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Hypothetical Question for I-Bond Aficionados

edited April 14 in Other Investing
Having just digested the WSJ piece referenced elsewhere on this board and observed the glowing praise bestowed on them ….

Proposition: If the Treasury Department tomorrow removed the $10,000 cap and allowed individuals to invest any amount they desired in I-Bonds at the present and anticipated rate of interest (roughly 7.5% & 9.5%) would you sell all your other investments and put all the money into I-Bonds? If not, what percentage of your current investment portfolio do you think would be the “right” amount for you to move into these?

What I’m trying to get at with the question is if there were no cap on the I-Bond amount, to what extent would people sell equities and other riskier investments in order to lock in that attractive I-Bond rate?"

Comments

  • edited April 14
    Not an Aficionado, but Yes, all of my bond allocation, which is currently in cash. But if I had already bought Treasury Notes with that cash, I would sell to go into iBonds.

    I have not seen the WSJ article you mentioned but I do not need to.
  • I wouldn't sell my equity investments and put the money into I-Bonds.
    However, I would do this with my fixed income investments (~30% of portfolio).
    My current fixed income holdings are: stable value fund, ultra-short-term bond fund, and multi-sector bond fund.



  • Not to be too picky here, but the sole assumption in the hypothetical is that the dollar limit is removed. Left in place would be the requirement that savings bonds be purchased directly in a taxable account.

    If one would consider trading bond funds for savings bonds and those bond funds were primarily in tax-sheltered accounts, one would need to do a major reshuffling to make this work: sell bonds in the tax-sheltered account(s), buy equities in those accounts, sell equities in taxable accounts, and use the proceeds to buy savings bonds.

    Manageable, but not quite as simple as the hypothetical first appears.
  • edited April 14
    @msf raises a good point. However …

    - One could invest all of their non tax sheltered money in I-Bonds.

    - One could pay taxes early on tax-deferred money to buy I-Bonds were the cap removed.. They’ll owe taxes on that someday anyhow.

    - One could move 100% of a Roth to I-Bonds without paying taxes.
  • For people who are sitting on the fence for I-Bonds, I have started a nearby thread on 5-yr TIPS. These get monthly inflation-adjustments, not at 6-month intervals, so the news may not be as dramatic for them. 5-yr real rates have inched up to -0.59%, so that shouldn't be a huge penalty. Time-wise, 5-yr commitment is not that long for holding them to maturity, and TIPS can be sold anytime if inflation readings do moderate. So, IMO, 5-yr TIPS are the 2nd best compared to I-Bonds. And before someone asks, the limit for TIPS is cool $5 million (-:). Point is do something and not let this inflation wave pass without getting some benefit from it (we are suffering from it in other ways anyway).
  • edited April 14
    @hank: 3) In the case of Roths one might invest 100% in I-Bonds without fretting over tax consequences.

    That is a nonstarter. Treasury Direct doesn't allow IRAs, and electronic I-Bonds can be only held at Treasury Direct.

    But I-Bonds are tax-deferred already (federal) for up to 30 years and exempt from state/local taxes. So, why wish for I-Bonds in IRAs? - a near impossibility. There are exceptions if one can find a willing IRA sponsor to buy and hold I-Bonds especially for you in custom IRA, but most won't bother.
  • My point was one of asset reallocation. If one is thinking of using savings bonds in lieu of other bonds (but not of equity), then one must have bonds in a taxable account to swap. Or in the alternative, rearrange taxable and tax-sheltered holdings. So then net equity is unchanged, while one effectively moves bonds into taxable to then swap for savings bonds.

    I believe @hank is just suggesting that instead of rearranging allocations, one could get the cash from bonds in a Roth without tax consequences. I wouldn't do that, because it is swapping a tax-exempt investment (Roths) for a tax-deferred investment (savings bonds). In a sense, that's a Roth anti-conversion.
  • edited April 14
    I believe @hank is just suggesting that instead of rearranging allocations, one could get the cash from bonds in a Roth without tax consequences.

    That’s correct. I’m not aware of anything yielding anywhere near 9.5% guaranteed that one would be able to put into an IRA, Roth or otherwise. So for those yearning for yield, cashing out a Roth might make sense. Remember, the hypothetical question assumes “no cap”. If one had several million dollars in a Roth, moving the total into I-Bonds would be allowed!

    Neither Roth nor I-Bond is taxed at the federal level. There might, however, be some state tax on the I-Bond interest depending on residency, What I’m trying to get at with the question is if there were no cap on the I-Bond amount, to what extent would people sell equities and other riskier investments in order to lock in that attractive I-Bond rate?

