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Fixed deposit (FD) laddering is a strategy that can help you optimise your returns from FDs while maintaining liquidity and minimising the impact of interest rate fluctuations. 

What is FD Laddering?

FD laddering is a process of spreading your investment in FDs over multiple maturity tenures or maturity buckets, whereby you hold the chance to earn a higher return and even address your liquidity needs. 

It involves dividing the total investment amount into equal or unequal portions and investing them in separate FDs with different tenures. The laddering approach ensures that a portion of the investment matures regularly, providing the investor with a steady income stream and opportunities to reinvest or withdraw funds as needed.

By distributing funds across multiple fixed deposits with varying maturity dates, FD laddering aims to balance returns, liquidity, and risk. 

Explore: Fixed Deposit Interest Rates in June 2024

How Does FD Laddering Work?

The main idea behind FD laddering is to reinvest the matured FDs for longer tenures at higher interest rates. This helps you to benefit from the power of compounding and also avoid locking in your money at one interest rate level. 

Instead of investing your entire corpus in a single FD, you divide your fund equally and invest it in FDs with different maturities. For example, if you have INR 3 lakh to invest in FDs, you can split it into three parts of Rs 1 lakh each and invest them in FDs with 1-year, 2-year and 3-year tenures, respectively. This way, you create a ladder of FDs that mature at different intervals.

In the example above, when the first FD matures after one year, you can reinvest it for another three years. Similarly, when the second FD matures after two years, you can reinvest it for another three years. This way, you keep rolling over your FDs for longer durations and earn higher returns.

FD laddering also helps you to maintain liquidity as you always have some FDs maturing every year. You can use the maturity proceeds to meet your short-term or emergency needs or reinvest them as per your financial goals. Moreover, FD laddering reduces the risk of losing out on higher interest rates in the future as you don’t commit all your money at one interest rate level. You can take advantage of the rising interest rates by reinvesting your matured FDs at higher rates.

Why Should You Opt For Fixed Deposit Laddering?

You should opt for fixed deposit laddering if you want to:

  • Earn higher returns from FDs by reinvesting them for longer tenures at higher interest rates.
  • Maintain liquidity by having some FDs maturing every year.
  • Minimise the impact of interest rate fluctuations by spreading your investment across different maturity buckets.
  • Achieve your financial goals by aligning your FD maturities with your cash flow needs.
  • FD laddering is a beneficial strategy for risk management, as it involves diversifying investments across various terms. It avoids concentration in a single investment and reduces the risk of diminished returns due to fluctuating interest rates.

Advantages of Using the FD Laddering Strategy

Some of the advantages of using the FD laddering strategy are:

  • Higher returns: By reinvesting your matured FDs for longer tenures at higher interest rates, you can earn higher returns than investing in a single long-term FD. You can also benefit from the power of compounding as your interest income gets reinvested along with the principal amount.
  • Liquidity: By having some FDs maturing yearly, you can maintain liquidity and meet your short-term or emergency needs without breaking your long-term FDs and paying a penalty. You can also reinvest the maturity proceeds as per your financial goals.
  • Flexibility: By spreading your investment across different maturity buckets, you can have flexibility in choosing the best interest rate available at any point in time. You can also adjust your ladder as per the changing interest rate scenario and your cash flow needs.
  • Safety: By investing in FDs, you can enjoy the safety of your principal amount and guaranteed returns, as FDs are backed by deposit insurance (DICGC) up to INR 5 lakh per depositor per bank.

Disadvantages of FD Laddering

Some of the disadvantages of FD laddering are:

  • Lower returns than other instruments: While FD laddering can help you optimise your returns from FDs, it may still offer lower returns than other investment instruments, such as mutual funds or stocks with higher risk-reward potential.
  • Taxation: The interest income from FDs is taxable as per your income tax slab rate. This may reduce your effective returns from FD laddering, especially if you fall in the higher tax brackets. You may also have to pay the tax deducted at source (TDS) on your interest income if it exceeds Rs 40,000 (or Rs 50,000 for senior citizens) in a financial year.
  • Inflation risk: The returns from FD laddering may not be able to beat inflation in the long run, as inflation erodes the purchasing power of money over time. This may affect your real returns and hamper your wealth creation.

Factors to Consider Before Opting for FD Laddering

Before opting for FD laddering, you should consider the following factors:

  • Investment objective: Have a clear idea of why you are investing in FDs and what are your financial goals. You should align your FD maturities with your cash flow needs and choose the maturity buckets accordingly.
  • Risk tolerance levels: Assess your risk tolerance levels and choose the investment instrument that suits your risk profile. If you are risk-averse and want guaranteed returns, FD laddering may be a good option for you. However, if you are willing to take some risk and want higher returns, you may consider other instruments, such as mutual funds.
  • Liquidity needs: Evaluate your liquidity requirements and ensure that the staggered maturities align with your cash flow needs.
  • Tax liability: Factor in your tax liability and choose the investment instrument that offers tax efficiency. If you fall in the lower tax brackets, FD laddering may not affect your returns much. However, if you fall in the higher tax brackets, you may look for other instruments that offer tax benefits, such as tax-saving FDs, equity-linked savings schemes (ELSS), public provident funds (PPF), etc.
  • Interest rate scenario: Monitor the interest rate scenario and choose the best time to invest in FDs. If interest rates are expected to rise in the future, you may opt for shorter tenures and reinvest at higher rates later. If interest rates are expected to fall in the future, you may opt for longer tenures and lock in your money at higher rates now.
  • FD terms and conditions: Understand the terms and conditions of the FDs, including penalties for early withdrawal, interest rates, and renewal options.

Conclusion

Fixed deposit laddering is a strategic investment approach that provides investors with a balanced mix of stability, liquidity, and returns. By diversifying funds across FDs with staggered maturity dates, investors can enjoy regular income, capitalize on interest rate fluctuations, and manage risk effectively. 

However, it also has some drawbacks, such as lower returns than other instruments, taxation and inflation risk. Therefore, you should consider your investment objective, risk tolerance levels, tax liability and the interest rate scenario before opting for FD laddering. You should also compare the interest rates offered by different banks and financial institutions and choose the best FDs for your ladder.