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Liquid Assets vs. Fixed Assets: How They Work

Budgeting, Personal Finance
Liquid Assets vs Fixed Assets: Where to Start

Cars break down. Kids get sick. Jobs go away. When the unexpected happens, you want a financial cushion in place to soften the fall. That’s where liquid assets come into play. But what are liquid assets? And how do they differ from fixed assets? Learning the basics will help you put a financial plan in place.

What is a liquid asset?

Money is considered liquid if you can access it quickly with limited consequences. You can tap your savings account to cover a home repair without incurring a penalty, like you would with an investment account, for example.

Common examples of liquid assets include:

» MORE: How to build a budget

What is a fixed asset?

Fixed assets are great for building wealth, but it takes longer to convert them into cash. And if you’re in a tight spot financially, expediting the process can be costly.

For instance, if you withdraw contributions from your 401(k) before you’re age 59½, you’ll likely pay a penalty. And if you’re forced to sell a piece of property, it may be at a discount if the real estate market is soft when you need the money.

Common examples of fixed or illiquid assets include:

  • Real estate
  • Vehicles
  • Annuities
  • Retirement savings

Which should you prioritize?

Start by building up liquid assets — specifically, an emergency fund, to cover unexpected expenses.

There’s no magical dollar figure you need in your emergency fund, but ideally, it should cover all the bills you absolutely have to pay, such as your mortgage and car insurance, for several months.

If you’re not sure how much that is, ask yourself this question: If you lost your job, how long would you last before running into trouble?

Set aside extra money from each paycheck if you have less than a month or two worth of expenses already saved. Our tips on how to save money can help. Stash those dollars in an easy-to-access place, such as a savings account.

Once your emergency savings are fully funded, consider other ways to use your money beyond liquid accounts. Start by investing for retirement to set yourself up for long-term financial stability.

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