How much of your wealth should you hold in cash?

How much of your wealth should you hold in cash?


How much of your wealth do you hold in cash? And how much of your wealth should you hold in cash? Two very important questions, often with rather different answers. In this article, Black Swan Capital discusses the pros and cons of holding cash and what they consider is the sweet spot for how much you should hold.

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Not enough

First, the risk of not having enough cash. If you don’t hold sufficient cash, you can create cash flow stresses when unexpected expenses or emergencies arise. The amount you should hold is dependent on your specific circumstances.

In general, and subject to your particular situation, less than three months of living expenses is generally not enough. At the other end of the scale, any more than six months’ worth of your cost-of-living expenses, or net income after tax may be too much.

There are obviously exceptions to this and some cases where it is prudent to hold even 12 months’ worth or more - however, the norm is three to six months.

To be sure you are in a good position money-wise, you can always arrange a meeting with Black Swan Capital; they can analyse your position and suggest what is an appropriate level for you. Your first meeting with them is always at no charge as they look to see how they can help you and address their fiduciary obligation to you, whether it is in your best interest to seek advice from them or not.

The dangers of too much cash

When markets are volatile, it is easy to see why people might choose to hold larger sums in cash. As it’s something we handle every day, whether physically or digitally, it can seem more tangible than other assets. However, cash does lose value, and this is particularly true in the current low-interest climate.

Interest rates have been at a historic low for more than a decade following the 2008 financial crisis. The official interest rates set by central banks are close to zero and in some cases, they are actually negative.

A low interest rate is good news for borrowers, but the low interest rate environment is not positive for savers. It means your savings will likely not deliver the returns they once did, especially if you compare the current rates to the pre-2008 rates of return on cash.

If you hold too much of your wealth in cash, you won’t be able to keep pace with inflation, meaning your purchasing power will go down and it will be more difficult for you to achieve your goals.

Inflation: Affecting the value of savings

The reason the value of cash savings falls is inflation. Each year, the cost of living rises, and if interest rates fail to keep pace with this your savings are gradually able to purchase less and less.

The European Central bank and the EU countries’ governments aim to keep inflation between two and three percent and in recent times have kept it lower than that. However, with the increase of cash injected into markets to stimulate the economies of Europe in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen inflation start to increase and there is a risk that inflation could increase further in the short to medium term. If inflation goes up, your spending power goes down.

Year-to-year, the impact of inflation can seem relatively small. Yet, when you look at the impact over a longer period, it highlights the danger of holding too much in cash. If you hold excess cash in your bank account at, say 0,1% p / a interest, and inflation is 2,5%, you are in fact losing 2,4% every year.

And if you look at inflation in terms of your long-term or retirement goals, you can really see the impact. Here’s an example: if you are planning on retiring in 25 years and think you need 3.000 euros income per month in retirement, when you take inflation into account, you will actually need double that, so 6.000 per month!

When is cash right?

Whilst inflation does affect the spending power of cash savings, there are times when it’s appropriate.

If you need ready access to savings, cash accounts are often suitable - for example, as mentioned above, having an emergency fund.

When you’re saving for short-term goals (five years or less), a savings account should also be considered. Over short saving periods, inflation won’t have as much of an impact and can preserve your wealth for when you need it.

However, when setting money aside for long-term goals, investing in diversified growth-focused assets aligned to your goals, your risk profile and other impacting factors may be a better option that’s worth considering.

Investing: When should it be considered?

Investing savings means you have an opportunity to beat the pace of inflation with returns over the long term, thereby preserving or increasing your spending power.

However, investment returns can’t be guaranteed, and short-term volatility can reduce values, as markets have demonstrated over time. For this reason, investing as an alternative to cash should only be considered if your goals are more long-term (5+ years). This provides an opportunity for investments to recover from potential dips in the market.

When considering investing, Black Swan Capital always stresses that investing is only a means to an end, and it is the end goals that are most important. They focus on why you are investing, and use that to determine how you should manage your money and your financial life.

Your financial plan must be in the context of your life as an expat in Europe. It has to be in alignment with your goals but also compliant with your place of residence and potentially your citizenship.

About Black Swan Capital

Black Swan Capital is an award-winning investment advisory firm dedicated to delivering investment advice for expats and internationals in Europe.

They are Europe’s first truly independent and fee for service advisory business for the international community, they hold an unrestricted and independent investment firm license from the Dutch regulator (AFM), they are overseen by the Dutch Central Bank (DFM) and they are approved right across the EU.

If you’d like to talk with Black Swan Capital about your money, your investments or your plans for the future, please contact them via their website or email. Their goal is to align your aspirations with your financial decisions, helping you to strike the right balance and realise your goals.



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