I have started a college savings plan for my grandchildren, and the way that I fund it is to buy a $100 Series EE savings bond for each of my five grandchildren every month. I have been doing that since my oldest grandson, Boone, was just a few months old - so he has over twelve years' worth piled up waiting to be turned into books, tuition, or dorm rent.
Buying these bonds has been a very simple process. My hometown bank would automatically make the purchases out of my checking account on a monthly basis, and the Feds would send me the bonds. It was a good system that worked very smoothly, so, of course the government had to screw it up. (What would be the point in maintaining something that actually worked!)
Beginning January 1st of this year, banks were no longer allowed to sell savings bonds. Now if a person wants to invest some of their hard-earned money in paying off the national debt through the purchase of savings bonds, they must do it electronically over the Internet. That might work if the government had the sales and technological smarts of a private business, say Amazon.com or any other business that actually cares about turning a profit. Sadly, however, the federal government has no interest in making anything user-friendly or even accessible.
I spent most of the day yesterday figuring out how to register at www.TreasuryDirect.gov, the place where one now has to go to purchase savings bonds. I finally got registered (I think), and then spent the remainder of the day trying to figure out how to buy savings bonds at the site. I finally had to throw in the towel. Today I wrote to Senator McCaskill and asked that she have a member of her staff see if they figure out how to navigate the site.
Here I sit with five college degrees and am unable to purchase the bonds issued by my government, bonds designed to promote citizen involvement in our nation's finances and to help reduce the national debt. If I can't figure out the confusing and cumbersome system, how many others are also struggling with the same problem? How much money is this bureaucratic "simplification" costing our government each day? Each year?
If Senator McCaskill can't help me resolve this issue, I am going to look into investing in Canadian savings bonds. Somehow I doubt that the Canucks are as anal as the ego-maniacal functionaries of my own government.