Finance industry bemoans hard times in an era of reduced bonuses

Bloomberg's Max Abelson takes us deep into the spectacle of members of Wall Street's 1% bemoaning their difficult straits as they struggle to make ends meet with their reduced bonuses. One doesn't know how he'll tell his children that they can't go to an exclusive private school anymore, another bemoans his mere 1200sqft New York apartment, and a third is gutted at the thought that he and his family no longer toss away the coupon circular that is left in their doorway -- now they glance at it!

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

...“They have a circular that they leave in front of the buildings in our neighborhood,” said Arbeeny, 49, who lives in nearby Cobble Hill, namesake for a line of pebbled-leather Kate Spade handbags. “We sit there, and I look through all of them to find out where it’s worth going.”

...The malaise is shared by Schiff, the New York-based marketing director for Euro Pacific Capital, where his brother is CEO. His family rents the lower duplex of a brownstone in Cobble Hill, where his two children share a room. His 10-year- old daughter is a student at $32,000-a-year Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. His son, 7, will apply in a few years.

“I can’t imagine what I’m going to do,” Schiff said. “I’m crammed into 1,200 square feet. I don’t have a dishwasher. We do all our dishes by hand.”

Wall Street Bonus Drop Means Trading Aspen for Discount Cereal

(via Consumerist)


    1. Come on! Come on!
      Cry me a river…
      Cry me a river…
      I cried a river over you
      I cried a river over you…

  1. OMG!!!

    People are living in tiny spaces larger than my house, garage, studio, and husband’s workshop. Even worse, they are forced to wash dishes by hand!

    Happy Sheldon Day. :}

  2. More fuel for the fire.  From the article:””“I feel stuck,” Schiff said. “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach.” ”

    I got a newsflash for you, Mr. Schiff. It will ALWAYS be beyond your reach.

    1.  Ah, Peter Schiff’s *brother*… Had to do a few double takes of the article.

      Peter called the meltdown, chapter and verse, and was ridiculed for it by the ‘experts’ who facilitated the debacle (and who are now in charge of fixing the mess they made).  I highly recommend looking up some of his appearances on finance TV and before senate and congressional hearings.

  3. The smallest sympathy violin in known existence is playing right now, and it’s putting out one hell of a concerto, at the moment….

      1. I find that placing the user larynx-side up during the process can reduce the duration of complaints in a dull-blade scenario…

  4. Boo hoo!

    Can’t they get a ticket to one of those event rooms in Beverly Hills? I hear they give free stuff.

  5. This is TERRIBLE!

    Hey, how about considering sending the little brats to one of those schools that they supported so diligently when they had big bonuses, you know, the public schools and community colleges?
    Or would that be a fate worse than death?

    My sympathy knows no bounds…
    (this comment is sent from a country with free (tax money funded) colleges and universities where the rich actually take part in society….howaboutthat…)

      1. Well you know, poor people are waging class warfare to suggest that they are being stuck with worse schools. Now these wonderful wealthy saints can prove that these schools are just as good! And no doubt their kids will excel!

  6. I certainly hope none of these people are expecting any sympathy for relating their tales of woe. 

    I wonder what kind of bellyaching they’d do if they were forced to live on my salary.

  7. So these people who were paid exorbitant amounts to manage other people’s money… can’t even manage their own. This explains a few things.

  8. I’m afraid that, due to austerity measures in place because of the present economic circumstances, waaahmbulance service has been discontinued until further notice.

  9. We’ve lived in a 1200 square foot house, built in 1851 for thirty five years, raised our own two kids there, plus three more we took in because their family life sucked.  Sent our kids and those three to college on our dime.  In thirty five years, we’ve owned two new cars, paid off the house two times, and are paying it off for a third, all on a combined income of less than what it would take to send three kids to that hoity-toity school each year.  I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for these people.  We’re going to die poor, but at least we invested in the future, with any luck, some good will come out of it.   

    1. Good point about kids and the future. That’s a form of “investment” too few people see that way. Thanks for this thought-provoking comment.

  10. Cry me a fuckin’ river…

    Really, 1,200 sq.ft. in Manhattan is too tough for you… Try 800 or 400 sq.ft.

    I have friends living in one room in Manhattan.

    We have no health care in this country because all the money went to scamsters, banksters and lawyers like them.

    Your GREED is appalling.

    We’ve become a government
    • OF the thousandaires (the 99%, that would be me and thee,)
    • BY the millionaires (the 1%, that would be the extremely insular privileged overlords and bosses,)
    • FOR the billionaires (the 12,400 individuals identified by the IRS as the people who count (though they don’t really count as they hire some thousandaires to run machines to do that.)

    How is this different than the political situation that led to the founding of the United States?

    It ISN’T.

    What happened the last time? (Or did you sleep through history class?)

      1. Most of the lawyers I know aren’t that rich either. Turns out all the kinds of law that make you feel like you’re doing something good for people pay crap.

    1.  To be fair, the United States government was set up exactly as you described it.  The American revolution was fomented by wealthy merchants and farmers who didn’t want to pay their taxes (sound familiar?) and these are the guys who designed the government so that senators, the president, and vice president were appointed by the state governments rather than elected by the people.

