Should I Invest In CDs And Other Questions To Ask Before You Do

Are you wondering whether to invest in CDs? CDs are Certificates of Deposits, which are FDIC-insured for up to $250,000 per person. As the stock market and real estate market roar to record highs post pandemic, interest rates are also ticking higher. As a result, more people are logically wondering whether investing in CDs is a good idea.

For the risk-free asset portion of my net worth, I dump most of my money into long term CDs, money market funds, and Treasury bonds.

50% of my net worth is in real estate. I love real estate the most because I like having a real asset which is tangible, produces income, and provides a hedge against inflation. 30% of my net worth is in stocks. And the rest of my net with is in my business and other alternative assets.

A CD is one of the purest sources of passive income generation. I literally don't have to do anything for the interest income earned after I decide on a CD. It just compounds and automatically renews to another similar duration CD after the initial period is over. The only problem over the years is that CD interest rates have declined to levels where the returns haven't been that enticing.

Questions To Ask Before Investing In A CD

CDs are like bonds that do have a principal value. You just don't see the day to day movements, which makes them seem like they are safer investments than fixed income. The truth of the matter is, they have risk but it's not much if you do the right things.

Ask these questions first if you want to invest in CDs.

  • Is the bank FDIC insured?  If so, you can sleep sound at night knowing that $250,000 per single account is guaranteed by the government.
  • Are there any upcoming purchases you will have during the duration of the loan?
  • What are the penalties for early withdrawal?
  • Do you have enough liquid cash in reserves (emergency fund as some call it) to keep me liquid and feeling comfortable?
  • Do you plan to stay at your current job for the foreseeable future, thereby allowing you to keep saving money every month?
  • Do you have a comfortable asset allocation in place where your principal will be  protected during downturns, and you'll be able to make money during upturns?
  • Are there other asset classes that are more tax advantageous with similar risk and returns?
  • Do you believe that the inflationary environment will be relatively benign in the next year or two?

Invest In CDs And Save More Money

Ask yourselves all of the above questions and realize that saving money in CDs is never a bad thing. It might be the suboptimal investment, but it is not bad. You can literally calculate how much cash you have after a certain amount of years, which provides a lot of comfort for many people. What's bad is letting your money sit in a <1% savings account and spending the money on something stupid like a car.

If you don't want to invest in CDs, you can always pay down debt. It can be mortgage debt, credit card debt, a personal loan, student debt, and so forth. Try and pay off your highest interest rate debt first.

See: Ranking Debt Types From Worst To Best

I've often done sub-optimal things with the money that just sits in my bank account. For example, I've bought luxury automobiles, motorcycles, multiple suits and expensive rare watches. I've made loose $200-$500 poker calls because of a large bank roll.

Further, I've invested in an iffy private company with no relevant experience. I've also done plenty of dumb things as well which have lost me a ton of money. In other words, sometimes I need to protect myself from myself! Investing in CDs is an easy way to do that.

Every year you keep your cash in a savings account is another year you lose out on a higher interest return. If you plan to save and work for a while, you don't have to be afraid of not being liquid enough because you will always have money coming in. The main thing is to not stop saving. It's what sets you free.

Summary Of Whether To Invest In A CD

Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to invest in a certificate of deposit (CD):

  • Interest rates – CDs pay a fixed interest rate for a set period of time, usually between 3 months and 5 years. Current CD rates are relatively low, with average 1-year CD yields around 3-4%. So weigh whether the return is worth locking up your money.
  • Term length – The longer the term, the higher the rate. But your money will be inaccessible during that time. Pick a term based on when you need the money.
  • FDIC insurance – CDs from banks are FDIC insured up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank. This protects your money from loss.
  • Penalties – There's usually a penalty for early withdrawal from a CD, such as losing some interest. Consider if you may need the money before maturity.
  • Alternatives – Other low-risk options like high-yield savings accounts offer competitive rates with the flexibility of access. Compare returns.
  • Taxes – CD interest is taxed as ordinary income. It could make sense for retirement accounts.

Overall, CDs can be a good option for parking money you won't need for a specific timeframe. Just make sure you ladder CD terms in case rates rise. And compare interest rates, including online banks which may offer better yields. Consider your liquidity needs, risk tolerance and investment time horizon when deciding.

