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BEAR MARKET ANNIVERSARY | Downturn Leaves Trail of

Ibrahim Khan

Struggling retiree

March 16, 2003|Kathy M. Kristof

Ibrahim Khan gave a financial advisor $349,000 when he retired three years ago, thinking that would be enough to provide a steady income during his retirement.

Now, a combination of questionable investment decisions and bear market losses is threatening to un-retire the 64-year-old former Xerox employee.

The value of Khan's retirement account, invested largely in technology stocks, has plunged by more than half.

He and his wife, Fanny, are afraid to deplete their diminishing savings, so they're living on Social Security and the income from Fanny's part-time job as a sales trainer for a cosmetics company.

To conserve cash, the Khans sold their home -- a $300,000 condo six blocks from the sand in Redondo Beach -- late last year. They moved to a Leisure World co-op in Laguna Woods that cost half as much. That allowed them to pay off an auto loan and cut their mortgage payments more than a third to $650 a month.

"I couldn't afford anything until I sold that place," Ibrahim said.

Still, things are tight. The couple's occasional Las Vegas vacations were shelved two years ago. They no longer go out to eat.

"We try to stretch a dollar as far as it can go, but we are struggling to make ends meet," Khan said. "If things don't get better by the middle of this year, I will have to go back to work."

Like many Americans burned by the bear market, Khan puts a lot of the blame on his broker, who told him to "sleep easy" while he invested Khan's money in tech stocks and mutual funds with hefty sales charges. Khan and a former co-worker who used the same broker are suing the broker and his firm.

"We told the money manager this is the only nest egg we have. Don't be reckless," Khan said. "They painted all these rosy pictures and said, 'Don't worry about it. Sleep peacefully.' But we are left holding the bag."

For now, the Khans can do little but hope for a recovery -- either in the market or from their lawsuit.

"I am hoping for the best," Ibrahim said. "But you have heard the expression, when it rains it pours? I am in the middle of a storm."

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