July 15, 2024

Bucks: Shift in Treasuries System Vexes Older Investors

Pauline Gordon wants to know where her savings are.

Mrs. Gordon, an 85-year-old resident of Silver Spring, Md., was a satisfied, long-time user of the federal government’s old Legacy Treasury Direct system, which allowed users to buy Treasury bills and other securities by mail or phone and receive paper statements.

But the Bureau of the Public Debt, the Treasury arm that handles the sale and redemption of Treasury bills and other government securities, is phasing out the system and will shut it down on Nov. 1, 2012.

Paul Hosefros/The New York TimesA spokesperson for the Treasury Department says it is “overwhelmed” with requests.

Users must switch to the newer, Web-based TreasuryDirect system. Or they can arrange to buy Treasury bills, notes and bonds through a bank or broker. That’s what Mrs. Gordon tried to do.  “I’m 85 years old,” she explained in a phone interview. “I don’t get much involved with electronics, if I can avoid it.”

So when she received a letter about the change from the Treasury Department on March 30, she enlisted the help of her son, Robert.  He accompanied her to her bank and helped her get a signed affidavit, as required, authorizing the transfer of her securities to her broker. Then, they sent the paperwork to the Bureau of the Public Debt, which received the packet on April 27.

Four weeks later, the funds still hadn’t been transferred to her brokerage account. Another two weeks later, Robert Gordon called the information number given by the Treasury Department. “I left messages,” he said. “No one’s ever called me back.” When he did reach a person, he said, he was told the paperwork was received and was being processed.

Mr. Gordon knew his mother didn’t want to sell any of her securities — she is partial to Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities — but asked what would happen if she did decide she wanted to do so. He was told, he said, that she could sell them through the old Legacy Direct system. But she’s still worried. “The anxiety it’s causing her is considerable,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Gordon is fretting about what is happening with a large portion of her savings, and pesters her broker frequently about whether the funds have arrived.  “I’m very upset,” she said. “I can’t understand the government being so slow. There’s no reason for it. We filled everything out.”

Mckayla Braden,  a bureau spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the bureau was “overwhelmed” by requests from users of the old system and is working on processing them. “We were totally slammed,” she said. “Her request is not forgotten.”

Slightly more than 200,000 people are affected by the change, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt. Ms. Braden didn’t have information immediately available about how many users have switched to the new system. The problem is that most users of the older system are elderly — their average age is 75, and many are over 80. Many, like Mrs. Gordon, lack computers, or the inclination to use one. They invest in Treasuries because they are very safe, and not knowing where there money is stressful to them.

Now, an update: On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Gordon called to say that after Bucks contacted the bureau, he and his mother received phone calls telling them that a portion of her securities would be transferred to her brokerage account on Thursday. The remainder, he was told, would be transferred at a later date, after pending interest posts. Mr. Gordon said he was grateful for the update, because if only some of the securities had been transferred without explanation, he and his mother would have been even more concerned. “People need to know that it might go in stages,” he said.

Are you trying to move your Treasury investments to an outside broker? Has the switch gone smoothly?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d61d6c16d51d6d344442b04ea03669bc

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