Re: Y2K-Plan of action..
Mon, 15 Feb 1999 12:19:22 -0800 wrote:
> Brent Allsop [] wrote:
> >Could this really cause such a collapse?
> Yes. I don't know what the average salary is these days, but as I said
> before, *after* they've printed all that extra cash, assuming none of it
> goes offshore as most dollars have in the past, there will be about $800
> per person available. That's it. Either they can start printing even
> larger amounts of money and risk hyperinflation, or they have to stop
> people taking out large amounts of money.
> The biggest problem is that a lot of people who have a lot more than $800
> in their bank accounts are discovering this.

I saved a news posting a few months ago which has a rather detailed analysis of the money stock, cash reserves, cash in circulation, bank accounts, etc. I also found it on a web site but I can't find the URL now. The posting was based on information at if you want to verify the details.

Cash reserves are about $160 billion. This the amount of cash held in bank vaults to "back up" the bank accounts. The Fed has indicated that they will try to print an extra $50 billion or so, bringing the total up to around $200 billion. I believe this is the source of the $800/person figure Mark quotes.

However, this is not the total cash in existence. The total cash stock is about $613 billion, or about $2300 per person. (Some considerable part of this is overseas, however, and the analysis doesn't try to account for that.) About $450 billion ($1600 per person) circulates as cash with $160 billion in bank vaults.

The $160 billion (or perhaps $200 billion next year) serves as a reserve against bank deposits. The total value of those deposits depends on what you count, but basically checking+savings accounts add to a bit over $2000 billion, or about $8000 per person. (Adding time deposits, CDs, and other long-term instruments increases this amount considerably.)

So, per person, there is about $8000 in U.S. demand-deposit bank accounts, $1600 in circulating cash (part of it overseas), and $600-$800 in cash sitting in bank vaults to back up the $8000 in bank accounts.

Of course, all this money is not uniformly distributed. Some part of it is in business accounts, and some for personal use. Rich people have a larger share of the wealth than poor people. I'm not sure of the disproportionality, but typically we will see that 20% of the people control 80% of the wealth, or perhaps it is concentrated as much as 10% controlling 90%.

It is not very informative to know that the average person plans to withdraw X % of his savings. Average income earners, on aggregate, control only a small percentage of the wealth. The average family of four probably doesn't have much more than the $3200 that the bank reserves would cover even if they withdrew everything.

The real question is what the rich will do. If they're going into the banks and withdrawing $20000, $50000, $100000 in cash, lugging it in wheelbarrows and suitcases back to their mansions, then the system will get into trouble very quickly. Likewise if the Fortune 500 decide they need to keep a few million in cash on hand to stuff into envelopes to make payroll.

We don't know what will happen, and whether people will panic going into late 1999. Personally, I have hope that the rich will resist switching to a pure-cash mode, in which case the banking system should be able to tolerate the strains on it. But worse scenarios are certainly possible.