One year after leaving Wall Street

Ex-Wall Streeter Christopher Miraldi

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Last year at this time was interesting. We were just a couple weeks away from a presidential election. We were still adjusting to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the true effects of the financial crisis. But a lot of people were already living it, including two we profiled on this program.

Bryan Tackett had just lost his job at a New York insurance broker.

BRYAN TACKETT: I would say 100 percent I am a direct casualty of, you know, what's going on in the financial markets right now.

Christopher Miraldi was laid off by Wachovia just a couple of months before the market crashed, which means he lost his health care.

CHRISTOPHER MIRALDI: At precisely the moment when you do get downsized, all of a sudden your health care costs jump through the roof with COBRA.

Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson caught up with both of them a couple of weeks ago.


JEREMY HOBSON: A year ago, I met with Bryan Tackett near his old office in lower Manhattan. We sat with lunching Wall-Streeters in nearby Battery Park staring out at the Statue of Liberty.

But this year, Bryan Tackett has moved to where the jobs are, and we find ourselves in Lafayette Park, right across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

HOBSON: What happened?

TACKETT: Umm, well the job market in New York being as it was, no prospects after three months, so I decided to come down here and give DC a shot.

HOBSON: So you came down here without a job?

TACKETT: Yeah, no job whatsoever. Just hooked up with a couple of my friends. Stayed with them.

And after five months with less than $500 left in his bank account, he took a job at a risk management firm that paid far less than he made in New York.

But when I called his office to set up this interview a couple of weeks ago, I was told he no longer worked for the company.

HOBSON: What happened with this job?

TACKETT: Kind of a difference in opinion I think on some things that I felt that we needed to do. So I decided to part ways, umm...

HOBSON: You decided to do it.

TACKETT: Yeah, I decided to do that myself.

HOBSON: I mean, in this market?

TACKETT: I think it -- I think it is a completely different job market here in Washington. I think there is a very flourishing bourgeoning government.

HOBSON: Would you have done this a year ago?

TACKETT: Absolutely not. I wouldn't have done it a year ago even in Washington, and I would not have done it a year ago certainly in New York.

And you may be surprised to hear that after the rough year 29-year-old Bryan Tackett has had. He calls the whole thing a 100 percent positive experience.

TACKETT: You know, in the long haul, I'm going to look back on this last year and say nothing but good things and certainly with kids one day will say back when I was almost 30, this happened, and these are the things that I learned, so if I can do that you can survive anything, I promise.

On the day I met Christopher Miraldi, he was turning 47. We met on the exact same bench in New York's Central Park that we'd sat on a year ago. And he is still unemployed.

MIRALDI: I mean, I've been looking for work all along, but I've been looking at different options besides just financial services. Financial services had almost a complete blackout for five full months.

Miraldi waited out the worst of the crisis teaching English in Ukraine. Now he's applied to the Peace Corps and the foreign service. But the problem he mentioned to me last year has only gotten worse.

MIRALDI: The problem now is health insurance. And this was unexpected. Everyone said that COBRA was expensive, but I thought it was reasonable, I was paying $440 a month. Well, when COBRA ended and I had AETNA, it jumped to $932 a month.

If you're unfamiliar with COBRA, it only allows you to extend your previous employer's health benefits for 18 months. And Miraldi has now been out of work for 20.

MIRALDI: This was a learning process, it was interesting given all the talk about health care right now, so...

HOBSON: Yeah, a year ago you were living the banking nightmare, and now you're in the health-care situation.

MIRALDI: I know. It's sad, isn't it.

Miraldi says he'll never feel totally secure in a job again. After all, he spent years at Wachovia only to be laid off in a round of cuts.

But as for the last year, like Bryan Tackett, he has no regrets.

MIRALDI: My father died at age 54, one year before he was supposed to retire. And he wanted to travel, he was looking so forward to retiring. And I feel that I've had a little sneak preview. And it's been an absolute wonderful experience. And you know if you do get let go, you know ask yourself was this really the right job for me anyway. Maybe there was something else that I would have rather done.

HOBSON: And save enough money so that you can do it?

MIRALDI: Save, save, save, I have always been a saver, and I still will now.

If only people had thought like that on and off Wall Street while they still had their jobs.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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