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Midwestern Doctor, Wife Recover Lost Retirement Fund

Midwestern Doctor, Wife Recover Lost Retirement Fund

It had been a simple plan.

After working more than 30 years – mostly pulling late-night shifts and long hours in the ER – the doctor had a fairly modest vision for retirement. He and his wife wanted to sell the home where they'd raised six children and buy two condos: one on the river in the Midwestern city where they lived, and a second one in Florida, where they planned to spend winters entertaining family. The doctor's wife has MS (Multiple Sclerosis); tending the lawn and a large home had become difficult.

They'd been diligent about saving for retirement, and had built a handsome nest egg, giving them a comfortable cushion so they could live the dream.

Though at first they couldn't see it happening, the dream started to crumble in the year 2000. That's when the couple, typically risk averse, moved their investments from their long-time brokerage firm to a different investment advisor, at the recommendation of someone they trusted.

The stock reports showed big gains in those first several months. “My family had been sharecroppers in a small farm in Indiana,” the husband said. “I never thought I'd see this kind of money.”

The thing of it is, they never did actually see the money.

In 2003, not long before the doctor was due to retire, he noticed his investment earnings begin to drop. At first he didn't think much about it; after all, the market wasn't doing well. “Stay the course,” the advisor told him. “You pay me for my brains.” The couple tightened their belts and resolved to live on less until the market rebounded.

But by 2004, the situation had worsened. The doctor and his wife found themselves drawing from principal to pay their bills, instead of living off interest income as planned. The condo in Florida would have to be sold, before the family had a chance to enjoy it.

The doctor blamed himself and tried not to worry his wife. He didn't know there were lawyers who specialize in financial advisor misconduct. Then a friend at church, a local attorney, told him about a large law Indiana law firm that represented harmed investors. The doctor mulled it over. He was reluctant to seek legal advice — in part, he says, because he was humiliated that he could have made such a “horrible”, yet innocent, mistake with his retirement money.

Eventually the doctor called the law firm. And the experienced attorneys went to work, seeking compensation for the couple's losses.

Due to the elapsed time and other factors, this was a particularly tough case, the investigation long and arduous. “There were days when I would think, I wish I hadn't started this,” the doctor said. “But the attorneys really gave us hope. They helped us get some justice.”

The couple had worried that a big city firm, with offices in New York and Indianapolis, wouldn't have time for their small-town retirement case. They were surprised to see how down-to-earth and attentive the attorneys were. The firm's support staff returned phone calls promptly, and patiently answered questions.

That made a big difference, the doctor's wife said. When it came time to sit across the table from the investment advisor who had cost them their life savings, the couple was prepared, and confident. The case was settled in mediation, and it may have been the doctor's wife who made the most indelible impression. She brought to court, and then displayed on the table for the investment manager to see, photographs of her six children, all 15 grandchildren and the condo in Florida – part of the dream that had been lost.

The second home in Florida is gone for good, and the couple's budget is tighter than they had originally planned. But for them, the struggle was worth it. “Mediation really helped us get some justice,” says the doctor. “We were able to recover a portion of what we lost, more than we thought we would.”

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