Tough times for Wall Street’s “middle class” in Ridgewood, NJ

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Mark Clothier and John Helyar have written a fine Bloomberg article about tough times in Ridgewood, NJ, that doesn’t seem to be available anywhere on the Bloomberg site but is reprinted at length in the Newark Star-Ledger (thanks to Jim Kim of Fierce Finance for the initial tip, although I ended up having to find the article myself). Ridgewood is home to Wall Street’s middle class—people who were pulling down several hundred thousand dollars a year. Scoff if you will, but it isn’t at all easy to suddenly downshift from that territory to actual middle class America, where the jobs pay $50,000-$100,000 a year (or less).

Bradley Browne made $150,000 as a Standard & Poor’s analyst until May 2008; now he teaches freshman finance at DeVry University in Paramus for $2,000 a course.

Chuck Fischer, who lost his customer relations job at RBC Capital Markets in April 2008, considered taking a sales position at Home Depot — one requiring an orange apron.

He decided against it.

Then there’s the star of the piece, former Wall Street economist David Roberts:

Roberts’ hard work begat real affluence in 1997, when Charlotte, N.C.,-based Bank of America Corp. hired him as an international economist, guaranteeing him $500,000 a year in salary and bonus for his first two years on the job. …

The new position allowed him to buy that Jaguar and remodel his kitchen for $98,000. It also locked him into a lifestyle that depended on a robust salary. “There was a downside risk to all this pay,” he says.

There’s no denying that pay in the financial sector escaped the moorings of the rest of the economy over the past couple of decades. That has to correct. But it’s no fun being one of those forced to do the correcting.