Human Collateral: When the Recession Catches Up with Your Relocation

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Luisa moved a half-dozen times for jobs, only to find herself in a new city with no job and a house she cannot sell.

I'm originally from Puerto Rico where I received my law degree. I moved to New York in early 1991 and a few years later received my MBA, spending two years at the Federal Reserve as an analyst, and then with CitiBank as a lawyer. In 2000 I moved to Europe with Citi - first Spain, then the U.K. Five years later I returned to the United States - this time to Miami where I was senior legal counsel specializing in banking services for the Latin American community, targeting high net worth individuals.

Since I had more than 10 years experience and all this international experience, I thought I should be head of the department, for goodness sake! Now I see it was hubris, an immature attitude. But I looked for a new position where I could head a unit and have a more definitive say in the strategy of the business.

I soon heard about a compliance officer opportunity with another bank, but it was located in Richmond. It was perfect for me - combining my international experience, expertise in Latin America and compliance and law backgrounds. At that moment in my career it seemed the perfect opportunity, even if it was in Richmond and not Miami where all the Latin American business is centered. I accepted the job in Virginia tongue-in-cheek, assuming eventually they would see the light and move me back to Miami.

Missouri, and Unemployment

Miami is where I had created a home. My husband and I bought a house there, and my parents lived with us. I had met my husband in the U.K., and he followed me to Florida and bought into a small business there.

When the financial crisis hit, it was a big blow to my new employer. Two weeks after I joined they were sold to another company and soon moved to St. Louis. What cinched the deal for me to move to St. Louis in 2008 is when the bank bought my house for the buying price plus capital improvements. The real estate market in Miami was horrible and we were under water in our mortgage. I felt these people took care of me. That made me very loyal to them. My husband sold his interest in his business and joined me in Missouri where we bought a house, and we rented an apartment for my parents in Miami. St. Louis was too cold for them.

Before long, however, it was clear that my unit did not fit with the new bank's larger strategy, and in February I lost my job.

I'm stuck. Recently I read that St. Louis is the third worst real estate market in the country. I'd like to return to Florida but there are very limited opportunities there at the moment. My husband and I are looking at opportunities in New York and Miami, but Miami is dead for jobs.

I feel saddened because professionally what I've done is very specialized - a small niche within banking and securities and the types of jobs I can secure are in a market not where I'm currently located. In my personal life, what I've made my husband go through pains me. He's been very supportive.

At the moment I was making decisions about my career moves it seemed to be the right move under those circumstances. Now that I'm looking for new positions I won't be so hung up on the job title. I don't feel I have many choices.

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