What is the feeling like?

I hate for this to more of a darker post but truth of the matter is things do become dark at times. I’m looking for perspectives of those of you who have experienced and worked through a time like the 2008 financial crisis. What was the general feeling around? How did you cope with it? How did you explain it to your friends and family? I feel like that was a time where the entire country pretty much knew the financial sector was to blame but they didn’t know how little that people like analyst all the way up to maybe even VPs had to do with it. Overall I’m curious just what the experience was like and how you managed to overcome it.


Based on previous WSO threads, the general feeling during the 2008 financial crisis was one of significant uncertainty and stress. Here are some key perspectives and experiences shared by those who lived through it:

  1. Existential Uncertainty:

    • Many people were unsure whether the financial system and economy would continue to function. There was a genuine fear of a great depression-type scenario if decisive actions were not taken by the central bank and government.
  2. Personal Impact:

    • For individuals working in the financial sector, especially those at firms like Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns, the experience was deeply personal and often depressing. Long-term employees saw their companies collapse and their friends and colleagues lose their jobs.
  3. Coping Mechanisms:

    • Coping with the crisis involved a mix of professional resilience and personal support. Some people focused on maintaining their work ethic and staying productive, while others relied on their personal networks for emotional support.
  4. Explaining to Friends and Family:

    • Explaining the situation to friends and family was challenging. Many people outside the financial sector blamed the industry as a whole, without understanding the nuances and the roles of different positions within it. Analysts and even VPs often had little to do with the decisions that led to the crisis.
  5. Recovery and Reflection:

    • The recovery process was slow and involved significant changes in the industry. Some people found new opportunities in the aftermath, while others had to pivot to different careers or sectors.
  6. Comparisons to Other Recessions:

    • The 2008 crisis was often compared to other recessions, such as those in the early 1990s and early 2000s. However, the magnitude and existential threat of the 2008 crisis were unique in recent history.

Overall, the experience was marked by a mix of fear, uncertainty, and eventual resilience. Those who managed to overcome it often did so through a combination of professional dedication and personal support systems.

Sources: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forum/investment-banking/how-to-position-for-a-recession?customgpt=1, 08' Recession - How bad was it really?, How bad are things going to get?, The Road to Ruin, GS Layoffs - The Chopping Block

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I was there for that, and it was a crazy time. But I don't really think about it as dark and depressing, but certainly stressful. Today, people are posting applying for internships 2 years early in college. These programs and jobs are hard to get and there's a ton of structure that's hard to break into. Well every now and then something happens like 2008 where all the structure just disappears. The big boss who told everyone how to do everything is fired, and someone from upstairs comes to ask the junior what is in the book and what can be done about it. Or a bank needs to fire sale a huge portfolio of assets, and someone starting a small hedge fund can become huge. But probably 2/3rds of the folks I knew from before then ended up leaving the industry. It's just something you need to understand about this career. If you want a steady paycheck, go to law school or whatever. Wall street is crazy and you need to have the stomach for it.

Now I'll address your other comment, did I feel like people blamed me for the recession because I worked in finance? Not really. I mean people will always be angry about one thing or another. I think wall street creates countless opportunities for people every day. When we do our job right, I feel good about it. When people have good jobs, and startups are taking off, and when people can afford to move into a nice home, I'm happy to be a part of that. But investing in the future is a tricky business with a lot of uncertainty, and sometimes things do not work out the way we hoped. While there are people doing crazy stuff and making money with no regard for what happens, there are also very many of us who are really working hard to do our jobs well, and get nice returns for investors, while making capital available for businesses and consumers to do what they want to do and help grow the economy. A lot of people don't really understand what we do.  A car mechanic can find a cheap way to patch up your ride that will hold for 2 weeks so he gets paid, or he can fix it properly. I've never presided over a blow-up myself, and I certainly intend to maintain that status. But in general, in a situation like 2008, where people are blaming anyone associated with wall street, I feel okay because I know that I did my best to do my job properly and ethically, and no one can guarantee that investments will work out, or that the economy will do great. Most people want a steady paycheck for doing what they're good at and not to deal with business risk. But unfortunately there are uncertainties in the world, and that is what we try to manage, so they don't have to worry so much about it.


Aut id recusandae nulla aut. Omnis natus qui qui tempore eum. Optio beatae ducimus maxime non corporis aut. Inventore odit iste qui non at omnis non. A ipsam magni quo enim. Illo maxime et quis sint iure.

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