East County residents are telling a lot of very sad stories about what's happened to them personally in the financial meltdown and the housing crisis. The saddest tales of all come from retirees or those close to retirement. Some of them had their retirement money invested in shaky securities and in retirement plans involving real estate. Those are the people weeping large tears.

Brentwood's Gladys Ashby is retired. "One of my retirement investments really went south and the effect on me has been terrible," she said. "Living on my retirement income is a far cry from what I expected it to be. I really didn't think this could happen. Right now, it's a coin toss where things will go from here and my retirement prospects will be taken along for the ride."

Bob Gromm of Oakley/Bethel Island got the double whammy. "All told, I'm getting hit for about $4,000 a month. Most of my retirement funds are invested in real estate and one piece of my property is in Houston," he said. "It's an apartment building and hurricane Ike caused severe damage. I'm not the only one. I know that a lot of other people who suffered big losses in their retirement accounts. You bet there are many, including me, who are worried about the future."

"My 401K money has gone down substantially," said Brentwood's Valerie Goodwin. "As of now I will have to wait longer before retiring. I had hoped it would be at 55. I now expect to be working longer than that. Also, I now have a part time job and am going to have to find full time work. When you include what's happening with inflation, I now find myself being careful about every penny I spend."


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Antioch's Greg Pacquer moans when he talks about his nest egg. "My IRA funds all are in the stock market," he said. "Overnight my IRA account has gone down at least 5 percent. It makes me sick to think of how long and hard I had worked to build it up. We really have to do something to stabilize everyone's present and future retirement."

Jennifer Pierce of Oakley said she's fortunate because she still has time before retiring. "I'm going to let retirement plans ride for a while as I continue to hope for the best. But my thinking certainly has changed on what I could expect to have for retirement."

Anna Ferreira of Summerset is worried about the future of Social Security and her home. "My mortgage is with Washington Mutual, which went belly-up," she said. "I'm happy that I had nothing invested in those plans that were hard hit. Many of the retired people I know were investors in the stock market and now are worried about losing everything."

Carol Weir of Summerset has no income tied to sour investments but still is worried. "Just getting by now is getting harder and harder," she said. "It's the inflation caused by all that debt that's hurting me, particularly in cost of food. I have to cut back on my spending."

"I'm watching my retirement income going down, way down," said Brentwood shopper Patrick Smith. "It's disconcerting but at least I have 15 years before I retire. Those who still have time should think in terms of the long haul. Things have been good for so long they simply had to go down. But, everything will go up again. I'm betting I'll be OK 15 years from now."

Jack Shatting of Oakley figures he's both wise and lucky. He said, "I protected myself. I saw the financial crisis coming and I stayed completely out of the stock market. I stayed liquid. My funds are in money market accounts where they hold value and are readily available.

I really feel sorry for some people I know who invested badly and now are losing everything."

Ed Arnow can be reached at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.