Bonus Watch '12: Nightmare On Wall Street

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At Bloomberg today you will find a piece that is a bit hard to stomach if you're the type of person whose heart goes out to the suffering. A bunch of financial services employees' bonuses were slashed last year and, as a result, their lives have been turned upside down. Perhaps recalling how well their colleagues came off in Bloomberg's first piece in what is apparently a series on bankers who are down, out, and willing to talk on the record, these people thought it wise to turn to reporter Max Abelson to tell their tale.

First, there's Andrew Schiff, director of marketing for Euro Pacific Capital. Schiff has almost too many woes to mention but they include having to scale back his Connecticut summer house rental from four months to one; facing the pressure of paying private school tuition for two kids; living in a "crammed" 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex (Schiff and his wife were planning to buy a $1.5 million brownstone nearby but now, who knows); and traffic ("Schiff was sitting in a traffic jam in California this month after giving a speech at an investment conference about gold. He turned off the satellite radio, got out of the car and screamed a profanity. 'I’m not Zen at all, and when I’m freaking out about the situation, where I’m stuck like a rat in a trap on a highway with no way to get out, it’s very hard,' he said").

Then there's Cobble Hill resident Daniel Arbeeny, a headhunter whose “income has gone down tremendously" and now must buy discounted salmon at Fairway and "read supermarket circulars to find good prices for his favorite cereal, Wheat Chex," which is one step from giving out hand jobs under the Brooklyn bridge to make ends meet. Hedge fund manager Richard Scheiner had to sell two motorcycles (though because he actually saved some money, Zelda the labradoodle and Duke the bichon frise still get to live the lifestyle they've grown accustomed to at $17,000/year). Michael Sonnenfeldt's friends are suffering from “malaise and a paralysis that does not allow [them] to believe that generally things are going to get better." M. Todd Henderson feels sick (“Yes, terminal diseases are worse than getting the flu,” he said. “But you suffer when you get the flu").

All traumatic experiences to be sure. And yet none come close to that of Hans, whose harrowing story should serve as a cautionary tale to all.

Hans, 27, a trader at Wyckoff, New Jersey-based hedge fund Falcon Management Corp. who said he earns about $150,000 a year, is adjusting his sights, too. After graduating from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2006, he spent a $10,000 signing bonus from Citigroup Inc. (C) on a six-week trip to South America. He worked on an emerging-markets team at the bank that traded and marketed synthetic collateralized debt obligations. His tastes for travel got “a little bit more lavish,” he said. Hans, a triathlete, went to a bachelor party in Las Vegas in January after renting a four-bedroom ski cabin at Bear Mountain in California as a Christmas gift to his parents. He went to Ibiza for another bachelor party in August, spending $3,000 on a three-day trip, including a 15-minute ride from the airport that cost $100. In May he spent 10 days in India...[in March he] plans to buy a foreclosed two-bedroom house in Charlotte, North Carolina, for $50,000.

Earlier this month, a friend invited him on a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The friend was going to be a judge in a wet T-shirt contest, Hans said. He turned down the offer. It wouldn’t have been “the most financially prudent thing to do,” he said. “I’m not totally sure about what I’m going to get paid this year, how I’m going to be doing.”

Next time someone tells you that people on Wall Street have no sense of how bad it truly is out there, you tell them about Hans. He knows all too well.

Bonus Withdrawal Puts Bankers in “Malaise” [Bloomberg]

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