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Florida banks may be dangerous to your money's health

By Dian Vujovich

There are so many things to love about Florida— the sun, the sea and no need for mittens or snow shovels. But there’s a lot to not be so crazy about, too. One of those not-so-hot’s is the number of banks that have recently closed in the state. It’s staggering and nothing to brag about.

According to MoneyRates.com, over half of the 157 banks that failed last year, more than half — 89 to be exact — occurred in five states. And you’ve guessed it, Florida was one of them.

Richard Barrington, personal finance expert for MoneyRates.com, says, “The financial crisis has been generally seen as a national problem, but the fact is that bank failures have been highly concentrated in a few states. This means bank customers in some states have been virtually untouched by the crisis, while people in other states have seen a series of local banks go belly up.”

In 2010, Florida ranked second when looking at the percentage of bank failures right after Washington state. And the Sunshine State took top billing in MoneyRates.com’s listing of the most dangerous states for banking based upon failure rates. Some of the reasons for the shortcomings? Mismanagement, our high unemployment rate and miserable real estate market.

Here’s the order of states with the most failed banks in 2010:

1. Florida, 29 failures

2. Georgia, 21 failures

3. Illinois, 16 failures

4. California, 13 failures

5. Washington, 10 failures

The good news is you don’t have to do your banking business at crappy institutions. Nationally, only two percent of banks failed last year. So, instead of trusting just any old bank on any old corner in your neighborhood, do your homework.

Local newspapers often present an annual survey of banking institutions in their area ranking and rating them, as do national publications such as Forbes. A Google search seeking the best banks in the state can yield plenty, and, while educating yourself don’t overlook credit unions. There are a number of them around that might be a better fit for your banking needs than that building on the corner.

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