According to the Australian Taxation Office, just under a quarter of SMSF money is held in cash and term deposits - second only to listed shares. A quarter of SMSFs had at least 50% of their portfolio invested in cash and term deposits1.
Given these numbers, effective cash management should be a critical consideration of your investment strategy to help you achieve your desired retirement lifestyle.
Protecting against volatility
Cash may provide a buffer against market volatility, protecting you from sudden market moves.
This might be less important when you are growing your super and have more time to ride out market dips. But as you approach retirement - and while you’re in the pension phase - you have less time for your investments to recover, as you’ll be drawing down on them sooner.
Cash has the potential to offer fixed returns with a minimal chance of capital loss - outcomes favoured by conservative investors.
Cash can be used to cover your SMSF’s expenses - such as investment charges, taxes, legal and adviser fees, administration costs, and insurance premiums - even your pension payments.
At times when your other investments might not be delivering the income you expect, your cash holdings could be used to cover these regular costs. That way you might avoid having to sell investments in an unfavourable market to pay your fund’s expenses or your pension.
What’s more, by keeping some of your SMSF as cash, you have some flexibility to consider new investment opportunities should they arise.
Getting the right mix
If you are retired, deciding how much cash you would like to have as part of your super might be determined by what you think your living expenses could be over the next year, or several years.
In the accumulation phase, you may only need to hold enough cash to cover fund expenses, unless you wish to hold a certain level of cash for investment opportunities.
Cash typically generates a lower investment return than other asset classes, particularly in a low interest rate environment.
While you’re legally required to open a bank account for your SMSF to receive contributions and investment income, taking a more active approach to managing your cash exposure could assist in achieving more balance with your investments.
Making your cash work harder
One strategy might be to lock in fixed returns through a long-term deposit account. Because you choose when you want your deposit to mature, you can stagger these over time - helping you manage your cash flow requirements.
For example, after you retire you may decide to store cash in three separate term deposits of varied periods of time. These can provide a steady income through the first stage of your retirement, while unlocking funds at regular intervals. If you don’t need this cash immediately once the term expires, you can reinvest it in a new term deposit or some other asset.
There are other cash strategies that might help you reach your SMSF objectives. Cash management accounts can offer tiered interest, with the top rate kicking in once you reach a certain account balance.
Managing your cash flow
To take control of your SMSF cash flow, you might consider setting up a cash hub, such as the Commonwealth Direct Investment Account (CDIA).
This is a single channel that links all your accounts, enabling you to transfer cash through online banking.
Your CDIA account is integrated with your CommSec share trading account, so you can manage your cash and investments all in one place. This streamlines your finances and makes it easy to get a snapshot of your cash position.
How you manage any cash in your fund can form part of your diversification and investment strategy and has the potential to impact the overall performance of your SMSF and the lifestyle you are aiming for in retirement.
1.Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Self-managed super funds: a statistical overview 2015–2016 - https://www.ato.gov.au/Super/Self-managed-super-funds/In-detail/Statistics/Annual-reports/Self-managed-superannuation-funds--A-statistical-overview-2015-2016