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Help me understand the principle of liquidity. What do I need to do to be more “liquid” right now?
Preparing for the Worst
Dear Preparing for the Worst,
Liquidity is the measure of your ability to exchange an asset for cash. It is a tool that gives the ability to stay afloat in a crisis situation, provides margin and protection for individuals, families, churches, not-for-profits, and businesses.
Liquid assets include things like certificates of deposit, public stocks and funds in your bank account. Non-liquid assets include real estate, jewelry, collectibles and retirement accounts (if they have not matured beyond the early withdrawal penalty phase). For a small business this may mean equipment, receivables, or accounts.
How Much Liquidity Do I Need?
It varies. A good rule of thumb for individuals is to have one month of income in actual cash that you keep in a safe place at home, and 3-6 months in an emergency account. Of course, this is under normal economic circumstances.
Since you are preparing for a worst case, I would increase my total figure based on Joseph’s saving plan for Pharaoh in Genesis in which he set aside 20% of the grain for 7 years. That means we should have the ability to access 140% of our income in a worst case economic crisis (20% x 7 = 140%). So to revise my numbers above, have one month of cash needs on hand at home, and 15-16 months of your normal income or enough to cover necessary expenses in cash accounts.
I believe this scenario is a safe level of liquidity. Of course, you can always be 100% liquid if you choose or need to. That would mean selling all non-liquid assets and converting everything to cash. Doing so during a crisis is normally a bad idea unless you are in distress.
Some Factors For Each Situation
Estimated monthly expenses and personal situations will help determine your liquidity needs.
- Do you have secure income? If not, increase liquidity.
- Do you have multiple sources of income? If so, high liquidity is not necessary.
- Can you claim unemployment benefits? If so, this is a form of liquidity.
- Do you rent or own your home? Liquidity needs can vary depending on your flexibility to downsize this expense.
- Are you in good health? If not, liquidity may need to be increased.
- Are you retired? If you are using investments to fund your retirement, your liquidity needs to increase if possible during a crisis.
- Do you have debt? What kind? Try to eliminate debt to reduce your overall liquidity needs.
What Qualifies as Cash?
- Actual cash – bills/coins
- Checking accounts
- Savings Accounts
- Short term CDs
I do not consider bitcoin, cryptocurrency, gold, silver or precious metals as liquid assets since there may or may not be a market for these at the time of your need.
Why is it Important?
- Unexpected expenses are part of life: medical bills, car and home repairs, burial costs, loss of income to name a few.
- No need to carry credit card debt or other forms of expensive debt.
- Grants negotiating advantage for better prices or cash discounts.
- Gives the ability to invest quickly or move into favorable CD rates.
- Provides stability in a storm.
- Frees you from fear of being generous in a crisis.
How to Improve Your Liquidity
- Sell non-liquid assets and put more cash in the bank.
- Reduce spending so you can increase monthly savings.
- If you receive a stimulus check from the government, save it.
- Pay off debt to reduce threats to your cash flow.
Getting Through This Pandemic
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:5-8 ESV)
For those facing liquidity challenges, turn to God for help. Invest your time learning Biblical financial principles now. Avoid binge watching Netflix, playing video games, or putting your head in the sand. What you sow today will impact what you reap in the future. Trade your stress and fear for hope and peace. He knows more about money and the future than me or any of us. He will help you through it. If you are worried and stressed, please call our Crown Helpline to speak to one of our staff. We are here to help you. Call 800-722-1976 or visit Crown.org/coronavirus.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.