First, you should be sure that your 'safe money' is in a safe place. One of the most powerful safeguards is insurance backed by the US government. For banks, you’ll want FDIC insurance. Credit unions use NCUSIF insurance.
Make sure that you understand limitations on these programs. Y can still lose money if you have too much in one institution.
- How FDIC Insurance Works
- How NCUSIF Insurance Works
- Is My Account Safe? (Banks, Credit Unions, Brokers, and Retirement Plans)
If you want to avoid bank failures, you can try to avoid weak banks. To identify weak banks, check rating services to see how your bank or credit union is rated. Some of the most useful free services include:
Read the News
If you have money at risk, you can also follow the news to see which banks might be close to failure. Of course, nobody knows what will happen ahead of time and you might be led astray. However, there was a lot of talk about Washington Mutual and Wachovia before they failed in 2008.
Note that if you are fully insured you can of course ignore the stories and leave your money where it is. Another bank will buy the assets and you'll be able to use your money without interruption in most cases. Participating in a bank run can help accelerate or cause a bank's failure, and it might just be a waste of your time.