After Bernie: Belt-Tightening by Madoff Victims

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The recession has affected the lives of millions, who have been forced to adjust how they live and how they spend. Within this group is a unique subset: the Madoff victim. It’s one thing to see your retirement nest egg lose 30 or 40 percent of its value. But to suddenly have that nest egg disappear entirely? That’s beyond brutal, and Madoff’s sentence of 150 years is little consolation.

A WSJ story details some of the impact on Madoff’s clients. People who have retired, who are in their so-called “golden years,” suddenly must go back to work, sometimes at minimum wage jobs. Bills go unpaid. Kids no longer have the money for college. Donating to charity feels like a luxury. Houses must be sold. Any sense of comfort is gone, and there’s no telling if or when they’ll see any of the money returned that Madoff stole.

New York magazine reports how a 65-year-old woman got behind the microphone at yesterday’s court hearing and told how she had lost her life savings and is now working three jobs to get by. Another woman described how a trust fund for her mentally disabled brother was wiped out.

Over 200 charities are among the Madoff victims, and they obviously can’t do the good work they normally do. Foundations that invested with Madoff now find they don’t have funds to support health and science research.

Newsday has a huge pdf file of victim letters that were sent to the judge prior to Madoff’s sentencing. There are stories of people who are heartbroken, desperately trying to find work or sell homes, considering taking money out of IRAs too early and getting hit with big tax bills. One small business owner had to shift operations out of an office into her home, and to fire employees in the process. One woman told her 89-year-old father not to die, because now she didn’t have enough money to bury him.