Less than two years away from early retirement, we wonder how much cash (if any?) we’d like to hold in a money market account. As many of you might have heard, we currently run a very tight ship with our cash management. We have no emergency fund – our entire portfolio is our emergency fund! But that’s easy to do while the paychecks are still rolling in and we maintain a 60% savings rate. Early retirement will be very different. How would we handle the cash withdrawals in retirement? How do we react to market fluctuations?
In the FIRE community, I often read that the solution (maybe even the panacea) for an equity bear market is to keep a certain percentage of the portfolio in cash (money market account) to sustain cash flows through a bear market. And we should point out that we are not the only ones thinking about this, as evidenced by recent popular posts on the PIE blog and on Retirement Manifesto (also check out the really cool infographic) dealing with this subject. Two to three years worth of expenses (presumably 5-10% of the portfolio) seem to be the numbers floating around (examples: 5% cash allocation for the PIE blog, The Retirement Manifesto recommends 2-3 years, ThinkSaveRetire uses 3 years), obviously calibrated to roughly correspond to the length of the average bear market.
How much of a difference does a cash cushion really make?
Every year around this time, when Americans celebrate Independence Day we gather with friends and family, get the BBQ going and watch fireworks at night. We celebrate Independence Day on July 4, but of course every single day of the year we celebrate independence. Just like we celebrate diversity, tolerance, hard work, innovation,… you name it. But Independence has always been particularly dear to our hearts. All of us in the FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) community must have that Independence bug in us, too. We think outside the box, we are nonconformist and declare Independence from paychecks, rush hour traffic and out-of-control consumerism. While we don’t want to draw any parallels between Mr. ERN’s boss and King George III, we will certainly not miss leaving behind all the nonsense of work life, least of which the excessive taxation.
Incidentally, excessive taxation was one of the sparks that set off the American Revolution. Moving to a state with no income tax and getting into a much lower federal income tax bracket, hopefully within the next two years, will be our way of sticking it to the tax-man. It’s a little bit like one mini Boston Tea Party for everyone of us achieving FIRE. Obviously not as violent and risky as facing his majesty’s well-armed and trained soldiers centuries ago but nevertheless quite revolutionary. Continue reading “Happy Birthday, USA”