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Anyone who's followed my posts knows that the dollar isn't the primary motivator for me in my career, it's always been about winning. Some people won't agree with that, others will... and I was having this conversation last night with some buddies about the legendary "walk-away number," the amount you'd need to have today to just quit working forever.

One said $10M, another said $50M, I think I even heard a $200M in there... but problem was, I could never give a legitimate answer. I'd still want to work if I got handed a check for a billion dollars tomorrow. I don't know what I'd do with myself all day if I wasn't working... it doesn't make sense to me to sit around and play golf all day, go on vacations, sit at the club, etc. That sentiment might change in 15 years, but probably not any sooner.

So monkeys - do you actually have a walk-away number? Or has it never been about the money? Hoping I'm not the only one who just loves playing the game.

Comments (114)

  • brandon st randy's picture

    For me it is not so much a fixed number as much as the fulfillment of a particular set of conditions:

    Once you make to be the senior partner of a HF or PE firm with considerable AUM and manage to do well for a few years, then you can gradually phase out your role at the firm and delegate most of the day to day operations of the firm to others. Your considerable carried interests/ownership stake at the firm will assure that you will continue to make very good money even after you stopped working for the firm full time.

    A classic example would be the case of Candidate Romney. By his own admission, for the last 4 + years Romney has been basically "unemployed" as he was running for president the whole time. Still he managed to make 20mm+ last year thanks in the most part to his ownership stake and carried interests at Bain. This situation will continue so long as Romney holds on to his carry and Bain continues to do well, which it has been.

    So to answer your question, no, for me a walk away number does not exists. I am not all that concerned about having a certain number of golden eggs in my storage bunker. For me it is all about making sure that others are taking good care of the goose to make sure that it stays alive and well and continues to lay more golden eggs for me year after year, ad infinitum...

    Too late for second-guessing Too late to go back to sleep.

  • dest149's picture

    50 million for me. - But thats not a stop working number, that's just a number where I'll just slow down and look into other interests in my life.

  • Bearearns's picture

    If you do what you love, which is the key that walk away number just really becomes when you get fed up with commute or get up with company. Because doing what you love eliminates the number. I think 10 million for a good fixed income off of bonds(keeps increasing dollar amount due to interest rates). Then I need another 10 million to just blow it on whatever so 20 million and fed up at work. Hence I can see myself working for a lot longer

  • l1207's picture
  • Sandhurst's picture

    Ever since I was in middle school, it has been $100mm by 35, and then $10bn long term.

    "There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat."

  • In reply to Sandhurst
    dest149's picture

    Sandhurst:
    Ever since I was in middle school, it has been $100mm by 35, and then $10bn long term.

    How old are you now? And where are you at? (don't try and pussy out and say that's private). No one knows who you are so it's still private in the grand scheme of things. P.S. - Don't b.s. - no matter what your number is its not going to impress me, or make me think more poorly of you. Just curious.

  • In reply to Sandhurst
    BlackHat's picture

    Sandhurst:
    Ever since I was in middle school, it has been $100mm by 35, and then $10bn long term.

    This is hysterical...

    I hate victims who respect their executioners

  • Eurodealer's picture

    You guys must think you'll head major hedge funds in the future. Most of you won't.

  • Nabooru's picture

    Unless that amount will let me start my own company, or a fund, or something, I don't think there's a walk-away number. You're not the only one, man.

  • In reply to Bearearns
    olafenizer's picture

    JoshFi7:
    Eurodealer:
    You guys must think you'll head major hedge funds in the future. Most of you won't.

    Which is why most of us wont be walking away

    Bingo.

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    Yes, but the number is constantly changing based on our understanding of the economy and our financial needs.

    My walkaway number started at $500K. It's grown. And we also have soft numbers. When you get $X in the bank, you get less hungry. In general, if you have $3X in the bank, you're less willing to pull 100 hour weeks for $X.

    Think about what you really need to be happy. Happiness tends to be maximized at $70K/year for most people (ok, maybe $250K/year in Manhattan.) After that, free time is what makes you happy.

    I echo ANT's quote that "what other people think doesn't buy a Ferrari", but the most pathetic thing in the world is a miserable Ferrari owner. Don't be that guy. Have a plan for when you'll be content.

    Right now, my plan is whatever will pay for that 60 acre farm on Lake Michigan with a '66 Ford Mustang GT Convertible (Red).

  • awqtfq's picture

    More. It's about the game, and the money makes the game much more interesting.

  • DontSleep's picture

    20mm. Doesn't mean I'd stop working. But it would certainly change how I go about it.

  • BTbanker's picture

    $100MM would do it for me... I don't need a $30MM jet, 50MM yacht, and 10 homes. Just a nice house in Southampton, an apartment in NYC, and some nice cars.