Interest rates are high now, so savers should invest in a CD, money market, or Treasury bond to take advantage of high interest rates.

Get The Best CD Rates With CIT Bank

Now that you know the benefits of investing in CDs, make sure you open an account with a trustworthy bank that offers the highest rates. I've found CIT Bank has the most competitive and highest CD rates nationwide. And they are my go-to bank for my CD investments.

You can check out their no-penalty 11-month CD rate and open an account with only a $1,000 minimum balance. The great benefits of this type of CD account is you can withdraw all of the money before maturity if needed without any penalties or fees.

You can also further explore all of their CD rates here. They offer various length term CDs, no-penalty 11-month CDs, jumbo CDs, and RampUp CDs.

In addition to CD accounts, CIT Bank also offers the highest rate money market accounts and savings builder accounts I've seen.

It's easy to set up a secure account online without ever needing to step into a branch. You can access your account info 24/7. And their customer service team is available to help with questions six days a week.

Invest In Private Growth Companies

In addition to investing in a CD, I'd diversify into private growth companies through an open venture capital fund. Companies are staying private for longer, as a result, more gains are accruing to private company investors. Finding the next Google or Apple before going public can be a life-changing investment. 

Check out the Innovation Fund, which invests in the following five sectors:

  • Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
  • Modern Data Infrastructure
  • Development Operations (DevOps)
  • Financial Technology (FinTech)
  • Real Estate & Property Technology (PropTech)

Roughly 35% of the Innovation Fund is invested in artificial intelligence, which I'm extremely bullish about. In 20 years, I don't want my kids wondering why I didn't invest in AI or work in AI!

The investment minimum is also only $10. Most venture capital funds have a $250,000+ minimum. You can see what the Innovation Fund is holding before deciding to invest and how much. Traditional venture capital funds require capital commitment first and then hope the general partners will find great investments.

Recommendation For Manage Your Money

The best way to become financially independent and protect yourself is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with EmpowerP. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts in one place so you can see where you can optimize.

Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 25+ difference accounts to manage my finances. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how my stock accounts are doing. I can also check how my net worth is progressing. It's great!

The best tool is their Portfolio Fee Analyzer. It runs your investment portfolio through its software to see what you are paying. I found out I was paying $1,700 a year in portfolio fees I had no idea I was paying! They also recently launched the best Retirement Planning Calculator around, using your real data to run thousands of algorithms to see what your probability is for retirement success. 

Once you register, simply click the Advisor Tolls and Investing tab on the top right and then click Retirement Planner. There's no better free tool online to help you track your net worth, minimize investment expenses, and manage your wealth. Why gamble with your future?

Retirement Planner Personal Capital
Personal Capital's award-winning retirement planning calculator. Are you on track?

Related: CD Investment Alternatives For Greater Risk-Adjust Returns

About the Author:

Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened an online brokerage account online in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing by spending the next 13 years after college working at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse Group. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley with a focus on finance and real estate.

In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $300,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies, and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.

38 thoughts on “Should I Invest In CDs And Other Questions To Ask Before You Do”

  1. Hi,

    Im thinking about putting 30% of my monthly income into a CD, to pay my taxes out with. I am an independent contractor so I have to set aside part of my income anyway. Do you think this would be a good idea to do starting at a 6 month CD?

    1. I don’t think a 6 month CD rate is more than 0.5%. Given a savings rate is at 0.1%, there is a diff, but not much. It all depends on how liquid you are and how much cash you have lying around other tan the CD.

      If you know you don’t need that money in 6 months, go for it, as it’s better than just savings.

  2. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    have always loved CDs. a lot of mine right now are in India at 9.5% + the % the rupee has gained against the dollar in the last 12 months.

  3. I have a few CDs and like the fact that I don’t have to worry about them. Interest rates have dropped a lot though so I haven’t opened any in the last year but I haven’t invested in the stock market in my PA either. I am exposed to the markets with my retirement account though and hold a decent amount of fixed income. I got burned so many times trying to pick my own stocks in my PA so now I just leave it to the pros in my 401k.

  4. Thanks for understanding JT. Cash is a beautiful asset class to manage and optimize. Look beyond cash as just for emergencies, and develop a way for it to be a source of very dependable, low risk income.

