New Jersey Town's Ex-Brokers Adjust To The Times

Ridgewood, N.J., is a bedroom suburb of New York City — home to bankers, stockbrokers and others who made their living on Wall Street.

But with their industry in a deep slump, many of the town's residents are out of work or trying to reinvent themselves. And a few have turned to Men in Transition, a support group run by an Episcopal church. Once a week, about a dozen former finance workers gather to talk about their fears and exchange advice.

Ridgewood In June

Read David Greene's earlier report from New Jersey:

We first visited Men in Transition in June. On a recent morning, Kenny Weimann was at St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church early, just as he was on our earlier visit. He was dressed casually — not in the suit and tie he wore every day on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

And Weimann was not surprised that some listeners didn't understand why, with so many Americans out of work and struggling in this recession, we decided to focus on a former stockbroker.

"I'm not talking to you because I want people to feel sorry for me," he said.

"I'm not even sure why I am talking to you. I don't feel like I have any special story to get out to anybody."

Living A Modest Life

Weimann's story is that of a man who was in the trenches on Wall Street. He wasn't one of those uber-rich top dogs with eye-popping bonuses. He dutifully commuted from Ridgewood at 6:20 every morning, and traded all day.

Skipping lavish dinners in Manhattan, Weimann usually just came home to have dinner with his wife and kids. His community of Ridgewood, where he's lived for 20 years, knows pain. The community lost a lot of people in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"It was difficult," Weimann said. "Just in this neighborhood alone, three families and 11 children lost their fathers."

Now, during the financial crisis, Weimann has noticed something new in the community: more fathers showing up at one of the local elementary schools.

Home is where Weimann now spends a lot of his time. He has two kids in college, and one already working in New York. His wife is at work during the day.

And so Weimann, at age 54, is often alone in his five-bedroom house. It's no mansion. Actually, the kitchen is pretty small. He's never belonged to a country club or owned a yacht. But he does have something he's very proud of: a framed certificate, with a drawing of Wall Street.

Family Tradition

It reads, "This is to certify that Kenneth C. Weimann Junior is a member of the New York Stock Exchange."

By becoming a stockbroker, Weimann was following a long family tradition.

"My grandfather worked as a stockbroker every day until he was 86 years old," Weimann recalled.

"I always wanted to be a member for 50 years, and I figured I had another 25 left in me."

But instead, Weimann is facing the reality that there may no longer be a place for him on Wall Street.

Last fall, when he was still working on the trading floor, he saw the chaos among all the brokers over at Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. Weimann just didn't think it would spread to him. Then in November, his brokerage firm made cuts.

"When I got a phone call, I was shocked," he said, speaking of his termination notice. "Not that I didn't see something coming. I just thought I had made it past and was going to be fine."

Starting Fresh

If brokerage firms do start hiring in large numbers, a guy Weimann's age won't be first in line. According to statistics from the Labor Department, men over 45 have it especially hard right now; it's tougher to find a new job in general if you're over 45. And men that age are more likely to be out of work than women.

So Weimann said that if he works again, he may have to get creative.

"It's a process that may move faster for some people," Weimann said of these new adjustments.

"But for myself, it's taken longer than I thought it would take. There's life outside of Wall Street. And I guess that is what I'm going to find out going forward — which part of that slice of life is going to fit me."

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