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Is my money safe?

Until recently, most people felt somewhat confident in our financial services industry. But with the disappointing news of insurance companies going bad, banks failing or merging, and the stock market on a roller coaster ride, the public now wants to know, "So how safe is my money?"

Money at the bank
"It's more important than ever that customers understand the risk associated with where they place their funds," says Ashley Roberts, private banking officer with Republic Bank in Kentucky. The best way to be certain about your funds is "with the backing of the United States government in the form of FDIC insurance," Roberts explains. Though most are familiar with FDIC, coverage can be somewhat confusing depending on how your bank accounts are titled. Currently, the basic coverage limits are $250,000 per owner, per participating bank. To see if your accounts are fully covered, go online to www.fdic.gov and use EDIE, an online coverage estimator. You can also call toll-free (877) ASK-FDIC.

Money under the mattress
Under the mattress, in the cookie jar, buried outside, or in the freezer might feel like a comfortable place to keep your money, but there are too many "what could go wrong" variables, making this the least safe option of all. For one, the money you keep at your home is not insured. It could also be lost, stolen, or easily accessible for spending. While it's appropriate to keep some cash on hand, large sums of money are most suitable in a bank environment with tight security and monitoring.

Money in investment accounts
While there is nothing equivalent to FDIC insurance for investment accounts, many brokerage firms are members of SIPC, or the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, www.sipc.org. "SIPC does not cover individuals who are sold worthless stocks and other securities. SIPC helps individuals whose money, stocks, and other securities are stolen by a broker or put at risk when a brokerage firm fails for other reasons." In other words, it does not guarantee your account won't lose value, but rather that it will step in should your broker or brokerage firm fail.
 

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