Inflation Protection Using Series I Savings Bonds
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
With inflation at levels not seen since the 1980s, investors are naturally searching for sources of safe yield. As financial advisors we’ve been getting a lot of questions from our clients about Series I savings bonds as a way to help protect against inflation. As a result, we'd like to welcome a guest author, Jason Abrams, to provide some information on these savings bonds to our clients and beyond. (Jason also maintains a personal blog where he writes about other topics in finance, which you can find here. NB: linking to Jason's site does not imply we agree with or endorse the contents of his blog.)
What is a Series I Savings Bond?
Series I Savings Bonds are securities sold by the US Treasury direct to individuals. These savings bonds’ returns are based on a fixed interest rate plus an inflation adjustment that changes twice per year. The inflation adjustment makes these savings bonds more attractive during periods of high inflation, which is why they’re attracting a lot of attention this year.
What is the current yield? Is this yield fixed or variable?
Currently, Series I Savings Bonds are yielding 9.62% annually, which is entirely the result of the inflation adjustment to the bonds. This interest rate changes every six months, so the interest rate will be different for bonds purchased after October of this year.
While this yield is very attractive compared to other fixed income investments, we should note that this interest rate can (and has) been much lower for much of the recent past. In particular, since around May 2008 the fixed rate portion of yield has been near zero and the inflation rate has itself been fairly low over the past 7-8 years. We think it is reasonable to expect that inflation and therefore the variable rate will come back down at some point in the future and–given that the fixed rate portion of the yield is currently zero–we don't think the total return rate of close to 10% will persist over time.
How do you buy Series I Savings Bonds?
Series I Savings Bonds can only be purchased directly, via the Treasury Direct government website, TreasuryDirect.gov. They can’t be bought or sold within a brokerage account.
How do I receive the interest on my investment?
The interest on Series I savings bonds accrues: this means that any interest earned gets deposited back into the Series I Savings Bond investment. As a result, Series I savings bonds may be less suitable for retirees and other individuals who are trying to use the income from their investments to pay for their current expenses.
How long do these savings bonds last? Can I get out early?
Series I savings bonds have a 30-year life. An investor can redeem their Series I savings bonds after five years with no penalty, or after twelve months with a penalty of the past three months’ worth of interest.
Are there limits on how much investors can buy?
Yes…Individuals are entitled to purchase up to $10,000 per calendar year electronically through Treasury Direct. Married couples can purchase up to $20,000 total. Additionally, investors may purchase up to $5,000 of Series I Savings Bonds in paper form by using funds from their tax refund.
I’ve heard that bonds go down in price when interest rates increase. How does this affect Series I Savings Bonds?
That principle only applies to bonds that are bought and sold on the open market. (If you own a bond that pays 2% interest but rates go up and there are other bonds that are now paying 3% interest, your bond probably isn’t as valuable if you try to sell it to another investor.)
Since investors redeem their Series I savings bonds directly from the US Treasury, they’re guaranteed to always be worth their face value. The US Treasury returns the initial amount invested plus any interest earned.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide investment advice. Nothing herein should be construed as a solicitation, recommendation or an offer to buy, sell or hold any securities, market sectors, other investments or to adopt any investment strategy or strategies. This report may include estimates, projections or other forward-looking statements, however, due to numerous factors, actual events may differ substantially from those presented. This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast or research. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. As a practical matter, no entity is able to accurately and consistently predict future market activities. The opinions expressed are those of CJW Capital LLC ("CJW Capital") as of the date of publication and are subject to change at any time due to changes in market or economic conditions.
While efforts are made to ensure information contained herein is accurate, CJW Capital cannot guarantee the accuracy of all such information presented. As a result, CJW Capital bears no responsibility whatsoever for any errors or omissions. Additionally, please be aware that past performance is not a guide to the future performance of any manager or strategy, and that the performance results and historical information provided displayed herein may have been adversely or favorably impacted by events and economic conditions that will not prevail in the future. Therefore, it should not be inferred that these results are indicative of the future performance of any strategy, index, fund, manager or group of managers.
The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from proprietary and non-proprietary sources deemed by CJW Capital to be reliable and are not necessarily all inclusive. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader. Material contained in this publication should not be construed as legal, accounting, or tax advice.