  5. CDs have an incredibly low rate right now. I would suggest finding a high-yield checking account to stash some cash. My wife and I currently have quite a chunk of money that’s earning 4% in our checking account. They are out there, take a look.

    1. I’ve noticed that a lot of high yield checking accounts only have a LIMIT of how much you can put in, like $5,000 or $10,000. It’s to draw you in. Do you have a limit on your high yield checking? If not, can you let me know which it is? thx

  6. I don’t have any money in CD since the rate is so so low right now. If the rate goes up a bit then I would think about it more. I only target 15k in cash though so it’s not that much to be sitting around in a saving account. I put anything over that into the investment account. I guess I’m cash poor.

    1. If it’s just 15K, then yeah… no point locking it up in a multi-year CD. But, if you’ve got 150K, then letting it all sit in 0.2% money markets is a waste. I’d put $130K in a long term CD at 2.5-3%, and have the rest liquid, especially if you plan to accumulate another 150K the very next year!

  7. I’m not a big fan of CDs, especially at today’s rates, but they do account for a small portion of my investment mix. For those that are curious, here’s what I’m currently doing with them:

    – I have 5 CDs total, each invested for a 5 yr term
    – The CDs are laddered, so 1 resets each year
    – When the CD is set to reset, I spend about 10 minutes on Bankrate and find the best performing 5 yr CD and roll into it.
    – During this roll-over, I add an additional $2k to the CD. This amount isn’t completely arbitrary – my cash savings “emergency fund” kicks out roughly $2k a year in interest, so I’m just reinvesting the interest into a better performing account.

    It’s low effort (10 to 30 minutes a year) … low risk … and, based on my time horizon and cautious assumptions, should more than cover the college tuition of a child if and when that time comes for me.

    1. Sounds like a plan to me Brian. People don’t realize that after saving consistently, you wake up one day 10 years later and you’re like GOSH DAMN! That’s a lot of money!

  8. Great post Sam! I agree, if you’ve already got a portfolio of stocks, and real estate and you are looking to park some cash and you need to protect yourself from yourself then go with a CD. I just wish the rates were higher…don’t we all, 3% just doesn’t cut it then again you gotta take what you can get.

  9. I have a hard time justifying CD’s. People are almost too concerned with “safe” investments now, they are letting inflation destroy what they work hard for. Don’t you think that dividend paying stocks (not REITs, but more trusted companies) would be more beneficial? They are many great mutual funds out there for diversification. I get the “cash is king” thinking, but paper money is only as strong as the government backing it… I mean do we honestly think we will have a stock meltdown that will never recover…just seems like a doomsday approach to handling your money.

    1. We are talking about the maximization of cash returns. Are you saving you have zero cash in your networth? We can talk about the different investment bucks in a different post. I’m very concerned for you if you have no cash.

  10. Sam,

    Completely disagree at today’s current rates – Why bother with CDs? Taking a look at ING’s rates today:
    Savings Account .75% / 5 Year CD 1.25%

    Why would anyone lock up their money for .5% pre tax? Even if you had $250K in cash equivalents you are talking about the difference of ~$1500….why lock up the money for an extra $125 a month? You spend that filling up the monster truck in Cali

    1. I just plopped some in a 3% CD. 1.25%? Forget about it.

      Are you confusing this post with something else? We are focused on maximizing the cash portion of one’s portfolio/net worth only. I have property, stocks, bonds, and private investments too, which we can talk about in another post.

      1. Do I seem confused lol? I am not confused at all – I gave ING’s rate.

        Looks like bank rate has some higher options, but the point is still the same. At $100K of cash the difference between an online savings account and your CD is 2K before taxes or since you are in Cali, you are looking at what a net of $1300 bucks more (or little bit more than 100 bucks a month)? to lock up your money? Just doesn’t seem to make sense.

        Is my math off? 3% vs 1% on a 100K cash account.

      2. Sam, You just locked into a 5 year CD? How about buying some 2 year Greek treasuries at 23%?


        1. It’s actually at 24.4%. This is my cash portion of my portfolio Mike. We can talk about my bond portion in another post. So funny how everybody can’t just focus on maximizing cash returns. It’s perplexing.