    To me, the one year lock is problematic. Cash is valued for its liquidity in making trades in and out of riskier assets. Also comes in handy in an emergency.
  • edited April 14
    "What I’m trying to get at with the question is if there were no cap on the I-Bond amount, to what extent would people sell equities and other riskier investments in order to lock in that attractive I-Bond rate?"

    It would be useful to edit / add the above to the OP.

    I will not sell equities to buy iBonds because equities already have some inflation adjustment built into them. Others that have zero iBonds may choose to sell some equities to buy iBonds.

    "To me, the one year lock is problematic. Cash is valued for its liquidity in making trades in and out of riskier assets."

    If equity risk on is back then I would just switch some low beta equities to high beta equities just the reverse of what one does when one wishes to take down equity risk.

    This survey is likely an exercise in entertainment and so I should not really nit pick!
  • Neither Roth nor I-Bond is taxed at the federal level. There might, however, be some state tax on the I-Bond

    Other way around. Treasury (and related) securities are exempt from state taxes, but with some exceptions are federally taxable.
  • At 7-9% I'd be tempted to devote a sizable allocation as a fire-and-forget position to them, sure. It'd be similar to what I've done with my crypto lending experiment currently earning 7%, albeit with more risk.

    If we ever hit 1980s rates (which I doubt) I'd seriously consider shifting probably 70% of my holdings into them, though. I saw in my own family how *good* that set people up decades later.
  • edited April 14
    msf said:

    ”Other way around. Treasury (and related) securities are exempt from state taxes, but with some exceptions are federally taxable.”

    Yep. Thanks! Guess I got it backward. Shoots holes in my theory than that cashing out an IRA wouldn’t have serious tax consequences. Sure would.

    Sorry if folks don’t like my post. I like to keep a pulse on what other investors are doing and thinking. Helps me better position. Admittedly, it’s likely of little use to others. (But they’re welcome to put up their own posts and questions.)

    On a related note - I’m doing a lot of thinking about how the increasing money flows into this vehicle might eventually affect / weigh on other markets. While the inflation adjusted I-Bond has been around a fairly long time, it’s only very recently that inflation has risen enough to make the returns appealing. So, IMHO, we’re looking here at a relatively new investment phenomenon with potentially far reaching repercussions.

  • edited April 14
    Inflation-linked bonds are relatively new to the US, TIPS 1997- , I-Bonds 1998- . I read once (no link now) that in Treasury Secretary Rubin's era, Chinese were getting concerned about their large and growing US Treasury holdings and pushed for TIPS and to keep them happy (at one time the US policy was to keep China happy), TIPS came about, and a year later I-Bonds came along.

    But inflation-linked bonds have longer history elsewhere. Many countries with weak finances and shaky currencies could only issue inflation-linked bonds. Examples include post-WW II France, Italy; also Chile (1956-), Brazil (1964- ), Argentina (1973-).

    But then many stronger countries also started issuing them, Australia (1985-), Canada (1991-), Japan (2004-), Germany (2006-), etc.

    In the US, TIPS are only 5-6% of the Government debt market, and Savings bonds (all types) only 0.5%.
  • I am not trying to divert attention from the OP but I am surprised there is no discussion / mention of the 2 yr Treasury FRNs in the recent clamor for inflation protection.
  • edited April 14
    @BaluBalu, 2-yr FRNs float in a different way (-:), not directly with inflation. So, FRNs rate is 13-wk T-Bill rate + a spread that doesn't change (but is fixed at issue). So, the floating is from 3-mo T-Bill rates (really, discounts) and those will fluctuate due to various factors (Fed policy, rate level, and indirectly from inflation). So, FRNs are not inflation-protected instruments.
    https://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/frns/res_frn_rates.htm
  • edited April 16
    The index (13 wk T-Bill) rate re-sets every week. Assuming the spread rate is zero, a two year FRN is expected to yield about 0.8% currently. It was at 0.4% only a month ago. Given the Fed expects to keep raising the Fed fund rate and otherwise remove easy financial conditions (inflation or not), seems like a two year FRN is a good place for cash lovers (like a MM with a 13 wk T-Bill rate that resets weekly as a result of Fed policy, rate level, indirectly from inflation, etc. The question is, is there enough liquidity for the 2-yr FRNs in the secondary market to able to liquidate at the implied value at any time before the time of maturity?

