Start a CD Ladder for Longer-Term Savings
Earn Higher Interest Rates and Keep Your Money Close
Certificates of deposit, or CDs, are a savings account alternative you can use to grow your money and achieve longer-term financial goals. Building a CD ladder is something you might consider if you want to keep your longer-term savings accessible while earning varying interest rates on your deposits.
Why You Need a CD Ladder
CDs are time deposit accounts. When you open a CD, you agree to keep your funds in that account for a specific period of time, which ends on a “maturity date.” Some banks and credit unions offer CDs with terms as short as 30 days and as long as 10 years. During that term, your money earns interest. Depending on the CD, you might be able to earn a better rate than you could with a savings account.
Building a CD ladder involves opening multiple CDs with varying terms and different interest rates. This strategy can help you take advantage of changing interest rates over time. As each CD matures, you can decide whether to withdraw your savings or roll your money over into a new CD.
Action to Take: Build a CD Ladder
Building a CD ladder starts with deciding how much money you have to save and when you think you’ll need access to it. These factors will help you determine the length of the ladder and the number of rungs it will have.
For example, say you have $5,000 and you want to set up a CD ladder to cover the next three years. Your CD ladder might look something like this:
- $1,000 in a 6-month CD
- $1,000 in a 12-month CD
- $1,000 in an 18-month CD
- $1,000 in a 24-month CD
- $1,000 in a 36-month CD
With this arrangement you’ll have access to at least some of your money every six months. When a CD matures, you could roll it into a new 36-month CD to keep the ladder going. Or you could purchase CDs with maturities that come due when the first 36-month CD matures (so your money is available for a down payment, vacation, or other major purchase or investment on that date).
Where to Buy CDs
You can find CDs at traditional banks, online banks, and credit unions. When comparing CDs, it's important to consider the interest rates you could earn, the minimum deposit requirements, and early withdrawal penalties.
Interest rates for CD accounts can vary widely. You may earn a higher rate by maintaining a higher balance, for example, or by choosing a longer term. Also note that credit unions or online banks may offer more competitive CD rates compared to traditional brick-and-mortar banks. But since rates are highly susceptible to changes in the economy, it’s best to shop around to see what options might best meet your needs when you’re ready to open your CDs.
Next Steps and More Resources
CD ladders can help you save for long-term goals, such as planning a wedding or buying a home. While you can also use them to save for retirement, taking advantage of your employer's 401(k) can yield some significant tax benefits.
Compare CD rates and earn more about starting your own CD ladder:
- Read more about How CD Ladders Work and Help Improve Your Cash Flow.
- Get a more detailed look at How to Create a CD Ladder.
- We track and update the Best CD Rates from dozens of banks and credit unions daily.