CD Investment Alternatives: Ways To Diversify Your Money

My times have changed! A while a go, I was looking at CD investment alternatives given they paid so poorly. Now, after an aggressive Fed rate hike cycle, CDs are actually paying handsomely!

The good times for high CD interest rates will unlikely last, as inflation and interest rates come down. However, at the moment, earning over 5% on a CD is relatively attractive. This is despite inflation still above 5%.

In the past, CDs were a stable part of my overall investment portfolio. Whether it was a bull market or a bear market, I would always invest roughly 10% of every dollar saved in the longest CD possible since college.

The goal was to not only have some risk-free assets, but to eventually get neutral real estate by buying a place to live.

Although I lost around 35% of my net worth during the worst of the crisis in 2009, I knew that even if everything went to hell I'd have at least 20% of my net worth intact. The feeling was very comforting, especially when yields were over 4%.

CD Investment Alternatives

As CD interest rates come down again, I think it's prudent to invest in risk assets like stocks and real estate crowdfunding again.

Here are some other CD investment alternatives.

1) Refinance or pay down debt. Refinancing a mortgage or locking in a new mortgage when you can lower your payments makes sense. Credible is a leading lending marketplace where pre-qualified lenders compete for your business.

2) Treasury bonds. An alternative to buying a CD is buying Treasury bonds. Treasury bonds are more tax efficient because you don't have to pay state or local tax.

Personally, I'm very bullish on rental properties because the value of cash flow has gone way up. Further, real estate is a key component of inflation, which is currently elevated. Rents and real estate prices ride the inflation wave.

3) Search for higher online savings accounts. It's interesting, but money market accounts are sometimes paying higher than CDs. If you want a place to keep your risk-free money, then look at an online bank for higher interest rates. CIT Bank has the highest yielding savings accounts I've seen.

4) I Bonds. I Bonds are paying a healthy 6.89% guaranteed. The guaranteed rate will likely stay elevated through 2023. Unfortunately, you can only buy $10,000 worth of I Bonds per account.

5) Invest in real estate. My favorite CD investment alternative is real estate. As interest rates decline, the value of real estate increases. Real estate is a tangible asset that holds its value, provides utility, and generates income. For the majority of people, investing in real estate is the easiest way to build wealth.

You can either buy physical rental properties, as just mentioned, or real estate online. For example, you can invest in a Fundrise fund that invests in residential property in the Sunbelt, where valuations are lower and yields are higher. As I get older, I enjoy investing more in 100% passive investments.

Disclaimer: Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS# 1681276, “Credible.” Not available in all states. 

Always Remember Everything Is Relative In Finance

When looking at CD investment alternatives, it's good to realize everything is relative in finance.

When you have the 10-year treasury bond providing a ~3.4% return, your hurdle rate is very low. There is a good chance a monkey can randomly choose 10 stocks to build a portfolio that will beat these returns if history is any guide.

The dividend yield of the S&P500 alone is around 1.6% for goodness sake. The 10-year bond yield is the hurdle you need to beat to make an investment worthwhile. Otherwise, why bother taking any risk when you can earn 2.9% a year risk-free.

My conservative investment target return has always been around 2-3X the risk free rate of return. In other words, if you are to put your money at risk, you should expect at least a 6.8% return or higher over a year.

Why You Might Not Want To Invest In CDs Today

  • Not tax efficient
  • Inflation rate is still higher than the best CD rate
  • Locking up money for years reduces your liquidity
  • The S&P 500 dividend yield is around 1.8%.
  • Private real estate funds like the ones from Fundrise are providing a ~8%-16% returns due to lower valuations in the heartland of America.
  • Another bull market could be on the horizon once the Fed starts cutting interest rates again

Detailed Overview Of CD Investment Alternatives

Here are the most logical and risk-appropriate CD investment alternatives today. Remember, you invested in a CD because it is risk-free/low-risk. Therefore, you want to be objective in your CD investment alternatives.

1) High Interest Savings Account. 

For those who are absolutely risk adverse, investing money in a high yielding online-only savings account is the safest move. For example, you can earn great rates at CIT Bank in both their Platinum Savings and Savings Connect accounts.

The reason why bricks and mortar banks can't offer as high of a rate than banks like the online banks is due to much larger overhead costs

2) The Stock Market / Dividend Stocks.

