How much liquidity does your portfolio need during ages 30, 40, 50, 60+ ?

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The global market’s volatility and increasing inflation is likely a cause for concern as you manage your portfolio.  With these challenges, it’s advisable to incorporate liquidity into your planning. 

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Liquidity is described as the amount of cash you can readily access, or how quickly you can convert assets to cash. The need for liquidity can vary depending on your age and risk tolerance, and short and long term financial goals. We’ve asked financial experts for their advice about how to plan your liquidity strategy as you age.

Liquid emergency savings for unforeseen life events

According to financial experts, you should have about six months of liquid living expenses set aside in an emergency fund, if you encounter a job loss, experience a medical emergency or have a sudden expense like a car repair. 

“At any age we recommend an emergency fund in cash or cash investments to cover roughly six-month expenditures.” 

"At any age we recommend an emergency fund in cash or cash investments to cover roughly six-month expenditures," says Rob Williams, CFP®, CRPC®, managing director, financial planning, retirement income and wealth management, Schwab Center for Financial Research. "They can cover a one-time surprise expense or tide you over if you have an illness, change jobs, or have another expense, to help avoid the need to sell investments."

How your age factors in on your liquidity path

According to Williams, investors aged 30 to their early 60s and still working and who do not need money from their portfolio soon could start with around 5% of their portfolio in cash and cash investments, based on the time horizon and risk tolerance.  

Serious mature couple calculating bills to pay, checking domestic finances, middle aged family managing, planning budget, expenses. (Istock)

And, for investors nearing retirement, when they may need to start tapping their portfolio, or another goal, such as paying for a child’s education, may want to hold a higher proportion in cash and cash investments in their portfolio, Williams says.

“We suggest, generally, that investors hold the next year of money that they may need to withdraw from a portfolio, to pay for a goal or expense in cash or cash investments.”

"We suggest, generally, that investors hold the next year of money they may need to withdraw from a portfolio, to pay for a goal or expense, in cash or cash investments," Williams explains. "This is a good guideline, to determine how much you might want to hold based not just on your age, but your goals as well."

How goals can influence your decade-by-decade liquidity decisions

John Pilkington, CFP, senior financial advisor with Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, also recommends setting aside 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund, and, given an individual’s or couple’s lifestyle and financial goals, he advises to consider how liquid reserves fit into a broader financial plan. 

Married couple sitting on sofa at home read documents and check their finances. (iStock)

"For example, if someone is in their early 40s and is planning a significant purchase, such as a vacation property, in the near future, they will have significantly higher liquidity needs than someone of the same age who is only saving for longer term goals," he says.

Other factors that can impact your need for liquidity could be financing a child’s education or creating a retirement plan.

"Typically, those in their 30s and 40s have competing financial goals – think paying down a mortgage, student loans, saving for children’s future college expenses, saving for retirement – and therefore have a higher need for liquidity should they need to tap funds amid planning other financial obligations," Pilkington says.

As he mentioned,  a challenge that many in these 30s to 40s decades face is the ability to create liquid reserves, as their competing goals are co-existing among higher debt burdens.

"This audience can benefit from looking at alternative sources of liquidity – such as a home equity line of credit, tapping a Roth IRA, or a personal loan," adds Pilkington.

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Also, as middle age and then retirement occurs there may be a shift regarding liquidity needs. "Generally, for those in their 50s and 60s, they will have likely built-up home equity, have higher 401(k) balances that (only if needed) could tap, have tax-deferred savings in a 529; their ability to save for liquidity outpaces their actual need to save for it," Pilkington says.

 

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