betewen microeconomics and macroeconomics is microeconomics is concerned with individual scarcity like household,workers and so on while macroeconomics is focuced on the problème winth organisation the collaboration with others companies the profits and then the growth of the organisation
Amadou Reply
what is unemployment?
what is tax base
ekwuye Reply
The tax base is the total amount of income, property, assets, consumption, transactions, or other economic activity subject to taxation by a tax authority.
difference between voluntary and involuntary unemployment?
what is economic system
Alinda Reply
Quantity of Gasoline in millions was?
Touseef Reply
1000cubic meter
definition of phillips curve
Alok Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Macroeconomics. OpenStax CNX. Jun 16, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11626/1.10
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