Bloomberg’s Abelson on How Wall Street Is Coping

Bloomberg’s Max Abelson has the story of the day, another entry in his list of stories on out-of-touch Wall Streeters. This one’s about how rich folks are coping with their reduced circumstances in a season of curtailed bonuses.

I don’t know how Abelson gets people to give him these quotes, but he’s got it down. There are so many good quote and anecdotes here that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think we have a winner:

“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?”

Peter Schiff’s brother, who wins the dubious honor of lead-anecdote status here, comes in a close second:

Schiff, 46, is facing another kind of jam this year: Paid a lower bonus, he said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square-foot Brooklyn duplex.

“I feel stuck,” Schiff said. “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach”…

“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.”

First, 1,200 square feet in New York is like 5,000 square feet anywhere else. Second, this reminds me of Hamilton Nolan’s excellent rant on rich people whining about not being rich:

Money pays for the costs of life. That is what money does. You can’t fucking argue that, hey, your money doesn’t go that far after you’ve already spent it. You used it! Paying taxes and paying bills and paying the mortgage and putting money in a retirement fund and going out to dinner are the things that money gets you. You asshole. Just because you didn’t blow it all on jewelry, caviar, and cocaine doesn’t mean you didn’t get anything out of it.

Then there’s the guy with the $17,000 labradoodle and bichon frise. When you’re on the hedonic treadmill, your Porsche becomes the “Volkswagen of supercars,” and you’ve lost touch with how almost everybody else really lives.

I like the thinking behind a story like this: Abelson knows there must be carping on Wall Street in a down year when still-lavish pay is being cut, so he goes out and finds it, and that offers a revealing look at how the top 1 percent lives. The concept is good and the execution is better.

Read the whole thing.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,