Before creating a rung or ladder, savers should also consider whether they have time to manage certificates at different banks with different maturities, Ms. Costa said. Unless you’re moving a large sum of cash, she said, the extra return may not be worth the effort.

For many people, Costa said, choosing a high-yield savings account may be the best approach, even if it means earning a somewhat lower return on their savings. Online bank Marcus, the consumer arm of Goldman Sachs, offers 4.5 percent on a savings account, for example, and Ally Bank, another online-only bank, pays 4.35 percent. You will need to link the savings account to your regular bank to transfer and withdraw money.

Here are some questions and answers about CDs and savings:

For emergency funds that you may need on short notice (for example, for an unexpected car repair), savings accounts are a good option. But banks can and do change the rates they pay on such accounts at any time, so that option could become less attractive if rates fall. However, that shouldn’t be a big concern if his money is earmarked for emergency expenses, Benz said. For an emergency fund, he said, “the goal is return on capital rather than return on capital.”

Many brokerage firms have been paying 5 percent in money market mutual funds, low-risk investment accounts. But money market funds are not federally insured. And the rate of these accounts can change at any time.

Paul Brahim, a financial advisor at Wealth Enhancement Group in Pittsburgh, said he heard that question from clients looking for attractive returns in low-risk cash vehicles. He said he generally advised clients to hold cash based on their spending needs over the next six months to three years, including a reasonable reserve for emergencies.

But if too much money is taken out of long-term investments, Brahim said, market timing becomes riskier and significant investment gains could be lost. “Cash is a great idea for everyone,” he said. “But it’s important to have a rational allocation.”