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KAI RYSSDAL: Wall Street's nervous. We've established that. All the big banks and brokerages. It's the same for regulators — the SEC's looking into things. And even the White House, where the president took care to make reassuring noises about the economy during a press conference yesterday. But what about the rest of us? The ones who's 401Ks and pension plans are invested in some of the funds that have gone bad. We sent Steve Tripoli into the streets of a Boston suburb today to ask around.
Steve Tripoli: The Boston Bean coffee house in Maynard Massachusetts was filling up with the noontime crowd when I stopped by today.
I bumped into David Kindler as he was stepping into the soft rain outside. He told me he's invested in the market. But he says he's diversified and doesn't need his money soon, so he's not sweating.
David KINDLER: I think that we seem to go in these cycles, where there was a Saving and Loan crisis a number of years ago, and I think that things were more under control and now I think the policy's been pretty lax on businesses. So I guess it doesn't really surprise me, and I guess I wouldn't be surprised for it to get worse before it gets better.
At a one-time textile mill that's now a mix of high-tech and professional offices, I ran into a group of lunch-bound workers. Chris Sharp is 36, Maggie Spatcher-LeBlanc's 29, and Paula Blomquist is the seasoned market player at 53.
Worried? Chris answered first, then the youngest of the group, Maggie.
Chris Sharp: I'm not particularly concerned in the short-term. I think long-term it's gonna work itself out.
MAGGIE SPATCHER-LEBLANC: I'm not worried at all. I agree with Chris. We're young enough that we have enough time in the market that our investments will be fine.
I wondered what other financial planners are hearing from their clients as the markets quake. So I called John Hixson in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
JOHN HIXSON: I'm not really hearing much of anything from clients because, you know, if I'm hearing a lot from clients, that means I don't have them properly positioned in the first place.
Hixson says he's been careful to manage his clients expectations as the subprime drama deepened.
HIXSON: We're due for a market like this. This just happens to be what's triggering it.
But not everyone's feeling quite so calm. Back at the Boston Bean coffee house a young school teacher named Mike Stevens was reading about the market's problems in today's papers. With exchanges on most continents shaky right now he says his investing game plan is "under development."
Mike Stevens: So that's why, at the moment, I feel almost helpless as to know exactly what to do. Short of taking all my cash out and burying it in the back of the garden. But, I won't be, I won't be doin' that, no.
Better maybe to bury your head in a good novel and stay away from the headlines for a while.
I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.