It has been 9 years already of making virtually nothing from savings account rates. Even with the best rates recently moving up to the 1.05% – 1.25% range as the Federal Reserve has raised the Fed funds rate, cash has been a frustrating asset class for many years now.
Many retirees and others who depend on appreciation of their cash not just to live, but to keep pace with real inflation, have begun to throw in the towel. They have largely moved to riskier asset classes such as municipal bond funds and high yielding dividend stocks.
I do not dispute the importance of dividend stocks in a balanced portfolio. Verizon, Exxon and the major European pharmaceutical stocks pay fantastic dividends. Even if you believe that the stock market is overvalued and ripe for a significant correction as the world begins to grapple with the consequences of an unstable US President, you probably should have some exposure to high yielding equities.
Your exhaustion with low savings rates, however, should not lead you into municipal bonds or municipal bond funds, Treasuries or virtually anything tied to a fixed rate of return over the long term (certainly not annuities, etc.). If and when interest rates move up, these things will be slaughtered (and, may even become illiquid).
Instead, look to 5-year CDs. A 5-year CD paying 2.30% provides about twice what leading online savings rates are paying at the moment. Buying one with a 6-month early withdrawal fee, and reasonable certainty that the bank will honor it (read this article for more information on the risk to early withdrawal fees) will provide significant returns in today’s market and will also likely yield roughly about as much as an online savings account were you to redeem it early after, say, 12 months or a 1-year CD. Most important,, you will have the option to hold it for the remaining four years and continue to make 2.30%. And, equally importantly, you will not be slaughtered.
Key takeaway: Look at the early withdrawal fees on 5-Year CDs. While EverBank’s fees are excessive, other major online banks have early withdrawal fees geared to match between six months and 1 year of interest.
In sum, a number of 5-year CDs offered by leading FDIC-insured banks have 6 month early withdrawal options that provide the best and safest investment options for those who need steady and above-market interest rates.