5 crafty ways to spy on your bank

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You can access a bank's financial filings online at the Securities and Exchange Commission's website, and you can also get a lot of the financial basics through Google Finance.

"The good news is that there's a lot of information out there," says Platt. "Unfortunately, very little of that information is going to be useful in terms of gauging the health of your bank, because the bad news usually comes out after the event."

If you have a sophisticated background in finance or accounting and have the time, Platt says it might be worthwhile to pick apart the balance sheet for clues. But according to Platt, a better option for most consumers is to look at the executive compensation.

"Banks all make their money in pretty much the same way," he says. "When you see salaries that are way out of line, that's a good indication that the management team might not have the right long-term priorities."

Another quick indicator is owner equity as a percentage of total liabilities. "The greater the percentage, the better," says Platt, "because it means that they've made money and been stable over the long run."




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