Inflation is seldom a good thing.
But when it comes to investing, the U.S. Treasury Department has a downright fantastic inflation opportunity. You can buy bonds that pay 9.62 percent interest—tax-deferred—with no downside risk and no state or local income taxes when you cash them in.
If you buy now, you earn 9.62 percent for six months, guaranteed. At the end of six months, the Treasury Department:
- adds the interest you earned to your principal, and
- pays interest on your new principal balance at the new rate it will determine this year, on November 1.
Example. You buy $10,000 of Series I bonds on September 24. You earn 9.62 percent for six months for a total of $481 ($10,000 x 9.62 percent ÷ 2). On March 24, your principal balance is $10,481 ($10,000 + 481).
Let’s say the Treasury sets the November 1 interest rate at 9 percent. During the six months from March 24 to September 24, 2023, you earned interest at 9 percent on $10,481. Now, at the end of a full year, you have $10,953 in your TreasuryDirect I bond account.
The big deal with an I bond is fourfold:
- You can’t lose your principal (e.g., your $10,953 in the example above can’t go down).
- Interest rates on I bonds track with the consumer price index inflation rate, which has been high.
- You earn tax-deferred compound interest until you cash in.
- The interest is exempt from state and local income taxes.
There is much to like about the Series I bond. And there’s little to dislike. Perhaps the biggest dislike is the $10,000 limit on I bond purchases, but you can purchase under business entities and trusts in addition.
The biggest deal with the I bond is that it carries no downside risk. It can’t go below its latest redemption value, and the interest rate can’t go below zero.
The one thing you need to pay attention to is the interest rate. It changes with inflation. The Fed wants to lower inflation to its target 2 percent. For most people, this means that the I bond could be a short-term investment—say, one to five years.
But think in the short term now. Where else can you earn 9.62 percent tax-deferred interest, risk-free?
This is not investment advice and we are not investment advisors. We are tax advisors. It is important to thoroughly research and understand investment options.