Cash: Trash or Treasure?

What good is cash?

Central banks around the world have pushed interest rates to zero. In Europe, short rates are negative. Most bank deposits and money market funds pay almost nothing. Why should investors hold cash?

Cash used to be thought of as a weapon, or a market sector. Mutual funds held up to 10% of their portfolios in cash. After all, cash allows managers to move quickly when they see opportunities. And when the market falls, cash looks pretty good. It may not earn much, but at least it’s stable.

But that changed in the ‘90s. An ebullient market raised the cost of cash. From 1995 to 2000 the stock market tripled. A 10% allocation to cash cost investors 6% of their portfolios, or 1.5% per year. Consultants told institutional investors, “We don’t pay you to manage cash.”

But then came the dot-com crash, 9/11, the housing boom-and-bust, the Euro crisis, and so on. People with cash could respond to the market’s swings. Cash is an option. When the market is volatile, the value of that option rises. It protects investors in bear markets, and allows them to add to their holdings when the market falls. But in a bull market cash drags on returns.

Cash-management is an essential part of any investment strategy. Investors should plan ahead how much cash to hold and when to put it to work. Holding cash is frustrating during a bull run, but stocks don’t always rise. When they fall, a cash-stash will make you very happy.


Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
Phone: 603-224-1350
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By | 2014-09-18T09:51:52+00:00 August 8th, 2014|Global Market Update|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Tengdin is the Chief Investment Officer at Charter Trust Company and author of “The Global Market Update”. The audio version of each post can be heard on radio stations throughout New England every weekday. Mr. Tengdin graduated from Dartmouth College, Magna Cum Laude. He received his Master of Arts from Trinity Divinity School, Magna Cum Laude and received his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1992. Mr. Tengdin has been managing investment portfolios for over 30 years, working for Bank of Boston, State Street Global Advisors, Citibank – Tunisia, and Banknorth Group. Throughout his career, Mr. Tengdin has emphasized helping clients manage their financial risks in difficult environments where they can profit from investing in diverse assets in diverse settings. –
Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all!
– And Follow me on Twitter @GlobalMarketUpd

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