      “Life, liberty, and happiness” was supposed to be “life, liberty, and property” until it was pointed out to Jefferson that it might be hard to get poor-as-shit farmers to put their lives on the line to defend someone else’s right to property.  “Happiness” was just better PR (short for PRopaganda).  (Sound familiar?)

      Someone slept through history class but it wasn’t me.

    1. Kinda with you there. How can anyone be so out of touch with the world’s problems go ‘Anyone without money wouldn’t understand the stress-‘

      Then act like you should play handmaid to their every whim instead of, y’know, treating it like the joke it is.

      1.  You could easily say the same about our economic problems, if you were to be a resident of the average favela.  It’s all relative.

        That doesn’t mean we should sympathise with these people, but personally I believe that’s because of their crimes, rather than their wealth.

    2. I completely believe it because I’ve met people like this. I used to know someone who, went they got home each evening, threw her pocket-change in the trash. 

      Money is very, very insulating. The provincialism of monied New Yorkers, especially, can be humorously ironic. And completely angrifying too.

      1. The provincialism of monied New Yorkers, especially, can be humorously ironic.

        There’s an episode of something where the host wanders around Manhattan asking people a basic question about a vacuum cleaner, and most of them don’t even know which end goes on the floor.

        Of course, Southern California is just as bad. One of my coworkers once proclaimed (unironically) in a thick Valley accent, “The only Spanish I know is Limpia. La. Casa.

  11. “People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress…”

    I think we’ve just found the 21st century version of “let them eat cake.”

    1. The likes of you and me will never understand the dilemma one faces when choosing between a nice new rolex watch or 15 ivory back scratchers. 

  12. I know it won’t be a popular point to make, but for people in finance after the first few years, it’s not unusual for the bonus to be 50% or more of your entire annual compensation. It doesn’t take a whole lot of empathy to do the math for yourself and  realize that if you made $200K last year and $100K this year, it’s going to be a bit of a shock.
    I get that people think that anyone making six figures must be magically rich and therefore able to accomodate a 40-60% drop in salary, but at the end of the day folks earning large salaries probably have percentage allocations not unlike anybody else. Sure, you could make $250K a year, live on $100K, and bank the rest, but nobody ever does, especially in expensive places like NYC. I’m sure plenty of us here make more than we absolutely need to live on, and I’m equally sure plenty of us would react very poorly to a 50% pay cut for 2012.

    Is it bad taste to complain about it? Absolutely. But it’s a real, legitimate worry for people. Behaving as though they’re some how awful for having worries seems uncool to me.

    1.  They might have to, gasp, change their lifestyles?  Crazy.  I mean, I know that I, as a middle class family member, live a life of freewheeling fancy & in NOOooooo way had to alter MY behavior because of this financial crunch!  It has been smoooooooth sailing!

    2. There’s a big difference between having to give up private schools, giant New York city apartments, champagne and caviar and having to give up health care, higher ed and taking charity just to be able to feed your family. 100K is still twice as much as the average American family lives on. If they can’t adjust to that with some grace then no, I don’t have much sympathy for them.

      1. Stepdad used to make roughly that much and most of it was eaten up by medical bills (special needs sibblings and mom’s had several surgeries over the years due to bone problems.)

        So while family hadn’t been hand in mouth we were far from the lap of luxury. However as with most of the rest of my life i do believe tht’s an Outliner case. 

    3.  A 50% income cut from $40k to $20k, in NYC would probably put you out on the street, or at least into a dangerous neighborhood. A 50% cut from $300k to $150k? Maybe you have to sell your condo and move into a rental. Maybe your commute time goes up an hour. Homelessness is desperate and life-threatening, taking your vacation in Vermont instead of Aspen is not.

      1. And you don’t think changing your entire lifestyle readily enough to avoid going into debt wouldn’t cause huge trials and tribulations?  Bankers deserve those worries; and don’t deserve our sympathy, but they’re still legitimate worries, and if they were any one else I’d sympathise with them greatly.

        1. Nobody would care if they had the good taste to worry silently in their beds, sleeplessly staring up at the ceiling.  It’s when they actually open their mouths and complain about it that they reveal their selfishness and cluelessness.  Would it kill them to at least preface their moaning with something like “I know we’ve been extraordinarily fortunate in years past with the benefits we’ve reaped, and I know that nearly everyone out there is much less fortunate than we, but this has hit us pretty hard,” or at least moderate their language to avoid making it sound like telling your kids they have to go to a cheaper school is akin to telling them you have to sell them for medical experiments?

          1. I can’t blame the lashers-back.  Times are tough, austerity is prescribed for the rank and file by the powers that be, and rich (albeit currently somewhat less-rich) people are complaining about downgrading their private schools and vacations when we here in the peanut gallery have spent the last four years worrying about being unemployed, impending foreclosure, and whether our (national average) ten-year-old Honda is going to make it another month on its original timing belt.  And that’s the lucky ones, who still have jobs, homes, and cars to lose.  (Most of the actual poor aren’t posting here, since their internet connectivity is sketchy at best.)

