New Jersey Town's Ex-Brokers Adjust To The Times Ridgewood, N.J., is a bedroom community full of former New York City stockbrokers, bankers and executives. A neighborhood Episcopal church offers them a support group where they can help one another cope with their industry's recent downturn. NPR returns to check in on the group, first visited in June.
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New Jersey Town's Ex-Brokers Adjust To The Times

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

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

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During this past summer of job losses, we got a glimpse inside a church support group called Man in Transition. A dozen men gather each week to share their fears and exchange advice. It's in a New York City suburb, Ridgewood, New Jersey. The town is home to bankers, stockbrokers and others who lost jobs on Wall Street.

This morning, NPR's David Greene returns to Ridgewood to check in on one member of the support group.

DAVID GREENE: I found Kenny Weimann right where I found him last time: at the church, early in the morning, dressed casually, not in the suit and tie he wore everyday on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. He and I chatted about that last story I did about Ridgewood and how 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.

Mr. KENNY WEIMANN (Former Stock Broker): I'm not talking to you because I want people to feel sorry for me. And 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.

GREENE: Weimann's story is of a man who was in the trenches on Wall Street. He isn't one of those uber-rich top dogs with eye-popping bonuses. He dutifully commuted from Ridgewood at 6:20 every morning, traded all day. He skipped the lavish dinners in Manhattan and usually just came home to have dinner with his wife and kids.

After this morning church meeting, Weimann walked the few blocks to his house, and he talked about how Ridgewood, this community where he's lived for 20 years, knows pain. The community lost a lot of people on 9/11.

Mr. WEIMANN: It was difficult. It just didn't - in this neighborhood alone, three families and 11 children lost their fathers.

GREENE: Now, during this financial crisis, Weimann has noticed something new in the community: more fathers showing up at the elementary school that we were passing.

Mr. WEIMANN: You'll see where there's a drop off area, and that was a comment I made to my wife. I said an awful lot of seem to be walking their kids to school. And, you know, used to leave so early in the morning I would never see that, anyway, but just being home now…

GREENE: Home is where Weimann now spends a lot of his time. He has two kids in college. One's already working in the city. 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 where we were chatting is pretty small. He's never belonged to a country club, never owned a yacht. But he does have something he's very proud of.

Mr. WEIMANN: As a matter of fact, I'll show you this over here.

GREENE: He walked me over to a framed certificate, with a drawing of Wall Street.

Mr. WEIMANN: This is to certify that Kenneth C. Weimann, Jr. is a member of the New York Stock Exchange. And, you know, this was a pretty important piece of parchment to have.

GREENE: Weimann, you see, was following a family tradition.

Mr. WEIMANN: My grandfather worked as a stockbroker every day until he was 86 years old. My dad was 82. I always wanted to be a member for 50 years, and I figured I had another 25 left in me.

GREENE: But now he's 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.

Mr. WEIMANN: When I got a phone call, I was shocked. And I - not that I didn't see something coming. I just thought that I had made it past and was going to be fine.

GREENE: So through September, October, you know, even with sort of the world falling apart around you, I mean, you kind of felt like, I'm okay.

Mr. WEIMANN: Yeah, because I had a function down there and performing it.

GREENE: If brokerage firms do start hiring in large numbers, a guy Weimann's age won't be the first in line. If you check out numbers at the Labor Department, men who are 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.

Kenny Weimann said if he works again, he might have to get creative, do something totally new. He said it's taken months to come to grips with that.

Mr. WEIMANN: It's a process that may move faster for some people. But for myself, it's taken a little longer than I really thought it was going to take.

GREENE: He's figuring out how to let go of that dream he had, to follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps.

Mr. WEIMANN: There's life outside of Wall Street. And I guess that's what I'm going to find out going forward, which part of that slice of life is going to fit me.

GREENE: That's Kenny Weimann. Every week, he looks for help in a church group for unemployed men. Its membership is still growing.

David Greene, NPR News.

INSKEEP: And on this September 11th, 2009, you're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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