Investing

Ring Out the E Bonds, Ring In the I Bonds

The rate on I bonds gets a boost.

You may want to check your home files or safe-deposit box for long-forgotten savings bonds. The last series E bonds, which were issued by the Treasury in June 1980, will stop earning interest this June. The Bureau of the Public Debt estimates that $16.7 billion worth of the bonds have not been redeemed, which means there are millions of certificates gathering dust. Tracking down those missing bonds could be profitable: A $100 series E bond issued in April 1960 is worth almost $770.

Go to www.treasuryhunt.govand enter the Social Security number of the owner or purchaser of the bond. The database covers only bonds issued since 1974, but it provides instructions on how to find bonds purchased before then. If you want to know the current value of your bond, click on the savings-bond calculator at the same site.

Looking for someplace to stash your newfound cash? I bonds look a lot more attractive now than they did a few months ago, when they were earning 0%. From November through April, they will pay 3.36% -- a fixed rate of 0.3%, which lasts for the life of the bond, plus 3.06%, an annualized rate of inflation based on the actual rate for the six months that ended September 30. That rate beats all but a couple of the highest-yielding five-year certificates of deposit. You can buy $5,000 worth of I bonds annually in $25 increments, either online at www.treasurydirect.govor at a bank.

Series EE savings-bond rates have also gotten a boost. EE bonds will earn 1.2%, up from 0.7% for the previous six months. But, says Dan Pederson, of Bondsonline.com, "I bonds are a better buy if you assume inflation will average 3%."

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