Saving Money

How to Use a CD Ladder for Your Emergency Fund

You know that an emergency fund is a necessity if you want to achieve financial security and freedom. However, it can be rather depressing to see the rate which you earn interest on a savings account. Traditional savings accounts can be especially depressing. But that is the price you pay for the liquidity and access that you get with a savings account, right?

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You can get slightly higher CD rates — and the potential for better yields in the future — if you take your emergency fund and ladder it using short-term CDs. Depending on where you go, it is possible to get CD maturities starting at one month, although it might make more sense to build a ladder using three month CDs. It will take some time to get going, but it is possible to work things out. You will need to buy four CDs a month for three months. These CDs should have different maturities: 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. This means you need to plan to open 12 CDs. If you have saved up $18,000 in your emergency fund, each CD you open will have $1,500 (Find the best 2011 CD Rates).

Once you finish with purchasing the final four CDs in month three, your first CD will mature. Once that happens, you can simply buy a 12 month CD, offering you the higher yields of a CD that has a longer maturity than three months. If you keep with the system, you will have access to money each month, and if rates go up, you will be able to take advantage of them. You can also add more money to the new CD when you roll it over so that your emergency fund keeps growing.

Drawbacks to a CD Ladder Emergency Fund

The main downside, of course, is that once you have your ladder in place, you only have access to a portion of your cash each month. Early withdrawal means hefty penalties, so you might want to have a smaller reserve of money in an accessible savings account so that you can address bigger emergencies. But, if you are looking for better yields while your money sits there, putting some of your emergency fund in a ladder might not be such a bad choice.

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