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On Ariz. Golf Course, Retirees Play Down Markets

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On Ariz. Golf Course, Retirees Play Down Markets

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On Ariz. Golf Course, Retirees Play Down Markets

On Ariz. Golf Course, Retirees Play Down Markets

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Players on the Torres Blancas course in the Arizona retirement community of Green Valley are watching their savings dwindle. Yet they are mostly sanguine: They either sold stocks a while ago or have gone back to work.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The hard times on Wall Street can be nerve-wracking for anyone involved in the markets. It's especially scary for retirees who depend on investments for income. In southern Arizona, NPR's Ted Robbins talked with some seniors and found that they have developed survival skills that come with age and experience.

TED ROBBINS: For golfers, this is the good life. The sky is blue with a few puffy clouds. A hawk circles over head. 66-year-old John Smith whacks balls on the Torres Blancas driving range in Green Valley, Arizona 20 miles south of Tucson. He says he's enjoying life.

Mr. JOHN SMITH: I got to. I mean, I had a quadruple bypass three years ago, and that kind of woke me up to a lot of things.

ROBBINS: Smith's experience back in 2001 probably didn't help his heart. He says he lost a bundle then when the stock in Enron crashed. That was after he'd already retired. So like most of the folks here, he's learned to live within his means.

Mr. SMITH: That's about all you can do, really. I'm a little bit - I don't travel as much, where I used to travel all the time.

ROBBINS: Now, this not a place for the super rich. Townhouses start at about 250,000 dollars. Green fees today are nine dollars, a seasonal bargain before the course is over seeded for winter. And a lot of folks here still work part time, some out of choice, some out of necessity. 61-year-old Dave Happ (ph) works inside the Pro Shop, helps keep his mind off his investments.

Mr. DAVE HAPP: I asked my financial adviser not to advise me, not to let me know because I know what the roller coaster is going to be, up and down.

ROBBINS: These days, Happ isn't looking to make money in the market. He'd be happy not lose it. Happ's wife works, too, for the local Parks and Recreation Department, so the couple can have health insurance. They are not taking on new debt. No new car, for instance. That's a common thread here, along with cutting spending or increasing income.

Norma Bridgewater's (ph) a retired social worker. Her husband is a retired police chief, both on inadequate pensions.

Ms. NORMA BRIDGEWATER: Yeah, we both were retired from Michigan and came out - and then, I'm working at Wal-Mart, and - but a fixed income. You just can't - we're on a fixed income, and we couldn't do it anymore.

ROBBINS: Norma Bridgewater still plays golf on her days off. Her husband mows the fairways two days a week at another golf course nearby. She said she got out of the stock market at a loss, last year.

Ms. BRIDGEWATER: I've got one stock that I still have. Other than that, we got rid of all of our stock.

ROBBINS: Tony Statum (ph) still works, too, almost full time as a manufacturer's rep for kitchen cabinets and countertops. He is another investor who's out of the market.

Mr. TONY STATUM: Well, I've just switched everything out of stocks and kept it in now in just in money market and staying away from the market until it starts to settle down.

ROBBINS: Unlike these recent or semi-retirees, Lawren Pochach (ph) quit work from the telephone company 24 years ago. Back then, they gave him healthcare, a pension, and a severance bonus.

Mr. LAWREN POCHACH: So I started buying small rentals and fixing them up and then reselling them. That's way before what happened in the last couple years, and I did well on it. So now, I'm just living off the gravy that I've accumulated.

ROBBINS: Pochach says he is definitely not buying more real estate, not in today's market. At 74, the last thing he says he needs is another roller coaster ride. Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.

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