One of the greatest risks that I see in a lot of people’s financial portfolios is that they do not have enough cash. My business serves a wide range of individuals and families and I get to review their financial life from an objective perspective. I have found some couples, who even after the market downturn in the fall of 2008, still have not learned the value of having “ready cash” and “emergency cash.” I think some people believe that an “emergency” will not happen to them so why should they keep so much in cash. My job as a financial planner is to recommend to them what I believe is in their best interest.
I am not against investing and taking risk. However, I am against investing and taking risk before you are ready. I do not care how young you are; if you do not have proper cash set aside in the event of an emergency you should not be investing in the stock market.
In my recommendations to clients, I follow a few basic principles that I learned from Bert Whitehead, the founder of the Alliance of Cambridge Advisors. First, if you are a W-2 employee, you should keep a minimum of 10% of your income in a interest-bearing savings account. I call this the “ready cash” account. If you are self-employed or retired you will want to keep a larger percentage of your income in “ready cash.” Next, I recommend you keep 2 times your “ready cash” inside of your 401k or Traditional IRA* invested inside of a money market or government-backed fund. However, if 20% of your mortgage balance is higher then 2 times your “ready cash” then you will want to set aside that amount instead. I know this may seem like a lot of cash but the best feeling your financial plan can offer you is security and if you know you have proper amounts of cash in your portfolio then you have the freedom to take appropriate risk in other areas of your investment portfolio.
*I can hear it already. You might be asking why I recommend to keep emergency cash inside of a 401k or Traditional IRA. Well, let’s just save the answer to that question for a later blog entry.
Photo by: David Beyer