When Will The Cost Of Living Crisis Be Over?
After the turmoil of 2020-21, economists and consumers alike were hoping that 2022 would usher in a slightly smoother ride, and a return to something like ‘normal life’. But it wasn’t to be.
The recent Ukraine war has been the touchpaper for a multi-national cost of living crisis that had in fact been some time in the making. COVID-19, commodity prices and the environmental imperative, to name but three factors, have coincided to push prices of goods and services across the board to all-time highs. The result has been a surge in inflation, with the UK alone now hitting 9% in April.
Just as it was with the pandemic, the question on everyone’s lips is ‘when will this be over?’. Key institutions are scrambling to respond, and governments are introducing short-term, palliative measures in the hope of staving off recession. But the true answer may be that increased prices are here for good. It may be that the world needs to adjust to new realities in the way we buy and live. But what are the key costs causing this crisis for consumers, and how are they likely to change over time?
The first major culprit in the cost of living crisis is energy. This increase was underway well before the recent war, as wholesale prices had steadily risen in response to increased global demand, and the push towards greener but more expensive energy production.
These factors are here to stay, and while we may see a stabilising over the next two-three years, a return to previous levels is highly unlikely – and that means a new and more challenging ‘normal’ for consumers. This gloomy prognosis is even more likely for Europeans, now deprived of Russian energy sources that will continue to be shut off or severely curtailed for the foreseeable future.
Next comes food. Myriad factors are driving up shopping basket prices, but at the highest level, changing weather patterns around the world are responsible for significant disruption in the way the world farms and produces. Critical foodstuffs have been massively affected by atypical weather events over the past few years. Supply chain disruption caused by COVID-19 is another major contributor, with factories and logistics facilities having to limit and re-configure labour usage to limit the spread of infection. Finally, the drive towards sustainability has seen great increases in production costs, as the world increasingly demands that food is produced in a greener way and under improved labour and animal welfare conditions.
All of these are long-term factors – adjusting to changing weather patterns, for example, could take the world decades to solve, and environmental concerns are unquestionably here to stay. Again, prices may stabilise in the medium term, but a return to previous levels is almost out of the question.
Many central banks, including in the UK and the US, are raising interest rates in an attempt to combat inflation. But while those with savings may benefit, the result is also a significant increase in the cost of consumer borrowing. Mortgage rates are going up, as is the cost of credit at just the time when consumers are having to rely on it more than ever.
These actions could potentially be reversed in the medium term. If inflation can be stabilised, governments might in 2-3 years be in a position to reduce rates once more – but that ray of hope is dependent on a host of other factors in the wider economy.
The value of financial understanding
It seems almost certain that a higher cost of living is here to stay. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it.
W1TTY is a young finance brand with a growing customer base amongst students and young people. As quickly as we’re taking off, we’re also acutely aware of what our customers are facing in managing their finances as the cost of living crisis continues.
In-depth educational services are needed right now to help young people deal with these issues. With so many facing a tougher challenge in balancing their budgets, it’s never been more important that they’re equipped with the understanding, know-how and responsible signposting that will help them to make prudent decisions about their money.
Young people deserve to have bright financial futures. Through a combination of loyalty and reward schemes, gamified learning and personalised features, W1TTY is about empowering our customers with accessible, engaging education and saving incentives. By doing so, it’s our aim that we can help insulate them from some of the worst impacts of the current crisis.
About the author: Ammar Kutait is the CEO and Founder of W1TTY.