How Much Actual Physical Cash Should I Have Access to at All Times?


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How Much Cash Should I Have on Hand?

Are you wondering, “How much cash should I have on hand?” There are two ways to look at this question. One meaning is how much actual currency (say, $20 bills) you should keep in your wallet or at home. Another way to look at that question is how much liquid money should you have available in case of emergency, such as cash in a savings account vs. equity in your home, which can be a challenge to tap into quickly.

This guide will cover both of those scenarios and help you understand the importance of having some cash accessible when it’s needed, whether in case of an emergency or everyday spending. Read on to learn the specifics.

How Much Cash Should You Have If You’re Still Working?

First, consider how much cash the typical person who’s working should have available. You may be at a stage of life when you are putting away money towards certain financial goals, such as retirement or your child’s college education. That’s money you don’t want to touch.

Which is why you also likely need to have money in an emergency fund. This is money you can quickly access if you have an unexpected medical or car repair bill or if you were to lose your job. This money can tide you over and help you avoid resorting to using your credit cards to pay for things. Credit card debt is high-interest debt, with interest rates currently over the 20% mark on average.

Financial experts usually advise that people add up their monthly expenses: housing, food, healthcare, utilities, discretionary spending, etc. Then, you want to sock away three to six months’ worth of those monthly expenditures. That money doesn’t have to be accumulated all at once. You might automate your savings and have a small amount transferred from checking into an emergency savings account every time you get paid.

What’s nice about an emergency fund is that the money is immediately accessible when you need it. Unlike, say, the equity in your home, your invested funds (the value of which can rise and fall), and a valuable family heirloom, the cash is ready and available. A good place to keep it might be in a high-yield savings account, where it will be insured up to the FDIC or NCUA limits.

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How Much Cash Should You Have If You’re Retired?

If you are retired, the same basic thinking holds true about how much cash to have available. Whether you are on fixed income or still bringing in some kind of paycheck, you will want to have at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses available.

Some experts suggest that those who are retired should keep more than that amount in cash available. They believe that 12 to 24 months is a wiser number. That way, if you are hit with a major medical bill that you can’t negotiate down, you will be able to tap your cash vs. sell off investments. That’s an example of why an emergency fund is a priority.

How Much Cash Should I Keep at Home?

Now that you understand how much cash to have available in a liquid form, consider how much literal cash (as in the bills you get when using an ATM) to keep on hand.

Of course, you don’t want too much cash sitting in a drawer when it could be safely in a bank or credit union, earning interest. But it can be wise to keep at least $100 or $200 on hand.

For instance, you might imagine what would happen if a mammoth storm came through and knocked out power to a portion of your town and many businesses were closed. You might need to fill your gas tank to drive to the next town over to get food, or you might have to pay for some emergency supplies or to refill a medication prescription.

While some people may want to keep more than that amount “just in case,” the prevailing wisdom is to have no more than $1,000. If you keep that much cash in your house, you may want a home safe. Otherwise, theft, fire, and simply forgetting where you stashed it could be issues.

How Much Cash Should I Keep in My Wallet?

How much money you need to keep in cash in your wallet will vary. Many people today use their debit card and payment apps for daily spending and carry very little or even no cash. But having some money, perhaps $100 or so, can be a wise move.

You might wind up needing to buy something at a local, cash-only business. Or you might be purchasing something from a store that adds a surcharge for those who use cards or mobile payment apps, to recoup the fees they are charged. Having a bit of money in your wallet could help you out in this and other situations.

Where Should I Store My Cash?

You might consider keeping day-to-day money in a checking account, and emergency money in a separate savings account. That way, you don’t need to battle the constant temptation to spend it. Keeping cash in an account insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and that earns a solid interest rate are wise moves as well. Online banks typically offer these features.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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25 overlooked ways to earn some serious cash

25 overlooked ways to earn some serious cash

Traditional investments include publicly traded stocks, bonds and cash–funds that include a mix of the three. These investments typically appear in your workplace 401(k) plan and are most common in the portfolios of retail investors. Alternative investments are other asset classes that may add diversity to a portfolio.