  • hot1590's picture

    8 mil * # of my immediate family + 1 mil * # of my extended family

  • In reply to hot1590
    BlackHat's picture

    hot1590:
    8 mil * # of my immediate family + 1 mil * # of my extended family

    That would put me just south of $100M

    I hate victims who respect their executioners

  • In reply to Sandhurst
    canuckmoney's picture

    Sandhurst:
    Ever since I was in middle school, it has been $100mm by 35, and then $10bn long term.

    lol how close to that are you?

  • orangejulius's picture

    The average Harvard MBA grad makes $3MM in his/her life time. Anything in the range of $5-10MM would be more than adequate. I would retire immediately and enjoy the remainder of my life with family, friends, and etc. Life is short and if I was fortunate enough to be able to walk away, I would take full advantage of it. What good is more money and winning? They are worth nothing once you're dead.

  • In reply to orangejulius
    Boothorbust's picture

    orangejulius:
    The average Harvard MBA grad makes $3MM in his/her life time.

    I would seriously, SERIOUSLY contest this number. Let's assume the average HBS alum is 29 at graduation. That gives them at least 30 years of working time post graduation. The median HBS salary at graduating was 120K in 2011. With career progression, bonus, and investments I can pretty much guarantee the average Harvard MBA makes much, much more than $3mm in a lifetime.

  • design's picture

    BlackHat:
    So monkeys - do you actually have a walk-away number? Or has it never been about the money? Hoping I'm not the only one who just loves playing the game.

    See, here's the thing -- you're doing what you're doing (and hopefully doing pretty well) because you love playing the game, not because you're in it for the money. I won't say that everyone who goes into high finance just for the money won't last, but I don't think I'm too far off the mark if I say a substantial amount of people in IB and S&T who only have dollar signs in their eyes will burn out before they're 30. Thus, I think the whole notion of the walkaway number is just irrelevant to the demographic of this forum (or at least the people who want to do this long-term and not just to make some quick money and jump ship). Walkaway numbers are for people who work mundane, 9-to-5 jobs looking to get their kids through college and hopefully have enough left over to die someplace warm.

  • In reply to orangejulius
    BlackHat's picture

    orangejulius:
    What good is more money and winning? They are worth nothing once you're dead.

    It might sound wrong, but think about it - what is your free time and spending time with your family worth when you're dead? Unless we want to turn this into a religious debate, it's about the same.

    I hate victims who respect their executioners

  • In reply to Boothorbust
    drexelalum11's picture

    Boothorbust:
    orangejulius:
    The average Harvard MBA grad makes $3MM in his/her life time.

    I would seriously, SERIOUSLY contest this number. Let's assume the average HBS alum is 29 at graduation. That gives them at least 30 years of working time post graduation. The median HBS salary at graduating was 120K in 2011. With career progression, bonus, and investments I can pretty much guarantee the average Harvard MBA makes much, much more than $3mm in a lifetime.

    I suspect the number is right, but it's an historical rather than forward looking figure, and not inflation adjusted. Also strongly suspect it is a median rather than average.

  • In reply to orangejulius
    Going Concern's picture

    orangejulius:
    Anything in the range of $5-10MM would be more than adequate. I would retire immediately and enjoy the remainder of my life with family, friends, and etc. Life is short and if I was fortunate enough to be able to walk away, I would take full advantage of it. What good is more money and winning? They are worth nothing once you're dead.

    Agree with this, though I wouldn't necessarily stop working, but pursue things just for fun. Like trying to be a chef or write screenplays.

  • In reply to awqtfq
    dest149's picture

    BVMadden:
    More. It's about the game, and the money makes the game much more interesting.

    You sound real cool with that line. Too bad it's not yours. Don't pretend like you are the only one who has ever seen Wall Street 2: Money Never Dies. Especially amongst finance people, you just sound like a tool.

  • calikid3820's picture

    $50 Million..

    throw it into a tax-exempt muni fund, that doesn't pay ordinary dividends. and just rolls the money over and pays tax-exempt interest..

    Considering the general MMD curve and municpal pricings are based on a 5% coupon.. thats $2.5 million a year tax free. I could definitely survive on that

  • In reply to drexelalum11
    montrealer's picture

    drexelalum11:
    Boothorbust:
    orangejulius:
    The average Harvard MBA grad makes $3MM in his/her life time.

    I would seriously, SERIOUSLY contest this number. Let's assume the average HBS alum is 29 at graduation. That gives them at least 30 years of working time post graduation. The median HBS salary at graduating was 120K in 2011. With career progression, bonus, and investments I can pretty much guarantee the average Harvard MBA makes much, much more than $3mm in a lifetime.

    I suspect the number is right, but it's an historical rather than forward looking figure, and not inflation adjusted. Also strongly suspect it is a median rather than average.