    P.S.: I am interested in buying and holding this instrument - it is not just an intellectual curiosity.
  • @BaluBalu, I agree that 2-yr Treasury FRNs may be a better way to go as m-mkt alternative than trying to build a T-Bill ladder.
  • Don't forget that iBonds compound! I bought some paper bonds in 2000 so that my wife would have ready cash if I were to pass. A $5000 bond is now worth $17,170, and will be a bit of a tax problem for whoever cashes it. Might have been better to pay the tax yearly.
  • edited April 17
    Not a critiq but want to make sure readers get a full picture. The fixed rate on iBonds issued in 2000 was approx 3.5%, which may have helped them go up nearly 250%. But those issued in 2004 with a fixed rate of 1% have not yet doubled in value ($5k invested on 5/1/2004 is now worth only $9K). These days iBonds are issued with a fixed rate of zero; so, one's appreciation (return on investment) is only based on inflation. Folks should check out the historic rates and do their own what if analysis -

    https://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/ibonds/res_ibonds_iratesandterms.htm

  • @yogibearbull,

    Just an FYI - The listing (disclosing market pricing) of secondary 2-yr FRNs is not available for retail customers to see at Fidelity. Probably the same at other main stream brokerages. We have to call the fixed income desk and then they check with the order desk to tell us what the current bid-ask is. Evidently, there is plenty of inventory (liquidity) in these FRNs but Fidelity does not list them on their website so customers are not confused between them and the regular 2-yr notes. I do not understand their reasoning, given TIPs are listed but I choose not to dispute their reasoning. In any case, they are currently trading at a premium to par.
  • edited April 18
    @BaluBalu, for TIPS in the secondary market, Fido Schwab also asks to give them call (no online order entry). But it is OK to enter online order for TIPS at Auctions. May be the same to buy 2-yr FRNs (next FRN Auction on 4/27/22). https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/221/Tentative-Auction-Schedule.pdf
  • edited April 18
    No, the rep said FRNs even at auction have to be through the fixed income desk rep. I said to the rep that I will likely place online order for the next week auction and asked him how much time / days (between the announcement date and auction date) is allowed to place an order and he said he will have to help me with that as well. This may be a Fidelity feature. I asked him if I need to have money in my account when my order is placed and he said No and that it needs to be there on the issue date, which is also the settlement date. I did not question him because I figured if I did not add money to my account, they can always liquidate my allotment and charge my account for the loss, if any. Or may be they just give the allotment to the next bidder because there have always been more bids for the Treasuries than offered at auction. That would result in a very disruptive process and I can not imagine they would allow that. I will call another rep tomorrow to see if I get the same answers. I will participate in one auction just to learn the process but otherwise, I will just buy Bills / Notes in the secondary market - I like doing things online myself, rather than rely on others to do things for me.
  • @BaluBalu, I will fix my previous post - that was for Schwab, not Fido.

    I just checked my Fido a/c and it does allow me to enter TIPS order at Auction (but I didn't go through with that).

    Note that orders for Treasury Auctions can only be placed AFTER their Treasury announcements, and that for 2-yr FRN will be on 4/21/22 morning (around 11am Eastern). Check your Fido account then to see what it allows for 4/27/22 Auction.
  • edited April 18
    The rep said he will call me after 12 noon EST on 4/21 to discuss the announcement and placing the order for me because there is no way for me to place the order myself. Per your suggestion, I marked my calendar to check Fidelity (and Schwab) website.

    BTW, Fidelity allows online orders for TIPs in the secondary.
  • edited April 21
    @BaluBalu, 2-yr FRN Announcement is out. Try online orders at Fido and/or Schwab now.
    https://www.treasurydirect.gov/instit/annceresult/press/preanre/2022/A_20220421_5.pdf

    Edit/Add: I don't see them listed yet at either place. I won't be at my PC for a while.
    Edit/Add2: I see 2-yr FRN listed at Schwab. Can buy online. Fido not updated yet. Now I have to go now.
  • edited April 21
    Fidelity has all the new issues announced listed, except the FRNs. That is consistent with what their rep had said.
  • Just an FYI -

    As we have discussed more than iBonds in this thread, those going to TreasuryDirect.gov are better off starting at the Research center sub tab within the Individual tab.

    https://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/research.htm

    It may not be easy to access information applicable to all products when one is already within a specific product subtab.
  • edited April 21
    Glad some found this thread useful - even if in unintended ways. As it no longer pertains to my original question, I will no longer be monitoring it.

    Thanks to all who shared their ideas re the original question.
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