The Dow Jones Industrial Average flirted with new highs again on Tuesday. The index bounced around 14,445. That put it 352 points above its previous October 2007 high of 14,093.
For investors who bought into the top of the market in 2007, this is welcome news. They finally have a profit!
Not so fast.
Over the past five years, Federal Reserve money printing has devalued the dollar. During that time frame, the purchasing power of the greenback has fallen. It now takes more dollars to buy the same amount of goods.
So have investors really made a profit? The government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics answers: After adjusting for inflation, the Dow Jones would really need to hit 15,072 to make a real, inflation-adjusted high. So in real terms, the Dow is still 4.3 percent below its all-time high.
A 4.3 percent loss over five years is not the end of the world. Besides, many investors have been invested in the market much longer than five years. So how have investors who bought into the market back in 2000 fared?
On January 14, 2000, the index hit 11,782. According to government statisticians, the Dow would need to be at 15,755 just to compensate for inflation. After 13 years, the Dow still hasn’t regained that peak. Anyone who invested on January 14, 2000 is down 9 percent.
But the Dow isn’t the only measure of the stock market. How about the S&P 500, which measures the 500 biggest companies in the U.S. Surely the value of these companies has increased over the past 13 years? The reality is that America’s best and biggest have a long way to go to reach their previous highs too. After accounting for inflation, the S&P 500 is actually down around 25 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq is down by more than 50 percent!
These are huge, wealth-destroying losses that most people are unaware of because of the insidious masking effects of inflation.
As measured by the stock market and adjusted for inflation, America’s economy is back to where it was in the 1990s, according to the popular financial blog My Budget 360.
But even if you haven’t invested in the stock market, the effects of inflation have ravaged you.
The dollar has lost approximately half its value since 1987, according to the bls. That means a $1,000 put under your mattress in 1987 is only worth $500 today.
The really scary thing is that your $1,000 you put under your mattress in 1987 may actually be worth even less because government statistics tend to understate the inflation rate. That cool grand may really be worth more like $300 to $400 today.
Inflation is destroying the dollar—and, along with it, much of America’s wealth. ▪