Feel Like You've Made Progress in the Past 10 Years? Think Again

Posted: Jul 25, 2013 12:01 AM
I find it amazing when I read that inflation continues to be so low, as defined by the government, that leaders actually hope for a little higher inflation rate in the future. It's as if they don't ever go grocery shopping, don't fill up their own gas tanks, much less pay for a kid to attend college.

If those who pray for inflation and suggest we live in a world where the cost of living has advanced slowly are happy, so be it. But if you're like me, you look back over the past 10 years and feel like you have been running as fast as you can but standing still. Just consider what a decade's time has brought us.

In June of 2003, a gallon of unleaded gas on average cost $1.51. In June of 2013, for that same gallon of unleaded the average was $3.55 cents. That's not comparing off-summer consumption to summer-related increases. This is the start of summer 2003 compared to the start of summer 2013. Did your salary more than double in 10 years? For most, the answer is "no."

OK, let's try something a little more close to home -- say, the kitchen. In June of '03, a pound of ground chuck beef was $2.23 on average. June of this year, that same quality and quantity of beef sold for $3.40.

Suppose you wanted to put that beef on some bread. In 2003, a loaf of white pan bread went for 96 cents. In June of this year, the same loaf would cost you $1.54 on average.

Want to wash your bland beef and plain white bread "sandwich" down with some milk? In June of 2003, a gallon of milk averaged a cost of $2.67. In June of this year, it was up to $3.45. A virtual bargain, as compared to some of the other cost increases, but still up, by average a great deal more than what most of us were making then, as opposed to now.

I guess with this kind of news you might need to have either a stiff drink or, better yet, just a hot cup of coffee. Oh boy, you better really think about that coffee. In 2003, coffee cost $2.93 for a pound of ground roast java. June of 2013, that same coffee soared to $5.88.

As one who goes to the grocery store, I knew intuitively that over the past few years my cart filled with all the things I both need and probably should not have was somehow becoming more costly. And I could swear that the packages seemed to offer less of a product with the same price or even a bump.

And while we constantly hear low inflation as the excuse for low interest rates, that hasn't kept lending institutions from having to hike mortgage rates in the past few months. But it has been the reason, according to experts, that we receive virtually no interest on our savings accounts, money markets and other relatively safe havens for parking the few dollars we can hold onto.

Yes, I know the economists can explain why the past 10 years have really been a bargain for all of us, and I'm sure they can rip these figures, all straight from the government, apart. But visit the government's own website that calculates the value of a dollar, and see what you get.

You will find that a dollar in 2003 now buys in 2013 around $1.27. That's right, for all of your hard work, the taxes you pay, fighting to save and scrimp, you now have a whole extra 27 cents to work with after 10 years.

I'm sure there is an answer for us all out there. But all I know is that I will blow my extra 27 cents long before I make it back from my office to my home -- and that's just in gas.

And I'll think long and hard about that ground beef sandwich. And perhaps I finally have found a way to quit drinking that morning coffee. As for our nation's leaders, perhaps they need a cup ... and a trip to the grocery store.