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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Friday, June 13, 2014

Beware Of Brokers Promising The Best CD Rates



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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


There's a hot scam going on around the country that's stealing your money with a promise of high returns on a seemingly safe product.

We're in an era when people are struggling to find short-term CDs that pay more than 1%. Yet people who are on fixed incomes or are afraid of stocks are looking for more money on their savings. That's made them vulnerable for pitches about high-return CDs—where you can supposedly place a CD with a broker for a guaranteed 15% return!

Here's why you want to question a broker promising you the best CD rates

FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) has put out a warning saying these offers are all a pack of lies. People are being pitched by supposed brokers who want you to wire them money that they'll supposedly place with a large U.S. bank working in conjunction with an international partner.

In reality, it used to be common to buy CDs through brokers up until 8 years ago. But that business is over, at least for now. So the crooks are just imitating what was once standard by telling you they are a CD broker and getting you to send money. But if you take their bait, your money will disappear.

The truth is you can't beat the system. Returns on CDs are puny -- for now. You have to take what the market can give you. If you want to shop for the best rates, you might consider looking at the various online banks. Or you can use this handy BankRate.com tool that we have on ClarkHoward.com.

But don't believe it when you see a pitch for a CD promising an unusually high return. Because all that happens is your money will vanish.

Take the laddering approach to CDs

I've talked in the past about the idea of laddering CDs as a way to maximize the return on your money. Let me give you a little background here. The basic concept behind laddering is that you take your money and split it into 5 even piles. Then you buy the following:

  • 1-year CD
  • 2-year CD
  • 3-year CD
  • 4-year CD
  • 5-year CD


The idea is that every 12 months when a CD comes due, you then turn around and re-up that money into a 5-year CD. So you always have access to 20% of your money being rolled over at what hopefully will be higher interest rates in the future. Nobody knows when rates will go up again; but when they do, you want to be poised to take advantage of the hike.



A variation on the traditional CD laddering approach

Money Adviser  says to take your money and buy 5 different 5-year CDs with it. So let's say you do that today and lock in at 1.70%. Then let's say 6 months down the road, the rates start moving up or you need some of your money right away.

The typical CD contract only calls for a 90-day interest penalty. So if you hold a CD for any length of time, the higher return on a 5-year CD should in theory compensate for the forfeit of 90 days interest.

Just be careful because some banks are becoming savvy to this technique, so make sure the CDs you get only call for the standard 90-day interest penalty. Do that homework upfront and this could work out nicely for you.

I've been asked, "Well, why not buy just one 5-year CD instead?" Here's why: If you just need a portion of the money, you have to cash the entire CD in and start over again. Having 5 different ones gives you the same kind of flexibility you would have with traditional CD laddering.