There are plenty of reasons to feel grateful to be an American in a globalized world. Being interconnected means we encounter people, stories, and culture we might not have experienced in a more isolationist time in our global history. It also means that we have increased involvement when a country is in crisis;first, because of how countries are interconnected financially, despite being separated by borders. Second, and I would argue, most importantly— we are able to hear stories from the people who are in crisis, and can decide to come to their aid.
The impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is wide-reaching, and has consequences for geopolitical, social, and of course, economic affairs;it is so wide-reaching, in fact, that the conflict will reach its way right into your wallet. Here are five ways that the Russian-Ukraine war could affect your finances:
1. Higher gas prices. Russia is one of the world’s top oil-producing countries, second only to Saudi Arabia. The global benchmark of oil prices, Brent crude, increased 3.5% to $101.39 a barrel;the highest price it’s reached in eight years. In the financial world, Brent crude is a common metric, but that’s not a common benchmark for those of us outside of Wall Street. I mean, how often are you buying a barrel of oil? I’m going to go out on a limb and say: rarely. But one thing I’m sure you do have experience with, is going to a gas station and filling up the tank of your car. And you’ll certainly feel the rising prices at the gas station. The national average for gasoline is $3.61 a gallon, up 8 cents in a week and 25 cents in a month.
2. Hiked grain prices. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest producers of wheat and grain. Together, Ukraine and Russia produce about 14% of the world’s wheat supply. It’s expected that prices of wheat will rise, which means Americans will see higher grain prices at the grocery store, but also a price hike for products that require grain for production, like beer, bread, pasta, birthday cakes, and more.
3. Increased crypto volatility. Bitcoin dropped 9% to $34,584 after Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. This tumble was likely caused by the same forces that have affected the stock market this week— but I’ll get to that in Point #4. However, we can expect to see crypto prices experience an upswing as the currency is used in unique and unexpected ways, like as an incentive for Russian soldiers to surrender, direct financial support for Ukrainian troops, and— frustratingly (although increasingly less likely)— a potential workaround for Russians to avoid sanctions. Recently, Bitcoin’s price jumped 10% to over $41,500— a notable high in recent weeks of disappointing lows.
4. Stock market dips. Sadly, no one has a crystal ball that can predict what will happen in the stock market. But what we can predict is that the stock market likes predictability. In situations when the future is uncertain— like during a pandemic, a difficult Presidential election, or a geopolitical crisis— the stock market dips. The Dow (an index that financial experts often use to measure the health of the stock market) sank 7% compared to the beginning of the year. This doesn’t mean that you should panic and cash out on all of your investments. To date, the stock market has rebounded from every global crisis in history. This is just the pattern of the market. Which leads me to…
5. Increased gold prices. During times of global uncertainty, risky investments (like stocks or crypto) tend to tank while “safe haven” investments tend to rise. Safe haven investments include bonds and, notably, gold. This crisis is no exception. Recently, gold hit an eight-month high. Now, I would not use this trend to argue that you should buy gold now. Remember: we like to buy low. But whether you decide you want to buy some gold now, wait until the price drops, or try your hand at dollar-cost-averaging, use this as a proof-of-concept around why you should have gold in your portfolio.
We should be aware of how this war affects us so we can weather this economic storm together. However, to go back to my earlier point— with the way the world is connected today, we are closer than ever to our fellow human beings, regardless of whether we share a national border. So as you are taking care of your financial self, I urge you to find some time to help others who are affected.