            Before this post our complaints about the 1% were related to their causing the downfall of the world’s economies.  Now when we hear lower-level plutocrats bitching about belt-tightening measures that have nothing to do with keeping food in their kids’ bellies and some kind of roof over their heads, we lash out at their bellyaching.  “Gee, how do you tell your kids they can’t go to the Swellington Academy For Comfortably Well-Off Children anymore?  How about using the method I employ to tell my kids they’re gonna have to celebrate their birthdays in the park down the block instead of at Disneyland?  Or when I tell my daughter she still has to share a bedroom with her brother because we simply don’t have the means to buy a larger house?  You suck it up and do what you gotta do, and quit whining about it.”

            I don’t believe that’s misdirected.

          2. “Gee, how do you tell your kids they can’t go to the Swellington Academy For Comfortably Well-Off Children anymore?

            My hometown in Massachusetts was in the bottom third of ability to pay and in the top third of what it was paying for schools. Because our parents didn’t buy shit that we didn’t need. You bought a basic car and drove it until it rusted out from under you. You bought a new TV once a decade. These people could keep their children in the schools that they prefer if they cut out all the extraneous budget items.

          3. Because our parents didn’t buy shit that we didn’t need.

            Damn straight, if you’ll forgive the phrase.  My trailer-park youth was not devoid of love and fun and occasional travel (albeit entirely by car, in a 1974 Renault 12 station wagon that made 83 horsepower and had a black vinyl interior with no air conditioning, so the off-season July trip to Death Valley wasn’t as fun as we’d hoped, but that’s beside the point), but I learned a good lesson from a former girlfriend from Vermont.  Her family traveled a lot, once traveling from Vermont to Ohio and back on bicycles when she was nine years old, and taking occasional trips to Europe and Asia.  I asked her if she’d grown up kinda, well, rich. She said no, they never had much money, but travel was a beloved priority for them, so they went without pretty much every other luxury you could imagine just so they could get out and see some of the world for a week or two every year or two.

            I think a lot of grace can be achieved through prioritizing, and for being grateful for what advantages one possesses.  Losing perspective is to be avoided whenever possible.

          4. We had a summer home in New Hampshire. My parents built it themselves. And made the furniture.

    4. The thing is, they have some painfully obvious expenses that can be cut instantly and replaced with virtually free substitutes (like the $32,000 a year school, or moving out of the 1200 square foot apartment in Manhattan). They also are likely to have material goods that they could sell if they had to to get some cash. Most likely they have in fact invested in things like stock or retirement accounts, that, although it hurts to cash out early, they could cash out early for some extra money (like so many of the rest of us have done). 
      Yes, a 50% pay cut hurts, but unless these people were completely foolish, they should also have substantial resources beyond the average person to fall back on. Tough times require some sacrifices, and these people have a lot of stuff they could do without before they even get close to finding out what real financial pain is.

      These people are not necessarily awful, but their complaints are impossibly foolish. Perhaps those of us without money don’t understand their stresses, but these people certainly don’t understand the stresses of those of us without money, who have never had the luxury of building up resources that we could use as a safety net for ourselves during hard times. 

      What they don’t recognize is that it is always hard times, it has always been hard times, for many of us. I think the anger is that these people should recognize their luck at even being able to consider sending their kids to ridiculously expensive grade schools, or willfully hemorrhaging money through rent on a super expensive apartment, especially when there are other, very easy and inexpensive to obtain options. Your kid might actually have to work their ass off in a public school to maybe get even a shadow of a chance to go to some university like Harvard? Or they may even be forced to settle for a state school like SUNY? You might have to live in the same neighborhood as your maid? Or even commute from New Jersey or Connecticut? You may have no choice but to live in, and perhaps participate in the same world the rest of us? Oh, the horror!

    5. It’s a shame that the other people that replied to your comment seem to have entirely missed your point.

      [EDIT: there have been a couple of more nuanced replies whilst I wrote this]

      1. It’s a shame that you’re working so hard to get people to feel bad for these “poor people” who are suffering the consequences of their own arrogance and overreaching.  The only way you could consider these “troubles” is if you think attending public schools and living in a neighborhood that is not quite the most fashionable in Manhattan are real travails and tribulations on par with choosing between groceries and a mortgage payment.  They’re not.  These people are privileged assholes and they should be thanking poorer Americans for the opportunity they had to pretend to be fabulously wealthy.

    6. Perhaps they could live on less. And they are definitely awful for whining about living on enough money to support entire communities, not in the third world, but in the good ol’ USA.

    7. Except nobody’s losing their entire bonus, so your theoretical 40-50% loss of income is useless. Nobody’s going from $200k to $100k. They’re talking about a losses around 10% (if the $50k to $40k example in the article is indicative) for people who are spending enormous amounts of money on golf club memberships and vacation rentals.

      Guy had to sell two motorcycles he didn’t ride and considers his Porsche 911 convertible the “Volkswagen of supercars”. Boo-freakin’-hoo. These people will have my sympathy when their heads tumble from the guillotine.

    8.  Well if they’re making so much goddamned money in the business of money management you’d think they would at least be competent enough to take stock of the fact that their income is dependent on bonuses and structure their lifestyles accordingly.  If I knew I might only make half my salary next year I’d probably to moderate some of my more prodigious expenses.  And I’m not even a high-paid, high-profile money manager, I’m just some mook at a software company.  Hey, maybe they should give me a bonus.

