Business owners and the public in general remain confused by conflicting reports concerning what they should do to protect themselves financially during the final months of the 20th century and into the new millennium—of if they need to do anything at all. Here are some of the questions most commonly asked of the state Department of Financial Institutions and the answers the Department gives:

Will my money still be in my account after Jan. 1, 2000?

The question really should be, Where is the safest place to put your money? By pulling your money out of the bank, you risk misplacing it or, even worse, losing it to theft or armed robbery.

So, which is riskier, keeping your money in the bank or taking it out and protecting it yourself?

The most prudent course probably would be to leave your money in the bank but maintain accurate records of your deposits and withdrawals.

Keep your bank statements a few months before Jan. 1 and beyond. This isn’t just good advice for the millennium, however, it’s something you should do all the time anyway.

Are small institutions in greater danger of having Y2K problems than larger ones?

Regardless of size, financial institutions in the state are subject to the same compliance standards concerning Y2K. All have been reviewed by either federal or state authorities or both.

It is true that larger institutions can devote greater resources to solving the problem. But it also is true that larger institutions have more complex systems. To the extent that large institutions have a resource advantage over small institutions, small institutions may have the advantage of having simpler systems or may rely on a sophisticated service that is similar to those of the large banks.

Are credit unions in greater danger than banks?

All financial institutions are under the same Y2K compliance standards. At its most basic, deposit gathering and lending is a generic function performed by all financial institutions. Based on our exam process to date, we see no material distinctions between banks and credit unions in terms of Year 2000 compliance.

Will Y2K affect the insurance on my accounts?

Except for a few very limited circumstances, deposits in a bank, thrift or credit union in the state are federally insured. Y2K issues do not change that status. In the unlikely event that a financial institution fails as a result of Y2K, deposit accounts are insured up to $100,000 in accordance with the federal insurer’s rules.

For more details regarding the federal insurance of deposits, contact your financial institution. It has available brochures regarding deposit insurance coverage.

Will my financial institution have plans to handle Y2K related disruptions?

All financial institutions should have such plans. Ask your financial institution for a summary of its plan—but be sure to ask the appropriate person. If the person you ask is not aware of the institution’s plans, ask to be directed to someone who can answer your concerns.

And carefully read all statement stuffers and brochures provided by the institution regarding Y2K preparedness.

Will I need extra cash in case there are banking or ATM problems?

Ask yourself what you plan to do with the cash. If you plan to purchase food, fuel and other goods, it is more prudent to plan ahead and purchase those over the next two months, well before the millennium date change. This will reduce your need for cash during the remainder of winter and into the spring.

If you plan to purchase services or replenish stocks you already have on hand, then it is a good idea to have a little extra cash. It is better to withdraw small amounts of cash over time rather than waiting until the last minute to do it.

How much money should I have on hand?

The more you are able to plan and prepare for possible disruptions, the less cash you will need on hand. The less cash you have on hand, the lower is your risk to theft or armed robbery.

There’s no way for an outsider to suggest a set dollar amount that will cover everything you need. You must come up with your own answer to that question.

However, some observers have suggested that cash isn’t as important as the items that cash may purchase. If you have those items, you don’t need as much cash on hand.

What steps can I take to make sure my financial records provide the best possible protection against Y2K?

It is always a good idea to reconcile your bank account each month. The Y2K issue simply reminds us of this fact of life.

Get in the habit of reconciling your bank account each month starting now. Keep all deposit receipts, credit card and debit receipts and evidence of checking transactions such as a receipt with the check number displayed on the receipt.

What should I do if I encounter problems with my account as a result of Y2K?

If you have kept good financial records, you should be able to reconcile your account with the bank with minimum disruption.