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TheStreet Open House

AP IMPACT: Families Hoard Cash 5 Yrs After Crisis

But this time was different. In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average rocketed 118 percent over the next four years and reached a record high in March. In Germany, the DAX Index soared 116 percent and hit a record in May. In the U.K., the FTSE 100 index rose 85 percent. Yet small investors mostly sold during that period, an extraordinary vote of no confidence.

Americans pulled the most money out over five years â¿¿ $521 billion from stock mutual funds, or 9 percent of their holdings, according to Lipper. But investors in other countries sold an even 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, Japan and the United Kingdom, too.

Fu Lili, 31, a psychologist in Fu Xin, a city in northeastern China, says she made about 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.

Hirokazu Suyama, 26, a musician in Tokyo, dismisses stock investing as "gambling."

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 people are shunning stocks for the same reason they're shunning other investments that involve risk â¿¿ less a cold calculation of whether the price is right and more a mistrust of nearly everything financial.

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