CD Ladders: Some Personal Experience

Photo by: Collin Anderson

Back in the era before I started falling asleep at night terrified by visions of inflation, I had a retirement plan.  Every month I would open a CD.  Eventually I would get to where I had a CD renewing every month, then every week, then every day.  Once the interest on those CDs paid my living expenses, I was done and could retire.  Of course my dreams of building a CD ladder were somewhat upended by the recession and  banking crisis.

What Is A CD Ladder?

A CD ladder is a way to get the improved returns CDs usually offer without the problems of diminished liquidity.  The idea is that you get CDs set up in such a way that the money you have invested in them matures periodically, maybe every month, giving you easy access to liquid funds while retaining better returns than a regular savings account.  This can be a good way to maximize returns on your cash.

How to Build a CD Ladder

A typical way to build a CD ladder is to build it all at once.  Let’s say you have $12,000 and you want to build a ladder where you have a one year CD renewing every month.  One way to approach the problem is to simply open a CD with one month, two month, etc. maturity dates, and then when the time comes to renew them, renew at a 12 month period.  Of course it can be hard to find a seven month CD, so you may have to go to plan B and build it over time.  My approach was simply to buy a 12 month CD every month until I had mine set up.  You do not have to use one year CDs of course.  You could use half as many six month CDs to get the same effects, although likely with inferior yields. (more…)