TRANCHED: I find myself waiting at rainy bus stops, and I am not alone

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The last time the UK entered a recession I was sitting my GSCEs and the biggest threat to my lifestyle was poorly timed acne. Things this time are very different. Although it remains true that acne would be an unwelcome surprise, I am now facing challenges that have been entirely absent for much of my adult life.

For the last few weeks, I've commented on a market in free fall and watched in terror as household names have vanished under tumultuous market jitters. Every week, it appears that new dams are raised only for the torrent of bad news to overwhelm the defences. The US government bailout was seen as the magic bullet - however, at the time of writing, the markets have slipped their moorings and seem headed for the rocks once more.

It has become very clear that the City and Wall Street of the 1990s and the 2000s has truly killed the goose that laid the golden egg. Some people lost their shirts following the exuberance of the dotcom boom, but not once did it threaten the very existence of the financial system as we knew it.

A year ago, as a cash-rich, time-poor banker, my solution to all problems was to throw money at them. Now that the time-cash formula has been turned on its head, my behaviour has changed totally.

Cabs, for example, were my mode of transport of choice. Now I find myself waiting at rainy bus stops, and I am not alone. Friends and acquaintances no longer bore each other stupid with tales of soaring house prices. Now beers in the pub often end up with conversations about where to seek out bargain purchases and cheap deals.

According to the latest economic speak, this is called 'de-leveraging our personal balance sheets'. The emphasis is instead on hoarding cash and paying down debt. Recession is far duller than boom times, but a few years of financial chastity may be the only way out of all of this.

Against that backdrop, I was phoned this week by an ex-colleague with whom I worked four years ago. His employer is looking to fill a contracting role within a project management function. A few months ago, I wouldn't have given it much thought, but things have changed dramatically.

In this market, any port in the storm is valuable. And the storm may have a long way to go before it blows itself out.

CDO Joe is a structured products specialist who lost his job 20 weeks ago.

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