      When you go use your fabulous bonus to finance a $5000 a month mortgage and private school for all your kiddies (and probably lobbying like hell to gut and privatize those evil public school sucking up all your tax monies) you are making a choice.  And if you make that choice and your pie-in-the-sky dreams of being a financial titan wash out because you and all your colleagues are incompetent well then, you have to live with the decisions you’ve already made.  No one made these people go out and spend money they didn’t really have — that’s something they did themselves.  What’s hilarious is that so many of them insist poor people put them in this position by doing the exact same thing — spending money they didn’t actually have.  Guess the rich aren’t so different after all.

    9. The problem is that people got used to the high bonus and didn’t believe they would ever not be so huge. Just like the value of our 401k will only keep increasing, right?

    10. Others have mentioned the myriad ways these changes in lifestyle are not actually detrimental to the lives of those profiled (public school, washing dishes, walking one’s own dog, buying fewer designer bags, selling a luxury car or moving to the suburbs do not impact your life quite the same way that losing your home or health insurance does;) so I’ll edit my comment to say that you would think these financial managers and bankers might have noticed the economy at some point in the past 4 years, and planned for possible shortfalls.

  13. Housing costs in NYC (which I extend to cover the 5 boroughs and the Hamptons :-) ) are absolutely humoungous, even if you’re not looking at penthouses overlooking Central Park West.  That said,  anyone who plans his recurring expenses such as housing or education on the basis of bonuses is a damn fool.

  14. Oh no… they may have to send their kids to school with the commoners!

    Oh, and the “wash dishes by hand” thing is easily solved by going out to 4-star restaurants for dinner every day…

  15. I’m with Chet in that, regardless of the relatively superflous levels of luxurey these individuals seem to have, they also have a right to feel distressed if they can’t meet their outgoings.  I mean, if I could afford what I thought of as the BEST education for my children, and then couldn’t follow through later?  Yeah, that would upset me no end.  That said, do I feel any sympathy?  bwaa ha ha ha none whatsoever, suck it up butter cup and stand a little closer to the rest of us schmucks, but for those of us sitting here laughing at their distress (myself included), how the fuck we gonna say we’re any morally better when we hate on them when they do the same when the (£3,500 Italian) shoe is on the other foot?  we’re all humans, so keep the focus on the *system* that allows otherwise fine upstanding citizens to become selfish whingy self indulgent spoilt little zubbity zub quack quack quack quacks. remember the fact we’re sitting here reading this means there’s a chance WE’RE the whingy spoilt ones next to someone in {insert impovershed 3rd world here} who has never touched a comupter and doesn’t even know where the next meal is coming from.

  16. I was sort of on Schiff’s side until I read the original article – if $350,000 a year isn’t enough for a family with three kids, even with $100k a year on school fees, and even in New York (I live in central London and pay nearly three times the rent that friends of mine in other cities do, so I get it) then you’re doing something wrong. I agree with “anyone who plans his recurring expenses such as housing or education on the basis of bonuses is a damn fool”, this seems to cut to the heart of the problem. Anything that is by its very nature variable (even if induction would suggest it was a pretty sure thing) should be seen as a treat, not depended upon. Probably.

    1. Each family member costs almost four times what it costs for me to live. If you can’t afford to live on that, reduce your expenses and live within your means.

      I have no sympathy, and I would backhand someone foolish and hubristic enough to whine about this sort of money trouble without a second thought (and I’m a pacifist!). If the Occupy movement hadn’t started the class war on the public stage, I’d have called this article as being a troll or from The Onion.

  17. I used to do all my dishes by hand up until several years ago when I moved to US.. and still I sometimes prefer hand-washing certain items because I think I do a better job. It is meditative, rewarding and builds character.

    1. builds character…. and dry, damaged skin.  UNLESS: you use Palmolive dish detergent!  You’re soaking your hands in it right now!

    2. Hand washing your dishes guarantees that you’ll have really clean hands at least once per day.

      1. Sure, if you’re one of those Martha Stewart-types who doesn’t let the dishes pile up for a week or two in between washings.

        1. I’ve been pretty prompt about clean-up since I saw Withnail and I. There was a sink shot that was worse than anything in Eraserhead.

  18. i don’t understand the contempt. they’re sad because their golden cages are shrinking. this is simply the million-and-first piece of evidence that when you live the consumer lifestyle, it’s not the size of the cage that matters, it’s whether it’s currently getting bigger or smaller that counts. tell me, are they really so different from you in that respect? or are you just taking potshots at those with grander lifestyles because it eases the pangs of jealousy for a few minutes?

    take this story for the lesson it is: measure your life by luxuries, and you’ll still be the same sad asshole no matter how much you make.

    1. Not really. Those expansions come at a cost. They’re sad that they are like the rest of us instead of better than us. 

      Now think about that instead of ‘jealousy’ and perhaps the contempt will make more sense.

    2.  Uh, no.  I value future survival over trivial and ephemeral creature comforts in the here and now.  I like living in my tiny 500 sq foot apartment that is close enough to work that I don’t need to bother paying for a car or insurance.  I like the discipline of spending even less than I can and I like the feedback I get from the rising bank balance that tells me that even if everything I have now goes to shit I can recover and keep going for a few years.