Investing in the stock market is the riskiest CD alternative, but it's also straightforward thanks to retirement savings vehicles such as the 401k, IRA, as well as online brokerage accounts. Investing in the stock market is not a comparable alternative to risk-free CD investing at all as we learned during the recession.

That said, low interest rate returns on CDs force us to take more risks. So far, the S&P 500 has gone up massively since February 2009. The question on every investor's mind is: how much longer will the good times last?

10% of my net worth is in CDs because I'm content with 4% risk-free returns. 35% of my net worth is in real estate because although real estate is a fantastic way to build long term wealth, real estate is leveraged risk. You can read about my experience with private real estate over the past seven years.

No more than 35% of my net worth has ever been exposed to the stock market because the 1997, 2000, and 2009 implosions destroyed tremendous wealth and sent many friends to the poorhouse for going all-in at inopportune times.

One way to invest in the stock market is Empower, the original digital hybrid wealth advisor that leverages technology to customize an investment portfolio based off your risk tolerance. It's free to sign up and explore what type of investment portfolio they might build for you. You can link your existing investment accounts and manage your portfolio for free.

CD investment alternatives

3) Debt Repayment Of Any Kind. 

It's generally better to have less debt than more debt. If you have legacy debt that has a stubbornly high interest rate which cannot be lowered, then paying down debt is the safe alternative. Examples of legacy debt include student loans and mortgage rates at over 4% and any type of credit card debt, which averages above 12%.

There is a triple benefit to paying down your mortgage early. But before you do, justrRemember to always think in relative terms. Besides the economics of paying off debt, there's also a positive mental benefit as well. I paid off my 2.75% business school loan debt early because I simply found the debt annoying. Getting rid of the burden felt tremendously satisfying.

Do note that refinancing your mortgage to a lower rate is considered debt repayment. During the refinance process, a bank literally pays off your entire existing loan and gives you a new loan with a better rate in its place.

See the latest mortgage rates with Credible. They have one of the largest networks of lenders who compete for your business so you can get the best rate possible. Take advantage and see what's available today.

4) Bonds / Municipal Bonds.

Bonds have historically returned 3% – 5% and have also provided much less volatility than stocks. But bonds have also suffered from a decline in yields along with the long decline in government bond yields. If you are in a 28% or higher federal income tax bracket and pay state taxes, you may want to consider investing in municipal bonds, which allow investors to earn federal and state tax free income.

The risk of investing in bonds now is that rates are still low and inflation remains high. I'm personally buying a California municipal bond ETF, CMF, which provides a ~2.5% yield as part of my low-risk portion of my investment portfolio. See: The Case For Bonds: Living For Free And Other Benefits

iShares Aggregate Bond Fund (AGG) Historical Performance Chart
iShares Aggregate Bond Fund (AGG) Historical Performance Chart

5) Real Estate Crowdsourcing.

Investing in real estate in cheaper parts of the country is currently my #1 focus for where I'm allocating capital to build more passive income so we can stay retired. Instead of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in one specific property, I'm investing $20,000 – $50,000 in various commercial or residential real estate crowdsourcing deals.

My favorite platform is Fundrise, which has managed funds. It's free to sign up and explore.

RealtyShares Geographic Investment Diversity
Surgically investing in lower cost, higher returning parts of the country is a much smarter move.

The average return for Fundrise platform investors has ranged from 8% – 10% a year for the past several years. During times of stock market volatility, Fundrise diverse eREITs tend to outperform.

Another great real estate crowdfunding platform is CrowdStreet. CrowdStreet focuses on individual real estate opportunities in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities have lower valuations, higher cap rates, and higher growth rates.

The spreading out of America is real, especially after the pandemic. People want to live in lower-cost areas of the country and employers are letting them with the advancement in technology. Riding this investment trend is why I've invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding so far.

Saying Goodbye To CDs Is Not Hard To Do

When CD rates are low, we must look for CD investment alternatives. Perhaps if you are super risk adverse, already in retirement, and have no other passive income whatsoever, CD investing is appropriate. However even then, a 70 year old can find greater returns in often criticized annuities.

