Chapter 2. The "Back Nine"

We are at the beginning of a great populist rebellion against those who showed no self-restraint when it came to lining their pockets. The entitlement mentality arose from an inflated sense of their own value and how much smarter they are than anyone else.

E.J. Dionne Jr.

My wife Sandy took the news with typical calm. No fusillade of gut-wrenching questions. She certainly was entitled to ask anything she wanted. It was, after all, our money and our problem.

We huddled on the sofa. I tried to explain the situation, although I really didn't know what had happened, or why. It's bad enough having to admit to your trusting wife that a big chunk of savings has mysteriously vanished, but it's another thing to tell her that your hard-saved, after-tax stash of our future, dollars crucial to retirement, had become "illiquid." My ignorance and humiliation made me feel like a double loser on a big bet. But this wasn't about big bets. It was a supposedly safe cash investment based on trust.

I refreshed Sandy's memory. I had temporarily parked a substantial amount of cash in auction-rate securities—cash to be used to help fund our retirement. Much of it came from stock market profits. My broker assured me ARS were completely safe investments, a great place to park cash with a higher-than-market yield.

Now the money was illiquid. The word "worthless" haunted me. I was furious with myself, dangerously angry at Jim, and I was rabid at the very thought of my initial broker ...

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