When Should I Start Living on Cash Instead of Investments? - Root Financial

Retirement can be a time of uncertainty, especially when it comes to managing finances. One important consideration is the role of cash reserves in a retirement portfolio. These reserves provide a buffer against market volatility and help retirees weather periods of downturn. But when exactly should retirees start tapping into these reserves?

The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the size of the cash reserve, the composition of the retirement portfolio, and the investor’s individual financial situation. In general, it is a good idea to have some cash or conservative, stable investments in a retirement portfolio that can be used to cover living expenses during times of market turbulence. But knowing when to start drawing on these reserves can be tricky.

Step #1

The first step in answering this question is to define what is meant by “cash reserves.” This can vary depending on the individual’s portfolio. For example, if a retiree has a portfolio of all stocks and only one year of cash set aside in a savings account, that one year of cash represents the entire cash reserve. On the other hand, if someone has a 60-40 portfolio (60% stocks and 40% bonds and cash), the 40% in cash and stable investments should be considered as part of their cash reserve.

Step #2

The second factor to consider is that a retirement portfolio is meant to be lived on. Retirees may be hesitant to draw on their portfolio during a market downturn, but it is important to remember that diversification is key. A well-diversified portfolio should include stocks, bonds, and cash or stable investments that can be used to cover living expenses in any market environment.

Step #3

The third step in determining when to start drawing on cash reserves is to consider the investor’s allocation strategy. If a retiree has a well-planned allocation strategy, they shouldn’t have to worry too much about when to tap into their reserves. If the allocation is set up to meet the investor’s income needs and is diversified, then rebalancing the portfolio will automatically generate enough cash to cover living expenses. For example, if stocks go up and the portfolio becomes unbalanced, some of the stocks can be sold and the revenue can be reinvested in bonds or cash to bring the portfolio back in line with the original allocation.

In addition to these three factors, retirees should also consider their individual financial situation. If someone has a large emergency fund or other sources of cash, they may be able to delay tapping into their retirement portfolio until later. On the other hand, if someone is facing unexpected expenses or a significant reduction in income, they may need to start drawing on their cash reserves sooner than planned.

The key takeaway is that retirees should have a plan in place for when and how to tap into their cash reserves. This plan should be based on a well-diversified and balanced portfolio, a clear understanding of what constitutes “cash reserves,” and a solid allocation strategy that is aligned with the investor’s income needs and financial goals. By following these principles, retirees can ensure that they have enough cash on hand to weather market volatility and enjoy a comfortable retirement.

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