Charlotte seniors coffee talk on bailout

Don Brown tells how he won on A.I.G. stock, but lost on Wachovia over the past two weeks.

TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: Our special coverage of the financial crisis continues this morning with the next stop in Road to Ruin. Almost every day, a group of seniors gathers at a Charlotte, North Carolina Panera. They drink coffee and discuss the events of the day. Like the bailout. Marketplace's Amy Scott sat in on the latest coffee talk.

Amy Scott: The morning after the Senate approved its $700 billion bailout bill, it was all Don Brown and his friends at the Ballantyne Village Panera could talk about. The retired businessman was especially bothered by the earmarks he'd heard senators had squeezed into the package.

Don Brown: Now they're throwing in $6 million for an arrow company that makes arrows, archery arrows, $160 million for a rum company down in Puerto Rico.

Most mornings, Brown and a group of anywhere from eight to 20 seniors show up here. They sip coffee from personalized mugs. The talk ranges from good restaurants to grandchildren. But these days the economy dominates the discussions. Bob Brown, a retired labor mediator and no relation to Don, says Congress had to do something.

Bob Brown: The banks are not able to move their money. You and I can't get a loan, you know, you can't buy a washing machine or refrigerator or something on credit, and if that happens, everything dries up, people get laid off, and it mushrooms.

Brown says he's faired OK in the downturn. He's Catholic and says he got a lucky piece of investment advice from upstairs.

Bob Brown: I guess the holy spirit told me to take my money out of the stocks last November and put it in CDs and stuff. And thank god I didn't put it into an AIG or something.

Don Brown did invest in AIG. He bought stock after the federal government loaned the company $85 billion. He says he doubled his money.

But not everyone in the group is so comfortable. A few months ago, Sue Thompson lost her job in the insurance business.

Sue Thompson: Luckily enough, right now my husband and I are OK. We're being very careful. There's one thing we never do: No credit cards.

There are several centuries worth of collective wisdom in this group. And having been through recessions and stock market crashes, one thing they all agree on is that we'll get this through this, too.

In Charlotte, North Carolina. I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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