Guide to the End of Wall Street

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, March 26, 2009; 10:27 AM

Can we still trust the stock market or is the mattress a better place to keep your investment dollars? Let's talk about it today.

Join me for a live discussion with Dave Kansas, author of "The Wall Street Journal Guide to the End of Wall Street as We Know It: What You Need to Know About the Greatest Financial Crisis of Our Time -- And How to Survive It."

Kansas is editor-at-large of FiLife, a personal finance Web site and former editor of the Wall Street Journal's Money & Investing section.

The chat begins at Noon ET. Join us live or read the transcript later.

You can read my review of his book here.

Say It Loud, I'm Broke and I'm Proud

I've always found music to soothe my soul when I'm down. With so much bad news surrounding this recession I'm listening to a lot of inspirational music.

Style music critic J. Freedom du Lac reports that the financial meltdown is providing inspiration for music of all genres -- rock, pop, rap, country, etc. He's dubbed the new genre "recession-music," which he describes as "a mix that's spilling over with tunes by artists who sound dejected, determined, enraged, anxious and, occasionally, sort of amused by the financial meltdown."

What's your favorite money-themed song? Write me at, please put "Recession Music" in the subject line.

Read J. Freedom du Lac's piece here: Broke(n) Records (Mar. 24).

AIG Outrage Is All the Rage

This week's Color of Money Question was about what else? AIG and the $165 million retention bonuses handed out to employees. I asked you: Are we justified in our anger? Is the White House justified in its indignation? Can we really be mad at AIG for doing what they said they were going to do, when they received the bailout? Should the employees give back the money after Liddy gave it to them?

Here's what you said:

* Seattle, Wash., local Jeff Lemkin wrote: "While I find the bonuses more egregious as an example of a systemic culture of greed than as a financial problem, I'm pretty sure Congress knew that the bonus payments were part of the 'package' that they signed into law. this wasn't a blindsiding. Now that the hoopla has hit the fan, our Congress folk are assuming classic stances of outrage and rhetoric."

* "The failure of our financial institutions to act responsibly is pathetic, if not criminal" says Rockford, Ill., resident Wayne P. "Our anger is justified. Where else are these overpaid managers going to go, if their retention bonuses are not paid."

* Kenna Giffin in Denton, Texas wrote: "Yes, anger is justified at AIG, at the administration officials who knew this was coming down the pike, at anyone else associated with it. Yes, the recipients of the big bonuses should return at least half of the money, if not more of it. And yes, we probably should give Mr. Liddy time to get the company straightened out -- he's been on the job only since last fall."

* Stephanie Sgouros of Tallahassee, Fla., said: "AIG should eventually pay the bonuses, but from a source of funds other than the bailout money. If AIG had gone bankrupt, those employees could have sued for the bonuses all they wanted, but would they have ever collected?"

* "If I had planned a vacation or some extravagant purchase for this year when times were good and I had a job and thought the money would be available but circumstances changed due to a job loss, I think I would have to cancel those plans." Barbara Hill of Florence, Ala., wrote. "Now that they have accepted my small part of tax monies, I, along with alot of other taxpayers, own 80 percent of AIG. We didn't approve the bonuses and they should be repaid back to the company and then back to us as taxpayers."

* Terry Bishop in southern Arizona said: "AIG had its cards on the table as you indicated in your piece -- does anyone in Congress read the bills and understand them? Or is it all gross negligence?"

* "I think these folks should be asked to return the money or some reasonable part of it," said Bunny Johns of Almond, N.C. "But rage? What good is it? It only stirs up hate and has probably stirred up some of the hate mail threatening to hurt the families of these folks. Our country will need the best out of us to get through this mess. No matter who was most responsible for it, we're all in it together now and we need to pull together, help each other out and move forward."

* At least some executives have returned the money. Read more here: AIG Employees to Repay $50 Million in Bonuses (March 24).

Color of Money Challenge

Last year, the economy lost 2.6 million jobs.

So this year, the Color of Money Challenge is profiling a local couple, The Puryears, and an individual, Rick Rose, who are struggling to make ends meet after being laid off.

For the next nine months, I'll work with these challengers to piece back together their financial lives. Read the first part in the series this Sunday in the business section.

Change is Coming

Starting this Monday, the daily business section of The Washington Post newspaper will merge into the A Section, except on Sundays, where it will remain a stand-alone section.

The Post hasn't been the only paper to make such a change. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution merged its Tuesday-Saturday Business sections into an expanded A section, too.

The economy is clearly making us tighten our belt, but I'll still be providing you with the same need to know personal finance information as always!

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Charity Brown contributed to this e-letter.

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