After losing his entire life’s savings to disgraced fund manager Bernard Madoff, 90-year-old Ian Thiermann abandoned retirement and now works the aisles of a grocery store to make ends meet.
Handing out fliers hawking avocados and pork ribs at a supermarket in Ben Lomond, California, Thiermann is one of many facing dramatic lifestyle changes after losing their savings in Madoff’s suspected $50 billion Ponzi scheme.
Thiermann wasn’t even aware he had invested with Madoff until December 15, when a friend who managed his investments called him on the telephone. “He said, ‘I’ve lost everything and you have lost everything.'” For Thiermann, that meant $750,000.
Days after the release of a list of thousands of Madoff customers — from Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax to actor John Malkovich — a picture is emerging of a scandal that has reverberated far beyond America’s still-wealthy to those who have lost nearly everything.
And swept up in the pain are many who should be savoring the twilight of their lives in peaceful retirement rather than scrambling for a living.
Thiermann, owner of a pest-control company in Los Angeles before retiring 25 years ago, enjoyed returns of 10 to 12 percent each year on his savings for about 15 years regardless of whether markets rose or fell. He lived on those returns, devoting much time to nonprofit work.
“We don’t have any cash reserves now. And we still owe money on our houses,” he said in a telephone interview. He learned of his losses while shopping in a local grocery store with his wife, Terry.
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