(By Patrick Larkin) The All-Cap Value model entered December with a cash position equal to almost 40% of the portfolio's total value. This large cash holding was a consequence of my inability to find suitable new investments in recent months to replace positions that I've recently exited.
I generally don't like cash as long-term holding. When it became clear on the last trading day of 2012 that Congress was going to pass a Fiscal Cliff deal that again defers hard choices about the nation's debt problem, I moved out of cash and into the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTI). VTI is essentially a proxy for the broad U.S. stock market.
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My focus is on investing in high quality businesses that I understand when their stocks are cheap. The portfolio has the potential to be highly concentrated, as I will typically invest between 5% and 20% of the portfolio in a new holding.
Despite that, at times it still isn't possible to identify enough cheap, high quality businesses to fill out the portfolio. One alternative in that situation is to hold cash, and I am comfortable holding some cash for limited periods as I search for new opportunities.
However, unless the market is grossly overvalued, I believe that a low-cost, broadly diversified index fund such as VTI is preferable to cash as a "placeholder" within a portfolio of risky assets such as the All-Cap Value Portfolio.
To be clear, everyone needs to hold a reasonable amount of cash in his broad personal portfolio to meet both expected and unexpected short-term liquidity needs. But beyond that, there are almost always better alternatives for long-term investment than cash.
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An ill-considered purchase of an overvalued, risky individual stock is not one of those alternatives, but in my view VTI and similar broad index funds currently are.
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