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Listeners respond: Money Through the Ages

Last week, Marketplace Money partnered with The New York Times for a special report called Money Through the Ages. The show looked at money issues facing people of different decades starting with a teenager contemplating college, all the way to a single woman in her seventies living on social security.

The response from the Marketplace audience has been tremendous.

Jeanne McIntyre wrote to us from Berlin, Vermont: "This was the best program I have heard yet. If there's one thing I learned it is that I need to consult a money management specialist. I am 69 and am in the process of selling my house before it eats up the rest of my retirement fund."

And regarding our story about 60-something Jim and Frances Langerfeld of Tampa, Florida, Mike Bynum had this to say: "You featured a fortunate couple who have saved $720,000, own two homes, and may have $50,000 per year to spend in their retirement. This segment implied that this was not enough and the couple should continue working. Are you serious? Can you leave us with some manageable retirement goals?"

By far, we received the most comments about 70-year-old Susanna Wilson of Grass Valley, California. Over the years, she's run several successful small businesses but never saved for her retirement. She's now struggling to pay her bills using social security and money from an occasional sale of her handmade dresses for little girls.

Hanako Johnson wrote on our Facebook page: "Thanks for making me cry at work. This story was a tearjerker. Great show as always."

In the week since this story aired, Susanna says her phone has been ringing off the hook. She's a bit overwhelmed with all the attention and for now, has stop answering the calls and emails.

Susanna did mention one special call from her 6-year-old grandson, Asher who said, "Noni! I saw you on the Internet and you look good!"

This week I was included in a chain of emails between Susanna and Elizabeth Rutter Baer, the certified financial planner who reviewed her finances for our story. Susanna is weighing two business propositions she received about her handmade dresses.

But Beth had a few words of caution for Susanna. She writes: "I don't want to be a wet blanket but, regarding any new business opportunity: DO NOT GIVE MONEY TO ANYONE, DO NOT MAKE ANY FINANCIAL COMMITMENTS, OR TAKE OUT ANY LOANS IN RESPONSE TO ANY BUSINESS PROPOSITIONS! Working now is important but, more important is getting the debt under control so you don't have those awful credit card balances down the road. In the meantime, have fun - Beth."

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Photo: Josh Rogosin

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