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TheStreet Open House

AP IMPACT: Families Hoard Cash 5 Yrs After Crisis

"My brokers said they were really safe, but they weren't," says Stonecipher, 59, a substitute school teacher.

Americans sold the most in the five years after the crisis â¿¿ $521 billion, or 9 percent of their mutual fund holdings, according to Lipper. But investors in other countries sold a larger share of their holdings: Germans dumped 13 percent; Italians and French, more than 16 percent each.

The French are "not very oriented to risk," says Cyril Blesson, an economist at Pair Conseil, an investment consultancy in Paris. "Now, it's even worse."

It's gotten worse in China, Russia and the U.K., too.

Fu Lili, 31, a psychologist in Fu Xin, a city in northeastern China, says she made 20,000 yuan ($3,267) buying and selling stocks before the crisis, more than 10 times her monthly salary then. But she won't touch them now, because she's too scared.

In Moscow, Yuri Shcherbanin, 32, a manager for an oil company, says the crash proved stocks were dangerous and he should content himself with money in the bank.

In London, Pavlina Samson, 39, owner of a jewelry and clothes shop, says stocks are too "risky." What's also driving her away may be something that runs deeper: "People feel like they're being ripped off everywhere," she says.

Holzhausen, the Allianz economist, says the crisis taught people not to trust others with their money. "People want to get as much distance as possible from the financial system," he says.

The crisis also taught them about the dangers of debt.

After the crisis hit, Jerry and Madeleine Bosco of Tujunga, Calif., found themselves facing $30,000 in credit card bills with no easy way to pay the debt off. So they sold stocks, threw most of their cards in the trash, and stopped eating out and taking vacations.

Today, most of the debt is gone, but the lusher life of the boom years is a distant memory. "We had credit cards and we didn't worry about a thing," says Madeleine, 55.

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