The New Year: Time to Clean Out the Closets

Since we’re at the start of a new year, it’s a good time to clean up your finances. And one of the best places to start is with government savings bonds. 25,000 payments are returned to the Department of the Treasury each year as undeliverable. The Treasury estimates the public owns about $16 billion worth of savings bonds that have matured and aren’t earning any more interest! While that’s a nice way to lend money to our government, it’s obviously not in your best financial interests.

The Treasury Department says the following bonds are no longer earning interest: E bonds, all issues, and EE bonds issued from January 1980 to December 1982. H bonds, all issues, and HH bonds issued between January 1980 and December 1982. Savings notes, all issues. And all of the following series: A, B, C, D, F, G, J and K.

So if you own any of those bonds, cash them in. But don’t limit your financial clean-up to yourself. Be sure to check with elderly parents, relatives and retirees. Estimates say about 20 million senior citizens own about $100 billion in savings bonds! So while you may not own the bonds yourself, someone in your extended family may very likely own some of these non-interest producing bonds. It’s in their best interests to cash in the bonds and put that money back to work (perhaps by buying a new savings bond that will pay at least some interest).

If you think a family member may own a “lost” savings bond, the Treasury Department has a web site that can help you find missing bonds. Go to http://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/tools/tools_treasuryhunt.htm to start your hunt. The average search yields about $1,000, so a little legwork can be well worth your time.

Another big reason to follow up on these bonds is that if you don’t do anything to reclaim them, some states will—for state revenue purposes. A handful of states are pursuing legal action to claim matured savings bonds that have not been cashed in by their residents. Again, that’s a nice way to help out your state government with its financial woes, but not so nice for your own personal finances (or an elderly relative’s finances).

So in this New Year as you’re talking with family members, particularly elderly ones, ask if they’ve ever owned government savings bonds. Offer to help them track down any missing bonds and thereby improve their retirement readiness. It’s their money to begin with, and there’s no point in losing it to state governments or just having it sit around not earning interest for your loved ones.

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About Mike Wilson

Michael L. Wilson, MBA, CFP®, CRC®, is the owner of Integrity Financial Planning. Prior to founding Integrity in 1998, he worked for two years as a faculty member at the College for Financial Planning in Denver, training other financial advisors. Mike has 10 years of experience in the mutual fund industry, having worked with Fidelity Investments and Invesco Mutual Funds. He holds an MBA in Finance from Baylor University. Learn more about his work at www.integrityplanner.com.
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