      So none of my contempt is born of jealousy and yes, these people are very different from me in the respect that you mention.  My contempt is born from the sheer stupidity and disregard for the lower classes that is required for these people to fail to see that they’re simply living out the consequences of their own decisions and that even so they’re thriving compared to the vast majority of Americans let alone human beings on the planet.  These people need to open their windows, cock their heads out at the night sky and listen for sirens.  Hear those?  Means someone’s got a bigger problem than you do right now.  So suck it up, stop whining, and try to figure out what the phrase “quality of life” actually means.  There are probably millions of people in the world handling malnutrition better than these guys are handling not getting bonuses they don’t deserve in the first place.

    3. I think the contempt is less that rich people have to cut back on their expenses just like us non-rich-New-Yorkers (although “hate the rich” could be in play for some), it’s contempt at the selfish hubris of whining about it as if they were equal if not worse off than the single mom who has to decide between food and catching up on the utility bills when her paycheck comes in.

      How do I tell my children that they have to go to a public school now? HORRORS!

      Yeah, they have to tighten their belts like the rest of us are used to having to do, and that’s never fun. But to play the victim of hardship is just hilarious.

      1. Also: a lot of wealthy folks advocate for lower taxes, and chopping programs like public education. Rather than investing in the common good, they’ve been investing in their own good… and now that they might actually need to avail themselves of the common good… these particular individuals still aren’t seeing the light.

  19. Do you people have no souls?  How can you mock someone who has to get by on a mere $350,000?  One guy had to sell his motorbikes, for goodness sake!  I was in tears when I read that.  What about the poor guy who had to buy the budget salmon? It really is heartbreaking.

    1. Sure they’re having to do with cut rate budget ingredients for the kitchen, but you should see what a cook can do with whatever’s on hand. I present Exhibit A: My Mom. She is a McGuyver in the kitchen able to whip together food for a small army (or rather my family when everyone shows up) with whatever’s on hand.

      All it means is getting inventive, and a little forced creativity can be a good thing no? Might force ’em to consider what other people have to do.

        1. Whether you believe the Bible as Word of God type stuff it does have some interesting nuggets. Mostly ‘A time for all things.’

          I think one of the founding fathers also had something to say in the value in moderation.

  20. comment from the bloomberg site i thought was appropriate:
    “Any of these financial managers in this condition should be fired.  If you can’t manage your personal finances, you are incompetent to handle other peoples’ money.”

    “Are the cost cuts so deep at Bloomberg that you’re stealing content from The Onion?”

  21. I don’t want to jump to the defense of the bankers (nor will I), but admittedly wealth is relative.  If you’re sensible then you live within your means, so any cut in finances can create a struggle.

    Us BoingBoing commenters (and even writers) will all have varying salaries, but I’m willing to bet if we all had to cut them by 20% we’d all struggle with that change.  Mortgages don’t fluctuate with your pay cheque and few people earning high figures will live in small, cheap flats.  I saw a documentary not long ago about the intense struggle created by a high-flyer losing their job.  They almost ended up living on the street and were in huge debt; costs mount up and you cant just adapt overnight. Bills need to get paid and the likelihood is that those bills would be relative to your income.

    There’ll be someone in Africa taking the piss out of the western world because they’re losing their houses – I mean houses are hugely luxurious – running water, heat; we live like Kings.

    That said their industry is almost solely responsible for ruining many peoples lives, through greed and corruption – so stuff ’em, as an institution they deserve it.

    1. Some of us have actually been poor. Like, the kind of poor where you might die, your teeth fall out, or you just pretend not to have pneumonia because you can’t afford to get an xray. Honestly, no. I do not live in fear of a 20% salary decrease because I know I could weather it and I’m not that much of a privileged ass. And yeah, you’re right about people who have it worse. Which is why it is annoying to watch these people whine and complain about what amounts to minor inconveniences that they are apparently too stupid to deal with.

      Yep. I said it.

      That sword cuts both ways. They weren’t out there having compassion for people who have it worse than them, after all, were they?

      1. “That sword cuts both ways. They weren’t out there having compassion for people who have it worse than them, after all, were they?”

        They certainly weren’t, and that’s why they deserve no sympathy; they’re getting what’s coming to them.

        And of course I feel for you in that situation; I’ve been fortunate enough to not be able to relate to it, so won’t patronise you by pretending to; but my compassion is able to fluctuate with context – I can appreciate how hard it must be to not afford an xray, I can also appreciate how hard it must be to live in community that doesn’t even have access to xray.  I don’t think my compassion needs to be graded; otherwise everyone is doing fine except for that one guy who is the most worse off.

        But I (kind of) work for my self, I’m a partner in a company, I generate my own income; and if I had a few bad months it wouldn’t be as simple as moving into a smaller home and downgrading my mobile handset; I’d have to scrap everything, move in with the parents and start again; even though there’ll be people living happily on that amount.  But even so, I’d be hugely stressed by the ordeal and would really struggle with it, as most people would.  I think your hardened nature as a result of your experiences is something to be revered, but it doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t really struggle with it.

      2. Worst I’ve had is to have to go without new clothes and no dental (which admittedly is Not Good given all four of my wisdom teeth had busted at this time and I was in screamy agony till the nerves died.) 