Common alternative investments include gold, art, and real estate, but there are many different other alternative investments. Many investors like alternative, or non-conventional, investments because they perform independently of the stock market, potentially boosting returns and reducing overall losses during a market downturn. That’s particularly attractive during times of high volatility in the stock and bond markets.

However alternative investments also tend to have less liquidity, since they don’t always trade on public markets, and they can carry other risks as well, such as valuation challenges or increased use of leverage. So, they’re not always appropriate for beginner investors. Let’s look into some popular alternative investment options, their potential benefits and downsides.

Related: 7 investment opportunities in 2022


Alternative investments are assets other than stocks and bonds investors believe offer higher potential returns and low correlation to traditional assets like stocks and bonds. Securities regulators consider some alternative assets, like hedge funds and private equity, risky, making those assets available only to high net-worth, accredited investors.

There are, however, plenty of alternative assets, such as real estate and commodities, available to retail investors.

Pinkypills / istockphoto

Real estate is one of the oldest asset classes available to investors. Aside from owning your home, you can invest in real estate by owning a rental property, flipping a house, investing in commercial real estate, industrial real estate or other options. Investors can also buy into Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs.

Investing in real estate requires some knowledge, skill, and luck, but this popular alternative investment generally does well in all economic cycles.


Precious metals such as gold and silver are popular alternative investments. Some investors consider them a safe store of value and a good hedge against inflation.

Investors can get exposure to precious metals by buying them directly or through exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or mining stocks. Precious metals have high liquidity levels, but they can still be very volatile during stock market drops.

Individuals can invest in natural resources, including agriculture, metal and energy. This includes raw materials such as coffee, sugar, beef and corn. Generally, investors participate in commodity trading using futures contracts or ETFs.


Oil and gas companies need ongoing investment to continue operating. Investors can buy into oil and gas LPs for exploration, land development, income, services and support. While often featuring high yields, these investments can have complicated tax impacts.

NiseriN / iStock

Investors can buy a slice of startup companies through equity crowdfunding platforms. This differs from traditional crowdfunding in that investors actually own equity in the company. This is considered a risky investment because if the startup fails, investors may lose all of their money. On the other hand, if a startup does well, investors can see significant gains.

Investing in art has traditionally been something only available to high-net-worth individuals, but there are some new ways to buy into this market through shares and crowdfunding. Interested investors can also buy into index funds that track with the art market.


High-end wine is an investment because wineries only produce a limited number of bottles produced each year. As the years go by, the number of bottles of each particular type of wine decreases, making each bottle more valuable, as long as demand for it continues. Wine can also be a play on climate change in that growing conditions could be negatively impacted by shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns.

Individuals can invest in private companies through angel investing or private equity. This may be done individually or through a private equity firm. This is considered a high-risk investment, but if a private company goes public or gets acquired, these investments can do quite well.

A newer addition to the list of alternative investments, cryptocurrency is becoming widely accepted as a potential growth asset. As the cryptocurrency market matures, and regulation improves, more mainstream institutions are adding crypto to their portfolios. For investors who don’t want diversification within their crypto investments, there are now cryptocurrency ETFs available.

For those concerned about the volatility of crypto, stablecoins may provide a more palatable way to get exposure. Many of the most popular stablecoins are pegged to the U.S. dollar and priced at a constant $1 per token. Interest rates can range from 4% to 9%. They are not FDIC insured nor should be considered as safe as short-term bonds.

bernardbodo / iStock

Collectible investments include coins, Beanie Babies, baseball cards, comic books and other items that are only available in limited quantities. Collectibles are only worth what someone else is willing to pay for them.

