Over the past several months, both with the election and the credit crisis, much has been written and spoken about Wall Street vs. Main Street. But what has been largely overlooked is how the current financial crisis is affecting the individual, small investors on Elm Street.
Everyday it seems the headlines highlight the poor economic conditions in this country and the previous day’s new record Wall Street losses. We read ample coverage of what the Treasury and Fed are doing (or going to do) to fix the problems. We read what policies President-elect Obama is likely to enact. We read about the Big Three and more financial institutions than you can name facing bankruptcy. But there has been a noticeable lack of coverage on the pain being felt by the millions of individual investors suffering through these unprecedented times.
The financial services industry has spent tremendous amounts of money over the last two decades convincing all Americans that they need to invest in the markets. The expansion of investing through 401(k)s and IRAs has paralleled these marketing efforts. Today, unlike during the Crash of 1987, investors are not only the rich and sophisticated. Investors are grandmothers, college students, single mothers and blue collar workers. It is these individuals who truly suffer when the market losses 50 percent of its value in a year.
Too many of these small investors do not fully understand the markets and are confused by what is going on currently. In response, most place all their trust (and their life savings) with the “professionals” they hire to assist and guide them. Unfortunately, all too often, these investors are not given suitable advice, are sold products they do not comprehend and are in many instances simply overlooked. They are told to “hold tight” even as they tell their advisors they cannot take any more losses. These small, individual investors are not likely to question or challenge the people deemed to be the experts.
In times like these, it is imperative that all investors pay attention to their investments and make sure that their needs, objectives and desires are being met. Failure to do so will result in losses that many simply cannot withstand. When losses do occur, investors need to seel legal counsel to determine whether an action exists to seek to recover those losses.