The importance of Cash
There’s no getting away from it, costs have risen exponentially. With a growing cost of living crisis throughout the country, the need for cash retention to act as a buffer in these circumstances remains vital for everyone. This increase in costs will likely mean most people will need to try and save money where they can. Nevertheless, while cash is a crucial component of a well-rounded financial strategy, it's essential to strike a balance. Allocating too much cash for an extended period could expose your wealth to inflation risk, where the purchasing power of your money will decrease over time. It is therefore imperative to assess your overall financial goals, time horizon and risk appetite when deciding how much to keep in cash versus how much to invest in other assets.
There are many reasons to hold money in cash, so we look to explore the importance of cash and its inherent benefits within personal finance, whilst also considering the common risks associated with cash investments. Of course, managing your savings is a highly personalised process, and how much you save should reflect your individual circumstances.
The term ‘emergency fund’ or ‘buffer’ refers to money set aside for the sole purpose of being used in times of financial distress. The fund provides a financial safety net to cover any unexpected, and typically costly, expenses that may arise such as those following a loss of job or unexpected tax bill. The amount you should target for an emergency fund depends on a number of factors, including your financial situation, expenses, lifestyle, and debts. Typically, consideration may be given between three to six months of normal expenditure in cash, to be drawn from in the event of an emergency. This is considered a prudent financial practice because it helps avoid unnecessary debt and financial stress.
Top Tip: Starting off small is better than not starting at all!
The Stock Market
While investing in the stock market offers great potential opportunities for accumulating wealth and financial growth, it is important to be aware of the fundamental downsides and risks, and striking the right balance between investments and cash has proven particularly relevant over the past few years with investment markets going through a turbulent time.
Although investors are attracted to the idea of growing their wealth through stock market investments, this should always be looked at as a long-term strategy given the risks associated.
Up until November 2021, there were very few options for your lower risk portion of your wealth, as interest rates were extremely low. However, since the recent interest rate hikes many investors are turning their attention towards setting aside some cash into savings account and are benefiting from some of the highest returns in almost two decades. Unsurprisingly, the last few years have witnessed huge inflows of cash into savings, particularly fixed time deposits, with investors looking elsewhere from the stock market in providing safer and guaranteed returns.
Nonetheless, whilst saving rates have risen, cash has been a depreciating asset, after inflation, with ‘real returns’, remaining negative over the long term. So, for many, it is fundamental to have a comprehensive financial plan in place, to ensure your investment and cash allocations are aligned to meet your objectives and goals.
When it comes to investing, however, one particular benefit of holding some money in cash is managing sequencing risk with your investments. This refers to the impact of the timing of investment returns on a portfolio, particularly when withdrawals are made. If an investor needs to sell assets to cover income or emergency expenses, this can significantly affect the overall portfolio value. As such, the benefit of holding some money in cash is that you help reduce the chances of becoming a forced seller during an investment market downturn. By having this safety measure in place, you can help cover some expected or unexpected expenditure without negatively impacting your long-term investment strategy.
If you are interested in exploring what savings accounts have to offer, please check out the Savings Champion website, which compares the best accounts on the market.
Holding cash as you approach retirement plays a vital role in providing financial flexibility, security and peace of mind when we consider aforementioned risks with invested pension provisions.
As we have covered, sequencing risk can be a major issue for investors. This risk is more common during retirement, as you are far more dependent on your retirement income through your invested pension pots. Significant market downturns alongside taking pension income could be detrimental on your long-term retirement goals, where cash reserves are not in place, as you could be realising losses that could impact the value of your future pension provisions.
Furthermore, healthcare costs are increasingly forming a large part of unexpected costs during retirement. Health spending per person steeply increases after the age of 50, so having cash buffers in place to cover immediate healthcare needs is important.
Using cash in place of drawing from your pension can also have tax benefits, as some pensions sit outside the scope of inheritance tax. This means that the assets held within a pension fund may not be subject to inheritance tax when passed on to beneficiaries. However, given the complexity of inheritance tax laws, it is recommended to seek advice from professionals who have the expertise to guide you through your estate and pension planning.
If you’d like to learn more about how cash can best play a part in your wealth strategy, why not get in touch and speak to one of our experts.
This article is intended for general information only, it does not constitute individual advice and should not be used to inform financial decisions.
Investment returns are not guaranteed, and you may get back less than you originally invested. Past performance is not a guide to future returns.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) does not regulate cash flow planning, estate planning or tax advice.
Savings Champion and their associated services are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).