Certificates of deposit sound appealing and safe? They can be even more appealing if you maximize your earnings with a time-tested technique called LADDERING CDs.

The typical plan is simple. Take the total amount of money you want to invest, say $20,000, and divide it among five different CDs with varying terms — one, two, three, four, and five years — in this case, $4,000 each. The longer the term, the higher the interest rate. Then, every year when a CD comes due, flip it to the top of the ladder. If you aren’t comfortable with tying money up for a year, try shorter cycles — three or six months — for the steps of your ladder says certified financial planner Bonnie Hughes, president of A&H Financial Planning and Education in Rome, Georgia.

Take advantage of the Internet to shop for the best rates, not only when you’re building your ladder, but each time a CD comes due. Shop for rates each time, says Hughes. As with all CDs, keep tabs on the expiration dates. If you don’t tell the bank to withdraw, move, or flip your money to a different CD term, your money will simply roll over.

“CDs don’t help you if you just park the money,” Hughes says. “Laddering gives you safety and lets you take advantage of interest rate cycles.”

To shop for CD rates, try
For more advice from Bonnie Hughes, visit