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The Accountant Who Lost Faith--and Money

James J. Houlihan Jr.'s plan to retire at 50 is gone. In the last two years, he lost about 30% of a portfolio invested in such stocks as EMC (EMC), Lucent Technologies (LU), and WorldCom (WCOM). Now, the 41-year-old must also work harder to rebuild his four children's college funds. "I just don't understand how a business can appear to be so strong and in six months become a fraction of its value," laments Houlihan. "There are people who know what's going on, and then there's the rest of us." He'll save more and spend less--but he's not counting on stocks to make up for what's lost. He and his brother run an accounting firm in Fort Wayne, Ind., so it's not as if he doesn't understand analyst reports. But now, he says, "I don't pay them any credence. It's complete B.S. It's gotten to the point where you don't know who you can rely on."

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