News & Views

Is cash really king or do investments still give the best returns?

23rd November 2023

In his regular look at the financial landscape, Jeff Lewis, director at RobMac, asks whether cash is a better option than investments.


Jeff Lewis, director at RobMac


Interest rates are at levels we haven’t seen since before the Financial Crisis, tempting people into cash, and away from investing.


So, does investing even make sense anymore?

First, it’s worth remembering that the laws of capitalism haven’t changed:

·        Governments have to pay higher returns than cash to borrow. Governments need  to raise money through debt. It’s what keeps pensions paid and the lights on. If cash rates are at 5%, government bonds have to offer people MORE than that to tempt them out of the bank – even more so if they want them to lock it up for 10 years.

·        Companies have to pay more than governments to borrow. Companies need  to incentivise you to lend to them, rather than to the government … which means paying you more than the government does! If cash is at 5%, and government bonds are at 6% (say)… corporate debt has to be higher (otherwise why take the risk?!).

·        Equities have to offer the chance of being paid more than corporate bonds. Companies also  need to generate money for their shareholders (who are taking even more risk than their bondholders). Because if their shareholders could do better leaving their money in the bank … soon there’d be no shareholders. And the decision maker at a company knows that. Any new project requiring a cash investment will be judged against the bank rate. If a new project doesn’t have the potential to beat what the bank’s offering, why do it?


The bottom line is that cash sets the bar. Everything else then needs to jump over it.


Do we live in different times?

Of course, it’s tempting to believe that today’s investment circumstances are unique. “This time it’s different!”.

Inflation is high. Government debt levels have soared. Geopolitical hotspots are flaring up in Ukraine, the Middle East and Taiwan. Add to that the transformational developments in AI and the increasingly savage impact of climate change.

But is it really different this time?

Between 1993 and 2007, interest rates averaged 5.35%. Government debt levels were rising sharply. Geopolitical hotspots were flaring up in Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Russia. The internet was revolutionising society.

In the face of all that, surely just staying in cash, at 5.25%, was best?

Absolutely not .

The FTSE 100 (with dividends reinvested) returned 8.1% annualised over that period.

The world Equity markets continued to exceed Cash … and it will most likely do in the next economic cycle too.

The above does not constitute individual financial advice and advice should be sought for your specific needs. 

If you are interested in learning about what makes RobMac different and think that we can help, then please get in touch. If you would like to discuss your financial position further, you can arrange to meet with one of our financial advisers by scheduling a meeting here >>scheduling a meeting here >>

* The value of an investment may go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you originally invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.