So, although a particular baseball card or vintage toy in its original box technically might be worth a certain amount, an investor will only make money if they can find someone willing to pay. Most collectibles are too common to actually have much value, but they can be fun to have. You can even invest in virtual collectibles via non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Iryna Imago / iStock

People interested in an alternative to traditional real estate can buy and sell burial plots in cemeteries for a profit. Burial plot investors purchase plots directly from the cemetery, hold onto them and then sell them later, potentially at a higher cost.


hedge fund is a pooled investment fund that invests in a wide range of assets, from public companies to commodities futures. They tend to invest in riskier assets, and sometimes they sell short— actually betting against a company’s success — which can be risky.

Most hedge funds require investors to be accredited, while others are available to all investors. The funds available to non-accredited investors are called funds of funds, because they are funds of hedge funds. This is an indirect way to invest in hedge funds.

Ridofranz // istockphoto

Investing in distressed debt means buying up a company’s debt and hoping that they will be able to pay it back. Investing in distressed debt financial instruments is extremely risky because the issuing companies are failing or near bankruptcy, so there is a lower likelihood that they will be able to pay it back. However, if they do, the returns are typically high. A similar strategy could be investing in ETFs that hold very high yield fixed income securities.

Structured notes are popular in Europe and are gaining traction in the U.S. A structured note is issued by a financial institution, and it has both bond and derivative components. The goal of a structured note is to payout an amount based on market conditions. Essentially, you often give up some upside to protect against severe declines.

An investor or advisor can create a structured note by tailoring the maturity of the bond piece, choosing among underlying assets, aiming for a certain payoff, and deciding on the level of protection they want. Fees have come down in this area, but they can still be pricey. Also, the structured note is backed by the credit of the issuer, so there is default risk.


When property owners can’t pay property taxes and default on their loans, some municipal governments sell their tax liens in auctions. This allows the municipalities to collect the taxes owed plus additional interest. Investors who purchase these tax liens get the right to collect payments on the liens. In some cases, if the property owner cannot pay, the lienholder could end up owning the foreclosed home.

With IBR loans, accredited investors can invest in offerings that have payouts based on student loan debts being paid back. Sites offering these products analyze schools and historical default rates in an attempt to ensure a high repayment rate.

People who own properties with minerals on them can sell the rights to mine those minerals to mining companies. Minerals can include things like diamonds, coal, or oil. Investors can also buy mineral rights and turn them into an income source.


Like any real estate, farmland tends to increase in value over time. Owners of farmland can also sharecrop or lease out the land to earn income. This tends to be a long-term investment.

Nicholas Smith / istockphoto

The value of trees typically rises over time, so investors can buy into timberland with the goal of earning a profit after the harvest of the trees. Timberland is a real asset, and it has historically produced returns above those in the stock market.

tibor13 / iStock

This long-term investment allows investors to buy into funds that own equipment that gets leased out to companies. This could include medical supplies, construction vehicles or other types of equipment.


When companies ship materials and products across borders, they have to pay import and export fees on those goods. To finance these costs, companies take out loans or get private investment. Investors can help finance these trades and get paid back with interest.

It’s extremely expensive to build and purchase ships and planes, so companies take out loans or get private investment to finance these operations. This type of investment can be risky, since changes in tariffs or the global economy can affect the market, but there is also significant potential for gains.

A risky but fun investment, films have the potential to make a lot of money if they do well, but countless factors go into making them a success. Without an in-depth knowledge of the industry, film investing is very challenging to get into, though there are hedge funds and private equity funds that invest in films.


One way for investors to bring in steady income and make a profit from growth is by buying a franchise. A few well-known franchises are McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Dunkin’. Investors can buy one or more locations, giving them an instant business with brand recognition. These franchises can bring in income and also make money when they’re sold. However, investing in franchises is a lot of work and not a passive investment.


Intellectual property (IP) includes things like images, inventions, and names. IP has the potential to continue increasing in value forever, but it’s challenging to choose which IP you want to invest in. One method is seeking out the next big brand, which is known as brand investing.

