May 5, 2023 - Economy

About half of Americans are worried about their bank deposits, per Gallup

Share who say they're worried about the safety of their money in banks
Data: Gallup; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Nearly half of Americans say they're worried about the safety of the money they have in the bank, a level of anxiety last seen during the financial crisis in 2008, per a Gallup survey out Thursday.

Why it matters: Though most of these folks likely have their money in FDIC-protected bank accounts — where it's safe — the survey results are a sign of diminishing confidence in the finance system, magnified by weeks of relentlessly grim headlines.

  • The banking system is built on trust. "Without trust, there is no banking system," said Aaron Klein, a senior fellow at Brookings.

What they found: The Gallup survey was conducted from April 3-25, after the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. News about First Republic's failure "came after the poll was completed," Gallup said.

  • 48% of respondents said they were either very worried or moderately worried about the safety of money deposited in banks and other financial institutions.
  • In September 2008, 45% said they were very or moderately worried.

Between the lines: Gallup hasn't done this survey during non-crisis times. The report notes that worries about bank deposits did drop in December 2008 from September 2008, when Lehman Brothers failed and tanked the markets.

  • They conclude these high levels of worry about deposits are not the norm for Americans.

Details: Republicans and Independents are more worried than Democrats — that's consistent with other polling that shows economic concerns deepen if your party is not in the White House.

  • Middle- and lower-income Americans were more apt to say they're worried than those respondents earning over $100,000.
  • Fifty-four percent of Americans without a college degree said they were very or moderately worried, compared to 36% of those with a college degree.
  • "Worry among these groups may be higher because they do not know about FDIC insurance, or it may be linked to their displeasure with the current presidential administration and the U.S. economic situation," Gallup notes.

Another issue: Lower-income Americans may have less trust in a system they feel often leaves them on the outs.

  • "Even though their money is safe, they get that the long run consequences of bank failures is bad for them," Klein said, noting that certain bank fees did rise after the '08 crisis, like overdraft fees.

The intrigue: Most everyone's money is safe. More than 99% of bank deposit accounts in the U.S. were under the $250,000 limit for FDIC insurance at the end of 2022, per a report from the agency last week.

  • That means even when a bank fails, you don't lose a dime. No FDIC-insured account has ever lost money since the inception of the insurance system nearly 90 years ago.

Worth noting: So far in this recent spate of bank failures, no depositor has lost money — including those with funds over the quarter-million dollar limit for FDIC insurance — that's a big difference from the financial crisis.

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