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Still, Mr. Nast considers himself lucky: At least he kept his investment relatively small. “There are a lot of people worse off than we are,” he said.

Mr. Nast said he’s especially disappointed by the way “the ever-growing government” has handled the situation.

“When you have an American free-market company like GM being taken over by the government, it reminds me of a dictatorship,” he said. “The truth is, Obama knows the individual bondholders weren’t the ones who got him elected, so we’re not a priority.”

Then again, he said, blaming the president does not make much sense. “It would be the same no matter who’s in office,” he said.


Kenton Boettcher
Age: 54
Residence: Lake Forest, Calif.
Occupation: Real estate consultant
Household income: Middle class
Amount invested in GM bonds: $100,000
Date of purchase: 2005
Percent of portfolio that were GM bonds at purchase: About 10 percent
Percent of portfolio now: N/A
Reason for purchase: “I was looking for a reliable investment.”
Reason for holding after downgraded to junk status in 2005: “GM was a solid company, and thought my position as a bondholder would be secure even if they did go bankrupt.”
Original investment goal: Retirement

Kenton Boettcher is a real estate consultant who specializes in commercial and large residential projects. He cared for his father and brother before their deaths in 2001 and 2007. His brother had muscular dystrophy.

Mr. Boettcher said he has always kept a close eye on the future. Apart from his IRA, 401(k) and a health savings account, Mr. Boettcher put $100,000 into GM bonds. Although the GM crisis will not put him on the street, he said, he knows he’ll see a dent in his retirement plans.

“Fortunately, I don’t have a lifestyle of the rich and famous,” Mr. Boettcher said. “But as far as my retirement hopes and dreams, [the bankruptcy] will impact those.”

Mr. Boettcher bought GM bonds in 2005, even though they had taken a turn for the worse. He was looking for a reliable investment that did not fluctuate like stocks and had a life span that would carry him through retirement. He weighed the risk of bankruptcy against the fact that GM had been a reliable investment for 100 years, and that his position as a bondholder, he thought, would be secure according to the laws that were in place.

“I felt that [being in a position with the secured bondholders] was a safety net,” he said.

Mr. Boettcher is concerned about the emotional effects of the investment losses on investors who have no cushion. As for himself, he said, he’ll survive just fine.

“My planning always has been to provide for my own retirement, so I started planning my retirement over 30 years ago when I started my career. I was responsible for me, and no one else should bear my burden,” Mr. Boettcher said.


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