  11. Who else remembers the days of 4% accounts at just about every neighborhood bank and credit union? Those were the days.

    I would second the points made about inflation creating negative real returns, but then again, what else can you do with your cash these days?

    I respectfully disagree with the slow pay down on any debt, such as a mortgage.

    Free cash flow is always King in any investing environment and the quickest way to get there is to eliminate any permanent drain on incoming funds.

    At least, that’s how I look at it.

    I’m also pathologically opposed to debt though.

    1. Arthur Garcia


      I appreciate your point of view, even though it is not one I subscribe to. Debt is definately a two edge sword and if someone is uncomfortable with managing it, It makes sense to minimize your exposure (seriously not knocking your point of view).

      The nice thing is that you have options with the freed up cash flow to either pay down the mortgage quicker (with the tenant’s money), reinvest for bigger gains or subsidize your lifestyle .

      If you’re making 20% ROI on your downpayment, then consider a mortgage at 6% is really 5%-4% with interest deductions. To top it off the cash flow is usually sheltered by the depreciation, so you don’t have to pay the taxes on the gains.

      Anyway you cutt it, real estate is the best place to put money right now. The dollar’s value is dropping through the floor and I am sure we’ll see QE3 come fall, so I really think paying back debt with cheaper dollars is a non-convential way of maintaining one’s wealth.

  12. Arthur Garcia

    Interesting post, the only problem I have with investing in CDs, especially right now is that inflation wipes out any real return. I really think you’re better locking in a fix rate mortgage and SLOWLY paying down the debt with the tenants rent money. If you think about it, real estate offers the only truly offensive strategy, you have a real asset, a locked in interest rate (which is tax-deductable) and with depreciation, you don’t have to pay capital gains on your return. Do you agree?

    1. I agree, and that’s all fine and dandy, but we are strictly talkig about the optimization of cash. In another post, we can talk about the optimization of real estate and debt as an inflation hedge.

      Do you think when people were losing 50% of their equity in stocks they cared about real returns?

  13. I agree there is a need for a cash portion and CDs are one way to invest. With inflation expected, I would ladder the CDs, so I could take advantage of the increasing interest rates. That is break up the cash into a number of CDs with different maturity dates.

  14. I do not currently own any CDs, but I have at different times. Your plan is quite thought provoking though. Having a five figure income from CDs would be a great thing! I also like how Darwin took advantage of the interest rate on his car and invested the cash.

    1. No interest in maximizing the cash portion of your net worth?

      Yes, $10,000 in interest income/month from CDs is the goal, and if I can get $10,000 in income from the other three investment buckets as well, retirement should be pretty easy! Fun goal to have.

      1. I definitely would like to optimize my cash. However, the lack of liquidity has always been a major down side to CDs for us.

        I am also guessing you have more cash lying around than we do in that you can ladder your CDs and still have a sizable ’emergency fund’ sitting in cash that is accessible. A lot of our ‘extra’ money goes into college funds and such, so our cash position is probably not what it should be.

        1. Got it. One can always freely use the interest from the CDs too though, so it’s not entirely locked up.

          I’ll be interested in following your daughter’s college decisions!

        2. College decisions are much more complex than when I was a kid! We have been visiting a lot of colleges already. I have a child graduating in 2012, 2014 and 2016, so I still have a lot more visiting to go!

  15. Excellent points Sam! CDs have a role in one’s portfolio. In 2000, CD rates peaked at over 7%. Imagine if one had locked into some long term CDs at that time!

    Even better strategy is of course to ladder the CDs.

  16. For our last car, I had the cash, but I bought it at 0.9% interest from the dealer and put the equivalent in a 4.5% CD at the same time. So, I basically snagged a 3 year free 3.6%. I love putting money to work. At the same time, the market crashed, rallied and I probably would be flat about now if I’d invested it. So, I had a risk-free 3.6% (if you exclude the depreciation on the car of course)

    1. You made a good move, if a car was something you had to buy anyway.

      If one made 4% a year in their “sleepy CDs” for the past 11 years, they’d have 60%+ more money than when they started, with ZERO stress vs stocks.

      Hence, why viewing CASH as an important asset class is important.

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