4 Things You Can Do With Extra Cash Other Than Put It in Savings

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  • One of my mistakes is one that many young people share: parking too much cash in savings accounts.
  • According to financial advisors, your money will lose value over time due to inflation by doing this.
  • Setting financial goals, saving for retirement, and learning more about basic investing can help.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my 20s is a mistake that I’m still making now at age 33: Too much of my cash is just sitting in a savings account, and I have no plan or strategy for what to do with that money.

As it turns out, I’m not not alone — many young investors are making the same mistake. According to a study by Personal Capital, the average person in their 20s is holding 28% of their wealth in cash. 

While many experts have varying opinions on what percent of a person’s portfolio should be cash (common opinion is 10-20%), here are four reasons why keeping too much of your wealth in cash is a waste of money, according to financial advisors.

1. Your money is losing value 

Whenever I find myself content that my own financial portfolio is very cash heavy, I reflect on the fact that keeping my money in a savings account means that it is losing value and that’s something I’ll grow to regret.

Lauren Anastasio, Director of Financial Advice and financial planner at Stash, says there’s an opportunity cost to keeping cash.

“Even when inflation isn’t making headlines, the value of your dollar continues to diminish with every passing year,” said Anastasio. “$100 today simply will not go as far as it would have 10 years ago, and is undoubtedly more valuable now than it will be 10 years from now.”

She added that by investing it instead, you could reasonably expect an average annual rate of return of around 8%, and that holding too much cash means you’re missing out on growth that would allow you to keep up with — or even outpace — inflation.

2. It’s a sign you don’t have financial goals 

Even though it makes me feel financially successful when I refresh my savings account and see a satisfying amount, it’s also telling that I don’t have clarity around my future money goals.

Evon Mendrin, a financial planner, says that too much cash can be a sign that a person doesn’t have financial goals or priorities.

“You don’t know what to do with the cash, so it sits idle,” said Mendrin. “If you get clear on what your financial priorities are, you can get a better sense of what to do next with extra cash.”

So what should a person do instead? Mendrin recommends bucketing your money as a good next step.

“With your shortest-term bucket, include expenses you might need to pay for in the very near term like an emergency fund,” said Mendrin. “Once that bucket is filled, then think about your mid-term and longer-term financial goals. Invest the funds in alignment with those goals.”

He said that for long-term goals like retirement, you can invest funds more aggressively, like stocks and real estate, that are expected to reliably outpace inflation over time. For mid-term goals, the funds can still be invested in things like bonds.

3. You’re missing out on opportunities 

While it can make you feel safe to have a lot of cash sitting in your savings account, Nate Hansen, a CPA, said that you’re missing out on opportunities by letting it sit there. 

“Holding cash endlessly year after year instead of investing it is like never getting up the courage to ask your crush on a date in high school,” said Hansen. “While the stock market has returned right around 10% over the long-run, there’s also the compound interest aspect of invested funds over a long period of time.”

Hansen says that if you want to still keep a portion of your portfolio in very low-risk securities, then consider treasury inflation-protected securities, or TIPS. 

“These are U.S. treasury bonds that are adjusted for inflation based on the consumer price index or CPI,” said Hansen. “TIPS protect against inflation by the actual face value of the bond being adjusted for inflation, instead of adjusting the interest rate.”

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4. It can be used to help offset taxes 

Tony Matheson, a financial planner, recommends using excess cash to max out retirement accounts and to help offset your taxes.

“If you are not already taking advantage of the full limits of your 401(k) or Roth IRA, you are paying more in taxes than necessary,” said Matheson. “Next, you can prepay taxes that will be due in future years through a Roth conversion. If you have money in a rollover IRA, consider converting those dollars into a Roth IRA.”

“You will have to pay taxes now, but once that money is in a Roth IRA, it will never be taxed again — both the growth and withdrawals,” he added.

This article was originally published in April 2022.

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