Wall Street

“Joe the Trader” chronicles his experiences with life after Wall Street.
spring plant shoot with bud 150
On March 15th, in a remarkable show of transparency for a Federal Reserve governor, Ben Bernanke was interviewed on 60 Minutes. He sounded much like Chance the Gardener from Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There. In the classic novel and later movie, a simple gardener is released into Washington D.C. after the death of the man he has spent his life working for. Taken in by an advisor to the president who mistakes his name for the patrician sounding Chauncey Gardiner, Chance charms everyone with his botanical observations, which are misinterpreted as sage economic, financial and political allegories. In the spirit of the season, Chairman Bernanke said he saw signs of economic green shoots emerging. I sure hope that his comments were more valuable than a rambling gardener’s.

Than again, I’m not big on hoping. As a professional investor, I knew that if I was ever hoping, I was in trouble. It was my job to assess risk. It was my job to examine the merits of an investment, to know it’s pros and cons, and most importantly, to know when the facts had changed and I needed to get out of my position…

Recession Briefing 4.10

by Sara Clemence on April 10, 2009 in News

What you need to know today to survive and thrive in the recession.

chart-down 150The economy appears to be leveling off, with retail sales slowing their decline, the stock market up, and credit markets loosening. But the recession’s not over yet… (AP)

Slowly but surely, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—better known as the economic stimulus package—is beginning to percolate nationwide, six weeks after President Obama signed the legislation.(Washington Post)

It’s a renter’s market around the country, which means landlords are getting more creative (and desperate) to hold down vacancies and prevent turnover. (BusinessWeek)

President Barack Obama yesterday touted the economic benefits of refinancing, but he should keep the 30-year mortgage on his Chicago spread, a broker says. (Chicago Tribune)

Each week, “Joe the Trader” chronicles his experiences with life after Wall Street.

taking back money 150Last week I had my third interview with my most promising job prospect. While I may have to go through another round of pleasantries, at least as far as I’m concerned, it is time to fish or to cut bait. Fortunately, the chief investment officer of the firm was the one to bring up the touchy topic of pay.

“Lets talk comp,” he said. “What are your thoughts?”

What are my thoughts? Are you kidding me? Just give me a job and a reasonable salary. But of course, I couldn’t sound desperate. A few years back, when times were good and I was being lured away by a prospective employer, my dad advised me to “ask for enough to make them squirm.” While that might have been the appropriate strategy at that time, now I am not exactly playing with the strongest hand—nor with the house’s money. So I decided to try to balance the two.

Each week, “Joe the Trader” chronicles his experiences with life after Wall Street.

sushi tuna rollAs I was watching Federer dismantle Safin in the Australian Open in January, my 10-year-old daughter sighed.

“Oh Daddy, I guess since you don’t have a job we won’t be able to go to the US Open this year. I sure hope you get one soon because that was fun.”

She was referring to the weekend I was able to bring my three children and girlfriend to a luxury box, courtesy of Royal Bank of Client Entertainment. While my lady and I drank Veuve Clicquot and enjoyed watching Rafa and Venus play, the kids focused on finishing their Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bars before they melted in the late summer sun. Yes dear, it was a bit of alright. For now, no more US Open, no more Yankees tickets, no more ski conferences. I sure hope I get a job soon too.

Alice in Numberland

by Mariem Horchani on March 27, 2009 in Culture

alice-wonderland-150There are days when the downturn feels curiously like we’re Alice in Wonderland, falling down the rabbit hole, with numbers swirling dizzyingly about.

From the largest Ponzi scheme ever, to taxpayer bailouts of countless irresponsible companies, to mind-boggling bank losses, to ludicrous bonuses paid to undeserving executives, we are barraged by figure after staggering figure. What’s more, there is no end in sight to this numerical syndrome…

Each week, “Joe the Trader” chronicles his experiences with life after Wall Street.

taking back money 150Joe the Trader is angry.

I’m angry at AIG, Merrill, and all the companies that are being propped up by the government and still paying people as if it were 2007. In January, I asked a good friend, Colin, who is employed by a troubled bank, how big a hit his bonus payment took.

“It really wasn’t all that bad,” he said. “I was paid down only 40%, but I don’t know how that’s possible—without the government we would be bankrupt.”

Bag of money 150In my early 20s, I spent a bunch of months figuring out what I wanted to “do with my life.” My family was helping me out—and not surprisingly, they had lots of opinions about how I spent my time, not to mention their money. It didn’t take me long to get sick of the grilling, and to realize that I could only make my own choices if I made my own way. I stopped taking checks and started scraping together a living.

What does that have to do with the news? Rumor has it that two former Merrill Lynch stars are leaving Bank of America—because they feared that compensation restrictions on banks that accept TARP money would affect their wallets.

Timothy GeithnerAs originally outlined, the government would have bought up toxic mortgage-backed securities at a premium over their current deflated values.

The New York Times, on the Bush Administration’s first bank rescue plan

The plan aims to remove the so-called toxic assets—many of them bad mortgage investments—from the banks’ balance sheets through a private-public partnership.

ABCNews, on the Obama Administration’s new bank rescue plan

Official details on Tim Geithner’s plan to get credit flowing in the financial industry are out today…

Each week, “Joe the Trader” chronicles his experiences with life after Wall Street.

red-x“It’s not you.”

I’ve been told that—let me see—at least 15 times in the past. There was Molly, Jen, Claire, and Aisha (no wait, that was me). You get the picture. I was never the reason the girls broke up with me. You would think that, having been dumped on a fairly consistent basis since 1984, I would have been steeled for today’s bad news from one of my most promising job prospects.

Each week, “Joe the Trader” chronicles his experiences with life after Wall Street.

keys in hand 150While it was old news, I was still left speechless by the article a fellow member of the He-Man’s Unemployment club recently sent to me. In early January, Newsweek published “The Case for Walking Away,” in which the author suggests that 2009 is the year to file for personal bankruptcy.

Don’t wait until it’s too late, the article advises. Indeed, “the right time to file for bankruptcy is when you’re financially stuck but still have assets to protect.” It is truly a sign of the times when a major news magazine is actually advocating such a thing.

The word credit is derived from the Latin credo, “to believe.” If integrity goes who will believe anybody? The current situation is truly a crisis of credit.