Neel Kashkari, Once In Charge of the Nation's Bailout Plan, Has Opted For a Simpler Life

The one time "bailout czar" now lives in a cabin in rural California.

Dec. 7, 2009 — -- Former deputy treasury secretary Neel Kashkari's life has changed a lot in the past year.

Resigning from his post as the so-called "$700 billion man," Kashkari moved from the nation's capital to a cabin in Northern California, his wife confirmed to He now spends his days cutting fire wood and responding to infrequent e-mails on his now nearly silent Blackberry.

According to the Washington Post, Kashkari, who left his post at the interim assistant secretary of the treasury for financial stability in May 2009, is enjoying his new life, a move he told the paper he's dubbed the "Washington detox."

Today, Kashkari's daily routine includes chopping wood found on his property near the Truckee River and building a shed, according to the Post. Losing weight and helping with "Hank's book," a reference to Kashkari's former boss and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's upcoming project, are also some of his priorities.

It was Paulson, after all, who tapped Kashkari in October 2008 to run the Office of Financial Stability, a position that earned him the nickname the "bailout czar," as well as criticism that the then 35-year-old was too young for the job.

Unable to be reached today for comment, Kashkari told last year that he wasn't intimidated by the job.

"When he [Paulson] offered me the job, I didn't have to think about it even for a second," he told

Kashkari told in an e-mail interview that his diverse experience made him fit for the job.

"My engineering experience gave me the analytical foundation for working on the credit crisis," wrote Kashkari. "Working on NASA missions, I loved that we were trying to solve problems people had never even thought of before."

Kashkari's resume is impressive: He's helped design a solar-powered car, worked as a mechanical engineer on a NASA telescope and served as a vice president at Goldman Sachs & Co.

"This is similar to this credit crisis - which is unique and challenging," he said last year.

Dr. Meera Kelley, who knows Kashkari not as the man in charge of billions of the government's money but as her little brother, said at the time that he has always been passionate and ambitious.

"He's very determined and ambitious and enjoys being part of a process that makes things better," said Kelley.

Kashkari called his big sister with the news about his appointment and was unfazed by the assignment. "I don't think he's nervous about his position, but he's nervous about the position that the country and the economy is in," she said.

"He knows he's in a unique position," added Kelley.

It was his unique position has made some critics nervous, many of whom were not shy in suggesting that he may have been too young to handle the job.

But Jeff Kleintop, a chief investment strategist at LPL Financial, said that while his age was obviously on the mind of many, it's not as if Kashkari is running the show solo.

"He's not doing it alone," said Kleintop last year. "He's going to be able to draw on expertise from a wide variety of deeply experienced people."

Kashkari agreed, telling that he would rely heavily on Paulson for advice.

"Let's not overstate my role," he said. "This is Secretary Paulson's highest priority. He is all over it."

Growing Up Kashkari

Kashkari is a classic all-American story, only on the fast track.

His parents Chaman and Sheila Kashkari emigrated from India to Stow, Ohio, in the 1960s.

He was named after astronaut Neil Armstrong (Neel is the Indian spelling of the name) because of his mother's admiration for the famous moonwalker.

Growing up in Ohio, Kelley said that her brother had a fairly typical upbringing, playing football, wrestling and always hanging out with a lot of friends.

Drawing inspiration from his parents - his father was an engineer and his mother a pathologist - Kashkari, his sister says, was not necessarily a "top" student, but definitely a good one.

"I think he always knew he would end up in business in some way," said Kelley.

Kashkari said it's his father who is to thank for his interest in politics.

"My interest in government probably stems from my childhood watching Sunday morning news shows with my father," he said in an e-mail.

Kashkari enrolled in the University of Illinois where he followed in his father's footsteps and majored in engineering.

Jonathan Kimball, who studied with Kashkari at Illinois in the mid-1990s, said that Kashkari was a natural-born leader when they partnered on an intercollegiate project to build and race a solar-powered car.

"He was always a take-charge kind of guy," said Kimball, who said the duo would often go out and grab a beer after a long week. "He was friendly but also very intense."

After graduating from Illinois, and meeting the woman who would eventually become his wife, Minal, Kashkari worked for NASA helping to perfect the James Webb Space telescope, equipment the agency expects to be the next Hubble.

A few years later, Kashkari changed directions and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, leaving in 2002 with his MBA in finance.

Professor Michael Useem, the director of Wharton's Center for Leadership and Change Management and Kashkari's former teacher, said that he saw Kashkari "in action" during a leadership venture that required business students to apply classroom teachings to scenarios based on real-life events.

For Kashkari, that meant joining fellow students at a nearby army base to participate in a mock-scenario in which he was responsible for getting aide to thousands of Bosnian refugees during a cease-fire.

Useem, who explained that students were assigned to 14 different groups - ranging from the U.S. Army to the Red Cross to NATO - and had to navigate them on large computer screens, much like a video game, to complete their "mission."

"Well today Mr. Kashkari has a rather similar group of quarrelsome and even sometimes opposed stake holding groups," said Useem.

"You've got banks, mortgage lenders, several congressional committees, the White House, Henry Paulson and Wall Street, to name a few, and each of these groups brings their own set of concerns," said Useem. "He is, in that sense, again at the center of pulling these various groups together to get his mission accomplished."

"We stress that you can't lead by yourself and that was true in the Bosnia exercise as well," said Useem. "Kashkari is making many final judgment calls, but I would infer from his past learning that he will have to work as a team and consult quite a bit."

After completing his graduate work, Kashkari headed to the private sector, hired as a vice president at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco, where he advised companies on mergers and acquisitions.

According to his sister, Kashkari developed a relationship with Paulson when they were both working for Goldman, Paulson in New York and Kashkari in San Francisco.

"My brother met him one time and mentioned to Paulson his interest in politics," said Kelley. "Since then they've developed a trusting relationship."

Kashkari kept in touch with Paulson and called him when he was appointed as Treasury Secretary in 2006, spurring his move - wife and dog, Winslow (named after Cleveland Brown player Kellen Winslow), in tow - from California to Silver Spring, Md., to become Paulson's senior advisor.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events