“Bonus Drop Means Trading Aspen for Coupons,” a story out today by Max Abelson of Bloomberg News is guaranteed to generate zero sympathy for the cosseted Wall Street 1%. Their annual bonus checks — bigger than almost everyone else’s annual salary — are getting cut. Because the boo-hooing in Abelson’s piece will have you eye-rolling and perhaps cursing throughout, there’s no need for me to add pithy observations. I’ll let one of the real-life characters do all the talking.
“I feel stuck. The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach,” said Andrew Schiff, director of marketing for broker-dealer Euro Pacific Capital Inc., whose salary is $350,000. After taxes, health insurance and retirement savings, Schiff’s take-home salary is less than $200,000. With that, he must pay for private school for his daughter, rent on a three-bedroom summer house in Connecticut (just one month instead of the entire summer as usual) and rent on a Brooklyn duplex.
“I can’t imagine what I’m going to do,” Schiff told Abelson. “I’m crammed into 1,200 square feet. I don’t have a dishwasher. We do all our dishes by hand.”
The desire is to move his family into an 1,800-square-foot home. By New York standards that huge. “A room for each kid, three bedrooms, maybe four. Imagine four bedrooms,” Schiff said. “You have the luxury of a guest room, how crazy is that?”
“I wouldn’t want to whine,” Schiff said. “All I want is the stuff that I always thought, growing up, that successful parents had.”
Abelson reports that all this is happening because declining revenue from investment banking and trading is driving the reduction in bonuses on Wall Street. “At Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Barclays Capital, the cuts were at least 25 percent. Morgan Stanley (MS) capped cash bonuses at $125,000, and Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) increased the percentage of deferred pay,” Abelson writes.
Far be it from me to begrudge someone else’s fabulous finances. It’s as American as apple pie, mom and going to college to hope that one day we’ll be rich. It’s in our DNA to hope that one day we, too, will be able to stop worrying about the next payday and when bills are due. But if we are blessed to have all this come true, may we never, ever forget what it’s like to “do all our dishes by hand.”