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article imageMadoff Scheme Forces Old, Sick and Tired Back to Work

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 8, 2009 in Business
The employee from Brookshires in Natchitoches, Louisiana took my groceries in a shopping cart to my car. He looked about 75 or so. He also looked tired. That’s because it’s tough to work on your feet all day at that age.
Some people have to do that now because of the financial hardships and others because of people like Bernard Madoff.
90-year-old Ian Thiermann has gone back to work because now he’s penniless. He too now works for a grocery store, handing out fliers and trying to sell avocados and pork ribs. That’s because he lost his savings in a Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff. Those savings totaled $750,000. Thierman had owned a pest control company from which he retired 25 years ago, living on the returns of his savings. Now he has no more cash reserves and owes money on his houses. He now appreciates the fact that he even has a job.
But he isn’t the only senior to lose a lot. Others have as well. Maureen Ebel now works as a cleaner. Her loss? $7.3 million. She is 60 years old and now cleans the home of a friend and cares for a 93-year-old woman. Her husband died eight years ago. Since learning of her losses, Ebel has had to sell her winter home in Florida and her Lexus SUV and now works pushing a vacuum cleaner around, wondering what her life has come to.
Many other stories are detailed in the news these days, most in relationship to the Madoff Ponzi scheme. But there are other stories of seniors returning to work who weren’t victimized by Madoff. They were victimized by an economic downturn and lost savings from it. Many of these people are members of the Greatest Generation and saw the depression and a world war as well. Now they face uncertain futures once again.
Reports say that even before the recession many seniors had to work. Some came out of retirement and rejoined the workforce. Others didn’t retire at all. But they share one important thing: they had to stay working for financial reasons. The transfer to 401K’s has meant lots of seniors saw personal losses in their accounts. So in spite of the problems, sometimes affecting health, they are going back to work. The recession, however, has made things worse.
If jobs are scarce, they are particularly so for seniors. A website that devotes itself to stories of people trying to find work and to cope in the recession is filled with poignant accounts, some from senior citizens, about how difficult it is to find work.
Madoff is a senior himself. If he goes to jail, he won’t have it easy. But he left a lot of people penniless, and now may face the same uncertain future he has made for others. As for those hurt from the recession, they will continue to struggle, as seniors have said they will, to make it like the rest of the folks.
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