Certificates of Deposit (CDs) have been a longtime, popular investment banking tool for individuals seeking a safe and stable place for their funds. Their credit union counterparts, share certificates, are the same type of product, so don’t let the terminology differences trouble you. They offer a fixed earnings rate over a specified period (term), and provide a reliable source of income. However, traditional certificates often lack flexibility since investors must commit their funds for the entire term. This is where certificate ladders come in.
Certificate ladders operate on a simple principle: instead of investing in a single certificate with a fixed term, savers distribute their funds across multiple certificate accounts with different, staggered, maturity dates. For example, instead of investing $10,000 in a single 5-year certificate, a member may choose to allocate $2,000 to five different certificates, each with a maturity date of one year apart. This strategy creates a “ladder” of certificates, with one maturing each year.