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BERKO: Is there a better way to buy and redeem U.S. Savings Bonds?


Dear Mr. Berko:

I’m 41 years old and I have 17 $1,000 U.S. Savings Bonds given to me over the years by my grandparents (who have passed away) to celebrate various milestones in my life like my 10th, 16th and 21st birthdays , high school and college graduation, my master’s degree, marriage and other events. Two of them have come due. So I took them to our bank, where we have our checking account, got our home mortgage, our car loans, our CDs, our credit cards, our IRAs and a business loan, and they insisted on charging a $25 fee for each redemption. I complained but paid the charges, telling the snippy bank officer that I was offended by the charge considering all the business we have given this bank. She told me that they and other banks no longer purchase savings bonds for customers and basically we could like it or lump it. Over the past dozen years, my husband and I have followed my grandparents’ tradition of giving savings bonds (in much smaller denominations) to family members who have reached milestones in their lives. Because we believe savings bonds are meaningful, less tacky than giving cash or buying a gift that will probably be returned, we would appreciate your recommendation of a bank, a thrift or credit union in our Fort Walton Beach area that can help us continue this tradition.

– W.S., Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Dear W.S.:

That $50 charge is perfidious and obscene. Today, many banks have morphed into armies of giant, marauding vampire bats that suck blood from the necks of depositors to nourish their balance sheets. And like service stations (an oxymoron) that charge their customers for water and air, it won’t be long before banksters install pay toilets to improve their bottom lines.

Savings bonds strike an emotional cord with me. I recall when Abbott & Costello, Judy Garland, Bugs Bunny, John Wayne, Mickey Rooney and Walter Cronkite encouraged millions of Americans to buy savings bonds at their neighborhood banks – and we did for more than 75 years. It was a solid comfort to hold those beautifully engraved pieces of art in your hands, running your fingers on the raised print. No more. But I enjoy my unique collection of U.S. Savings Bonds with various Walt Disney figures, some with Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, Schmoos and his comic book characters, and still others commemorating the U.S. exploration of outer space. Well, those Norman Rockwell days are gone, and last January, the purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds officially morphed into an “all electronic” platform. And what a bloody, bureaucratic mess it is, certainly designed by the same sexually repressed geek-heads who wrote the language for the health-care bill. It’s a bear to navigate the new system, and most grandparents, who purchase 80 percent of these bonds, will never get it. So we can wave goodbye to our U.S. Savings Bond program.

There’s an old saying: “if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And the corollary to that is: “If it ain’t broke, government bureaucrats will try to fix it.” If you purchase savings bonds online, you need to set up an account on the Treasury Department’s website, which requires an email address and the owner’s Social Security number and bank account information. It takes about an hour of almost infinite patience to complete the numerous fields, which are a little less complicated than Rubik’s Cube in 4-D. Once the bond is purchased, it’s placed in your electronic account. But if it’s a gift for a cousin, a son or a bride, you need their Social Security number and must open an electronic account for them too. Meanwhile, the site won’t accept checks or credit cards, so the funds are debited from your bank account, and a deduction error, which can sometimes be hugely in excess of your purchase, is a nightmare to correct.

I don’t know anyone in Fort Walton Beach who can help. But there are several enterprising companies that, for a fee, will complete transactions for you. The costs depend on the number of purchases, and they have a minimum fee of $75. However, I don’t trust strangers, even semi-strangers, with this personal financial information. So forget U.S. Savings Bonds and consider buying a $25 or $50 CD, though I suspect some banks may initiate processing fees on purchased CDs to cover their costs.

Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at mjberko@yahoo.com. To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM

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