As inflation continues to hit everyday staples like food and gas prices, Americans are cutting back—even on their long-term investments and retirement savings.
The consumer price index (CPI)—which tracks a wide range of goods and services used by the average American including food, energy, and housing—jumped 8.6% over the past year, according to May data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published Friday. Despite prices leveling off a bit in April, inflation made the largest 12-month jump in May since December 1981.
That’s hitting a lot of Americans hard financially. More than a third of Americans (36%) have reduced their savings and 21% cut back on their retirement contributions due to inflation, according to BMO Real Financial Progress Index results published at the end of May.
California-based web developer Kay Brackson decided to take things a step further, completely cashing out of her 401(k) and crypto investments late last year.
“There’s not an expense I had that hadn’t gone up,” Brackson, 32, tells Fortune. Her energy bills, trash collection, water, and Wi-Fi have all dramatically increased over the past year. And of course, gas. Earlier this week, Brackson says she paid $6.50 a gallon.
“If inflation wasn’t a factor, I wouldn’t be losing money. And I don’t have any means to put the brakes on it,” Brackson says, adding that right now, her expenses outweigh her income.
“I make decent money, but I’m very uncomfortable,” she says. Prior to the pandemic, Brackson was making six figures. But she was laid off in 2020 and had to go freelance—she now brings in about $60,000 a year.
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In addition to soaring inflation, threats of a looming recession and continued food and supply shortages also have Brackson spooked. Enough that she decided she needed cash on hand, rather than tied up in investments.
“I had a quite aggressive portfolio just because I’m 32 and don’t have a lot of savings,” Brackson says, adding she worried about taking a financial hit she couldn’t afford if she left her investments in the market.
Because Brackson was just entering the workforce at the start of the Great Recession, it took her longer to start saving and investing. And she still feels behind—so the savings she has managed to accumulate is all the more precious to her. “I was trying to make up for lost time. That’s why I also bought into Ethereum and Bitcoin.”
An active investor, Brackson also had a small amount invested in altcoins like Dogecoin, …….