Oracle Investor

Oracle investor hit by plunge must end long hiatus from work

by Douglas Krauts-The Arizona Daily Star 

    The nation's financial wizards say all of us are bound to feel the effects of  the "Black Monday" stock market plunge sooner or later. 

    Frank Pierson falls Into the "sooner" category. 

    The 40-year-old Oracle resident had been living solely--and quite  comfortably--on the capital gains on his investments when the market collapsed  Oct 19. 

    The next day, Pierson was scrambling for something that hadn't been a part of  his life for more than eight years. 

    "Work," he said yesterday, speaking the word solemnly, deliberately, as  though pronouncing a sentence. 

    "For the first time since 1979, I need to find a job. That's what it comes  down to for me. 

    Pierson, who declined to give dollar estimates at his stock portfolio before  or after the crash, said he suffered serious "paper losses" after deciding not  to sell any of his stock during the trading havoc. 

    "The message of all this to me," he said, chain sipping cups of strong black  coffee before setting off on the day's job-hunting foray, "was that my life was  going to change In major ways. 

    "The handwriting on the wall was: I'd better get productive quick." 

    Pierson, who lives with his wife, Mary Ellen Kazda, in the community of about  4,000 across the Santa Catalina Mountains from Tucson recalled the sudden chain  of events that changed his status from a man of leisure to would be working  man. 

    I had heard that the market had gone down 170 points, and later I heard it  had come back significantly," he said. "Then, about 3 p.m. Tucson time, I got a  call from my mother (who lives in Philadelphia). 

    "She told about the 508-point drop in the stock market. I got a very strong  feeling, at that very moment , that I wasn't going to be able to rely on capitol  gains for my income anymore. 

    "By the next day, I was motivated to find work." 

    Pierson, who studied psychology at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., and the  University of Chicago, said he'll be a newcomer, but not a novice at the  workplace. 

    "I became a community organizer in Chicago after graduating, from college  doing things like building alliances between churches and community  organizations," he said. "I did this kind of work all through the 1970's, while  I was investing in the stock market." 

    Pierson said he had continued with community organizing activities on a  volunteer basis in Oracle over the past eight years." 

    "That's the kind of work I'd like to find now," he said. "But also, during  that interim period, I learned a trade - cabinetmaking. It has been a hobby sort  of thing for me and my wife. But starting now, we're going to be trying to sell  more of the things we make." 

    Pierson said he intends to stay in the stock market despite the bust. 

    "My approach is to buy good companies and hold on to them long term," he  said, listing Pep Boys and Magma Copper Co. among his favorite investments. 

    He bought his first stock at age 12 - three shares of Campbell Soup Co. - and  they tripled value in 18 months, he said. His father retired chairman of the  department on economics at Swarthmore college, encouraged him to continue  investing stocks. 

    "I don't try to call market turns," he said, acknowledging that his favorites  plummeted in value along with most other stocks last week. "And I don't want to  sell out now at these levels." 

    Pierson says he's taking the experience as a warning - and he advises the  rest of us do the same. 

    "Capitol," he said, "is a scarce resource. The more we're dependent on paper  profits, the more vulnerable our country becomes. 

    "We're enamored with the whole scene of financial gurus. But, that's deifying  greed instead of concentrating on meeting human needs and producing useful  products. If we think this whole thing was a temporary blip, then we're in deep  trouble." 

    Of his re-entry into the working class, Pierson said: "I'm actually looking  forward to it. I want to be productive. People like me ought to be working  more. 

    "Anyway," he added, "there's no alternative."