Sometimes a client tells me that they have a portion of their savings “invested” in savings bonds. Usually I get a bellyache when I hear this. Here’s why:
- Savings bonds are savings vehicles, like money market accounts and CDs. They pay a safe, low rate of interest that competes with money markets and CDs. Savings is an essential part of your wealth building program. But it’s not your investments.
- Some people have savings bonds that they bought or received as gifts, and they haven’t looked at them for a long time. In some cases, these bonds have stopped paying any interest at all. At this point, they become like cash in a coffee can buried in the back yard: safe, but not working for you.
- Often savings bonds are owned in paper form. This always gives me a bellyache. Many times, clients will own bonds or stocks in paper form. Once upon a time, this was standard. This was in the day when you needed to go to a special office to deal with investments and talk to a stock broker who had the access to the investment trading exchange to buy or sell anything. For the last 20 years or so, people have had the option to manage savings and investment directly through online accounts. This is often cheaper and always simpler and easier than dealing with paper documents and traveling to somebody’s office. And it makes it harder to misplace or accidentally destroy investments when they exist in an online account.
My personal bottom line
As a fiduciary financial advisor, one of my guiding priorities is to give my clients flexibility. Life happens. Things change. I want my clients to be able to adjust as needed with good financial options. Online accounts to hold savings and investments make it way easier to be flexible when needed.
And generally, I like investments that can keep pace with changing market conditions and are not fixed like savings bonds. It’s true that for some clients, in some situations, some of their money should be in fixed rate instruments. But it depends on their particular situation.
Things to know:
- You can no longer get a paper savings bond to give your goddaughter on her birthday. Since January 1, 2012 all savings bonds are issued electronically at TreasuryDirect.com.
- Savings bonds bought today will pay interest for 30 years and then stop.
- Current interest rate on a Series EE bond up to April 30, 2019 is 0.1 percent per year.
- Sometimes the bank will calculate the current value of your bond incorrectly. Use the calculator at the U.S. Treasury to calculate your own value before you go in to cash your bonds.
If you know you received a bond but just can’t find it
Form 1048, Claim for Lost, Stolen or Destroyed U.S. Savings Bonds is how you get the Treasury to search its records. Provide your name and Social Security number (and the purchaser’s Social Security number, if the bond was received as a gift), the approximate issue date (or at least a range of years), the serial number, if available, and any other information you may have, such as the bond series or denomination. As you fill out the form include everything you have and move on. Get the form certified by a financial institution (your bank) and send it to the address listed on the form for the type of bond you’re trying to track down. For more information, see Tracking Down Missing Savings Bonds.
Sometimes finding savings bonds is a signal you need advice
When you find a bunch of paper bonds, it feels like new money, which is cool. And it’s an alert from the universe that maybe you are not tracking your savings and investment as closely as you might. This might be a great time to have a talk with your financial planner. If your advisor is a fiduciary advisor – one who is always your advocate – and a fee-only advisor – one who is only paid by you – she can be an excellent resource to help you consider what is the smartest thing for you to do with your savings bonds.
Don’t have a financial planner? I suggest you start by locating a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional in your neighborhood.
CFP® professionals take a multi-faceted approach to your financial planning process that includes budgets, risk protection, retirement planning, investment management, taxes and estate planning. All these related aspects of your financial life are the foundation for a great plan to make the most your financial life.
A CFP® professional can help you create a financial plan that is driven by your goals and priorities and addresses all aspects of your financial life. With a big-picture approach, you will be better prepared to understand your options at every step along the way.
Yes, I am a CFP® professional. I’m always a fiduciary and I only work on a fee basis. And yes, I’m still taking on a few great families to be part of my financial planning practice.
If this article makes you want to talk to me in person, contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to meet with people who are working on their financial plans. Dunncreek Advisors does not provide legal or tax advice, nor is this article intended to do so.