As the world enters the third year of the still-deadly coronavirus pandemic, Americans face yet another hurdle that could prove equally as challenging, if not devastating for millions of citizens.

In one word – it’s called “inflation.” And the rate of inflation now hitting our pockets has reached a rate not seen in 40 years.

Low-income workers have been hit the hardest with the gains they’ve experienced during the pandemic due to a long-awaited rise in the minimum wage, offset by prices that seem to just keep going up and up and up.

But it’s not just low-income families and workers who are feeling the pinch. Members of the middle class are struggling too, pinching pennies and delaying all forms of gratification just to keep the lights and heat on. As for rent, well, that’s another hurdle for many families as the rent increase nationwide in 2021 rose by 14 percent.

And while we must all eat, paying for quality groceries has suddenly required greater proficiency in balancing a budget than ever before. Anyone who’s gone to the supermarket knows that a dollar seems to be nearly worthless these days. The price for essentials like milk, juice, cheese, fresh fruit, eggs and meat have skyrocketed. Forget about planning meals based on your tastes or desires. If you hope to have any change left in your pocket, you’d better be willing to eat based on the prices for the week. If it’s on sale – and that’s a rarity – you may want to purchase that item and try to pretend to enjoy whatever it is.

By the way, if you were hoping to finally purchase a used car, believing that you could save a few bucks, guess again. Recent reports indicate that the price for a used car is often higher than the cost of a brand new one – if you can find one, that is.

Wealthier Americans have greater protections against inflation and rising prices, with substantial retirement savings and investments. Most of them also own their homes as well as one, if not several automobiles. But for the middle- and lower-class, it’s a very different situation.

Those who rent their homes, already struggling to pay the bill in this third year of COVID-19, continue to see their rent increase. Stimulus benefits or child-tax credit payments have been spent months ago. And the cost of utilities, also increasing steadily, have people afraid that they won’t be able to keep the electricity and heat on for much longer.

Can things get any worse? It’s hard to imagine but it’s possible. Americans are in trouble.

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