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AP IMPACT: Families Hoard Cash 5 Yrs After Crisis

"Lehman changed everything," says Arne Holzhausen, a senior economist at global insurer Allianz, based in Munich. "It's safety, safety, safety."

The AP analyzed data showing what consumers did with their money in the five years before the Great Recession began in December 2007 and in the five years that followed, through the end of 2012. The focus was on the world's 10 biggest economies â¿¿ the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Russia, Italy and India â¿¿ which have half the world's population and 65 percent of global gross domestic product.

Key findings:

â¿¿ RETREAT FROM STOCKS: A desire for safety drove people to dump stocks, even as prices rocketed from crisis lows in early 2009, and put their money into bonds. Investors in the top 10 countries pulled $1.1 trillion from stock mutual funds in the five years after the crisis, or 10 percent of what they had invested at the start of that period, according to Lipper Inc., which tracks funds.

They put even more money into bond mutual funds â¿¿ $1.3 trillion â¿¿ even as interest payments on bonds plunged to record lows.

â¿¿ SHUNNING DEBT: Household debt surged at an unprecedented rate in the five years before the financial crisis. In the U.S., the U.K. and France, it soared more than 50 percent per adult, according to Credit Suisse. For all 10 countries, it jumped 34 percent. Then the financial crisis hit, and people slammed the brakes on borrowing. Debt per adult in the 10 countries fell 1 percent in the 4 years after 2007. Economists say debt hasn't fallen in sync like that since the end of World War II. People chose to shed debt even as lenders slashed rates on loans to record lows. In normal times, that would have triggered an avalanche of borrowing.

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