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MARKETS IN CRISIS | 'More Important Things to Worry
About' in Life

Taking It All in Stride

The sharp stock market decline of the last two years has Americans concerned about their retirement savings. But patient investors from Southern California and across the country are confident Wall Street will rebound from a Great Bear Market that will not seem to end.

July 21, 2002|Jeffrey Gettleman

Margie Smith likes money as much as anyone else. But she doesn't get all bent out of shape about it.

The retired neurologist was washing her dog Saturday in her home in steamy Terry, Miss., watching "one of those stock shows" on television.

"People spend too much time chasing money," she said. "There's a lot more important things to worry about."

Smith owns about 20 stocks, including many big retailers, and as the market began to plummet again last week, she began paying more attention.

"I was surprised it went so low so fast," she said.

"I mean, I'm lucky that my husband and I can live comfortably without having to worry. But the market sure took a beating."

One of her more exciting new stocks, Orthodontic Centers of America, lost 27% of its value last week, sliding from $18 per share to close Friday at $13.02. MBNA Corp., a credit-card issuer, hit the skids, finishing the week at $16.40, compared with a high of $26 two months ago. She also owns Dollar Tree Stores and Cost Plus Inc., retailers down about 10% for the week.

Smith, who retired 11 years ago and declined to give her age, finds investing "interesting." But she leaves most big decisions to her broker, who has split her savings between bonds, about 75%, and stocks, 25%.

Like a lot of investors, it's been a tough couple of months. First there was Enron Corp., which she owned, though she said she got out right before it went "kaplooey." And then came WorldCom Inc., the Mississippi-based telecommunications company that locals celebrated--and loyally held on to, even after an accounting scandal sent the stock, once as high as $60, into the pennies.

"I told my broker, hands off on that one," Smith said. "And look where that got me. Now what am I going to do? Sell WorldCom when it's worth 10 cents?"

Before she got too carried away, though, Smith caught herself.

"Maybe one of our problems these days is that we care too much about all this," she said. Then she finished drying off her Yorkshire terrier, Elly, and began talking about baking a cake.

*

Jeffrey Gettleman

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