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How the downgrade is affecting you

Marketplace Staff Aug 11, 2011

Jane Dougall: My name is Jane Dougall. I turn 65 years old this week. I live in Rhinebeck, N.Y. and I’m an academic reference librarian.

Kai Ryssdal: Jane’s been following the roller-coaster on Wall Street. She’s been trying to understand how she’s directly going to be affected by the markets since she’s now 65 and hoping to retire… one day. We asked Jane what retirement means to her today.

Dougall: At one point in my life, retirement had this lovely glow to it — that you could sit on a beach and have a glass of wine and relax and your days would be long and leisurely. Now it’s — I wonder if I can retire by the time I’m 70 or 75 and I wonder if I can keep getting in my car in the winter and going to work. When I retire, my total income will be $1,200 a month. The news is $1,200 a month. The bad news is if something happens and the markets keep falling, the retirement plan that I have at my institution will deteriorate further and that number will go down. I feel that my retirement funds are in jeopardy and there is no way that I can control it. I hear on the media that younger people or people can ride it out, but at 65 there’s no room to ride it out. Given that, I need to work as long as I physically can although it becomes difficult. You become more tired. At the same time, I worry about keeping this job as long as I can. I worry about the fact that there are young people graduating in my profession who need jobs and those of us who can’t retire afford to retire at this point in time are keeping the jobs that they need to come into.

Ryssdal: Jane Dougall wrote to us through our Public Insight Network. You can share your story at

Karen Port: My name is Karen Port. I live in St. Louis. We sell high-end hot tubs. You know, when I saw the S&P decision that they were going to downgrade our rating, what I’m thinking: Holy cow, this is the first time that they’ve ever done that. What’s going to occur to our business? Even though I’m a tiny, little, itty-bitty business, it ripples down to us where our customers start to worry and not come in like they did in 2008. And we’re just now at that point that they’re feeling comfortable. In terms of this year, we are slightly ahead of last year. Our busiest season is August through November, and then this hits and I’m thinking ugh. Just when we were barely standing up, we get knocked out. We have a wide range of customers — we have middle class to upper class. What I’m concerned about is that that middle group is going to go away and they’re not going to be able to spend. I’m hoping that we are not going to see that our line of credit ends up getting pulled. We would have to pull money out of our savings. Our staff right now is five — that includes myself and my husband. We were at 10. If it comes to it, I won’t take a paycheck.

Ryssdal: Karen Port is the owner of Mirage Spa in St. Louis, Missouri.

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