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How much cash is too much?

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Recently, savers have had the opportunity to take advantage of some of the highest interest rates in decades. Those high rates, coupled with lingering economic uncertainty, have led some savers to increase their cash on hand.

But how much cash is too much?

The answer is personal. While holding a certain amount of cash can be crucial for emergencies and daily expenses, having an excessive amount may be detrimental to your financial well-being in the long run.

Here’s why too much cash may be costing you money:

  • No long-term guarantees
    • Cash may be an attractive option in the short term, but you can only keep those attractive rates for a short period of time, typically only a few months. When it’s time to lock in on cash again, rates may be lower.
  • Loss of purchasing power
    • Cash earns minimal interest, often trailing inflation. This means its purchasing power erodes over time. Putting that cash into other accounts can potentially generate higher returns, enabling you to grow your wealth faster.
  • Opportunity costs
    • When markets fluctuate, waiting for the "perfect" time to invest can lead to missed opportunities for significant growth.
  • Psychological impact
    • Holding on to a large amount of cash can feel safe and comforting, but it's important to strike a balance between having enough cash reserves and allocating for long-term growth. 

Here are some signs that you might have too much cash on hand:

  • You're exceeding your emergency fund target.
  • You're consistently earning nominal interest on your cash holdings.
  • You're delaying investment decisions due to fear or uncertainty.

Cash-on-hand guidelines you could use:

  • Emergency fund
    • Experts generally recommend having enough cash to cover 3–6 months of living expenses in an easily accessible account, such as a high-yield savings account. This safety net can act as a buffer against unexpected expenses like job loss, medical bills or car repairs. 
    • Because unforeseen expenses could soar to thousands of dollars, retirees are advised to have a larger reserve of expenses at the ready.
  • Daily expenses
    • Keeping $100–$300 in your wallet can be helpful for everyday purchases, especially for those who use cash regularly. This can help you avoid relying on debit cards for small transactions and keep your spending in check.
  • Unexpected events
    • Keeping an extra $1,000 stashed at home can be beneficial for unforeseen emergencies like natural disasters or power outages where electronic transactions may be unavailable.

Annuities can help your cash make sense.

Certain types of annuities can provide cash-like features while locking in favorable interest rates longer. Some annuities can offer greater growth potential while protecting your initial premium from downside market risk — just like cash.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much cash is too much. The ideal amount depends on your individual circumstances, financial goals and risk tolerance.

Talk to your financial professional today to find just the right strategy to help make your retirement remarkable.

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