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Marketplace Scratch Pad

Six months later…

Scott Jagow Apr 14, 2009

I always find it fascinating to check in with people over time. Marketplace reporters Amy Scott and Tess Vigeland are doing a little longitudinal study of their own this week. They’re revisiting some of the same people they met on a road trip last fall. There seems to be a theme running through their conversations so far.

And that is — age and perspective. Tess had dinner last night with the Landis family of Lincoln, Nebraska. After she ate with them in October, she talked to Kai Ryssdal about the family’s thoughts on the Congressional bank bailout:

It was interesting, by the way, to hear the different reactions from Dave and Melodee, who are 60, and their grown kids, who are in their 30s. The stock market is, of course, much more of an immediate worry for the parents so they are more inclined to say, hey, you know, do whatever you need to do to stop the bleeding. Matt and Melissa were looking pretty much more long-term at what all this might mean, you know, 30, 40 years down the road.

And that hasn’t really changed. Matt just turned 40 and says this in tonight’s story on Marketplace:

Buy low sell high is what we’ve always been taught and in a sense this is one of our greatest opportunities that we’ve had in our lifetime. That this is an opportunity to take advantage of that prosperity once it comes back.

But the 60-year-old father, Dave, worries that any stock market rebound will be too little too late for him and his wife, Melodee:

The older you get, a 65-hundred Dow doesn’t work. You put in money at 8-9-10-11-12, and you’ve taken your savings and cut it in half over time.

Dave and his wife were looking forward to retirement, but they’ve lost so much money, that doesn’t seem possible. They’re worried they’ll have to rely on their children at some point. I’m guessing the Landis household isn’t the only one thinking that way.

Meanwhile, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Amy Scott spent time with a group of older folks she met last October. One of them is Jane Francisco, a retired teacher who lives on social security and her pension. She and her husband pulled their money out of the market a few months ago, after losing 20 percent:

I need to hold onto what I worked so hard for. It was a great sting to me to realize that, and I guess realizing that I’ve never had money, but for the first time I did, and how quickly it can slip through your fingers.

Another couple in the group, Rhea and Bob Caldwell, kept their money in:

Rhea: I’ll probably have to work till I’m 80 now to make up for all the losses in my pension fund. But uh, it’s coming back. Bob: It’s not lost. It’s just, we’re waiting for it to come back.

Amy says, all in all, the Charlotte coffee bunch is pretty optimistic. Tess says the Landis family considers themselves lucky that things haven’t been worse.

I guess you can choose the way you look at things, no matter how old you are.

Here’s Tess’s story from Marketplace PM and here’s Amy’s story.

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