I also strongly encourage everyone sign up with Empower, a free online wealth management software, to keep track of your money. I used to manually update my net worth in an Excel spreadsheet once a quarter. Now everything is done for me so I can spend my time analyzing my overall net worth and making sure it is properly balanced.

My number one goal is to continuously grow my net worth in good times and in bad times. I'm bullish on the economic recovery. For CD investment alternatives, I plan to continue investing in stocks and real estate to take advantage.

Manage your money wisely. Nobody cares more about your money than you!

Empower Retirement Planner
How is your retirement outlook doing? Empower's Retirement Planning Calculator

Related: Reinvestment Ideas Instead Of A CD. CD Investment Alternatives is a Financial Samurai original post.

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51 thoughts on “CD Investment Alternatives: Ways To Diversify Your Money”

  1. Is it time to revisit CD’s 6month 2.1%?
    Was reading your bonds article and talking with Fidelty on how to analyze bonds. Seemed so complicated (article didn’t help process). CD’s easy order, FDIC insured, short term hold wait until rates go up and repurchase at a higher rate by year end.

    Great site overall! Would like more help on analysis but understand if that’s not your thing.

  2. I had to laugh when you mentioned President Trumps policies damaging bonds. As we can see due to voter stupidity we new have Joe clueless Biden who is single handedly destroying the USA by giving free money, inviting every illegal immigrant/refugee in, and excusing everybody’s debt. I paid my school bills and all those with college debt need to do the same.


    Nice site to keep up on investing ideas. Your answers seem very reasonable kind of like a Dear Abbey for different reasons of course. Thanks.

  4. I am looking for advice on how to find an investor to loan me $30,000 with my house as collateral which has a market value of $400,000 and a 1st TD of $250,000. I will pay top dollar in interest.
    Payback guaranteed by auto bank payments. This can be a balloon due in 12 months if desired.

  5. Ann langridge

    I am retired and raising my great granddaughter she is three years old what can I invest two thousand dollars in that will grow the most interest for her when she turns eighteen? I just want to make sure she has some money to help her ,I am all she has.please can someone help me as I know nothing about investing,thank you ,

  6. A much better alternative would be to buy a high dividend paying stock and sell a deep in the money call a couple of months out. You get the dividend, premium from the option, and almost no risk to the downside. If the option gets assigned, that’s good because that means you made money and can simply redeploy the cash in another option. This method has a significantly higher return and less risk than only owning a dividend stock. Today, I purchased KMI (paying 8.5% dividend) and sold a call 30% deep in the money expiring in 2 months. Within 2 months, I will get at least 4.5% return as long as the stock doesn’t decline more than 30%. After 2 months, I will redeploy the cash into another Deep In The Money Covered Call. I’ve have been using this method for years and have never lost any money. It is an amazing way to invest Cash. The only drawback is that no matter how much the stock price increases, you cannot make more than the original amount.

    1. Yes, you may not get the dividend when the extrinsic value of the call option is less than the dividend by ex-dividend date as the stock will be called away on ex-dividend date. The other downside is the call and bid spread for deep ITM call could be quite wide. I just ran some numbers on KMI example that you mentioned. For instance the current KMI closing price is $20.42. 30% deep ITM is approximately at $14 strike price. This call option mid price with Sept 20 expiry for this strike price is at $6.375 (Ask/bid at $6.4/$6.15) and the intrinsic value of this option is ($20.42 – $14 = $6.42). Could you help us understand how you get 4.5% return in two months?

  7. You make some interesting points, but I still invest in CD’s. FDIC insuring my money is enough, and rates can only keep going back up!

  8. Pingback: Financial Samurai Passive Income Update 2014-2015 | Financial Samurai

  9. Hi Larry, I checked a couple credit unions here in SF, and some do have some good rates. I guess I can’t be bothered to physically open up an account given it’s so easy to open up an account online nowadays and transfer money. Call me 2013.

  10. What about an already mature Whole Life Policy? Many of the mutual companies (150+ Yr companies) are paying 5 to 7% dividends that (when used correctly) could be tax free.

  11. Andrew @ Listen Money Matters

    Sam, have you written an article to compare the various brokerage accounts? I’m curious what you find in Etrade as compared to the alternatives. I haven’t used Etrade myself but if they have good research, etc, I would consider switching. I’ve been considering making a switch for awhile but I really havent made the time to analyze the options out there. When I choose my account 8 years ago, I didn’t have much to invest so I just choose my account pretty much randomly.

