How to Earn a Passive Income with CD Ladders

Purchasing bonds and stocks is a typical way to create a passive income stream, but it isn’t always the safest available route for aspiring investors. Investing in one’s future and retirement through the assistance of a financial advisor is one thing, but it’s a whole different ballgame to earn a consistent passive income with investments of your own. To eliminate the hassle of maneuvering the often-volatile stock charts, consider CD Ladders. 

If you want to keep your short-term cash away from risky investments, build a certificate of deposit (CD) ladder. It’ll enable you to earn passively from the higher rates associated with long-period CDs and still get regular access to your funds. The notion is to launch multiple CDs with “staggered” maturity dates. Doing this ensures that some of the investment is available to rollover or access at frequent periods. 

Note:  Always seek financial advice from a certified financial advisor.

Investors, therefore, can benefit from higher rates without having all of their cash locked up for 3-5 years.

How to create a CD Ladder?

It’s easy. Let’s assume you have $20,000 to invest in certificate of deposits. Rather than buying a single big CD, you can create a ladder by dividing your investment like this:

  • Put $5,000 in a 6-month CD.
  • Put $5,000 in a 2-year CD.
  • Put $5,000 in a 3-year CD.
  • Put $5,000 in a 4-year CD.

The maturing investment would then be cycled back at the ladder’s end every year starting with the initial 6-month deposit’s maturity. The 2-year CD now has just 1.5 years left, while the 3-year and 4-year CDs now have 2.5 and 3.5 years remaining respectively. Now you’ll just need to switch the 4-year deposit, which can be done with the first CD, to get back the original ladder design. Each year, the cycle continues. 

All of this can be more complex if you add a longer-term certificate of deposit or shorter intervals, but we recommend you to keep things simple. At this point, you should be able to manage the investment as little or as much as you prefer. Hence, you can leave things on autopilot and the maturing CD will renew at a fresh rate every time. 

What about interest rate changes?

You’ll generally get the rate that’s available at the time of the investment. This benefits investors who create a CD ladder when interest rates are at their peak. However, they could always fall without prior notice. With that said, your rates will see periodic updates when and if you reinvest the amount after maturity.

Also, if you can predict that the interest rate will increase in the near future, you’ll want to put maturities near the short-term or wait a while before you create a latter. If interest rates are about to fall, it’d make greater sense to opt for lengthier maturities. It’s possible to compare rates through CD ladder tools like the one provided by Ally Bank. 

Are CD Ladders really feasible as an investment?

In a word: yes. They’re feasible if you don’t need the funds until CDs mature. You also get a 3% return on most of your CDs. Also, unless you’re making thousands in interest from your ladders, there won’t be a big difference in your taxes. With that said, feel free to consult a local CPA to get more advice on how this will affect your tax returns.  We think it’s best to use CD ladders as a component of an overarching financial strategy. Because it’s a low-risk investment, you can use it to anchor riskier investments, especially if you incorporate at least a big CD in the ladder. Wisdom associates big CDs with investments of 50,000 USD or above, but they can be purchased in chunks of $5,000. The returns, of course, aren’t as high as other investments, but it’s quite safe and doesn’t require you to manage anything in particular. 


By the end of the day, it makes good sense to use CD ladders to fulfill short-term investment goals like creating an emergency fund. The funds will be less accessible than if they were locked in a savings account, which should also prevent unnecessary spend. If you’re the sort of an individual who considers Starbucks latte to be an emergency, this investment will prevent you from taking the impulse leap.