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Getting to Know the FDIC

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You may have heard that the banking industry isn't looking so hot right now. If your bank goes under, just how much do you stand to lose personally, though? You probably know that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation protects your money, but how much and through what avenues? Let's take a look at the FDIC:

Don't panic. While we may sneer at the major missteps our contemporary bankers have been making, things were much, much worse in the 19th century. The whole notion of banking as we know it is based upon what's known as a fractional reserve system. This means that when you deposit your cash at a bank, the bank doesn't simply stick it in a safe until you come back to ask for it. Instead, they take some of your dough and buy securities and make loans. The bank holds only a fraction of its deposits in reserve, and the economy grows because banks can effectively use the unreserved fraction to "create" new money. It's a supremely effective system. That is, unless everyone tries to get their cash out at once, in which case the bank wouldn't have enough money to pay all of its depositors.

bank-run.jpgThese scenarios popped up from time to time throughout the 19th century. Depositors would start to worry that their bank might become insolvent, so they'd go pull out their money. As more and more people did this, the bank actually got closer and closer to insolvency, so there was an ever-stronger incentive for all depositors to get their cash back, which would effectively crash the bank.

Problems like these persisted into the 20th century, and like a lot of financial woes, peaked in 1933 when over 4,000 banks collapsed. With such systemic bank failure, people didn't want to put their money in banks, and the government needed to intervene somehow to restore faith. Congress did so by passing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which created the FDIC to insure individual deposits up to $10,000. The FDIC would fund such guarantees by collecting premiums from banks. Although bankers weren't too hot on the idea of bailing each other out of hot water, the FDIC soon counted most of the country's banks among its members.

So what's the limit now? The FDIC's ceiling for insuring accounts at member institutions has gradually grown from the original $10,000. As of 1980, each account was taken care of up to $100,000, and following our latest rocky economic times the limit's been temporarily bumped up to $250,000 per account.

What exactly is insured? As of right now, you're covered for up to $250,000 on your deposit accounts at member banks. This means that your checking account, savings account, money market deposit accounts, and certificates of deposit are all safe up to $250,000 total. You should know that it's cumulative, though, not per account; if you've got $200,000 in a checking account and $100,000 in a savings account, only $250,000 of your cash is totally insured. If you've got accounts at separate banks, each one is insured for up to $250,000; if you've got $250,000 in a checking account at Chase and $250,000 in a checking account at Citi, both are completely covered. (You might want to spend some of that dough to hire someone who can help you manage your money a little better, though; that's a lot of cash to have in checking accounts.)

On top of that, if you have deposits in various categories of accounts, they can be insured separately, so things like your IRAs are also taken care of up to $250,000.

So what isn't insured? Everything else. Your stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, Treasury securities, and life insurance policies aren't covered, even if you bought them from an FDIC-insured bank.

Also, the stuff in your safe deposit box isn't covered since it's not a "deposit" in the standard sense of the word. Usually when a bank goes under another swoops in to take it over, though, and then the acquiring bank will hang onto your stuff for you. In the event that another bank doesn't take acquired the failed bank, the FDIC will send you instructions for how to clean out your box. The federal government really has little interest in absconding with the passport you left there for safekeeping.

Can I outsmart the FDIC's limits? At a single bank? No. You can't circumvent the caps by including your middle initial in your banking records or changing the "and" to an "or" in the joint account you share with your spouse. If you need coverage above and beyond the current $250,000 cap in any category of account, you'll have to open up an account at a separate bank.

indymacfront.jpgWhat happens to whatever deposits I had over the cap? Don't worry; you probably won't lose all of it. The FDIC continues to insure beyond the caps; it's just not 100% dollar-for-dollar coverage. For instance, when IndyMac Bank failed earlier this summer, roughly 5% of its $19 billion in deposits was over the limit. The FDIC paid depositors for 50% of their uninsured funds.

However, the FDIC doesn't work just like a regular insurance company; it actively tries to get another bank to take over failed institutions. In these cases, the purchasing institution takes over the failed banks' liabilities (like your deposits) and also gets some of the bank's assets (like outstanding loans). In this case, the depositors can end up getting more of their uninsured cash back. A story that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle last weekend said that in recent years depositors in failed banks have gotten around 72% of their uninsured funds back. Sure, losing that 28% hurts, but as anyone who had money in a failed pre-FDIC bank could have told you, it's a lot better than taking a 100% hit.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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