Troy Perkins Loses His Job
Troy Perkins knew what was going on in the mortgage industry, of course. His mom's spent 25 years in the business, and he'd spent two years working part-time in the industry himself, starting off as an entry-level loan officer and moving his way into management as a project specialist. His employer--The First National Bank of Arizona--had already gone through a round of layoffs. And as the industry crumbled, Perkins, who worked from home, no longer had the same volume of correspondence.
"There were days I would just go home and there would be no e-mails at all, so I would just turn the computer off and just sit there and watch TV," he said. "That's just the way it was. There was nothing going on."
Still, the end came as a shock. Early last month, he went into the company's Northern Virginia office to get a new phone, and he saw somber faces everywhere. Security guards asked to check his ID badge.
"I walk back and people are just crying, and they're like 'We're closed.' And I'm like 'Holy...,' " he told me. "I felt terrible. A lot of these people had been there for five years, six years. That's the only job they had, and then they get dumped. And what are they going to do?....Honestly, it took me about two weeks to realize, 'We're done, just like that.' Two years of working there...."
"It didn't hit you as hard as it hit a lot of people," noted teammate Brian Carroll, who was listening in.
"And that's the worst part," Perkins agreed. "There's people there that have kids, rely on their health insurance there. I was looking at the numbers; for some of these people to keep their family insured until they get another job was like $1000 a month. People who just had kids. It was really bad. Fortunately, I've got [soccer] to fall back on right now. It opens your eyes to reality."
And so now, after two years of spending much of his free time processing paperwork and checking in with brokers around the country for his bank, which specialized in wholesaling Alt-A loans, Perkins suddenly has time on his hands. I asked what he's been doing.
"Nothing," he said. "Dude, I lose my mind. I mean, I walk my dog like 10 times a day."
He has found some diversions. He realized his two-bedroom condo is remarkably spare, so he's been shopping for furniture online. He's been drawing again; the one-time fine arts minor is influenced by Van Gogh and Gustav Klimt, although he uses non-traditional oil pastels in his work. He's planning a backpacking trip for himself and his wife in the Southeast after the MLS season. For a while he was watching hours of TV a day--The Simpsons and Futurama and Family Guy and That '70s Show--but he decided that was a poor use of time and so he's trying to limit himself to no more than an hour a day.
But the turmoil caused by the mortgage-fueled credit crunch hasn't made him lose faith in the industry. Making a bid to one day replace Robert J. Samuelson on our op-ed page, he explained why he believes the business will recover.
"I mean, people want to buy homes," he said. "And [brokers] made it available. And it's up to [customers] to make those payments. People are constantly blaming the mortgage companies for doing this to people, but they signed the papers, they looked at everything. There were no tricks or anything. It's all in black and white, you can read it. So what are you going to do? From '03 and on, the privilege of buying a house was kind of lost. You didn't have to earn it any more; you could just go buy it instead of saving up. People think now it's like a right they have to own something. It's really not that way; it's an honor and a privilege."
So Perkins still keeps in touch with his business contacts, and he thinks he might re-enter the industry one day, after things settle down. In other words, no regrets.
"My resume shows two years of working at a big bank, learning everything that I did about the business, and just about being in business, period," he said. "It was a great opportunity. It opened a lot of doors down the road."
Also, he's been given a massive raise by United since he first started the part-time work--he was the league's Goalkeeper of the Year in 2006--and he's doing fine financially. In other words, you won't see him bagging groceries at the Safeway any time soon. Although....
"Starbucks offered me a job," he joked. "I told them they could pay me in coffee."
[Thanks to Reader Kim for reminding me to do this.]
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