bank rates

Return On Series I Bonds Heading Down

You won’t be able to make quite as much on inflation-adjusted savings bonds this winter and spring.

The total return on Series I Bonds is calculated by adding the inflation rate, which changes every six months, and a fixed rate that is established when you buy each bond and never changes.

The Consumer Price Index released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics yesterday shows the annualized inflation rate from April through September was 3.06%.

So that will become the inflation rate on Nov. 1.

It’s not quite as high as the 4.6% inflation rate from the previous six months and which the Treasury has been paying on Series I Bonds since May 1.

The fixed rate has been as high as 3.6% for bonds purchased between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2000.

But it was lowered to zero, nada, nothing last November and we don’t expect that to change when the Treasury announces what the fixed rate will be for I Bonds purchased between Nov. 1, 2011 and April 30, 2012.

That means the inflation rate of 3.06% will be the total return for all I Bonds purchased beginning in November.

Of course, you still have time to earn 4.6% for six months. Your rate changes every six months after the issue date — that’s the date you purchased the bond.

So, if you bought a bond today, you’d get the higher rate until March, and then you’d earn the 3.06% composite rate for six months after that. Your composite rates going forward would change every April 1 and Oct. 1 until you cash out the bond.

Buy now or buy two weeks from now and you still will make more than on any certificate of deposit. And we’d all be piling into Series I Bonds if the government didn’t strictly limit how much we can invest.

You can buy:

  • Bonds online at TreasuryDirect and have them issued electronically to your account.
  • Paper bonds at most banks until Dec. 31. On Jan. 1, 2012 the paper bonds will be discontinued.

Unfortunately, the government will only allow you to invest $5,000 a year in a single type of bond, under a single Social Security number.

But for the remainder of this year it’s possible to buy $5,000 worth of Series I Bonds online, and another $5,000 worth of paper I Bonds, with a single Social Security number.

Or you can buy $5,000 worth of Series I Bonds online, and another $5,000 worth of fixed-rate Series EE Savings Bonds (currently paying 1.10%) online.

If you redeem Series I Bonds within the first five years, you’ll forfeit the three most recent months’ worth of interest. After 5 years, there is no early withdrawal penalty.

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