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If the summer market decline hasn't stoked your appetite to buy stocks, consider this. All the cash piling in your account is pretty much dead money.

That's true if you're leaving the money un-invested, and also if you've taken the good sense step of keeping your cash in a high interest investment account. Earlier this year, these accounts paid 1.25 per cent, which is weak in historical terms but competitive by the low rate standard of recent years. As rates declined through the spring and summer, the payouts from high interest investment accounts hit a new low. Most pay all of 0.75 per cent now.

Expect to make zero interest if cash is just sloshing around in your brokerage account. In that context, maybe 0.75 per cent isn't so bad. But if your long-term financial goals are based on the idea of actually making money and not just preserving what you already have, then sitting in cash won't get you where you need to go.

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No, there aren't any decent-paying cash alternatives out there. One-year Government of Canada T-bills were yielding 0.4 per cent at the end of August. A redeemable one-year guaranteed investment certificate from a name brand issuer won't get you dramatically more than that. The inflation rate in July was 1.3 per cent, but cash investments couldn't even beat that low hurdle.

Rates will eventually rise in Canada, but it's hard to see that happening in a meaningful way in the near future. In any case, rates have fallen so far that even a stiff rise of one percentage point would leave you with very modest returns. It's now decision time for the cash in your account. Either you accept near zero growth for this money and write that into your financial plan, or you make a commitment to putting this money to work in stocks and bonds.

Suggestion for long-term investors: Plan to make four quarterly transfers of money from cash into securities over the next 12 months. Write it into your day planner and just make the trades. If you start analyzing what the market's doing at that moment, you'll never pull the trigger.

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