This is a guest post by wowOwow, via Divine Caroline.com
The dramatic events on Wall Street are making us on Main Street nervous about the safety of our money. Is my savings account safe? What about my investment accounts? What about my IRA account? Who administers my 401-K? And what about my annuity with AIG? Or my life-insurance plan with one of the other insurance companies?
In other words, “Is my money safe?”
Consumers need to take control and find out if their money is safe. Here are a few tips on what you can do in these tumultuous financial times to educate yourself:
Check to see whether your bank or savings association is FIDC-insured by calling 877-275-3342 or using the agency’s online Bank Find tool. Small businesses, in particular, which often keep large deposits in banks, should check to see if their deposits are above the insurance limits.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), an independent agency of the U.S. government that protects depositors against the loss of their insured deposits if an FDIC-insured bank or savings association fails, offers information on your insured deposits. You can also read the FDIC insurance basics here.
If your money at one FDIC-insured bank or savings association totals $250,000 or less, your deposits are fully insured. Someone can have more than $250,000 at one insured bank or savings association and still be fully insured provided the accounts meet certain requirements.
If your deposits exceed the insurance limits, spread your money around to a few different banks. You may also want to open accounts in the names of different family members.
You can use the FDIC’s Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service, or CDARS, which splits deposits into chunks under the $250,000 insurance limit and funnels the money out to 2,000 banks in the network. Only banks considered “well capitalized” by the FDIC are included.
Both the bankrupt Lehman Brothers and the just-acquired Merrill Lynch are brokerage firms. What happens to your money when your investment house is in trouble? Visit the Web site of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which maintains a special reserve fund authorized by Congress to help investors at failed brokerage firms. The SIPC has an Investor’s Guide to Brokerage Firm Liquidations: What You Need to Know … and Do.
Check if your broker is an SIPC member. Nearly all brokerages are but if yours isn’t, consider moving to a more-established firm. Make sure your advisers are working with SIPC members, too.
Lehman Brothers participates in the SIPC. The SIPC’s Web site says it protects “the cash and securities—such as stocks and bonds—held by a customer at a financially troubled brokerage firm.”
Is my insurance money safe? What about my annuity and life insurance policy? Insurance companies are insured by the individual state where the policy was written, so there are fifty different answers to this question. Every state now offers at least $100,000 in cash for annuities and $300,000 in death benefits. In the event a consumer has a larger policy than the state guarantees, they become a creditor for the difference. The National Conference of Insurance Guaranty Funds has a Web site with information on these rules. You can also search “name of your state insurance guaranty.”
Question: Where’s your money? How safe are your assets?