    According to this, the median net worth of the Harvard MBA Class of 1986 is $6M: http://poetsandquants.com/2012/06/15/25-years-late... (see page 2)

  • In reply to dest149
    awqtfq's picture

    dest149:
    BVMadden:
    More. It's about the game, and the money makes the game much more interesting.

    You sound real cool with that line. Too bad it's not yours. Don't pretend like you are the only one who has ever seen Wall Street 2: Money Never Dies. Especially amongst finance people, you just sound like a tool.

    I'm not going to say that I didn't quote Breton James on purpose, but is there really another way to say that "more" is your number? Also the second part of my statement was basically a Gekko quote. I'm really cool now right?

  • orangejulius's picture

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/shawnoconnor/2012/04/0...

    ^ An article about the lifetime earnings topic and I was wrong the number is ~$8-10MM rather than $3. Boothorbust I hear you the number will indeed vary, I just wanted to point out that you can really retire comfortably with a lot less.

    Blackhat - I agree there is no right or wrong way to spend your life. Just saying me personally I'd rather spend it with loved ones and get as much out of life I can golfing whatever it is than working with/for ppl that wouldn't give a rats ass if I died.

  • In reply to Sandhurst
    Babyj18777's picture

    Sandhurst:
    Ever since I was in middle school, it has been $100mm by 35, and then $10bn long term.

    I thought I was the only one....

    Before anyone asks I'm 27,10k in the hole, and I've met 2 people who hit $100mm before 35. The first is a legit genius who made close to half a billion at 26 when he sold his software company, and the second is a Columbia MBA who cashed in his chips before the last tech bubble burst.

    I won't be hitting my goal.

  • In reply to BTbanker
    dest149's picture

    Connor:
    $100MM would do it for me... I don't need a $30MM jet, 50MM yacht, and 10 homes. Just a nice house in Southampton, an apartment in NYC, and some nice cars.

    Hmmm, well with 100 MM, you could do a 15MM Yacht, 30 MM Jet ( you could get something along the lines of a G4 or a G5), and 15-20MM in realestate, and a 5 MM helicopter. This would still leabe you with 30-35MM in contingency/liquidity. Play with these numbers up and down until you feel you have an appropriate amount of liquidity, but I don't see why you can't just have it all.

  • bearing's picture

    Really people? I would expect the answer to be obvious. It's not about a singular number, it's about cash flow! Cultivating a reliable source of cash flow every month rather then having this childish notion of a "magic" number is how you break out of indentured servitude. You could quit this industry with only about 500k saved up as long as you turn that into a source of income.

  • gammaovertheta's picture

    The number doesn't actually exist - it's psychologically impossible. I know someone who used to run the mortgage desk for a top BB during the 90s until 2007. He quit at the top because he hit his number. (I have a feeling he revised his number a couple times on the way up - that kind of opportunity comes along with running one of the most profitable desks in recent memory from its infacy to peak.) By that time he had acquired a massive house in Garden City and a seafront vacation house in Long Beach; he regularly rented out a house in the Hamptons, was a member of 3 of the most insanely expensive country clubs on Long Island, had purchased 2 luxury SUVs and 2 coupes for a family of 5. He was sitting on enough to write the Ivy League tuition checks for the full 4 years for his 3 children without batting an eye. His house is the nicest I've ever stepped foot in - it looked as if half the furniture was from Monticello and the rest was from the New York Yacht Club.

    He had it all, and after 2 years he got bored. Having hit his number no longer meant anything to him. Now he runs mortgages at a MM investment bank. One of his biggest regrets is leaving the bank he had loved for so long, where he had made his name and his fortune.

  • kmess024's picture

    What if one doesn't have a number, is that pure greed?

    The Four E's of investment
    "The greatest Enemies of the Equity investor are Expenses and Emotions."- Warren Buffet

  • In reply to gammaovertheta
    brandon st randy's picture

    gammaovertheta:
    The number doesn't actually exist - it's psychologically impossible. I know someone who used to run the mortgage desk for a top BB during the 90s until 2007. He quit at the top because he hit his number. (I have a feeling he revised his number a couple times on the way up - that kind of opportunity comes along with running one of the most profitable desks in recent memory from its infacy to peak.) By that time he had acquired a massive house in Garden City and a seafront vacation house in Long Beach; he regularly rented out a house in the Hamptons, was a member of 3 of the most insanely expensive country clubs on Long Island, had purchased 2 luxury SUVs and 2 coupes for a family of 5. He was sitting on enough to write the Ivy League tuition checks for the full 4 years for his 3 children without batting an eye. His house is the nicest I've ever stepped foot in - it looked as if half the furniture was from Monticello and the rest was from the New York Yacht Club.

