Ways of investigating bank safety

Know whether your 129 bank is in trouble.

A: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) provides insurance for depositors and is one of the principal regulators that oversees banks. However, the FDIC reports on problem or troubled banks in the aggregate, not individually. By accessing http://www.fdic.gov, you can find individual enforcement decisions and orders, which often are a sign of trouble. The FDIC also maintains a call center (877-275-3342) that answers general questions about banks and insurance coverage issues.

The World Wide Web lists many fee-based services advertising lists of troubled institutions and "quality rankings" of institutions, but be careful about the validity of purchased information. You can find much of the same information for free at http://www.bankrate.com. Remember that information needs to be timely. Lists or rankings that are not current should be discounted.

Send your money management questions to medec@advanstar.com (please include your regular postal address). Answers to our readers' questions were provided by Steven Austin, executive vice president of Commerce Bank in Tulsa, Oklahoma.