flickr image by ace10414
Take a moment and cast your mind back to 1978. Jimmy Carter is in the White House; you can’t get away from the song Evergreen if you turn on the radio; Annie Hall has just won the Best Picture Oscar and suddenly women are wearing ties. Exciting times to be sure, and it was during this heady summer I turned twelve years old. Today kids this age are called tweens, and cell phone companies and clothing stores fall all over themselves in an attempt to market to these fickle consumers. But during the post-oil shock late seventies marketers and demographers left our age cohort alone. We were too old for train sets and Tinkertoys and too young for cars. And with no real money in our pockets, why would anyone bother trying to sell anything to us? It was in that desire vacuum I found myself that summer, and, it’s probably the reason I asked for the birthday gift I eventually received.
A United States savings bond.
When it came time to ask for a little something for my 12th birthday, I didn’t ask for a baseball glove, an electric football set, or even a new bicycle. Instead I went straight for a government debt instrument. And when I blew out the candles on that tasty birthday cake, there it was. Slipped into a clean white envelope lay my $25 Series E savings bond. Now all I had to do was wait five years and that $25 would be mine.
Fast forward three decades through a move to college, moves to several different apartments, a marriage, my own child sent off to college, and there it is. Nestled at the bottom of my bill basket, the clean white envelope yellowed with age, is that savings bond. For several years now, when I go through my paperwork and empty my bill basket, I often come across the bond and automatically toss it back in when I done paying my bills.
But this weekend was different. I don’t know what came over me, perhaps the simple desire to reduce clutter, but this weekend I finally took that bond into a bank to redeem it. I had thought redemption would be complicated and might involve a trip downtown to the Federal Reserve, but it turned out to be no more difficult than signing the bond over and providing my social security number. And, as I stood at the teller window wondering what I was going to spend that $25 dollars on, the miracle of compound interest occurred. For some reason I had thought savings bonds only matured to their face value. But no. After waiting over thirty years to enjoy this birthday gift, the teller asked me how I would like my $106.97. Shocked, it took me a moment to sputter out I’d like it in twenties. The transaction completed I walked out of the bank with a wry smile and a bit of a chuckle thinking about how long that bond had sat there silently earning interest for me over all those years.
Now the question is what to do with this windfall. I’ve got a baseball glove, and a car, and I’m not one for games. I do, however, have my eye on a bicycle.