There are few places to keep your cash these days that can protect your money from inflation. And while you might have missed an opportunity to get a nearly 10% interest rate on ultra safe government I Bonds, you can still get a high rate that will keep pace with rising prices.
The interest rate on the Series I Savings Bond, more commonly known as I Bonds, reset on Tuesday to 6.89%. While that is less than the historical high of 9.62% of the past six months, it’s still a great return relative to other places where you might park your cash, such as high-yield savings accounts or certificates of deposit. And it’s trouncing returns on stocks and bonds, which are both still in the red year to date.
The I Bond rate is determined by a formula based on changes to the Consumer Price Index. It resets every six months. So the current 6.89% rate will be in place through April. At that point, the money you have invested will accrue at the new rate that’s set for the next six months.
Those who tried to lock in the previous 9.62% return last week may have encountered delays because the only place where you can purchase I Bonds – TreasuryDirect.gov – was overwhelmed by traffic, at one point even crashing briefly. To give an idea of just how big the surge in demand was, the Treasury on Monday morning reported that nearly half of the 731,336 new accounts created in October, of which the vast majority (99%) were for I Bonds, almost half (359,822) were created in the last week alone.
What to know before buying an I Bond
There are restrictions on just how much you can invest in an I Bond, however. Individuals may only purchase up to $10,000 in I Bonds electronically in a calendar year. (For married couples, each spouse can purchase their own I Bond for a total investment per year of up to $20,000.) In addition, you may purchase up to a $5,000 paper I Bond if you use your federal tax refund to buy it.
The catch with I Bonds, which you can hold on to for up to 30 years, is this: You may not cash it out in the first year. And to get the full amount of interest owed, you have to hold the bond for at least five years. Otherwise, you will sacrifice three months of interest.
So while it’s not a liquid investment right away – and it’s not a bond you can trade in the market – it’s a good place to invest cash you’re not going to need for at least the next 12 months, if only to preserve its buying power in today’s high inflationary environment.