Nervous Investors Have Choices Other Than the Mattress With AM-Banks-New England, Bjt
BOSTON (AP) _ Nervous depositors who yanked their money out of Bank of New England and other financial institutions during recent banking upheavals have a variety of options for protecting it.
While popular choices include annuities, mutual funds and certificates of deposit, at least a few persons are stashing their savings into that old standby: the locked safe.
The 160-year-old Bank of New England had been teetering for months before federal regulators took it over on Sunday. Depositors withdrew millions of dollars from the bank over the weekend after hearing that heavy fourth-quarter losses might make the bank insolvent.
Since then, apparently reassured that services would continue without interruption, some customers simply put their money back in the bank.
″That’s a trend that began yesterday and continued today,″ New England Bank spokesman Jim Dorsey said Tuesday. ″The situation has stabilized.″
Other customers are casting around for alternatives.
For those who choose to invest, analysts sum up their recommendations in a word: Diversify.
″I tell my clients that I work hard, but I’m not clairvoyant,″ said Julie Donahue, an analyst with Baystate Financial Services in Boston.
Disclaimers aside, some investments are, by definition, less risky than others. Planners said more secure investments included certificates of deposit or mutual funds involving government securities, such as treasury bills, notes or bonds.
″They’re paying an excellent return and they’re safe,″ said Bruce Saenger, a professor of finance at Northeastern University.
Another option: Fixed deferred annuities sold by insurance companies. Like a CD, the annuities require an investment for a specified time period. Interest rates are slightly higher than for CDs, but they also require longer time periods.
Bill Mobilia of Wakefield, former president of the Greater Boston Association of Financial Planners, said one of his clients invested $300,000 in an annuity about nine years ago. The account is now worth nearly $900,000.
″It’s the only investment where he’s never lost a dime,″ Mobilia said.
Saenger also endorsed insurance annuities - to a point.
″Historically, insurance companies have been a great place to save money, very safe, very strong,″ he said. ″However, the insurance industry isn’t in the greatest financial shape, either. They invested heavily in real estate,″ the area blamed for BNE’s downfall.
His advice: ″As in choosing a bank, choose the insurance company carefully.″
To help with either selection, several analysts recommended Veribanc, a Wakefield-based research firm that rates banks, credit unions and insurance companies nationwide.
The nine-year-old company provides ″reports in plain English″ for individuals, corporations, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and government officials, said spokeswoman Kitty Heller. Reports range from $10 for an ″instant rating″ on one institution to $400 for a nationwide ratings list.
Saenger said people who once retained large checking accounts - ″say $5,000 to $10,000 more than they use to pay their monthly bills″ - should consider money markets.
″They’re safe, they’re reliable, they have an excellent return,″ he said. ″And most have check-writing privileges.″
Stashing money in European banks has become more popular with the proliferation of communication technology, which keeps Americans in closer contact with funds overseas.
″I have money in the Bank of Scotland myself,″ Mobilia said.
For those more willing to gamble, there are mutual funds and stocks.
″If you’re a speculative investor, the stock market is an excellent place to be right now,″ Saenger said. ″But you should only spend what you can afford to lose.″
Generally, planners don’t recommend plunging all your money into jewelry, precious metals, rare coins and stamps or other collectors’ items. ″They’re fine - for people who know what they’re doing,″ Saenger said.
Some people aren’t interested in any of those options. They want their money where they can see it anytime they want.
Mancini Safe in Cambridge reports a brisk business in people perusing the vaults and safes ranging from $150 to $15,000. ″You’re finding people who say, ’If the bank can fail, I’d better get a safe,‴ said president Bill Mancini.
Harry J. Stoia, president of Boston Lock & Safe, says sales increased 20 to 25 percent over the last few weeks. He attributes the surge to the closing of the Capital Bank in Boston and the temporary shutdown of 45 credit unions in Rhode Island as well as the BNE takeover.
″People are taking $50,000, $75,000 and $100,000 out of their accounts,″ he said. ″They won’t put it in another bank.″