        20% is relative here. Take 20% from someone living at the margains is going to sink them. Take that same 20% from someone who isn’t having to deal check to check and or has the good fortune/foresight to put away for the lean times is going to have to do Without but it won’t be world ending.

        1. It still depends on the situation; people can go from living in a 5 bed house to homeless in a matter of weeks – life is rarely as simple as you make out.

          That said on the whole you’re right, if you;re very wealthy there are few excuses to not have some kind of financial contingency, but actioning that contingency still won’t necessarily be easy.  Pulling your kids out of their school, moving home, altering your buying patterns, hobby’s etc. is enough to cause far more depression than living on the breadline.  It’s ironic, I know, but true. People adapt to their circumstances, but rarely overnight.

          1. People can go from living in a five bedroom house to being homeless because they like crack a lot too. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a valid problem… but not dealing with your problems is pretty much everyone’s biggest problem isn’t it?

          2. Oh shame, they’ll have to deal with the same problems I’ve seen my family go through during moves, re-zonings, trying to get my sister in X school because it had a better program for special needs than Y school that we were zoned for because we wanted a decent neighborhood.

            It’s not fun. It’s not fair. It is what it is and I’ll always have respect for dear old mum for managing to handle the workload. (goes back to the ‘bad bones’ thing mom has. It’s one of those inhereted things apparently.) 

            Also admittedly there are some things you just can’t control that can and will torpedo you, like my brother having back surgery that both cost him his job and as an extention cost him his health insurance

            Having to accept help is not shameful. Whining about not having x or y when you’ve been profiting off bonuses that you shouldn’t have gotten in the first place due to being in the institutes that torpedoed said economy then got bailed out by the taxpayers…. No you don’t get a right to complain at your fortunes. 

            I won’t turn away a helping hand even to these people since I’d like to think it would give them some much needed perspective in that people helping people is how things SHOULD go rather than their skewed ‘winner take all and all the losers can burn in hell’ mentality that either upbringing or their line of work hammered into ’em.

            I do, however, reserve the right to be thoroughly disgusted by their laments on the way down.

    2. There’ll be someone in Africa taking the piss out of the western world because they’re losing their houses – I mean houses are hugely luxurious – running water, heat; we live like Kings.

      A classic libertarian fallacy, McArdle employed the same cliche as a matter of fact: Somalia.  We do not live in Africa.   These wealthy people and the American working poor live in the same country. Africa is not our yardstick for prosperity any more than North Korea is. Compare our level of wealth inequality to similarly rich Western countries if you’d like to be a bit more honest.

      1. That’s a fair point – it does draw an unfair comparison; but that said there are some very poor people in America, and there are some very rich people in Somalia; I don’t think it alters the argument.

        The point being that there aren’t many people able to absorb huge salary cuts and take them entirely on the chin – irrelevant of your income.

        And of course it’d still suck more to lose your house than to have to half the size of it; but it’s a bit crass to make it a competition for our sympathy.

        Again though, I must stress, that this is a perfect case of just deserts.

        1. I don’t think it alters the argument.

          Of course it does.  Most Americans would feel like they won the lottery if they were paid 350k a year.   People do not feel much sympathy because most of the people in this country (not Africa) are not that rich.  And yes, these people ARE rich. In case you’re confused, if they have to cut back on amenities they’ll still be in the realm of unaffordable luxury when it comes to most American’s incomes.

    3. I disagree with how a  lot of your position is argued.  These people did not take a 20% salary cut.  They took a 50% bonus cut.  The fact that the bonus cut corresponds to 20-30% of total income is somewhat irrelevant.  I’d take issue if someone cut my salary by 20%, but I don’t depend on my bonus, since it could vary widely based on performance, company performance, or external factors.

    4. Over the past 15 years I went from earning a decent salary and getting some extra money for 3 years and then I got another severe MS attack that left me disabled this time.

      Am I whining and bitching because I’m no longer on the gravy train? No way…

      I am grateful however that I continued to live like I was earning the same amount  and used the extra money instead to buy my own condo and a few toys like my computers, my wife’s bachelor’s degree and the like.

      My income has crashed and I am living off of disability, I used to have bigger credit card bills than I now have as gross income, but they were business expenses and I don’t need more crap in my life anyway.

    1. Maybe the just need education.

      For home economics, they could use some lessons in:
      • the cost/benefit of Kraft Dinner®™, or
      • how to use Hamburger Helper®™ despite not having hamburger this week ’cause the food stamps ran out, or
      • how to survive by eating track rabbits, aka warf rats, because there’s plenty of good eating on those, or
      • how to skin a dog, cat, raccoon, porcupine, skunk or other suburban  critters, or
      • preparing squab on a barbecue, or   
      • the simpler pleasures of primates, such as picking fleas out of each other’s hair,  or
      • how to fry-up insects in chili paste for some nutritious meals.

      For shop/survival, they could use lessons in:
      • finding and maintaining shopping trolleys/carts, or
      • making your shelter watertight despite the rain coming off the bridge abutment, or
      • the joys of sleeping under the stars, despite the roadway noise, or
      • what to do when confronting a large hostile animal and how to make sure you get your social insurance card back when you’re released.

