Depression-Era Broker Offers Timely Advice
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Any of those who actually lived through that crisis though, the soup lines, the Hoovervilles, the Wall Street suicides, and the Dust Bowl are impossible to forget. Irving Kahn got his first job on Wall Street in 1928. Soon after came Black Tuesday, the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression.
Today, Irving Kahn still works on Wall Street, where he's been watching the latest turmoil pretty closely. And Irving warns against drawing close parallels between these days and what the nation went though almost 80 years ago.
Mr. IRVING KAHN (Wall Street Employee): I think it can't be compared. I think they are always different. The depression of 1929-1938 was very long. But I don't think people are smart in looking at that and comparing to this because it's a different world.
BRAND: Irving Kahn and his family survived the Great Depression with relative security. But he remembers lots of Americans struggling to make their way through the 1930s and 40s at a time when they were strapped for cash.
Mr. KAHN: People doubled up in the apartment and they eat less or they spent less on food, causing families closed in together. Generations didn't move away, but maybe these people that do it don't cost much money, if you don't have it, you don't spend it.
BRAND: Irving Kahn hasn't had to worry much about not having it. He has been a successful investor since his first trades back in the late 1920s. He learned from the same banking visionaries that taught Warren Buffett how to work the markets. Still there are hints of frugality in Irving's words, the kind you might expect from a man who witnessed the Great Depression. He sees a possible silver lining to what's happening now on Wall Street and indeed across America. He hopes for some much-needed belt tightening in our consumer culture.
Mr. KAHN: People are very badly spoiled. Poor people who have never had the money to go on a cruise, go on it just as if it was normal and spend a couple of thousand dollars. Or they go to Florida and then spend money, or they have a second home. People today are very opposite of frugal and therefore there's a lot of room for them to save before they feel that they're saving.
BRAND: Irving Kahn, still working at 102 years old. He's a certified financial analyst who helps run Kahn Brothers LLC. It's a financial investment advisory group in New York.
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