For investors in U.S. Savings Bonds - EE and I Bonds - the Savings Bond Wizard was an excellent tool for keeping an accurate inventory and tracking past and current values. But as of June 1, the U.S. Treasury discontinued the Wizard and replaced it with a Savings Bond Calculator, a tool that's a little less user friendly.
The Wizard - a free downloadable program offered by the Treasury - dates all the way back to the Windows 95 era, and it never really changed that 'early PC' look and feel. But it worked (pretty reliably), offering the ability to download updated data for all Savings Bonds.
Now it is gone. Users with the Savings Bond Wizard already installed can still open and view their inventory, but won't be able to update data beyond May 2018. The new tool - the Savings Bond Calculator - is browser-based and duplicates most of the Wizard's functions.
The good news is that all the data you entered into the Wizard can be exported into the new Calculator. It's a fairly simple transaction, but steps along the way can be confusing. So I'm going to offer a step-by-step guide to transitioning from the Wizard to the Calculator.
A last look at the Savings Bond Wizard
Here is a sample file I created with the Savings Bond Wizard, showing how the data are presented. This file is updated through May 2018, but now is closed from getting data from June. Important data include the bond type, original investment, issue date, etc. But you can also see the interest accrued, current value, current interest rate, cumulative historic yield and the final maturity date.
In the Serial Number column, I placed notes showing information about the Savings Bond. Ownership information (Jack or Jill, since couples often have two accounts), plus the fixed rate for each I Bond. The fixed-rate information is crucial when you go to redeem an I Bond at TreasuryDirect. Finding a specific I Bond can be difficult, but this tool gives you the issue date, and that's how TreasuryDirect lists your holdings.
The Wizard places an NE notation for Savings Bonds that haven't yet been held for 1 year and therefore can't be redeemed and a P5 notation for I Bonds not yet held for five years and subject to a three-month interest penalty if redeemed.
At this point, you should make sure your bond listing is up to date, because you are about to stop using the Wizard, forever.
Exporting data out of the Savings Bond Wizard
With the Savings Bond Wizard still open, click on File > Export and save your current data as an *.htm file. Make sure to save this file to a place you can find it later, such as your computer desktop or your main investment folder.
Moving data into the Savings Bond Calculator
Find the .htm file you saved and double-click on it. Here is the process for what happens next:
Adding bonds to your inventory
This process works exactly like it did in the Savings Bond Wizard, a bit clunky. It pays to do this carefully and double check your work. From the main page of the Savings Bond Calculator:
In this example, I captured myself trying to enter a $10,000 I Bond into the Calculator. That would not work in the old Wizard and it won't work in the Calculator, either. For some reason, the Treasury still believes I Bond purchases are limited to $5,000 a year, and will only let you enter $5,000 at a time. So you have to enter $5,000 twice to reflect a $10,000 purchase.
The same is true for EE Bonds, but it's a little more tricky. If you enter a $10,000 denomination for an EE Bond, the Calculator converts that to a $5,000 issue price because the denomination equals the EE Bond's full value in 20 years. So if you just bought $10,000 in EE Bonds, you'd need to enter two $10,000 denomination transactions. The calculator will list the issue price and current value for each correctly as $5,000.
When you hit enter, the bond is immediately added to your inventory. There is no confirmation screen. So be careful when you take this step.
If you make an error - or redeem a bond and you want to remove it - just click on the 'REMOVE' button on the right hand side of the main-page listing.
Saving your updated Calculator file
This step is also a little tricky, and is complicated because every Web browser has different ways of saving files. Treasury Direct has a nice rundown of instructions for widely used browsers. Be aware, however, that Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge are listed as 'not compatible.' Here are the basic steps:
You probably want to change that file name to something more meaningful and make sure to save it to a place you can find it later. One possibility would be to name it 'June 2018 Savings Bonds' ... but make sure to save the file as HTML ONLY. Some browsers will try to save the entire web page - photos and all - and you don't want that.
The Calculator directs you to the printer-friendly page to save, which is basic HTML. It should save cleanly.
Returning to this file in the future
I called my file 'Sample Test File2' and when I double click on it, it sends me to the printable list of my bonds. At this point, I am viewing the file on my computer and nothing has updated. I need to click on the 'RETURN TO SAVINGS BOND CALCULATOR BUTTON' to actually enter TreasuryDirect.
A couple of final notes: I noticed that the Calculator eliminated the 'Yield' field, which showed the historic composite yield of the bond since it was issued. I think this number may have confused a lot of users - I've gotten a lot of questions about it over the years. So the Treasury ditched it.
Also, during the entire process of writing this article, I never logged into TreasuryDirect. The Calculator is not behind a login wall, which makes it very easy to use. Does that raise security concerns? I'd say the concerns are minimal but others might find this troublesome.
At any rate, I would NOT enter the actual serial number into that column. I think very few people use that column for that purpose, anyway. The other information is fairly generic.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.