Uncle Sam has been thinking about the thrashing you've been taking with your stocks and equity mutual funds over the past two months, and he's decided that you probably wish you had converted your nest egg into something safer before all the trouble began on July 20.
He figures that if you could turn back the clock to the day that the bull market turned into a growling grizzly, you'd shuck those equities and jump right into something you can depend on to never lose your money. Something like good old-fashioned U.S. savings bonds.Your uncle feels your pain and so does his spokesman, Dino DeConcini, executive director of the Savings Bonds Marketing Office in Washington, D.C. They both want to help.
Yes, DeConcini knows that the government eliminated the Salt Lake savings bond office a couple of years ago, but the San Diego office got nailed, too, and anyway it's all in the name of cost cutting, making your tax dollar go further and all that.
But even though the Salt Lake district is now being managed from Denver by area manager Jennifer Moore, DeConcini wants to let bygones be bygones and persuade you to buy more than the $10.6 million in savings bonds that Salt Lakers bought last year and $25.4 million that were sold statewide.
How's he going to do it? The American way: with salesmanship.
"We think that with some decent marketing campaigns there is a potential for much higher sales" in Salt Lake and Utah, said DeConcini in an interview prior to his meeting with Mayor Deedee Corradini and Gov. Mike Lea-vitt, both of whom have agreed to proclaim September as "I Bond Month in Utah."
I Bonds (I as in "eye") are a new savings bond, the first new product introduced under the government savings bond program in 18 years.
Unlike traditional savings bonds, which are sold for one-half of their face value and then mature to their face value over 30 years, I Bonds are sold at face value and pay a fixed rate of interest, 3.4 percent, for the 30-year life of the bond.
In addition, the annual rate of inflation, calculated by the Consumer Price Index and adjusted every six months, is added to the 3.40 percent. Thus, for September, I Bonds are paying 3.40 percent plus 1.26 percent for the inflation calculation for a total of 4.66 percent.
But if inflation were to soar as it did in the 1970s and early 1980s, I Bond holders couldfind themselves earning around 20 percent interest a year.
"It's the ultimate protection from inflation," noted DeConcini. "If you're worried about rising inflation, this is for you."
Of course, hardly anyone except perhaps Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan worries about inflation these days because it's been a dead issue for years, but it could always come 'round again. Almost everything else does.
I Bonds become liquid (meaning you can sell them) after six months and may be held for 30 years, but there is a penalty of three month's worth of interest if you sell them before five years, the same rules that apply to "regular" savings bonds.
The eight denominations of I Bonds ($50 through $10,000, but the $200 bond and the $10,000 bond won't go on sale until next May) carry portraits of eight famous Americans, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Chief Joseph, Marian Anderson, Spark M. Matsunaga, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, Helen Keller, General George C. Marshall and Albert Einstein. DeConcini noted that it's the first time that women and "persons of color" have been honored on U.S. government securities.
For "regular" bonds, called Series EE Savings Bonds, their interest rate is tied to five-year Treasury bonds and are currently paying 5.06 percent, just slightly below the 5.09 percent average bank CD rate and considerably better than the 2 percent to 3 percent average passbook savings account rate.
"That makes us very competitive on an interest rate basis," noted DeConcini, who is well aware that many people lost interest in buying savings bonds years ago in the face of a variety of new investments, such as money market mutual funds, that were considerably more profitable with only a little added risk.
All savings bond interest is tax deferred until the bond is sold. Bonds may be bought at many banks and savings institutions and through many payroll savings plans.