Ever since we moved to Canada, we’ve been keeping a lot more cash. This is due to a combination of factors.
- I changed jobs to facilitate our move (my new job allowed me to work from home in Canada) and my new job is less stable than my previous one. Plus, it is in a very COVID-impacted industry, and there were lots of layoffs in my company.
- My wife quit her job when we moved, although she ended up being able to work remotely in her old job for a while because of COVID.
- Initially, I was being paid in USD and wanted a bit of a cash cushion to avoid having to exchange currency at inopportune times.
As we transition to part-time work / coastFIRE, this larger cash holding likely will continue. My current plan is to keep about 2 years worth of cash (mostly in CAD) in order to avoid having to sell investments when things are really low, or to convert currency when the rates are bad.
Finally, I’m increasingly leaning towards paying off our house when our mortgage comes up for renewal in summer 2025, so I’m accumulating a bit more cash than usual with that in mind. We have a 5-year fixed-rate mortgage that’s amortized for 25 years. We can pay off an extra 10%, but it’s a closed mortgage, which means there is a penalty if we want to pay it off completely ahead of schedule. (For the Americans out there, all of this is normal in Canada.) Thus, I’m thinking we’ll pay it off when we hit that 5 year maturity mark in a little under 4 years. This would knock 20-25% off our spending, which I really like the sound of.
I’m currently using two places for these 2-4 year cash holdings. The first is EQ Bank (referral link). EQ Bank is an online only bank here in Canada that has “high” interest savings accounts for both CAD and USD. As of October 2021, the interest rate for CAD is 1.25%, and 1.00% for USD. To transfer in USD, I have to first move it to a US dollar account at a Canadian bank (I use TD for that) but it has been very fast and easy to move money around.
The second thing I’m doing is buying US Series I Bonds via TreasuryDirect. The current rate is 3.54%, and it’s going up to 7.12% next month (November, for at least 6 months). I’ve never held I-Bonds before, but they’re tied to inflation and the rates are set for 6 months at a time. You can’t withdraw for a year, and if you withdraw within the first 5 years you lose 3 months of interest. You’re limited to $10K per person per calendar year, so I’ve done $20K (for my wife and I) and I’ll do another $20K in January. Depending on where rates are in January 2023, I might do another $20K then as well. This won’t be enough to pay off our house (we’ll owe ~$179K CAD if we don’t make early payments) but it will put a dent in it.
If, like me, you aren’t familiar with I-bonds, here is a good article on how to buy them.
January ’22 update: We’ve added $20K apiece. Our first $10K (each) is currently earning 3.54% (through April 2022), and will jump to 7.12% once that initial 6 months is up. The second $10K (each) is earning 7.12% for 6 months (through June 2022), with the next 6 months TBD. Because we’re intending to use this money to pay down our mortgage in the next few years, I’ll likely leave it in as long as the interest rate is above what I can get from EQ Bank for USD.
What about you? Where are you currently keeping money you’ll need in the not-too-distant future?