When the Downturn Means An Uptick

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I drove from Washington, DC, to western Massachusetts over the weekend — a grueling trip in a Penske truck (don't ask) made even worse by the number on the gas pump when we stopped to refuel. The whole trip cost double. Which of course, like everybody else, has a horrible domino effect on my pocketbook. That domino effect has a very different impact on some businesses — pawn shops, for instance, and the people running those foreclosure tours. I talked to a guy who runs a store that sells stuff for people on eBay — he's done so well that he moved into a storefront. So this hour: postcards from the edge of the crappy economy. If you work in a business that has seen some benefit from the downturn, tell us about it. Or, if you've found a strategy to take advantage of it, what's your brilliant idea? (And don't tell us you've got a reservation at Nobu — that's just annoying.)

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I'm a financial planner in Sausalito, California. I work on an hourly basis, so my practice attracts people from every hue of the economic spectrum. And my business is on fire. I'm seeing people who see their stock portfolio deflate and the equity drain out of their homes. They are suddenly nervous about retirement and rightly so.

Sent by Bob Goldman | 2:11 PM | 4-1-2008

As in other downturns, bankruptcy attorneys thrive.

Sent by marte | 2:15 PM | 4-1-2008

The person with the barter business better watch out - the IRS will be after him and his clients. Just because there isn't money involved doesn't mean the transactions aren't taxable.

Sent by Robert Jordan | 2:26 PM | 4-1-2008

My business is booming, I am a financial services professional in Birmingham, Alabama with New York Life. "adversity creates opportunity"
I have had a tremendous interest in the Preminm Plus Elite Annuity.

Sent by Christopher B. Sheppard | 2:26 PM | 4-1-2008

I am a choreographer and direct a modern dance company. We never have good times, so the bad times tend not to affect us as much. In fact, people want entertainment when they're feeling down. We just keep making those cold calls.

Valerie Williams
Co'Motion Dance Theater

Sent by Valerie Williams | 2:26 PM | 4-1-2008

Neil,
I am a mortgage banker of 22 years and as you can understand things are not as pretty as they used to be. The good news is, I started a business in 1990 (in the last real estate turndown) and it help ed home sellers sell their properties. With the debacle that we are in now, the business has been very successful. My company is www.St.JosephStatue.com where we provide home sellers the ever popular St Joseph Statue along with a complimentary home listing on our website. Seems like everybody needs a miracle today, I thank St Joseph everyday for this silver lining in our life.

Sent by Phil Cates | 2:27 PM | 4-1-2008

Although not really a business per se, I buy and sell old European sports cars. Lotus, Porsche and Alfa Romeo in particular. The thing I found in the last year or so with the strong Euro all kinds of really nice cars are going back to Europe. There are collector car guys buying cars over the internet and filling containers with both cars and parts and shipping them all out of the country.

Sent by Steve | 2:33 PM | 4-1-2008

I work in financial services--Primerica financial services, a "CITI" company. I am a licensed insurance agent, and we also do home loans and refis, and I am studying for my securites license for the investment part of my career. We have NEVER done any refi's that are option-ARMS, neg-am, etc. in the 31 years Primerica has been is business. Our mortgage business is already up over 50% over last year, and for 2007 it was up about 30% for the year. That's because we're not a "re-fi" company, we're a DEBT-ELIMINATION company. We can usually lower peoples monthly payment WHILE GETTING THEM TOTALLY OUT OF DEBT 8-15 YEARS SOONER, saving them thousands (and sometimes hundreds of thousands) of interest dollars, which we teach them how to invest and therefore be able to (usually) retire, 5, 10, even 15 years sooner than they ever imagined they could. Article in American Chronicle (online) was just written about that, but anyone can call our offices for more information.

Sent by Laura (Lia) Katzman | 2:35 PM | 4-1-2008

I am a custom jeweler at The Gift Itself in Green Bay. We are seeing a fair number of new clients reworking old pieces of jewelry into new designs. I love this kind of recycling!

Sent by Michelle Zjala Winter | 2:36 PM | 4-1-2008

I heard a listener state that senior housing is growing, when I have seen first hand the large retirement facilities are having trouble filling the apartments/condos, due to the fact that the seniors are unable to sale their current homes.

Sent by Wayne from Bucks County PA | 2:41 PM | 4-1-2008

Hi. I will remain anonymous, because I work in psychiatry. There has been a growing demand for services for a while now. I believe seeking help has become much more acceptable than in years past and as American life becomes more stressful (not just financially), people are open to getting the help they need.
Defining a business upturn is complicated in this field. I live in Colorado and most psychiatrists have had to stop accepting new patients because demand is too high and helpers are too few. Additionally we face the moral dilemma of how to charge. Many patients will pay out of pocket because insurance coverage is so poor. But does that mean that psychiatry becomes a service only for the rich? Many of us choose not to go that route, but don't do as well financially as our colleagues who accept only private pay. Hopefully a new president will address this in a sound health care reform.

Sent by anonymous | 2:42 PM | 4-1-2008

My company has been manufacturing and selling an motorized electric 2-wheeled cycle since 2001 in the US and abroad, called the eGO cycle (www.egovehicles.com). The eGO recharges from any household power outlet, gets up to 24 miles per charge and travels at up to 24 miles per hour. It's DOT approved and street legal, and in the past 1 or 2 years light electric vehicles like the eGO have gone from geek to chic. Instead of wasting money on gas to sit highway traffic, many have turned to such alternative transportation solutions to save money on shorter trips to work, school, shopping, public transport hubs, etc.

Sent by Michael Houlihan | 2:49 PM | 4-1-2008

I do a complementary Financial Needs Analysis for my clients, through Primerica (the CITI company mentioned above). Business is booming. Most financial companies and financial planners charge from $500 to $5000 to do what we do for FREE.. Our middle-class families don't need to spend thousands to find out they are broke. People are worried about their retirement, and we create the "road- map", so they can save enough and retire with dignity.

Sent by Dennis Kriegel | 2:58 PM | 4-1-2008

I work for a homebased clothing company. I have found that COST PER WEAR is truly the way to save money when purchasing clothing. If it is well made, priced right and fits well you will wear the garment more than something that is too trendy or the cheapers items usually do not hold up well or do not fit well on all body types. I was drawn to this company not only for the great clothing but for the way they have the company set up. This company focuses on the great clothes but also on the consultants that represent the line. after being in sales for many years it is refreshing to work for someone that has "me" as an important part of the success of the company and not just stock price and bottom line.

Sent by Kathy Mistretta | 2:58 PM | 4-1-2008

I just graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in December and have been selling US Coins online through eBay and my website USACoinShop.com. I don't think I could have picked a better time to be in the coin business; as people look for other ways to invest their money, coins have become quite popular. It has helped that this year we've seen record highs in the Gold and Silver Bullion Market (the basis on some coin values).

The biggest change has been the composition of my customers. In the past I had a strong 'Collector' following, these are people who on average spend $50-$250 on coins each month, now I'm seeing more and more individuals who fall into the 'Investor' segment, these are people who are looking to diversity their portfolios by investing large quantities of money in rare coins and bullion. Research has shown that rare coins have had a steady appreciation in value, even during uncertain financial times. Unlike money, they can't go and print more 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cents (The 'Key Date' in the series)

Everyday I get numerous emails about investing in rare coins or bullion through the purchase of gold and silver coins. It shows that people are worried about the future of the financial markets.

Business is booming for this recent college grad.
So far this year business has been up about 100% over last year.

Sent by Matt Lerner | 3:23 PM | 4-1-2008