With black clouds having circled the stock and bond markets during what has felt like a very bumpy 2022 so far given the war in Ukraine, inflation, and the continuing impact of Covid-19 around the world, a silver lining has developed for those seeking higher interest rates on their cash reserves.
Given higher inflation numbers, US government-issued I-Bonds have made headlines lately and are potentially a place to stash some of one’s cash reserves. I-Bonds offer interest rates based on a combination of a fixed rate that stays the same for the life of the bond and an inflation rate that adjusts twice a year. While the fixed rate for bonds issued through April is 0.00% (and hasn’t been over 0.5% for over a decade), the interest based on the inflation rate is currently 7.12% (annualized). The annualized inflation rate for I-Bonds purchased beginning in May is expected to be an eye-popping 9.62%.
With I-Bonds being a nearly risk-free investment, why on earth wouldn’t everyone put all their money into these instruments!? For one - each person is limited to a $10,000 purchase annually. Purchases must be made directly from the government via the www.TreasuryDirect.gov website, and I-Bonds cannot be redeemed for 12 months. Redeeming I-Bonds within five years of purchase will result in a penalty equal to 3 months of interest.
Many anticipate an easing of inflation in the second half of 2022, so it’s quite possible the interest rate reset in November on I-Bonds will come down. However, it’s reasonable to anticipate I-Bond rates will remain better than bank savings or CD rates following such reset. Because I-Bonds are only available through Treasury Direct, we’re unable to hold them in client accounts. However, if you don’t mind navigating the government’s website to open an account and make a purchase, and you have excess cash reserves such that you won’t need access to these funds for a minimum of twelve months, I-Bonds are worth a look.