Depositors Waiting It Out – For Now

Despite the stomach-churning drops on Wall Street and the bad news about failing financial institutions, ordinary investors do not appear to be streaming to banks and brokers in large numbers to pull their money.

Government regulators and financial experts have blanketed newspapers and television news shows with reassurances that most people’s money is safe, despite the weekend collapse of Lehman Bros., the sudden sale of Merrill Lynch and concerns about the future of Washington Mutual.

So far, it seems, the vast majority of depositors are watching from the sidelines, said Michael M. Heller, president of Veribanc, a national bank rating service. He said his company had seen an uptick in the number of calls and online visits as depositors checked their banks’ status, but no unusual increase in withdrawals.

While the economy is “scary,” said Sharon Baillargeon of Orrington, Maine, she’s not worried about her own assets.

“I’ve got the money invested, and what happens to it is just up to the economy,” Baillargeon said.

Likewise, Sue Benson of Bakersfield, Calif., is not yet ready to take drastic action, even though, she said, “the construction is down [and] the gas prices are up.”

There may not be enough money to cover everything, Benson said, but “life has to go on."

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