Key learning points
- CDs pay more than savings accounts, but usually less than the stock market in the long run. They are usually a good match for conservative savers with medium-term money goals.
- Once you open a CD, you will not be able to access the principal until the end of the term without penalties. Terms can range from three months to 10 years.
- Earnings on CDs are taxable as income. You can protect your interest from taxes by setting up a CD ladder within a Roth IRA.
CDs are one of the safest places to keep your money, with government-backed insurance virtually guaranteeing you’ll get your money back with interest. Although interest rates are usually much lower than in the stock market, the safety of CDs makes them suitable for many people’s financial plans. Once you understand how they work, you can evaluate whether they align well with your personal financial goals.
How CD Accounts Work
CDs are FDIC-insured savings products. When you open a CD, you take a lump sum and put it in the account for a specified term – usually with a fixed interest rate. This interest is typically noticeably higher than anything you’d find on a standard savings account. However, if you withdraw your money before maturity, you will ultimately incur early withdrawal fees.
Suppose you wanted to open a three-year CD. One of the best rates for this term right now is 3.25% APY. The minimum deposit is $1,000. If you open the account with the minimum, your CD will total $1,100.75 at the end of your term.
You need to make sure that your $1,000 stays in the CD for the full term, which in this case would be three years. If you withdraw the money within the first year, PenFed will take any interest you earned before getting your $1,000 back. After the first year, they would take 30% of the total interest for the entire three-year term. These penalties change depending on your financial institution.
How IRA CDs Work
The interest on CDs is taxable income. Some savers can save tax by opening the account as an IRA CD — or a certificate of deposit from an individual retirement account. IRA’s tax rules then apply, meaning you don’t have to pay annual taxes like a typical CD or savings account.
With a traditional IRA, the money you put into your CD is tax-deductible in the year of your contributions. But when you retire from your IRA, the withdrawals are taxed at your normal income tax rate, which is likely to be lower if you stop working full-time.
If you have a Roth IRA CD, the money you put into your IRA CD still counts as taxable income in the year of your contributions — it’s not deductible. But when you withdraw money during your retirement, you don’t have to pay tax on it. This strategy will help you avoid paying income or capital gains taxes on interest your CD earns.
The IRA has tax benefits, but keep in mind that it’s a tool for saving money for retirement. Normally, you cannot access these funds without paying taxes and penalties until you reach the government-imposed age for these accounts.
CDs have less risk
CDs are an extremely low-risk product to keep in your wallet. They may be able to earn you a higher interest rate than a savings account, but they are very unlikely to make as much as an index fund over decades.
The reason the earning potential is lower is that they are inherently less risky. There are circumstances where an early withdrawal penalty can reduce your main investment, but this is extremely rare. As long as your CD is kept at an FDIC-insured institution, it is insured up to $250,000 per depositor. That means joint accounts can qualify for up to $500,000 in government-backed insurance.
There is also no market risk with a CD. The stock and bond markets can fall and it will not affect your CD. You know exactly how much money you have invested and how much interest you will earn when your CD expires. You know this from day one and see it working through your regular account statements until the due date.
A CD ladder helps you diversify your CD portfolio to help you manage interest rates and avoid over-holding money. For example, instead of opening a $50,000 CD with a five-year term, you can choose five CDs for $10,000 each. You could have one grown in a year, two years, and so on.
This strategy gives you periodic access to funds without paying early withdrawal penalties. Interest rates probably vary by maturity, and in most cases you won’t make as much on shorter-term CDs. However, the rolling expiration dates offer several advantages.
Ideally, you’ll reinvest your earnings in even more CDs to grow your savings, but it will give you the opportunity for some shorter-term liquidity. If you want to use some of your savings, you have the option to get it fine-free within a year instead of waiting five years or breaking the entire CD.
Stocks (usually) offer better returns
If you invest for the long term, stocks are likely to offer significantly higher returns. While CDs currently pay more than 3% in a high-yield environment, the historical average annualized return of the S&P 500 is 11.88%.
Just because that number is average and annualized, it doesn’t mean you’ll earn 11.88% every year. In some years you can earn much more. In other years you will probably lose money.
But if you’re using a buy-and-hold strategy over a long period of time, these average annual returns are what you want to consider rather than how much you’ll “earn” or “lose” in any given year. CDs may be a safer ‘investment’, but they will also likely earn less.
Consider your goals and weigh accordingly
How you save or invest your money depends entirely on your personal goals. If you’re in your twenties and only interested in saving for retirement, you probably want to consider stocks more than CDs.
When you’re nearing retirement and can’t bear to lose money, a CD becomes more appealing.
If you’re not completely comfortable evaluating your own risk tolerance, you can let AI do it for you. Q.ai’s Investment Kits build and maintain a portfolio for you, taking into account your time horizon, financial goals and market data.
Using a CD outside of an IRA can help you achieve your medium-term financial goals without the short-term risk of the stock market. You can build a CD ladder to store your savings for a down payment on a house, a down payment on a car loan, the expected birth of a child, or any other milestone in life at a potentially higher rate than if you had the money in it. keep a savings account.
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