(Reuters) -- Ian Thiermann, age 90, has abandoned retirement and now works the aisles of a grocery store to make ends meet after losing his life savings of $750,000 to Madoff. He now hands out fliers hawking avocados and pork ribs at a supermarket in Ben Lomond, California. Thiermann, owner of a pest-control company in Los Angeles before retiring 25 years ago, enjoyed returns of 10 to 12 percent each year on his savings for about 15 years regardless of whether markets rose or fell. He lived on those returns, devoting much time to nonprofit work.
We didn't even realize we were a part of it.
A very close friend said that he and his family had been involved in an investment for the previous 30 years - 30 years, you understand. And they received the same amount, it wasn't a great amount but on average about 10 percent, over the years, even in the crashes that had taken place. They were never been affected by the crashes.
He said there's an opportunity to get into this thing. And we could form a partnership and so forth and get into it. We knew him very, very well. A number of us we're trying to be thoughtful of our own investments. Here's a guy and his family who has been in it for the last 30 years.
We had been in it for about 15 years. And in the last recession in the 1990s, we just received the same amount, about 8 to 10 percent, and we were extremely pleased. It didn't affect us at all. And then suddenly, when the crash took place and so forth, I called our friend and said this sounds really serious, can we get out and put it in something else. He said ‘that's a good idea'. So he did. We got word back that everything had been put into Treasury bonds. That's what he thought. He was dealing with this guy Madoff for all those years. And he had confidence in him.
He called us around December 15 and said ‘I've lost everything and you have lost everything'.
We had borrowed on the houses and we paid 5 percent on the mortgage and we were getting 10 to 12 percent, it was an additional income. So we don't have any cash reserves. And we still owe on the houses of course. That in a nutshell is what happened.
We're in a very small town in California. We were in a family-run grocery store. A very, very good store. We happened to be in this store about the time we learned of this crash. I guess we didn't look quite as happy as we usually are. And the store manager who we know very well said, ‘What's wrong?' We said, Have you heard about this Madoff?'. And he said, ‘Oh my god', pardon me, and then he told me to call on January 1 and that he might have something for me. So he did. I now work there as a beginner and I deeply appreciate it. While we are getting our social security still, if that fails then this country is going to be facing problems.