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The Federal Reserve is slowing the economy with a series of painful interest rate increases. Its goal: Reduce the 3.2% year-over-year rise in consumer prices down to a 2% target.
With numerous interest rate hikes already under our belt, many of us may wonder: When will inflation go down?
Brace for another year of high interest rates — and prices
Most analysts agree — and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has said as much — there is still work to be done to tame inflation.
"Recent indicators suggest that economic activity has continued to expand at a modest pace. Job gains have been robust in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low. Inflation remains elevated," The Federal Open Market Committee, which steers Fed monetary policy, said in a statement issued on June 14.
The timeline to lower inflation
Here's how things are expected to go as we wash inflation out of the economy:
In July, the Fed returned to interest rate increases after standing pat in June. The federal funds rate is now 5.25% to 5.5%. The Fed is watching how the tighter money supply impacts the economy and, most importantly, consumer prices. The latest Consumer Price Index data, released in August, shows inflation at a 3.2% rate over the past year.
Following an extended period of solid job growth as the pandemic waned, employment is softening. There are likely to be more layoffs and corporate cutbacks.
Some analysts still believe the impending economic slowdown may be enough to tip the U.S. into recession.
A September CNBC survey of analysts, economists and fund managers reveals that most believe that by 2024 inflation will have sunk close to the Fed's 2% target.
If so, we'll enjoy lower prices for groceries, consumer goods and the general cost of living. However, we'll also likely experience higher unemployment and a sputtering economy.
Once the Fed reaches its 2% inflation goal, it will begin lowering interest rates to restimulate the economy.
Yes, lower rates.
These scenarios are based on a “just right” economic reaction to the Fed's interest rate action. Of course, as our pandemic times prove: There are plenty of unknowns that can spoil the best-laid plans.
What could go wrong? The Fed might stall the economy with higher interest rates but consumer costs might be stuck as well — not moving lower at all. It's called stagflation.
What does this mean for your financial decisions?
We don't live our lives according to a macroeconomic plan. We fall in love, have babies, buy houses and get new jobs, all at the whim of unknown forces. So the Fed will do its thing — and you should do yours.
Don't make an iffy financial situation worse, such as by taking on too much debt.
Remember that building wealth is an ongoing and lifelong process. Small steps yield long-term results.
Understand that a good idea today will be a good idea tomorrow. Rush money decisions are often made under false deadlines.