With the economy slump and recent bank failures, Americans are wondering if their money is safe. Kelli Grant, Sr. Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, has some tips for ensuring your cash stays put.
First, be sure your bank is insured. Grant suggests visiting the FDIC's website - www.FDIC.gov - and scanning their database to see if your bank is covered. If you use a credit union, visit the National Credit Union Administration at www.NCUA.gov to see if it's insured. If your bank is covered, then your money is generally going to be okay.
Also, tally up your bank's individual coverage. "The FDIC covers an individual's combined account balances at a given institution up to a set amount," says Grant. Checking accounts, savings accounts and CDs are insured up to $100,000.00. Retirement accounts are generally covered up to $250,000.00. "If you're above the limit, consider moving some of your assets to a different bank," says Grant.
Once you know your money is covered, assess your bank's risk. How likely is it that your bank will go under? "A very simple way to do it is to go to www.BankRate.com," says Grant. "They have a tool called their Save and Sound tool that assesses the likelihood that a bank is going to go under." If your bank doesn't measure up, take action and move your money to another institution.
Also, keep your investments liquid. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates sometime soon, so "now isn't the time to be locking away a lot of your money in a fixed rate CD," says Grant. Instead, look into high yield savings accounts. You'll have better access to your money in case of an emergency, and you may actually get a better interest rate.
You can also look into an online only savings account. Many times, online savings accounts will give you a higher interest rate than a brick and mortar institution. They can be linked to any normal checking account. Because these online accounts are linked to actual banks, Grant says they are just as safe as managing your savings account from a bank branch.
For more information on keeping your accounts safe, as well as additional financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Petrun
Copyright 2008 CBS. All rights reserved.