Free Pizza a Draw
By Jan Ehrman
On the Front Page...
It happens every spring. The crack of the bat. The quest to finish your taxes by Apr. 15. And, on a more chipper note, the kickoff for the NIH U.S. Savings Bonds Program. This year's ceremony, the first ever deliberately held indoors, took place May 11 in Wilson Hall before a spirited assembly of coordinators, canvassers and officials.
Sheltered from overcast skies and a waterlogged campus, attendees were treated to the jazz music of the Questet Quartet, free pizza, and a visit from the treasurer of the United States, Mary Ellen Withrow. In addition, they heard why savings bonds continue to be an easy, excellent way to save for the future or, as the drive's current theme suggests, "Invest Today -- Enjoy Tomorrow."
U.S. Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow
This year's campaign is sponsored by the National Human Genome Research Institute. Its director, Dr. Francis Collins, told the audience, "The research that we (at NHGRI) are doing today is an investment that involves a lot of long-term planning. Buying savings bonds is not as complex as unraveling the human genome, but it also takes a lot of long-term planning."
Photos: Bill Branson
Savings bonds have long been attractive to federal employees for a number of reasons. First, many rely on bonds as a means of "forced savings." Payments can be taken automatically from earnings, making it a relatively "pain free," surefire way to save. Another major attraction is their low risk. "There is no safer investment available. Bonds have higher interest rates than savings accounts or money market accounts -- and for the investor, they are easily accessible. If needed, you can cash them within 6 months," explained Steve Ficca, NIH associate director for research services. (There is, however, a 3-month interest penalty if you cash in your bonds before 5 years). Also, if the bonds are stolen, lost or destroyed, they can be replaced. In addition, the interest earned on Series EE bonds is exempt from state and local income tax until you redeem the bonds or they stop earning interest after 30 years.
The visit from Treasurer Withrow, who is also the national honorary director of the U.S. Savings Bonds program, was a special attraction. Just back from a trip to Puerto Rico in which she marketed savings bonds, she said, "There are 186 billion savings bond dollars held by 55 million Americans. They are so safe and secure. The full faith and credit of the American government are behind these bonds."
The treasurer believes that savings bonds should be an important part of everyone's investment package. Reemphasizing their tax exempt status, Withrow said that bonds are an ideal investment tool for education. "And again," she pointed out, "you never have to worry about losing money on savings bonds. Meanwhile, every morning when you wake up you own a little more of America."
Savings bond rates change every 6 months, with the last change taking place May 1. Rates are based on market yields of actively traded Treasury notes and bonds. Series EE bonds are currently paying 5.6 percent.
Employees who sign up for the popular payroll savings plan will be eligible for raffle drawings to be held on July 8. Included in the drawings will be several $100 savings bonds. To sign up, or for more information on savings bonds, see your bond canvasser.
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