Is there subprime in your portfolio?

Portfolio

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: What we just had with Mike was the big institutional view. How the economics of mortgage-backed securities trickles down through the corporate debt market. But chances are, some of us have skin in the subprime game, too — even if we don't know it.

Ashley Milne-Tyte has been looking into how individual investors might get hit.


Ashley Milne-Tyte: If you're concerned about your 401k suffering in this mess, Adam Bold of The Mutual Fund Store says you're probably worrying for nothing. He says a few mutual funds may hold mortgage-backed securities . . .

Adam Bold: But they're really the exception rather than the rule, and it's certainly not anything that the average investor needs to concern themselves with.

Eric Talley of the Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy is less sanguine. He says the subprime wobbles could still affect investors indirectly. He says hedge funds, or pension funds that own a large amount of these types of securities, will want to rebalance their portfolios.

To do that, they need more cash. And that means selling off some of their other stock.

Eric Talley: So what you would end up having is sort of a contagion effect, where a crash in one market causes a bunch of large institutional investors to have to start selling in other markets. And when that happens, the price can go down across the board.

That's when the average investor might lose money.

Gary Schatsky is a financial advisor. He says people who've bought shares in financial services companies could take a hit, too. Many of those companies are invested in the mortgage market. He says this correction is a welcome reality check.

Gary Schatsky: If you're gonna try and find a silver lining on this, it would be a wake-up call to people to say, "Wait a minute, when I'm putting my money in equities or in financial instruments, we'd better take stock of what the risk is."

Schatsky says investors are getting a nasty reminder that markets can move down as well as up.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

About the author

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women in the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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