Alternative investments have important differences from traditional investments, but there are similarities, too. Traditional investments include positions in stocks, bonds, cash and diversified funds. Alternatives, by contrast, commonly include real estate, commodities, private equity and hedge funds. Cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens are among the newer types of “alts” you can find.

Alternative investments usually exhibit lower liquidity versus stocks and bonds, less regulation, lower transparency, higher fees, and complicated tax impacts. They may also have limited historical performance for you to review.

Alternative assets have appeal as investment opportunities because they may help further diversify a portfolio of stocks and bonds, while also potentially increase returns.

It is really up to each individual to decide how much they want to allocate to alternative investments. Since alternative assets tend to be riskier investments, you may want to limit the total portion of your portfolio that you invest into any alternative asset class.

You must weigh your risk and return objectives as well as how much liquidity you desire. If you are willing to give up your money for many years, you might be able to capture what’s called the “illiquidity premium,” which is additional return due to the inability to convert the investment into cash. If you are risk-seeking and have ample liquidity with other investments, you can perhaps allocate more toward high-risk, high-return alternatives.

Michael Krinke

There are several ways that alternative investments can make money. Each alternative investment is different, so investors should consider what their goals are when choosing assets to buy. Alternative investments typically fall into one of three categories:

  1. Income: Some alternative investments provide a steady source of income, such as a rental property or a franchise.
  2. Growth: This type of investment appreciates in value over time. Growth investments include assets like art and wine.
  3. Balance: Some investments provide a balance of growth and income, such as a rental property, which might offer cash flow (in rent payments) as well as capital appreciation.

ajr_images / iStock

There are many reasons investors might consider adding alternative investments to their portfolio. They may offer protection from the volatility of the stock market and potential for high returns. Below are some of the benefits of alternative investments:

  • Increased portfolio diversification
  • Reduced risk exposure to the stock market
  • Potential for higher-than-average returns (for example, top hedge funds aim for returns between 25-30 percent)
  • Some alternative can hedge against inflation and rising interest rates
  • May have lower transaction costs
  • Appeal to an individual’s personal areas of interest, such as art or wine
  • A portfolio that includes some alternatives you hand-pick can make it easier to stick to a long-term strategy versus a one-size-fits-all portfolio chosen for you by someone else. This notion is based on the behavioral bias known as the endowment effect, which states that people value items they own more than the same asset someone else owns.

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Like any investment, alternative investments come with their share of downsides. It’s important for investors to do their due diligence when researching and considering alternative investments.

These are a few cons to consider:

  • Often limited to accredited investors (net worth of at least $1 million or an individual income of at least $200,000) and qualified purchasers allowed to invest in riskier securities that are not registered with financial regulators
  • Can be less liquid than traditional investments due to limited availability of buyers and lack of a convenient market. Sometimes investors must hold their money in the asset for five or more years.
  • May have high minimum investment requirements
  • May have high upfront investment fees
  • May have less available data and transparency about performance
  • Often higher risk or volatility
  • May lack a clear legal structure since they aren’t required to register with the SEC
  • It can be difficult to determine value if the asset is rare and has few transactions
  • Vulnerable to fraud and investment scams since they are unregulated
  • Alternative assets may have lower levels of accessibility, since you may not find them in a 401(k) or traditional IRA account.

GaudiLab / istockphoto

Alternative investments have the potential for high returns and are a good way to diversify your portfolio and reduce risk. The sheer scope and variety of these investments means investors can look for one (or more) that suits their investing style and financial goals.

The first step for any investor who plans to add alternative investments to their portfolio is deciding which ones are of personal interest and compliment their risk tolerance and investing goals. It’s important to research and do due diligence on any alternative investment option in order to make the best purchasing decisions and reduce risk. While some alternative investments are less accessible, others can be purchased through funds and ETFs.

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