Answering Main Street's Money Questions

maria ben tracy main street money questions

As the government bails out the big Wall Street firms, what about the little guy - the small investor who is wondering about his life savings? There are plenty of questions being asked, and CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy has some answers from the experts.

Martha Rodriguez was looking for reassurance from her financial planner. When the market tanked Monday, she lost $50,000 - 10 percent of her retirement account.

"Did I make a mistake investing my money this way?" Rodriguez asked.

Wall Street's woes are weighing on the minds of Main Street, so CBS News asked two financial experts, with a collective 40 years of experience, to answer questions about your money.

"Where should my money be right now?" asked David Landwehr of Madison, Wis.

"I don't know whether it's better to just stick it under the mattress or just stick with it?" asked Sheila Ellis, of Santa Fe, N.M.

"I would not stick my money in a mattress," advised finance expert David Bate. "I would at least put it in a financially secure institution and earn some type of interest on it."

He says just make sure your bank is FDIC insured so your money is backed up. Aggressive stock investors are hunting for bargains. So what about your 401K?

"Please don't pull out," financial expert Louis Barajas said. "In fact, what an opportunity to add more money to your portfolio right now."

"For us in our late 50s, and we're looking at a retirement, are our retirement accounts going to be there for us when it's time to retire?" asked Russell Cameron of New York.

"For those nearing retirement, you definitely need to keep a large portion of your assets in cash," Bate said. "If you are young and have time, let it ride and leave your assets alone."

"Who is going to pay for the bailouts we have been hearing about for the last few days?" asked Ron Montero, a retired banker from Miami Beach.

The short answer to that one is taxpayers. Doesn't sound great, but experts say the financial meltdown without the bailouts would cost each of us even more down the road.

"The financial markets are resilient," Bate said. "This economy is resilient and it will come back. Can't tell you when, but it will."

Martha Rodriguez is willing to wait it out.

"Just sitting tight and letting it ride," she said.

She hopes the bumpy part of the ride is almost over.

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    Ben Tracy is a CBS News White House correspondent based in Washington, D.C.