Great Wall of Terror
It all started when some not so creditable people were allowed to take loans to buy them homes. Down the line, some of them started defaulting on their mortgages. Suddenly banks were competing with each other in writing off billions of dollars of assets. Bear sterns went down. Lehman Brothers went down. AIG went down. Washington Mutual went down. Wachovia is lined up. Overall some sixteen banks in the US have shut down this year.
Wall street has laid off over a hundred thousand people so far this year, and there’s no end in sight.
For those who didn’t know, Indian faces abound across all levels and departments on Wall Street. There’s a Vikram Pandit heading Citi. Finding an Indian MD at a Wall street firm is as hard as watching TV for a few hours without hearing about Raj Thackeray. There are Indian traders, Indian bankers, Indian techies (lots of them). Heck, wall street loves indian food.
No wonder then that Indians have been directly affected as a result of this crisis. I am not even going into the indirect consequences (prices skyrocketing, Sensex crash, IT downturn, movie tickets getting costly etc).
Especially affected are two families that were so taken in by their fabulous lifestyle that they just don’t know what to do.
“It’s ironic but I feel even poorer now,” she adds. “Maybe it’s because . . . we got used to having things. Now we want things more, and it’s heartbreaking for us.”
That’s Mona Mond. This couple was another of the high flying wall street families, coming to terms with a reduced income, and unwilling to live like “normal” people.
She’d married a man with a career on Wall Street, and at the very least she was going to live in a house, preferably brand new, with a Jacuzzi in her bedroom and a pool in that yard. There’d be a maid — and no skimping, no worrying that any day Amar, her husband, would lose his job.
“I’m so angry,” says Mona, who is 32 and about to have a second child. “We are living so tight, and we feel so limited. I wanted a big nice house. . . . This was planned.”
This one appeared on the front page of Hindustan Times.
Anand was this high flying IT guy making a lot of dough, living in a huge apartment, and unable to find a job for many months after he got laid off. Meanwhile, he kept living in his 3000 dollar a month apartment, and applying to 20 jobs everyday with no success.
Anand was ‘let go’. He applied for at least 20 jobs daily. So that’s close to 100 jobs a week. And waited. Waited for e-mails. Waited for interview calls. The bad news kept getting worse. Anand kept cutting his asking rate. From $130 an hour to whatever. For days and weeks, clicking the refresh button on the computer screen and checking missed calls was the only thing to do. And, pay the bills. Grocery, house rent, electricity, water, cell phone, car insurance. The house rent cleaned us out. Almost $3,000 every month.
That’s a shame. On more counts than one. Among others, what self respecting techie applies to, and gets rejected from several hundred jobs? Besides, what happened to living within ones means, or adapting to conditions. Things are bad no doubt, but stop posing for sensationalistic stories, and get yourself out of the mess you are in.
Having been on wall street for the past three odd years, i know a thing or two about how things work here myself. And these (and other) stories amuse me.
Wall street is such a different world from any other industry. It doesn’t produce anything. At least nothing that you can see and touch and feel, and most importantly, hold on to. It’s all virtual money. One day a commodities trader is up by a million dollars, and suddenly crude goes up by 20% and he has lost all of that. Leave alone professional traders, common Joes (plumbers and others) looking for a safe future are losing their entire life savings that they put into stocks.
The high salaries are much talked about. People seem to almost hate wall street bankers for their fat pay packets. What no one mentions is that they are paid so much probably because of the inherent risk that a wall street job entails.
Then there are the wall street employees such as Anand and Mr Mond. Burying your head under the sand does not make you immune from the coming storm. And the ones who didnt’ see this coming, or take action when they saw this trouble starting up, or tone down their lives trying to come to terms with the state of affairs should not get anybody’s sympathy.
Wall street has seen such downturns earlier, and recovered from them. Maybe things will get back to the high and dizzy levels of recent years. But this should serve as a good lesson about the immortality of it all.
No job, no fortune is safe enough. Deal with it.