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The dilemma: cash or investment markets?

By Portugal team
This article is published on: 12th September 2023

With rising interest rates, we have seen banks offering interest rates in excess of 4% or even higher with 1-year fixed terms. This coupled with the perceived risk of investment markets and the constant stream of negative news has left many wondering whether staying in cash is best.

Short term goals
Cash certainly has a place as an emergency “buffer” to allow for life’s unexpected events, and it is also sound financial planning to set aside sufficient for your short-term needs. Likewise, holding cash as part of an investment portfolio is important and it can help reduce the effects of volatility often seen in markets.

Cash as a long-term investment
Interest rates offered by banks to customers rarely beat inflation, so using this as a long-term savings strategy is not ideal.

Even with rising interest rates, the returns from cash are still negative when you consider that inflation currently sits at 7.9% in the UK, so investors are not getting any real returns. As an example, the negative effect of a modest 2% inflation on £100,000 over 10 years is £82,035 and £67,297 over 20 years.

However in the longer term, interest rate cuts are likely as the Bank of England is starkly aware that keeping interest rates high risks triggering a recession and destabilising the UK housing market. Central banks globally are also now close to pausing and then reversing recent rate hikes.

Protect yourself against inflation
Investing in high-quality company shares has been shown to offer inflation protection. Looking at long-term figures, Credit Suisse show that over a 123-year period starting in 1900, shares in developed equity markets have generated returns of 5.1% above inflation and emerging equity markets have achieved 3.8% over inflation.

The Credit Suisse figures also show that shares have outperformed cash (and bonds) in every one of the 21 countries its data covers over that 123-year period. This is quite remarkable given this period covers two world wars, two global pandemics, the great depression, the 2000 dot-com bubble, and the 2008 global financial crisis.

Opportunities elsewhere
Falling interest rates will provide opportunities elsewhere. For example, bond prices move in the opposite direction to interest rates so a future fall in interest rates is likely to result in capital gains on bonds, or holding shares allows investors to not only benefit from the increase in share price over time but income from dividends too.

If we look at the top 100 shares in the UK, analysts are expecting a dividend yield of 4.1% this year and 4.4% in 2024 and with the possibility for share buybacks added into the mix, this could be as high as 6% for 2023.

Tax considerations
Always consider the net interest rate you will earn. For example, a relatively attractive rate of 5% becomes a somewhat mediocre return of just 3.6% for a standard Portuguese tax resident who must pay 28% tax.

Also be cognisant that some of the more attractive rates being offered by banks in Guernsey and Jersey will have a higher tax rate applied of 35%, even if you are a Non-Habitual Resident.

The solution – balance
We believe a balanced approach of cash and investments makes most sense. The split however really comes down to your short- and long-term goals.

In short, cash is still king for short-term needs but for meeting longer-term income and growth objectives, stack the odds in your favour by using a sensible and well-diversified portfolio of shares, bonds and property. Coupling this with effective tax planning can lead to even more savings.

Lastly, Warren Buffet’s advice as one of the world’s most successful investors is, “The one thing I will tell you is that the worst investment you can have is cash. Cash is going to become worthless over time but good businesses are going to be worth more over time”.

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