Erosion of Fiat Money as a Store of Value: Challenges and Implications

by Lawrence (Laurie) Antioch, Chief Finance & Strategy Officer – Aerapass.

The value of money raises significant concerns for investors. Money plays a crucial role in our economy as a medium of exchange, facilitating the smooth flow of goods and services. By serving as an intermediary in transactions, money enhances transactional efficiency. Recent advancements and innovations have given rise to digital currencies, aiming to simplify and accelerate transactions, particularly in online and digital domains. These currencies enable instant transfers, eliminating the need for intermediaries and paperwork associated with traditional banking systems.

Within this context, a recent report titled “Blueprint for the Future Monetary System: Enhancing the Old, Empowering the New,” by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in 2023, emphasizes the integration of traditional fiat currency with digital or virtual currency in the payment system. Tokenization, a key aspect, has a noteworthy impact on payment systems, offering advantages that enhance transaction security, convenience, and efficiency.

However, money serves additional functions as a unit of account and a store of value. Investors express concerns when uncertainty arises regarding money’s ability to retain its value, especially in an environment characterized by increasing levels of debt, inflation, interest rates, and ongoing challenges to maintain economic stability.

Inflation diminishes the purchasing power of money over time. With inflation, the value of fixed nominal debt decreases in real terms, benefiting borrowers with fixed-rate debt as they can repay their loans with money of reduced purchasing power. On the other hand, inflation can raise the cost of servicing debt, as central banks may increase interest rates to control inflationary pressures. Higher interest rates can make borrowing more expensive, burdening borrowers.

As inflation remains high, borrowers may experience a decline in real income if their nominal income does not keep pace with inflation. This can make it challenging to repay debts and lead to a higher debt burden. Additionally, savers’ purchasing power decreases as the value of their money diminishes. The same amount of money can buy fewer goods and services, reducing the real value of savings. Savers may experience negative real returns when the interest rates on savings accounts or fixed-income investments fail to keep up with inflation.

The impact of rising debt and inflation levels on debtors and savers can depend on factors such as the magnitude of inflation, interest rates on debts and savings, loan or investment duration, and specific economic conditions. Furthermore, the overall financial health, risk tolerance, and long-term goals of individuals should be considered when assessing the impact on debtors and savers.

High levels of debt can erode the value and trust in fiat currencies. Excessive government borrowing may lead to inflationary measures, devaluing the currency and reducing purchasing power. Concerns about default or fiscal instability can result in higher interest rates on government bonds, increasing borrowing costs and undermining confidence in the currency. A heavily indebted government may struggle to manage its economy effectively, causing economic instability, reduced investment, and job creation. Uncertainty about managing debt can lead to capital flight and a loss of international trust and credibility for the currency.

Investors respond diversely to the erosion of fiat money’s value, shaped by their unique investment strategies, risk appetite, overall economic and geo-political outlook. A growing trend among investors is to diversify their portfolios deliberately, aiming to mitigate exposure to the depreciating currency. They find attraction in commodities and tangible assets, such as oil, agriculture, precious metals, and industrial metals, appreciating their intrinsic value and tendency to rise alongside inflation. Additionally, real estate properties offer an appealing hedge against currency depreciation.

Lately, cryptocurrency, notably Bitcoin, has emerged as an alternative store of value for some investors. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that cryptocurrencies can be highly volatile and carry inherent risks.

The variability in individual investor reactions is influenced by personal circumstances, investment knowledge, and risk tolerance. Moreover, external factors like government policies, economic conditions, and global events further shape how investors navigate the challenges posed by the erosion of fiat money as a store of value.