CD Ladder

Definition: A CD ladder is an approach of distributing a sum available for investment into multiple certificates of deposits of same or different amounts but necessarily distinct maturity dates. The arrangement of CDs is such that an instrument matures each year, ensuring higher liquidity of funds. Also, when every CD have a varied interest rate, the risk of low earning minimizes.

A CD Ladder is a rational investment strategy to realize various short-term financial goals such as child education, buying expensive consumer goods like a car, house renovation, bootstrap financing, emergency fund accumulation, etc.

Content: CD Ladder

  • Process
  • Strategies
  • Benefits
  • Drawbacks
  • Example
  • Conclusion

How to Build a CD Ladder?

Going for a CD ladder investment can be a wonderful idea when you are left with some additional funds after meeting all your expenses from your income. It includes the basic steps as discussed below:

Step-1 Ascertain your goals

To lead your actions in a positive direction, the investment objective should be crystal clear. In a CD ladder, there can be more than one goals, although these are usually attainable in a short span.

Step-2 Open multiple separate CDs

The investor now explores and compares the rate of interest, withdrawal charges and other facilities offered by the different banks on CDs. Then, the investor opens up the account in one or more suitable financial institution to include three, four or five CDs in a ladder.

Step-3 Plan the ladder such that each year one CD matures

Now that you have decided to invest in a certain number of CDs, assure that the maturity dates of these CDs lie in successive years. This is crucial since you want to get a CD matured each year.

Step-4 Proceed with withdrawal or renewal after each CD matures

Lastly, wait for the maturity of your CDs. If you need the money on the due date, then you may proceed with the withdrawal procedure. However, it is highly recommendable to renew the CD in case you have sufficient funds to fulfil your objective.

CD Laddering Strategies

While a novice thinks of investing in a CD ladder, he/she may feel insecure or hesitant to take a step forward.

For these inexperienced investors we fetch some of the essential tips to make the most from CD laddering:

Go for higher returns even if you need to open CDs in different banks.

Many of us think that opening various CDs in the same bank is highly convenient but we overlook the fact that different banks offer varying features on CDs. One bank may provide a higher rate of interest on a particular CD. While the other may attract investors with minimal withdrawal penalty on a similar kind of CD.

A five year CD Ladder can be immensely fruitful if you don’t need this money frequently.

If you prefer to invest your funds for a fairly long period, five years CD ladder is what you need. It is even more rewarding if you don’t withdraw the funds or even renew the CDs maturing within a year or two. However, it would be only possible if you have sufficient funds to do with, on the due dates.

Renew a CD if you postponed your goal or doesn’t need the funds immediately.

This is a trick which works on CDs that have a maturity period of one, two or even three years. Say, if you get an increment, bonus or any additional surplus that is enough to fulfil the purpose for which you opened the CD, be wise and renew your CD on the due date to earn double interest.

Even if you are concerned more about liquidity, invest in CDs with a low withdrawal penalty.

Some investors open a CD ladder out of excitement and fells short of money due to irregular earnings or layoff from the job. Such investors should stick with CDs that have low withdrawal penalty. Thus, the investors can avoid heavy deduction on withdrawing the funds before the maturity date.

Hedging through a Barbell CD Ladder is a great option if you want moderate returns along with greater liquidity.

As we know that the CDs are not completely risk-free, a barbell strategy somewhat minimizes the chances of loss. It ensures that half the CDs belong to the category of short-dated maturities while the remaining have long-dated maturities to maintain the balance of liquidity and returns.

Benefits of CD Ladder

People have most often spoken about long-term investment benefits, but a CD ladder brings to you numerous short-term gains as mentioned below:

  • Flexibility: The investors can divide the total funds into multiple CDs as per their requirement.
  • Customization: Even a CD ladder comprises a customized portfolio where the investor can decide whether he/she is more concerned about the returns or liquidity or a balance of both.
  • Attain Multiple Financial Goals: As each CD matures in a successive year, the investor can arrange his/her financial objectives as per the priority and accomplish all of these consecutively.
  • Better Interest Rates: As compared to a single CD, a CD ladder provides an opportunity to keep some funds invested in long-dated maturity CDs that provides impressive returns.
  • Greater Accessibility: When the funds are distributed into different CDs and each year one of these CDs matures, the investor can avail more liquid cash to fulfil his/her short-term needs.
  • Renewal Facility: In a CD ladder, each certificate of deposit can be reinvested in the same plan or renewed, thus the investor can earn double interest.
  • Discourages Early Withdrawal Penalty: If it would be a single CD and the investor takes out funds before the due date, a withdrawal penalty is levied on it. However, in case of a CD ladder, every year a certificate of deposit matures, the investor doesn’t need to withdraw the other CDs.
  • Mental Freedom: An investor feels secure since even if interest rates fall after opening a CD, he/she stays invested for a higher rate of return. Also, if the interest rates upraise, the investor can still avail the opportunity by investing in one more CD.

CD Ladder Drawbacks

Many of us overlook the disadvantages of a CD ladder before blocking the funds in this so-called smart investment strategy.

Let us talk about the prominent ones out of these:

  • Opportunity Cost of Aggressive Investment Returns: If the same funds would be invested in share trading or aggressive investments instead of a CD ladder, there would be chances of yielding superlative returns.
  • Involves Risk: Just like all other investment options, a CD ladder also exposed to the risk factor although the magnitude of risk is comparatively low in this case.
  • Not Suitable for Long-term Wealth Creation: Unlike a lifecycle fund, a CD ladder is unsuitable for the investors who aim at accumulating riches in the long-term, say 20 years or more.

CD Ladder Example

Let us understand the CD laddering concept through an example:

Mr John had a sum of $1000, he plans to invest it in certificates of deposit. Now, he has the following two options:

  1. The first one is to invest this money in one CD of $1000 for 5 years, yielding 3.5% interest per year.
  2. The second option is to opt for a CD ladder where this fund is distributed among 5 different CDs as follows:
    • $200 in a CD maturing in 1 year providing interest of 2.5% p.a.
    • $200 in a CD maturing in 2 years providing interest of 2.75% p.a.
    • $200 in a CD maturing in 3 years providing an interest of 3% p.a.
    • $200 in a CD maturing in 4 years providing interest of 3.25% p.a.
    • $200 in a CD maturing in 5 years providing an interest of 3.5% p.a.

If Mr John resorts to the first option, he can earn an interest of $187.69 on a total sum of $1000. (based on compound interest formula). Although, the liquidity, in this case, is negligible.

However, if he goes with the second method, his earnings are as follows:

  • On the 1st CD, he earns $5 on a sum of $200.
  • On the 2nd CD, he earns $11.15 on a sum of $200.
  • On the 3rd CD, he earns $18.55 on a sum of $200.
  • On the 4th CD, he earns $27.30 on a sum of $200.
  • On the 5th CD, he earns $37.54 on a sum of $200.

$99.54 is the total earning on the accumulated fund of $1000 if a CD ladder is adopted. Indeed, the liquidity of funds is quite high here and the investor can also renew the plan, instead of withdrawing a matured CD, to get more returns.


All together we can conclude that it is up to you whether you pool in your money in a single CD or diversify it into different CDs through a CD ladder.

If you opt for one CD, you may be at higher risk due to low liquidity and paying off high withdrawal penalty in case of pulling the sum before the due date.

But if you select a CD ladder, you can benefit from funds due for withdrawal each year, at the same time renewal of funds can lead to a higher return.

CD Ladder
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