There must be a strategy to minimize the damage that comes from an inflation rate that's now pushing 10 percent a year.
"Do extra work to make more money and invest in consumer durables (TV sets, automobiles, air conditioners, washing machines and the like)," advises Dr. Irving Friedman, economist and author of "Inflation - a Worldwide Disaster" (Anchor Press paperback).
Friedman says many families now have both husband and wife and one or more children out working to bring in extra money. And, in some cases, the main breadwinner is moonlighting to bring in even more money. Making more money is one way to defend against the ravages of inflation. But just moonlighting or having other members of the family work could be a trap if not handled properly.
Money that comes in from this "extra" work should not go into the general individual or family account. If it's poured into the common funds, it gets lost. You find yourself just working a lot more with nothing much to show for it. You fritter away the money and have to work longer and harfer just to stay even.
Moonlighting and extra-job money should go into savings or into the purchase of needed consumer capital goods, such as appliances or home repairs.
"The idea behind investing in equipment you need," says Friedman, "is the fact that it's going to cost a lot more to buy these things later."
If you can stock up on needed durable goods and repairs, you can live off the savings (of not having to buy them later), says Friedman.
If you can get loans to finance these purchases, you get the use of a long-term product and pay off the debt over several years with inflated dollars. But, Friedman warns, "don't get yourself too deep in debt.
"The fundamental way to fight inflation on a national scale is to get people to shift away from consumption and into savings."
The trouble is, the higher the interest rate or dividend of a savings plan, the higher the risk. To get 8 percent or so in a savings account, you have to tie up your money for eight years. To get 8 percent or better from stocks and bonds, you risk having your investment drop in value due to market conditions.
What's needed, according to Friedman and other economists, is more of an incentive to save. "The government's savings bonds pay only 6 percent interest, and that's not much of an incentive," says Friedman.
The government should raise the interest payment on its savings bonds and retirement bonds, both of which now stand at only 6 percent.
Karen Ferguson, assistant director of the Pension Rights Center in Washington, agrees: "More people ought to get a tax break for investing money in retirement funds." As it stands now, you can set aside tax-free money for retirement in an IRA (individual retirement account) only if you are not covered by a pension plan.
The IRA concept ought to be expanded to include everybody who wants to set aside extra money for retirement, whether they're covered by a pension plan or not.
Giving tax breaks to people who invest in savings would be one sure way to divert money from consumption, which, in turn, would do much to water down inflation.
Q: I have a car with 90,000 miles and it's beginning to use more and more oil. Is there any way to slow this down to save money?
A: You car may need a major tuneup. But before investing in this kind a job, try using a heavier weight oil, say, 40 weight. Be sure you get the best oil at that weight.
In northern, cooler areas, you might want to use 30 weight oil. When winter comes, oil tends to thicken, so you need a lighter weight - 20 for colder areas and 30 for moderate areas.