Thursday, May 14, 2009


L. William Seidman, a former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, has just passed away at 88. He wasn't the chairman of the F.D.I.C. when I was a kid in the 1950s, but his passing makes me think about that Federal agency whose emblem I would see at every teller's window when my mother took me with her to the bank.

In those days, F.D.I.C. insured savings account depositors up to $10,000, a thoroughly astounding sum of money to me. And that was per account. The fact that someone might actually have two accounts (or more), each insured for up to $10,000, was outside the realm of my solar system. Out there beyond the planet Pluto. If there were people like that, I'm sure we didn't know them.

But there it was. Some kind of embedded notice on the counter where you put your transaction with the teller. When the winning shares for the World Series were announced after one of the Yankee victories and it was revealed that they would each receive more than $10,000 (but not $11,000) I was dumb-struck. Someone was actually going to get more money than the F.D.I.C. would insure in one account! (Taxes hadn't yet entered into my equations.)

That meant that Yogi Berra was going to be one of those people who needed two accounts! The fact that the loser of that World Series was going to get $8,000! was just as astounding to me. They were almost at the maximum--and they lost!

Now, a savings account certainly seems quaint. An insured passbook account that someone wrote entries in is also quaint. But looking for a guarantee certainly hasn't gone out of style.

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