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Small Investors Try To Stomach Big Roller Coaster Stock Market02:42
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A specialist working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange watches U.S. stocks Tuesday. (Richard Drew/AP)
A specialist working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange watches U.S. stocks Tuesday. (Richard Drew/AP)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Roller coaster. Topsy-turvy. Wild ride. Those sound good at an amusement park, but not on Wall Street, where stock markets have fallen in recent days. The Dow Jones Industrial Average wiped out an early rally Tuesday and ended trading down 205 points.

In Boston, people on the street were having a hard time keeping their eyes off the slide.

Usually, Doreen Reis likes fun rides, but not when her retirement savings are taking the roller coaster. She’s been feeling queasy.

"The stomach, yeah. It has been affected," Reis said, laughing. "Whenever I get anxious about something, then, yeah."

At 51, she’s still a ways from retirement age. But the thought of a worldwide economic recession is giving her grey hair.

"It’s very frightening. I mean the whole global market scares me," she said.

To look or not to look at her retirement account, that’s been her dilemma.

"I look at it. It’s bumpier than I would like! But I’ve learned that it’s best to just sit and wait rather than just take drastic actions when things like this occur," she said.

She’s not super confident, the laughter is nervous, but for now, Reis is trying to ride the wave and not get sick.

"It's fiction! It's only reality when you cash out. ... And I have accepted the fact that as a middle-class American, I’ll be working for the rest of my life."

Michael Royal

"My advice would be, don’t watch every day, if you’re going to be in it for the long haul," said Will Cunningham.

Trouble is, Cunningham is not even following his own advice. The 23-year-old has been looking at his fledgling retirement account each day, and he’s been confused by the advice he’s been hearing in the media.

"Some people said, 'Sell everything now!' And other people said, 'People who sell now tend to do the worst,' " he explained.

But not everyone is watching the stock market toss and turn.

"It’s fiction! It’s only reality when you cash out," said Michael Royal.

Royal said all the attention is misplaced. He said he's focusing on his day job instead.

"I still have to go to work every day," he said. "And I have accepted the fact that as a middle-class American, I’ll be working for the rest of my life."

That’s exactly what Mary Leuenberger is afraid of. At 56, she’s nearing retirement, and so is her husband, who’s older.

"I’d like to know that the scraping along that we’ve done the last 30 years has meant something. And, you know, we gave up a lot to get that investment done," she said.

And so to see the market teeter-totter right as they’ve finally gotten their kids through college makes her sick to her stomach.

"I intend to live a long time. And so I’d like to be financially independent when I do that," she said.

Leuenberger and her husband have been talking daily with their financial advisor. He’s been calming them down. Another 1,000-point drop could rattle them, but so far they’ve been able to look at their investments, but not touch.

This segment aired on August 26, 2015.

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Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.

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