Many people know that Certificates of Deposit (CDs) and Money Market Certificates (MMC) are one of the safest investment vehicles out there, but who wants to tie up their money all those years for the more attractive rates? The answer is no one. That’s why one of the “plans” that many financial advisers advocate is a laddered CD/MMC investment strategy where you purchase multiple certificates are different maturing dates so that you can lock in the best rates for your money. The net effect is after a few years, you own the best possible rates on your CDs that you could get.
You have $5,000 to invest. In the above plan, simply invest in the following:
- $1,000 in a 1 Year MMC at 3.00% APY
- $1,000 in a 2 Year MMC at 3.50% APY
- $1,000 in a 4 Year MMC at 4.25% APY
- $1,000 in a 5 Year MMC at 5.00% APY
- $1,000 in a 7 Year MMC at 5.15% APY
(These values are from The Pentagon Federal Credit Union , or PenFed, which are probably the best rates out there, as of 2/17/05)
What happens is in a year, your 1 Year MMC matures, so you want to invest in another 7 Year MMC with that original investment to get the best rates. After another year, your 2 Year MMC matures and you invest in yet another 7 Year MMC. This continues and you keep locking in the best prevailing rate at the time for the safest investment. And these CDs are federally insured up to $100,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for credit unions.
Want to try it? PenFed’s minimum purchase requirement is a mere $1,000 per MMC and the eligibility requirements are actually pretty lax. Basically if you or a family member is a member of the armed services (Active, Guard/Reserve, or Retired), then you’re definitely eligible. They list other eligibility methods . If none of those fit, join the National Military Family Association  which is a great organization that I am a member of and only costs $20 a year. If you happen to use Geico as an insurer, the NMFA is a member organization so if you mentioned to Geico that you are a member of NMFA, they will knock 7-8% (I forget which) off your bill.
The tradeoff you’ll have to consider is that if you put it in a completely liquid ING Direct  account, you’ll get 2.35%. If you go with Emigrant Direct , you’ll be getting 3.0%, and that’s totally liquid which the MMC’s are not. Read this post on where to park short term funds  for a discussion of ING Direct  and Emigrant Direct .