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The Pitfalls of Holding Cash

In the realm of wealth planning, understanding the nuanced relationship between inflation and cash savings is crucial for securing a sustainable future. In this article, we delve into the profound impact of inflation on both cash savings and pensions, emphasising the need for financial management to counter the erosion of value over time.

The Pitfalls of Holding Cash

Over the next 25 years, the cost of an individual's lifestyle is set to double, driven by the inevitable force of inflation (based on the last 30 years' data at 2.8%1). This poses a significant challenge for those with savings predominantly or entirely invested in cash. Cash, as an asset class, underperforms over a three-plus-year timeframe, and its return is invariably connected to the rate of inflation, often falling short of compensating for it. The consequence is a reduction in both the value and income of cash holdings in real terms, essentially translating to a guaranteed loss.

Current Inflation and Cash Interest Rates

To comprehend the implications, we must first consider the prevailing inflation rates. While the average UK inflation rate over the last 30 years stood at 2.8%1, recent years have witnessed a surge, with CPI reaching 11.1% in October 2022 and resting at 6.7% in September 2023. Contrarily, finding a cash account offering interest above 5.7% is challenging, with most rates hovering around 3% to 4%. This stark contrast underscores the difficulty in generating meaningful returns on cash, as it consistently lags behind the rising tide of inflation.

The Rainy-Day Fund Dilemma

Many individuals maintain a significant cash reserve as a “rainy-day fund,” and we, as financial planners, always advocate having 3–6 months cash ready. However, a deeper analysis often reveals that such reserves may not be as necessary when considering existing insurance and overall wealth. Once the genuine rainy-day fund requirement is determined, clients should be made aware of the cost associated with maintaining it. It is imperative to align the size of the reserve with its intended purpose to avoid unnecessary losses.

Inflation's Impact on Buying Power

To illustrate how inflation progressively increases the value needed to maintain the buying power of £10,000 over the inflation rate and timeframe, if an inflation rate of 2.8% per annum, that money would need to grow to £17,372 after 20 years just to retain its purchasing power. This underscores the compounding effect of inflation on financial goals.

The real value is lost over time when cash account interest rates consistently fall below the inflation rate. The compounding “real” loss reveals the tangible cost of holding cash when pitched against the long-term cash rates. This emphasises that even seemingly low-risk asset classes can incur substantial costs when inflation is not adequately addressed.

Alternatives for Wealth Preservation and Growth

To mitigate the impact of inflation, cash alternatives for medium- to longer-term money should be explored. For those seeking capital preservation, utilising a cash management service can enhance interest rates, offering a more resilient approach. For individuals eyeing growth and willing to navigate risk, reducing cash holdings and tax-efficiently investing in higher-performing asset classes can provide a shield against the inflation-loss associated with cash accounts.

The true impact of inflation on cash savings and pensions is a multifaceted challenge that demands careful consideration and strategic planning. Whether aiming for capital preservation, growth, or a reliable income stream, individuals must tailor their financial approach to align with their unique goals and understand different risks. By understanding the dynamics at play and exploring alternative avenues, one can navigate the financial landscape with greater resilience and foresight.

1. https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices 

This material is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Additionally, you should consult with your Financial Advisor, Tax Advisor, or Attorney on your specific situation. The views expressed in the material are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any market, regulatory body, State or Federal Agency, or Association. All efforts have been made to report or share true and accurate information. However, the information may become materially outdated or otherwise rendered incorrect due to subsequent new research or other changes, without notice. The author nor the firm are able to always verify the content from third-party sources. For additional information about the firm, please visit the MAS Website at https://www.mas.gov.sg/  and the SEC Website at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov. For a copy of the firm's ADV Part 2 Brochure, please contact us at info@avriowealth.com.