(Dow Jones) No financial advisor wants to help a client cash out savings before retirement just to meet expenses, but more have had to do it lately.
Craig Carnick, an advisor in Colorado Springs, Colo., says he has a number of clients in their late 50s and early 60s who have lost mid-level management jobs in recent years, particularly in the technology industry. Some sought consulting work and are earning less-if at all. One has been looking for a job for two years.
For some of these clients, the "focus has changed from getting 30 years to getting five" out of their investment portfolio, Carnick says.
A recent Merrill Lynch survey of people with at least $250,000 in investable assets found that 20% had tapped long-term savings and investments to meet immediate financial needs in the last year. Loss of income was a common reason cited.
Jim Heitman, a financial advisor in Alta Loma, Calif., says he's also seeing more clients liquidating assets to bail children with financial difficulties. "It gives them a lot of relief," he says.
Some advisors put in this situation-which presumes any emergency cash fund has already been largely used up-say their goal is to help clients get cash in ways that keeps the tax bill as low as possible and doesn't upset a portfolio's weighting in stocks, bonds and other asset classes.
Heitman notes that many people now have more cash than usual in their portfolio because of the market's recent volatility, and this can be tapped with none of the tax implications that can come with cashing in stocks, bonds or other securities that can trigger income or capital gains taxes. When that is not available, he says he targets investments that are considered the weakest performers.
However, right now, following the recent market rally, some stocks that have recently gone up may also be good choices if the taxes can be handled. "Anything that grows past the point of the target weighting within the portfolio is first to get trimmed," he says. "It's like picking fruit-you always start with the ripe ones."
Tom Orecchio, a financial advisor in Westwood, N.J., also encourages clients to look first at the investment gains they would have cashed in anyway to rebalance their portfolio. "You're paying off debt with gains rather than principle," he said.
Carnick says he likes to maintain something of a cash cushion for future emergencies, and looks at any instruments that might be maturing in the near future such as bonds or CDs. Another possible source of cash is a life insurance policy, Carnick says. Some can be cashed in, or borrowed against, and some allow a holder to defer premiums temporarily, which is one way to cut down on expenses.