Savings Bond Alert #027

Thursday, January 18th, 2007
Categorized as: Savings Bond Alerts

Inflation running at 2.5% year over year, but CPI still down from September

December’s CPI of 201.8 was up 2.5% from a year ago and it was up .15% from November’s level. However, it’s still below September’s 202.9, which is the number I bond investors watch. That’s because the I bond inflation component is based on the level of the CPI in March and September.

To get above September’s level by March, inflation’s pace will have to quicken. If it doesn’t, I bonds may see their first negative inflation component.

Investors already seem worried about the possiblity. Since the government’s fiscal year began in October, new investments in Savings Bonds have barely recovered from the all-time lows seen over the summer.

With the first three months of the government’s fiscal year (October through December) complete, new investments in Savings Bonds are running at an annual rate of $3.87 billion, which is the slowest rate of new investments in years.

Investors are putting only about 46% of their new investments into I bonds, with the balance going to EE bonds. This is a significant reversal, as I bonds had outsold EE bonds every year since 2001.

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FDIC Insured Certificates of Deposit can pay 1 or 2% more than savings bonds when held for a similar length of time. See top CD Rates Below:


On January 18th, 2007 Adan Lerma said:

Hi, would the TIPS notes and bonds now be even less desirable? or is there some quirk that evens them out more so to the I-bond now?

Thank you much.


On January 18th, 2007 Svenson said:

We’ve never had a negative I rate before. I wonder what fixed component will be offered if the inflation component is negative. Couldn’t this be a setup for some rewarding fixed components?

On January 18th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Adan – If held to maturity, the main differences between TIPS and I bonds is that TIPS pay about 1 percentage point more, the TIPS inflation adjustments happen monthly, and you pay income tax on both the interest and the inflation adjustments annually. If you redeem TIPS early you can have capital gains or losses (related to changes in the general level of interest rates); with I bonds there are no capital gains or losses. None of this has changed, so I don’t think the relative desirability of TIPS and I bonds has changed, either.

Svenson – Yes, this is an interesting possibility. If new investments are low now, imagine what they’d be like with an introductory six-month I bond of 0.00%

On January 18th, 2007 Adan Lerma said:

Tom, thanks for the response. I’m still trying to learn as much as I can, and one never knows what wrinkle might be missed, so thanks for the info.

I think what I also don’t like about TIPS (right now, at my stage of learning) is even if the inflation component is small, with the I-bond, it’ll still earn interest on a non-reduced principle, while with the TIPS, if the principle’s been reduced, less interest is earned. So I’m not even sure there’d necessarily be a full 1% difference at maturity or redemption. And that’s not factoring in the tax deferment of the I-bond, or does it?

Anyway, the other question, from Svenson, is really interesting. Is it really possible there’d be a zero interest rate? It could be negative could it, at least with the I-bond, since the accumulated principle can’t be reduced? Or would $ be subtracted from prior $ earned and accumulating, even if deferred?

Thanks for the great book (old edition 🙂 and all the updates, really invaluable.


On January 18th, 2007 joe said:

I’ve redeemed all my bonds with the exception of the 1999 and 2000 I Bonds (with fixed rate of 3.4 and 3.6 percent) and reinvested them in CDs paying 6% or more. Even with fixed rate of 3.4-3.6%, the I bonds are paying no more than the CDs right now, and may pay just 3.4-3.6% when inflation rate drops to zero, which will further reduce the bonds’ attractiveness in comparison with other savings instruments.

On January 19th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Adan – if deflation were to occur, I bonds would outperform TIPS because the value of I bonds can’t go down, while the value of TIPS can. The I bond interest rate can’t go below zero, but it can be zero if a negative inflation component wipes out the base rate. In deflationary times, obviously, EE bonds and other fixed-rate securities would outperform inflation-protected securities.

Joe – today is showing 1- to 5-year CD rates in the 4.75% area (this is a national average), so if you got 6% that’s a good deal, particularly if you got it for five years rather than six months or something short-term like that.

On January 19th, 2007 Adan Lerma said:

I think that’s what I’ve wanted to figure out, what would happen in a deflationary environment. And if I decided to sell, after a period of negative inflation, my I-bonds (after a yr) I could sell w/out paying a commission and know I’d get my full initial amt. With a TIPS, I could sell right away (but probably wouldn’t have just bought if deflation were really a near possibility) but only by paying a commission, even via Treasury Direct, and, if in a deflationary climate, probably receive less than my starting amt. There. Thank you for helping me figure out what I was trying to decide about. Tom, please keep up the great info.

Comments Closed

June 1, 2010

After six years, over 400 posts, 3,680 real comments, and over 90,000 spam comments (thank you, Akismet, for making managing a blog with comments possible), I am closing public comments on I will contine to update the main articles on this site, but not the comments.

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