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Stacey Vanek-Smith: Ten days ago, our New York bureau chief Amy Scott hit the road to help us find out whether Wall Street has set this country on the Road to Ruin. Amy traveled hundreds of miles and talked to scores of people. We conclude our series today and get Amy's final reflections on what she found.
Amy Scott: As I made my way across the eastern half of the country, I saw many ways large and small that people are feeling this financial crisis. There was the 60-year-old executive assistant in Pittsburgh. She may have to work another 10 years because she can longer afford to retire. The car dealer in Cincinnati, who may have to close down because his customers can't get loans. And Steve Maasen, a hotel bellman here in St. Louis:
Steve Maasen: My tips are about two-thirds of what they were a month ago. So I thought to myself, gee, this may be a real good barometer of what's happening out there in the general economy.
I found Maassen after hearing a voice on the hotel doorman's two-way radio talking about yesterday's stock market dive. I traced the voice to the slender 67-year-old -- who when he's not delivering luggage is following the gyrations on Wall Street.
Maasen: I wouldn't like to say it's an addiction of mine, but it's an extreme interest.
Maasen has been glued to market news in the past few weeks. He says he expected an even bigger drop yesterday, after the SEC's ban on short-selling expired. That allowed investors to bet against financial stocks again.
All Maasen's money is in a single stock: a biotech company he says is actually holding up.
Maasen: Two rules: one, never take the hearsay of another. Rule two, never put all your eggs in one basket. I broke both rules years ago on this one and I fell in love with a little company, and I've stayed with it. And it's done me very well. But I look at my mother, I look at others, and I see the pain they're going through.
I've seen some of that pain on this road trip. But I've also met plenty of people who are doing just fine. They've invested their money wisely, or they're just getting by on less. If I could take away one message from this trip it's the sense that even if the economy gets a lot worse, most people I talked to truly believe it'll bounce back.
In St. Louis, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.