If you are old enough to remember what you could earn on a share certificate back before the financial crisis of 2007-2008, you are probably pretty disappointed with where rates are now. BankRate.com has a chart that shows the average rate on six-month certificate in January 2007 at 3.54% APY. At the end of 2016, it was just 0.16% APY. With today’s rates making it such a challenge to get the most out of money saved, how do you earn money from yours without tying it up for years? Enter the magic of certificate laddering.
What’s a certificate?
A share certificate (banks call them certificates of deposit, or CDs), is like a savings account where you can’t withdraw the money for a certain period of time. In return for agreeing to keep your money in a certificate for a longer period of time, your financial institution pays you a higher rate of return.
What’s a certificate ladder?
Certificate laddering is a simple concept: Divide the amount of money you have to save among certificates that mature at different intervals. As each certificate matures you can turn it over into a longer maturity certificate. In time, all your certificates will be earning a higher yield with a longer maturity. Because you have a certificate maturing regularly, you can always cash it in if you need the money.
A beginner’s certificate ladder
A common certificate ladder would be as follows: If you have $1,500 to invest, deposit $500 into a one, two, and three-year certificate. Each year when a certificate matures roll the principle ($500) plus the dividends (interest made over the year, which varies depending on the dividend rate) into a three-year certificate for a higher-dividend yields. Continue each year as your certificates mature, and reinvest them into a three-year certificate so all your money is earning a three-year rate.
If your starting with less you could invest smaller amounts into three, six, 12, or 12, 18, 24 month certificates. Again the same principle applies, as each matures reinvest it for a longer term certificate until all your money is earning the highest rate.
Depending on your financial goals you can ladder any way you want.
You can start to reviewing White Sands FCU’s share certificate rates and terms here.