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Enron case offers harsh lessons

NBC's Anne Thompson checks in with investors who are still trying to recover after the collapse of Enron.

Forty minutes outside Portland, Oregon, Joe and Diane Rinard are re-building their financial future.  Having lost a combined $350,000 in retirement savings when Enron's stock collapsed, their nest egg is now a new house.  "Enron's not going to take that away from us.  That's our dream that we have left," says Diane.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the company stock that promised to make them rich left them with nothing.  "I put all this money into it and it basically went down the drain," says Joe.

Still working for an Enron subsidiary that is up for sale, the Rinards are wiser and far more conservative.  They've each saved about $30,000 for their golden years, no longer just in one stock, but diversified among bonds and less risky investments.  "I'm really leery about the stock market right now.  I got burnt real bad," says Joe.

Janice Farmer was retired when Enron went bankrupt and she lost most of her $640,000 in savings.  Today, Janice is back at work, part-time, to make ends meet.  "Retirement's not like what I thought it was going to be at all," she says.

And yet other workers have not applied the lessons of Enron to their investment strategies.  A study by Hewitt Associates, a benefit consulting firm, finds workers still have about 40 percent of their 401(k)'s in company stock.  According to David Wray of the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America:  "Most employees do not see Enron as their company and so Enron as an event has really been compartmentalized."

Except for those who worked for Enron, like Joe and Diane Rinard who have their own ideas of justice for Enron's executives.  He should "feel a little bit of pain," says Joe.  "Yeah," echoes his wife, "feel a little bit of pain, and sympathy -- maybe feel like middle-class people like us for a change."