  12. Sam,

    Thanks for the CIT Bank recommendation. A 1% yield is amazing compared to what BAC or WFC were offering. Next step, figure out what to do with the Vanguard Total Bond Fund, which everyone is saying is about to blow up.


  13. Earlier you said you were not a fan of bonds. Have you considered a short term investment grade bond fund? Some of these have been paying 4%-5% over the past few years and with the short term duration, you will not be hurt that bad by an unexpected spike in inflation.

  14. My Credit union has something different but also a great way to get a “juiced up” return.

    You put $500 a month into a special saving account and they pay 4% interest on the amount in this account. This not going to make me rich but it’s a little extra “free” money.

  15. Barbara Friedberg

    You must check out government I savings bonds. They are bought online at treasurydirect dot gov and are guaranteed to protect your cash from the ravages of inflation. The interest payments reset 2 times per year in accord with the inflation rate!

  16. We are still investing in CDs, even at these low rates. Yes, they barely keep up (or not) with inflation. Yes, the income for after-tax CDs is taxed as regular income. Yes, there is no opportunity for growth with CDs. My portfolio is heavily weighted to CDs and MM funds, because I intend to step off the work treadmill very soon, and cannot tolerate the risk of a 10% (or more) haircut. I am happy to allow my portfolio to slowly erode in value over decades, while eliminating the chance of getting slaughtered by Fed decisions, profligate Govt spending, declining dollar value, irrational herd mentality, spring-loaded inflation, etc. CDs are my only option at this point in time.

    Stocks, Bonds, Real Estate, Gold, etc. all have big downsides which have been discussed in prior FS blog posts (and as Sam stated elsewhere, are not comparable to CDs). The disturbing thing about Stocks is that there is no longer a correlation between the economy and the Equity markets; this break in reality and predictability has discouraged us from further investment. Some of the posters appear to be newer investors, and I would like to point out 3 things: 1) The S&P 500 (75% of US stock market) returned exactly 0.0% for 2011, less the dividend. Yet all that money was at risk. 2) The S&P 500 is lower today than it was in 2000, 13 years ago. 3) The NASDAQ is 60% of where it was in 2000; $1 invested 13 years ago is worth 60 cents today, less dividends.

    Those 3 things may bounce off investors happy with a 100% run-up in the past 5 years, and I am not encouraging anyone to take my path. Just wanted to explain why CDs are the best deal for me. One more thing, btw, I don’t understand the need/desire to build an Dividend portfolio of individual stocks; there are plenty of low-cost Dividend/Value funds that do this very thing and require very little care-and-feeding.

    1. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint. Each person’s situation is different and this choice let’s you sleep best at night, especially what you mentioned before regarding your portfolio loss during the downturn.

      So many folks were making fun of me for allocating 30% of my savings to 4% yielding CDs when the markets were going up. They said I wouldn’t keep up with inflation. Well, I’d much rather have a 4% guarantee than lose 30% of my principal in the market that’s for sure. Losing out to inflation is different from losing money!

  17. As I understand it you will end up paying ordinary income tax on your structured notes gains. Is that correct? I vaguely remember reading once that that has to be the case if there is principal protection or something like that.

    You are also exposed to credit risk of the issuer (generally a bank), so without going into priority of payments if your expected return on structured note does not exceed debt of that bank that is maturing at a similar point, it is probably not a good idea.

    1. Financial Samurai

      Correct. If you think Citibank is going bankrupt, then you probably don’t want to buy structured notes from Citibank. But if Citibank goes bankrupt, the world will probably return to chaos.

  18. Quicken loans was ok and they’re quite nice, but my credit union had a better Apr so we’re going with them. Except we’re also reducing the length of the loan, so our monthly goes up but overall (we plan to rent this place out when we buy another) we spend 30k less. Our original mortgage was last April!

    Next up: REITs

  19. Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    I’m very curious about P2P. I’d love to hear your results if you go in that direction. Right now, even though it is not completely passive, I would invest in real estate. It is incredibly cheap in my area and there will always be a large pool of renters due to socioeconomic reasons.

