How much do you know about U.S. Savings Bonds?
For some people, U.S. sasvings bond are what you give a newborn grandchild or a niece who just graduated from high school. But according to the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, savings bonds could have a place in your own investment portfolio, particularly if you're looking for low-risk investments.
Yet ... myths and misunderstandings persist in an era when investors often expect high-flying returns from their securities of choice.
Bonds may not be the slugger of securities, but don't they deserve a shot at coming off the bench?
Answers to some frequently asked questions concerning savings bonds:
· What type? There are two types currently available: Series EE and Series I. The latter, purchased May 1997 through April 2005, pay interest based on current market rates.
As of May 1, 2005, newly issued Series EE bonds have a fixed interest rate, based on 10-year Treasury-note yields.
The fixed rate and the adjustment on new bonds issued are announced every May 1 and Nov. 1.
Series I savings bonds differ in that they pay an interest rate that is indexed for inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index. The inflation adjustment ensures that your savings earn money over and above inflation.
· How are they sold? Savings bonds are available in paper or electronic form. Paper Series EE and Series I bonds come in eight denominations: from $50 to $10,000.
Paper EE bonds are issued at 50 percent discount from face value.
Electronic Series EE and Series I bonds are sold at face value in any amount from $25 to $30,000.
There is an annual purchase limit of $30,000 per owner for Series EE Bonds and $30,000 for Series I Bonds.
A husband and wife who purchase bonds as co-owners may purchase up to $60,000 in Series EE bonds and $60,000 in Series I bonds in a single year.
Purchases of one series do not count against your limit for the other series.
· How long do they earn interest? Savings bonds earn interest on a tax-deferred basis for 30 years from the issue date.
· Where do I buy them? You may buy paper savings bonds at financial institutions authorized by the Treasury Department or through employer payroll-deduction plans.
You may also buy and hold savings bonds in an electronic account at: www.TreasuryDirect.gov .
· How do you know how much they're worth? To calculate the value of your savings bonds, go to: http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/sav/savcalc . htm.
· How do I redeem them? To cash in your Series EE or Series I bonds, take them, along with proper identification, to your financial institution. Keep in mind that savings bonds issued after February 2003 must be held for a minimum of one year before they can be redeemed, and if you redeem them in less than five years after purchase, you forfeit the three most recent months of interest.
· Are there any tax advantages? The interest earned on savings bonds is always exempt from state and local income taxes. You can defer federal income taxes on the interest your bonds earn until the savings bonds reach final maturity or you redeem them. However, you may elect to treat the annual increase in value of these bonds as income in each year.
Earnings from Series EE and Series I savings bonds may be excluded from federal income tax if you pay qualified higher education expenses in the same year you redeem the savings bonds. However, your household income must meet certain guidelines to qualify for this exclusion.