A year ago this month, Nick, a 31-year-old West Villager from Pennsylvania with short dark brown hair, was laid off from his job as a private-equity salesman at what he called a “mid-tier” bank. As bonus season approached, his prospects did not seem bright. But his spirits, curiously, were. “Being a bachelor who rents in New York, I didn’t have a lot of commitments or responsibilities,” he said. And when a friend who was building a polo club in West Palm Beach, Fla., invited him to come help out for a few months, Nick thought, What the hell, sublet his apartment and hopped on a direct flight south.
“When you’re in Florida, you’re outside all the time,” he said. “We were in the heart of sugar cane country, in a totally undeveloped area. I rode every day.”
It was a vast improvement over the trading desk, he added, where “you’re working very early hours, you’re always inside, you’re always on the telephone, you’re never around green space.”
In the wake of continuing, even worsening, layoffs in the financial industry (10,000 in New York since last August, Bloomberg recently reported, with behemoths like Citigroup cutting 10 percent of its investment bank alone); as double-digit drops in net worth have top executives wringing their hands in The Times, much of Wall Street’s young are simply throwing up theirs and saying, “Whoo-hoo!”
Tommy Kim, 27, formerly of UBS, for example, logged 37 days of snowboarding in 2008 after being fired last January. “When I got laid off, it was like, hallelujah,” he said.
After the snow melted, he came back to New York, where “I went paint-balling,” Mr. Kim said. “I went to Six Flags.” Now: “I stay up late, wake up late, go to the beach a lot. I play a lot of video games when I can’t find people to hang out with. I started reading again for pleasure, which is something I haven’t done since before college.” (Currently on the nightstand: Freakonomics).
He doesn’t have a three-bedroom in Westchester or a country club membership. He’s single and owns a one-bedroom in Queens that he bought “really cheap” in 2004.
Recently, Mr. Kim turned his attention to organizing his vast music collection and playing DJ gigs around town, including a Saturday party at the Brooklyn Museum and a few weddings (he was a well-known DJ during his undergrad days at Dartmouth). He’s also taking break-dancing classes. And he built himself a new computer, just for the hell of it. Looked up the instructions online, bought the parts, et voilà!
And his job search? “I’m kind of looking,” Mr. Kim said. “I decided last week maybe I should be more proactive.” It’s hard to get worked up, though, because “President Bush extended unemployment by another 13 weeks!” That’s $405 a week on top of the “generous” UBS severance.
‘I AM IN PERU!’
Despite the prevailing devil-may-care attitude among New York’s youngest financiers, most of the bankers interviewed for this story did not want their names used, fearing it might hurt their chances of future employment. One tall, dashing 26-year-old former hedge fund associate and Ivy Leaguer laid off in June furtively e-mailed his travel itinerary to The Observer: July in Europe, traveling through Spain, Berlin, Amsterdam and London. “Then I came down to Peru for two weeks to see Cusco, Lima and Machu Picchu,” he wrote. “I just decided that I wanted to see a ton of places that I had never had the chance to visit before. I did feel like I needed to take advantage of being young and without child, mortgage, wife or job, but with enough money that I did not have to worry about my next job right away.”
He would have liked to answer more questions, but “I do not have that much access to e-mail and, well, I am in Peru!”