  22. I found out about this by accident while browsing some neat WWII photos on The Atlantic. I should not have clicked back to the homepage where I ended up seeing: Megan McArdle, the Marie Antoinette of The Atlantic’s piece for the day:

    “Are the Rich Completely Undeserving of Sympathy?”  LMFAO.

    The wealthy are making real sacrifices, like having to choose a slightly less prestigious Manhattan private school for “Little Carlton”….

  23. I don’t have much sympathy for them, but it is a natural reaction to find cutting your outgoings difficult.

    No-one likes being poorer, no matter how money you have. It’s a driver for the tension between the poor and immigrants, it’s a reason why working class people vote for political parties of the right. It’s the fear the Daily Mail plays on – having something taken away from you. 

    So yes it’s tough to trim your costs, but you just have to suck it up when you’re so much better off than everyone else.

  24. I’d be more sympathetic if there was less self-pity and more “I know it’s still more than most have, and I’ll adjust — it’s just taking some time.”

  25. Painting with a broad brush here, but isn’t it humorous that many of these folks are the same folks crying for entitlement reform here in the US.  We already pay into Medicare and Social Security, do we need to add another deduction to our pay stubs for lost bonuses?  And if so, keep in mind it will likely support us non-rich disproportionately more than you poor shmucks who’ve finally been forced to face what the rest of us have been dealing with for 3-5 years now.  Be careful what you wish for….

  26. Yup, the 1%ers whine and bitch like the 99%ers, but they are not:
    • going to have their heat cut off at the end of the month
    • or their cars repossessed (in Manhattan owning a car is what underpaid taxi drivers do,)
    • or their homes loans recalled (unless they were idiots,)
    • or their food cut off because they’re too broke and food stamps don’t come until the first of the month.

    Hey 1%ers, you shoveled too much money at the very wealthy, the 12,400 billionaires, the gentlemen farmers who own everything, and now you’re getting caught up in the flow as the economy goes circling down the drain.

    I predict even worse days ahead as you discover that your jobs are no more immune to out-sourcing and off-shoring than mine was.

    Imagine your jobs being done for a fraction of the price by some little brown or yellow fellow who’s ever so thankful for the opportunity and won’t ask for enough salary to keep your fat ass in Manhattan.


  27. “Max Abelson takes us deep into the spectacle of members of Wall Street…”

    Don’t you mean “takes us deep into the monocle”? :D

    1. I love that that article is in the lifestyle section. Having teeth is apparently now a lifestyle choice.

  28. You make a good point. It’s not an entirely bloodless issue to make that large of a payment cut.

    However, these are the same people who would tell blue-collar workers who lose their retirement to suck it up.

    They aren’t used to compromise and it hurts them, but on the other hand we’re looking at the compromise of reducing their convenience and not being able to let them have their way versus a much larger number being able to feed and clothe their families.

    Maybe they wouldn’t have to fear putting their kids through public school if some of that money actually went into it.

    1. I think the worry here is that the rest of the school’s population will get wind of who those children’s parents are.

      It’s cruel and something i won’t want ot dwell on and I honestly don’t see it. However could you envision yourself as someone that’s profited from the tears of others, told them ‘touch shit’ then when it comes your turn you’re worried that maybe that population you told to bend over and be quiet about it is going to take their anger out on your little entitled angels?

  29. So a few hours later and no “oops I also work for the onion and uploaded to wrong site” or “Haha we hacked you” This is real?

  30. I’m trying to determine what percentage of me is sympathetic to these people because they’re truly stressed from being caught in an economic jam; and what percentage is not because these problems are of their own making, they still seem to be employed, and because they have a long, long way to go before hitting rock bottom. 

  31. This Alan Dlugash guy sounds exactly like the spoiled girl in The Breakfast Club when she earnestly whines to the runty, bullied kid that being popular is so stressful and that he can’t possibly understand her misery.

    It’s almost hilarious how even as he clearly expects loads of sympathy, he spews the same offensive stereotypes against the ‘poor’.

    Oh yeah, we’re all uneducated, simpleton peasants who can’t fathom the intricacies and challenges of the well-moneyed life! How could the uncleaned, ignorant masses understand how the stress of downsizing can affect precious, sophisticated psyches like his own?

    What an arrogant, self-absorbed jerk. He can get sympathy from me the day he explains to his kid that humble pie is for dinner.

    1. Yeah, when he has to tell the kids that they aren’t getting any presents or a party AT ALL for their birthday (not just that they don’t get $expensive_luxury_they_want, but nothing), I’ll feel some sympathy for him. Maybe even empathy.

      Until then, I’m having trouble looking past the fact that even after his bonuses are being cut, he’s still making an order of magnitude more than me a year and is complaining about it.

  32. Years ago, an acquaintance (who had gone from being a well paid add executive to a poor owner of a publishing house) said  “Everyone makes exactly the same amount, not quite enough”. It was true then, and it’s true now it seems, even for the 1%.

  33. I don’t know if I am more furious for the possibly-trollish-yet-plausible post, or for how I was about to comment with the very same thoughts we are sharing, yet I didn’t because I am scared that a cop-bot would parse my text and label me a terrorist, getting me into Gitmo.

    1. Don’t worry about Gitmo.

      There’s no more new money to pay for your incarceration.