    1. Real estate is great, but it’s not comparable to CD income because real estate involves more work and leverage. I’m trying to keep things as close to apples to apples as possible.

  20. My Financial Independence Journey

    I think it all depends on what you want to do with the money. I would only invest parts of my emergency fund or some short term savings in a CD (although a high yield savings account might be a good alternative). Otherwise, I’d stick to dividend paying stocks.

    I’m a little bit leery of P2P lending and wouldn’t feel comfortable with any more than 10% of my money invested there.

    If I was particularly wealthy, I would look into structured notes.

    1. I was leery about P2P lending for the first 5 years until 2012. It’s SEC regulated, defaults have dropped, and there is data showing positive returns from 2009-2012 e.g. during the financial crisis.

  21. I started to move some money into TIPS a few years ago. I have a Vanguard fund that yielded 6.78% (2012), 13.24% (2011), 6.17% (2010) & 10.80% (2009). So far this year, it is slightly negative, but overall I like it as an alternative to CDs.

  22. I’m a big CD ivestor myself. I don’t have any maturities coming up soon but I will definitely consider pulling my money out when the time comes. I find structured notes intruiging and can see myself going that route as a replacement. I don’t have the patience to put together and monitor a dividend stock portfolio. Thanks for the tips Sam.

  23. Brick by Brick Investing

    With rates this low it makes no sense to invest in a CD. I would much rather take the “risk” and invest in strong large cap dividend paying stocks.

  24. Thanks for your suggestion on the bond ETF. Unfortunately, I don’t think such a bond is an appropriate replacement for risk free CDs. There’s too much risk in bonds IMO, especially at current low rates. I can’t see bonds in general climbing much higher.

    I’m bullish on equities and expect bonds to underperform or lose investors money as the great rotation towards stocks occurs.

  25. Hey Sam, I was wondering if you ever spent time looking at the human capital websites like I have been poking at them and I think I like p2p lending more, but extra discussion on the subject couldn’t hurt.


    1. Sorry Doug. Haven’t looked into upstart. I like how payment is capped, regardless of your success. However, if one has the capital, best to capture 100% of the upide if you’re putting in 100% of the effort. Thx

  26. This makes a lot of sense. I have not put money into a new CD in years. My focus now is in low-fee mutual funds for my retirement account, more risky equity investments in my shorter term investment account, and a nice cash cushion for whatever might come up next.

  27. retirebyforty

    From your list, I like structured notes. I don’t know much about it, but it sounds like safe investment. Peer to peer lending and stocks are much more risky than CD.
    I’m not investing in any new CD either. The rates are just too low. I’ll wait until the rate is better to buy some long term CDs.

  28. The First Million is the Hardest

    I was considering putting some money into CDs mid-last year until the fed announced they were keeping rates low for so long. Now I’m trying to divert as much money as possible to the markets and to build up my P2P lending portfolio.

  29. Investor Junkie

    Sam I agree on your statement, but unfortunately we are all Pavlov’s dog doing what the FED expects us to do. With CDs of mine coming due I may still put some into CDs. Just a very limited amount.

    No mention of I-bonds??? No dividend stocks?

    MLPs are part of my portfolio for income, but don’t think it’s a good time to get into them now. I’ve seen 100% appreciation (this does even include the income) in the MLPs I own current so it’s a very crowed space (like all income producing products)

    REITs also as well, but not in taxable account.

    1. I’ll mention I-bonds, I have over $200,000 worth of them. I purchased over 10 years ago and my fixed rate is 2 to 3.6 percent. Thus over the
      Ast few years I have been getting 5 to 7 percent interest.

        1. I absolutely agree!

          I bonds now only return inflation – with no fixed amount above that.

          All other bonds – the risk to reward ratio just is not there in this low interest rate environment.

  30. Mr. Everyday Dollar

    I agree, and would recommend an investment like Kinder Morgan (KMI) over a CD. (But not the Master Limited Partnership (MLP) Kinder Morgan (KMP), due to the K-1 tax form requirement).

    KMI increased its dividend to $0.37 for Q4 and $1.40 for the year, ahead of even the revised budget of $1.35 for the year. At it’s last close and annualizing that $0.37 to $1.48, the forward yield is 3.96%! Way better than a CD, and not even considering that this dividend should rise over time.

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