business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

USA Today reports that the US Treasury Dept. has decided that American banks will no longer be able to sell US Savings Bonds, beginning in 2012.

According to the story, “investors who want to buy Savings Bonds after Dec. 31 will need to purchase them electronically through TreasuryDirect, a Web-based program offered by Treasury's Bureau of Public Debt.

“The shift from paper to electronic Savings Bonds will save the government $70 million over the next five years, Public Debt Commissioner Van Zeck says. ‘That's a real economic advantage to Treasury in these times when we really need to look at the cost of government programs’.”

In addition, the paper reports, “Treasury hopes the phaseout of paper will give savers the nudge they need to embrace electronic Savings Bonds, Zeck says. Electronic Savings Bonds are less likely to be misplaced, he says, and are automatically redeemed when they mature. Treasury estimates that more than $16 billion in unredeemed Savings Bonds are no longer earning interest.”

(I can attest to this. A couple of them are in my sock drawer, and there a few more in the safe deposit box. I think they are, on average, 45-50 years old. I am glad to know that I’m not the only one.)

The simple fact is that the purchasing of savings bonds has dropped by more than half since 2003, when 43.6 million of them were bought, compared to just over 20 million last year. Critics of the decision argue that the lack of broadband internet access for some people - especially senior citizens - will make it harder for them to buy the bonds.

Still, it is 2011. The world is changing, and these are the kinds of shifts that will continue to happen as our culture adjust to new realities. It may hurt a bit, but that’s the price of an Eye-Opener.

The upside? Extra room in a lot of sock drawers.
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