Crisis confessionals: Feeling the effects of the financial crisis

People walk along Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange on May 25, 2010 in New York City.

We're looking back five years, to the early fall of 2008. The collapse of Lehman Brothers signaled a downturn in the U.S. economy that still persists in parts of the country today.

We wanted to know when the financial crisis began to affect Americans, and what were the signs of change that people saw. Here are some Crisis Confessionals:


Neil Raper is from New Jersey.

I worked for a company in Totowa, N.J., called Custom Index. Their main claim to fame was making tabs, you know those things you put in three-ring binders as dividers. Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley all had literally tons of custom stock in our warehouse. I mean, our warehouse was huge, you have no idea; Lehman stock alone was about 20 tons. And it's just tabs -- it's not even the print, just tabs.

What used to be a full workload for three shifts of pressmen became 75 percent, then 50 percent, then I was let go with about 300 other people. I had been in the industry for 19 years, and weathered several recessions, but this one was going to be the last nail. Not being able to get a job in print, I moved to Kentucky to live with my mom where unemployment was already on the rise. I'm currently going to college to retool in a new career and taking on an amazing amount of debt to do it.


Jack Tobias is the manager at Martinique Jewelers on 7th Avenue in New York City. It sits across the street from what was once the Lehman Brothers building -- now home to Barclays.

We remember seeing a bunch of people just coming out with boxes that had a picture of Dick Fuld, they were all writing bad messages, angry messages.

We had some sad moments. We had customers, good friends coming in crying, they were laid off.

Within two years, the Barclays employees, former Lehman boys started coming back, started spending money.

We kind of bounced back better than we had before.


Rebecca Mellicker is a massage therapist from Washington, D.C.

I remember when I heard that Lehman Brothers had failed, I was scared. I'm a massage therapist with a small private practice in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C. I thought for sure that during a serious financial crisis, massage therapy would be the first thing my clients would cross off their monthly expenses. But I was wrong -- my practice remained stable.

Normally during the summer, my clients take a month and go on lavish vacations like to the Amalfi Coast or safaris in Africa, but maybe they decided an hour on the table would give them some time to gather their wits, something that is crucial within the dog-eat-dog culture of Washington, D.C.

But here's the weird part: Over the next few weeks, my practice became insanely busy. Everyone who had ever come to see me was suddenly clamoring for an appointment. I had more new client referrals than I could handle. I guess people were rattled.

It's so ironic that during the worst part of the meltdown, I was able to clear a couple of personal debts and sock some cash into my savings account.

This year, August in my practice was extremely quiet. I figure the economy must be back on track because my clients all left town, probably rented that villa on the Amalfi Coast.


Kile Campbell is a listener currently living in the Bay Area in California.

I was living in Washington, D.C., and working as an architectural intern when the crash hit. It was in a crosstown cab, when I heard on the radio that Lehman Brothers went under. Two months later I lost my job. It wasn't the crash of Lehmans' that started me worrying about my job security and the state of the industry in general, it was just another event in the long stream of bad news. I had been dreading losing my job for almost a year. Building starts and potential projects were just not coming in and clients were losing their investors right and left. Our office was trying to branch out of our normal field of practice to try and find new work but every architecture office was doing the same and competition was pretty fierce.

On the other side of the coin, everyone in my office was on a home buying frenzy starting in mid-2007 because housing prices were finally starting to come down to a level we could afford. We understood the irony -- our profession was based on building and construction costs but we were personally hoping for cheaper housing because we couldn't afford to buy at the previously high levels. I think we were all hoping that the industry would take a bit of a dive and correct itself and then start to recover. I don't believe any of us thought it would get as bad as it did.

I think my generation has lost a lot of the trust we had before, trust in that we would eventually make it to the same comfort level as our parents if we worked hard enough. I no longer think it is a given that I'll eventually have the nice detached house, an annual big vacation to somewhere exotic or drive a new car every few years. It's going to take a long time for the shadow of those years to completely fade, if ever. I think I'll always be worried for my job security for the rest of my life.



Tell us about when you first started the feel the effects of the financial crisis. Tweet us @MarketplaceAPM with #CrisisConfessional

 
Lehman's Legacy: A Timeline Follow the key events before and after the Lehman Brothers collapse, and see how the financial crisis unfolded. Follow the timeline

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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