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Economy & Business

U.S. Investors Watch Nervously As Retirement Funds Drop

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

So that is the view of analysts watching China. Now we have the perspective of Americans watching their savings decline. Curt Nickisch of member station WBUR reports from Boston.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: Usually, Doreen Reis likes fun rides, but not when her retirement savings are taking the roller coaster. She's been feeling queasy.

DOREEN REIS: The stomach, yeah. It has been affected (laughter). Whenever I get anxious about something, then, yeah.

NICKISCH: At 51, she's still a ways from a retirement age, but the thought of a worldwide economic recession is giving her gray hair.

REIS: It's very frightening. I mean, the whole global market scares me.

NICKISCH: To look or not to look at her retirement account - that's been her dilemma.

REIS: I look at it (laughter). Bumpier than I would like, but I've learned that it's best just to sit and wait rather than take drastic actions when things like this occur.

NICKISCH: She's not super confident, the laughter is nervous, but for now, Reis is trying to ride the wave and not get sick.

WILL CUNNINGHAM: My advice would be don't watch every day (laughter) if you're going to be in it for the long haul.

NICKISCH: Trouble is, Will Cunningham is not even following his own advice. The 23-year-old has been looking at his fledgling retirement account each day, and he's been confused by the advice he's been hearing in the media.

CUNNINGHAM: You know, some people said, sell everything now, and other people said, people who sell now tend to do the worst.

NICKISCH: But not everyone is watching the stock market toss and turn.

MICHAEL ROYAL: It's fiction. It's only reality when you cash out.

NICKISCH: Michael Royal says all the attention is misplaced. He's been focusing on his day job.

ROYAL: I still have to go to work every day, and I have accepted the fact that as a middle-class American, I'll be working for the rest of my life.

NICKISCH: That's exactly what Mary Leuenberger is afraid of. At 56, she's nearing retirement and so is her husband, who's older.

MARY LEUENBERGER: I'd like to know that, you know, the scrapping along we've done the last 30 years has meant something. And, you know, we gave up a lot to get that investment done.

NICKISCH: And so to see the market teeter-totter right as they've finally gotten their kids through college makes her sick to her stomach.

LEUENBERGER: I intend to live a long time, and so I would like to be financially independent when I do that.

NICKISCH: Leuenberger and her husband have been talking daily with their financial adviser. He's been calming them down. Another thousand-point drop could rattle them. But so far, they have been able to look at their investments but not touch. For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.