Profile: Maria Schoenberg of Germany dumps stocks

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — To understand why people are so cautious with their money five years after the financial crisis, The Associated Press interviewed consumers around the world. Here is what one person said:

Name: Maria Schoenberg

Home: Frankfurt, Germany

Age: 45

Maria Schoenberg is financially secure but remains as frugal and cautious as ever.

Her husband is a rheumatologist; she’s a freelance copywriter. They’ve done well enough that she can limit her hours and spend time with their 11-year-old daughter. Schoenberg contributes to private pension plans to supplement her government pension. Tuition at most state universities in Germany is virtually free, so they don’t have to worry about socking money away for their daughter’s education.

Yet Schoenberg chooses to stuff her extra cash in the bank, shuns all but the safest investments and is too scared to borrow.

“A penny saved is a penny earned,” she says. “That’s my life motto right now.”

When the Schoenbergs moved closer to their daughter’s school recently, they decided to rent again rather than borrow to buy because they thought taking on debt would be dangerous. And forget about stocks. “The market is going to be like the climate — it’s going to climb and then crash,” she says.

Schoenberg didn’t always think that way. In 2006, she inherited some money and decided to put it into stocks, only to watch their values plummet in the financial crisis.

She’s been selling ever since. After Germany’s DAX index surged in December, she recalls saying to herself, “I’m done with this.” She dumped the last of her holdings.

Schoenberg prefers certificates of deposits at banks now, though she’s earning less than the rate of inflation. She has bought CDs with maturities of three, six and 12 months, at roughly 1 percent. Inflation in Germany is running about 2 percent a year.

“I know I’m losing money, but I’m adding to it,” she says. With CDs, “I have everything under my control, and I’m going to keep it under my control.”

Schoenberg’s views on money have also been shaped by how she was raised. Her father, who was born in 1915 and died in 1995, compared stocks to “roulette.” He said they were only for “rich people.”

“My father was Generation Depression. He was always very cautious when it came to investing,” she says. “We’ve always been cultured this way.”

Her losses in the financial crisis have only added to her fears — and distrust of the financial services industry.

“I don’t trust anybody with my money anymore,” she says.

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