      The 12,400 billionaires don’t care, they have their own police force patrolling their owned towns in remote places.

      The 1%ers millionaires aren’t going to make a difficult decision like spending money on themselves, like new cars or shiny toys or a trophy slut, as opposed to spending money on building new prisons, filling them with people and the costs of maintenance and staffing of these prisons.

      The 99%ers are now having to do without protection as it is. Defense of the homeland now consists of the Fence between the US and Mexico and some inane froth perpetrated by DHS’s TSA on a shrinking number of weary business travelers.

  34. I don’t mind this form of thinking. Wealthy men and women who pay alimony do so at their ex-mates former lifestyle. I don’t understand this, two people get a divorce but one demands on living with the same financial benefits they enjoyed while married. This is the same thing. 

    Also, I’m permanently disabled (car accident) and get about $1,035 a month. I do just fine. My partner is a Master Electrician, he made $46,— in 2011 to my $12,420. But he complains he’s not doing well financially because he was used to (spending all of) nearly $52,— during his previous 2007-2010 yearly earnings. He’s actually thinking about getting a second job. Problem is, we live together, I know exactly how much it costs for basic needs to live where we do. Yet we can not talk about his finances, ever. 

    Strange how people  can get used to spending money, not saving it.  These parents children have a right to be upset and not being able to continue living the lifestyle they are used to. It’s the parents job to mainstream them into the wicked worldly ways of the 99%. 

    Basically, they have to learn how NOT to do something, that’s the issue. 

  35. Wonder if they can imagine moving to a new school next month because you used the rent money for food.

    Poor people are lucky duckies to have so few hardships.

  36. The thing is, these people aren’t wealthy, they’re just rich.

    Rich people make a lot of money.  Wealthy people sign their checks.
    Rich people cheat on their taxes.  Wealthy people rewrite the tax code.
    Rich people buy luxury goods.  Wealthy people buy senators.
    Anyone can work hard, get lucky, and get rich.
    Wealthy doesn’t care about money- it’s about the power that money buys.

    Rich people didn’t destroy our economy, they just drove the getaway car and got caught holding the empty bag.  They’re not blameless by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re not the masterminds who planned the thing or the muscle who pulled the trigger. 

    Not defending them per se, but there’s bigger fish to fry.

    1. There are only 12,400 fish to fry, but the 1%ers will try to claim it was their idea and the 99%ers are going to be bent-over holding their own ankles yet again.

      We’ve become a government
      • OF the thousandaires (the 99%, that would be me and thee,)
      • BY the millionaires (the 1%, that would be the extremely insular privileged overlords and bosses,)
      • FOR the billionaires (the 12,400 individuals identified by the IRS as the people who count (though they don’t really count as they hire some thousandaires to run machines to do that.)

      How is this different than the political situation that led to the founding of the United States?

      It ISN’T really.

      Now the millionaires are getting caught in the undertow of cash as it rushes from our shores, and they’re whining?

      Try surviving being poor, suckers…

  37. In Canada at least you can work for some company that needs trees to be planted, apparently you go into the bush for a few weeks and get paid based on the number of trees planted and folks rake in cash, maybe the poor rich folks could do that to try to fix their budgetary problems

    1. I have to assume you’re being sarcastic, but I knew a couple Canadians who did tree planting and it’s brutal, back-breaking work and if you’re not a top planter (planting thousands of trees a day) you don’t really make that much money – although it’s certainly better than minimum wage.

      The only people who make it more than a few days are dropouts (who have few other options for work anyway) who are young, very fit, and male. And because that’s the demographic, they spend all their money on booze (drinking age is 19) and whatever else. It’s not a way out of poverty.

  38. I know a sweetheart of a lady named Bethany who works two jobs to support the three children she has been raising by herself the last few years. Between both jobs she makes less money per year than what one of the tosspots in this article is wasting on private schooling for one of their children. She is a coupon samurai and makes every cent count. What is most striking is that she never whines and moans, she just survives and soldiers on. Maybe the 1% should take notes and remember how to be more of a human, less of a corporation.

  39. For them pulling their kids out of private school is distressing. For others not having the latest iPhone. For others not being able to stuff another burger into their hugely obese bodies. For some just trying to pay the rent. For others they don’t have a home to pay rent. For others just trying to get drinking water.

    Basically, for most people, gluttony and excess is generally just what people above you have in the chain.

  40. Talk about entitlements! I saw a painting called  “Too Big To Jail”

    that depicts the quintessential Wall Street fat cat standing arrogantly in front of torn headlines telling the story of bailouts, tax breaks and bonuses while the rest of us are asked to sacrifice. This one iconic image I found on artist Michael D’Antuono’s site, symbolizes our government’s servitude to limitless corporate greed.

  41. Awww! *Hug* to you all of you filthy rich people who have now hit on hard times. I really do feel for you. It must be so hard, to go without some things in your luxurious life… I just cannot imagine the pain you must be feeling. How much you must be hurting now that you didn’t squirrel away all the money into your little safe nest that you could lay your hands on, I’m sure there was something left that you could have taken that you are now kicking yourself for missing.

    But, chin up! Soon you will be back up on the saddle, with a smile on your face while you screw over the little guy!

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