In the O's zone The little guy: For some investors, it's still the early innings.

September 02, 1998|By M. Dion Thompson | By M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

The latest stock market bounce hadn't filtered down to the Eutaw Street Promenade by game time yesterday. Most people only knew what happened Monday. You remember that? The 512-point loss, the second-biggest drop in history, the one that once again raised the question: Has the Bull become a Bear?

No, the Camden Yards vendors were still dealing with Monday. Their reaction depended on what inning they're in in the game of life. The 30-somethings have an easy confidence, even though they took a hit.

"I think I'm going to die when I see my next statement," said Derek Lozzi as he carried a hunk of pit beef to a slicer. "I think I'm going to take a hit and I don't like it. But if you're in it for the long run, it's still a good investment."

Lozzi, 33, has a good 30-plus years to let his money ride before retirement, so he's not worried.

Along the Promenade, they say the real folks to talk to are the high rollers in the box seats. But everybody knows the market boom was built on these small investors, the ones squirreling away their retirements in mutual funds with the hope of 8 percent annual gain. No stock options or golden parachutes here.

Find some people in their mid-40s and you get a more concerned view. For them retirement seems to be coming faster each year. They don't have 30 years to gamble on the giddy highs and lows of Wall Street's roller coaster. But what to do? Everybody says stocks are the only way out. Social Security won't help you. Trust in God, and a couple of guys named Dow and Jones.

"It's scary, man. It's scary. Especially when you've got money invested in it. I'm 44," says Bob Michling, who works alongside Lozzi at Boog's. "You don't want to sell. It's going to bounce back. It was up 200 today."

Make that 288.36, the second-biggest point gain ever. The total U.S. stock market volume yesterday was 2.756 billion, the second busiest day ever. Still, there were predictions of doom. The upswing could be no more than a blip.

"I'm tempted to pull out because it scares me," said Mary McGlinchy, 42, working at the American Legion's stand. "I'm going to stay in for awhile, at least another year."

McGlinchy is eyeing a more conservative approach -- money market funds or bonds. "At least with bonds, 10 years down the road you got the money you put into it," she says.

For Earl Yeager, 67, this downturn might spell the end of his dabblings in the market. A man can only stand so much before he says, "Enough! Not another dime!" "I've put too much money in it in my life to keep putting it in a sinking ship," said Yeager, a 28-year veteran of the Marine Corps, at the Marine Corps League's stand. "What I've got in stocks, I'm gonna let it ride. Anything else I'm thinking about putting it in Mason jars and burying it in the back yard."

Harold Reid isn't in the market. He says he works too hard to risk losing his money. He's content to watch the dizzying goings-on.

Reid, 56, who runs Hot Dog Plus, offers this advice: "If you're in it for the short haul, you best not be in it at all. Just put it in and let it roll."

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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