    He had it all, and after 2 years he got bored. Having hit his number no longer meant anything to him. Now he runs mortgages at a MM investment bank. One of his biggest regrets is leaving the bank he had loved for so long, where he had made his name and his fortune.

    Did this gentleman you described used to work at Bear Stearns? Did he attend NYU but didn't finish--got expelled for fighting? From your description it seems just like someone I know.

    Too late for second-guessing Too late to go back to sleep.

  • In reply to brandon st randy
    gammaovertheta's picture

    brandon st randy:
    gammaovertheta:
    The number doesn't actually exist - it's psychologically impossible. I know someone who used to run the mortgage desk for a top BB during the 90s until 2007. He quit at the top because he hit his number. (I have a feeling he revised his number a couple times on the way up - that kind of opportunity comes along with running one of the most profitable desks in recent memory from its infacy to peak.) By that time he had acquired a massive house in Garden City and a seafront vacation house in Long Beach; he regularly rented out a house in the Hamptons, was a member of 3 of the most insanely expensive country clubs on Long Island, had purchased 2 luxury SUVs and 2 coupes for a family of 5. He was sitting on enough to write the Ivy League tuition checks for the full 4 years for his 3 children without batting an eye. His house is the nicest I've ever stepped foot in - it looked as if half the furniture was from Monticello and the rest was from the New York Yacht Club.

    He had it all, and after 2 years he got bored. Having hit his number no longer meant anything to him. Now he runs mortgages at a MM investment bank. One of his biggest regrets is leaving the bank he had loved for so long, where he had made his name and his fortune.

    Did this gentleman you described used to work at Bear Stearns? Did he attend NYU but didn't finish--got expelled for fighting? From your description it seems just like someone I know.


    Nope, Salomon legacy

  • In reply to gammaovertheta
    wolverine19x89's picture

    gammaovertheta:
    The number doesn't actually exist - it's psychologically impossible.

    Do you have any research to back this up or just anecdotal evidence?

    I have no idea how much money I'd need to have to walk away. I have no clue how having even 100k feels like.

    If your dreams don't scare you, then they are not big enough.

    "There are two types of people in this world: People who say they pee in the shower, and dirty fucking liars."-Louis C.K.

  • Hooked on LEAPS's picture

    Enough to run a hedge fund from my kitchen in my underwear.

    I refuse to meet with clients, and more importantly, I will never wear pants.

    Competition is a sin.

    -John D. Rockefeller

  • In reply to wolverine19x89
    gammaovertheta's picture

    wolverine19x89:
    gammaovertheta:
    The number doesn't actually exist - it's psychologically impossible.

    Do you have any research to back this up or just anecdotal evidence?

    I have no idea how much money I'd need to have to walk away. I have no clue how having even 100k feels like.


    My judgment is based on very limited face-to-face experience with a very small sample. However, the strength of feeling (especially, from the case above, regret for leaving his long-term bank) from just these few have convinced me that it would be almost impossible. These guys are fucking killers by training - absolute animals - and I totally understand how they can get antsy after being off the desk for 2 years and spending all their time at country clubs and exotic destinations. Sounds great, but it can't compare to the rush of crushing it on the desk.

  • In reply to kmess024
    dest149's picture

    kmess024:
    What if one doesn't have a number, is that pure greed?

    Not necessarily, it could just mean you haven't given the far future enough thought to think about a time where you wouldn't be working full time in the industry and what your finances/lifestyle would be like.

  • farmerbob's picture

    Now to say stop working forever?

    To quit a "career" I would need between $5-15M. Then buy some cash producing real estate and businesses(car washes/franchises/rentals/etc.) Maybe run a fishing charter out of the Bahamas and just chill working 20 hours a week having fun.

    My number to "never" work again? Well, I would need so much as to never think I could burn through it. Let's say between $150-350M.

  • ivedtara's picture

    20 MM will do it for me.

  • youngblood90's picture

    I actually got asked what my number was in a job interview. I thought I messed up because I didn't have a firm number.

  • In reply to gammaovertheta
    brandon st randy's picture

    gammaovertheta:
    wolverine19x89:
    gammaovertheta:
    The number doesn't actually exist - it's psychologically impossible.

    Do you have any research to back this up or just anecdotal evidence?

    I have no idea how much money I'd need to have to walk away. I have no clue how having even 100k feels like.


    My judgment is based on very limited face-to-face experience with a very small sample. However, the strength of feeling (especially, from the case above, regret for leaving his long-term bank) from just these few have convinced me that it would be almost impossible. These guys are fucking killers by training - absolute animals - and I totally understand how they can get antsy after being off the desk for 2 years and spending all their time at country clubs and exotic destinations. Sounds great, but it can't compare to the rush of crushing it on the desk.

    The thing is, if you truly enjoy what you did for a living, then it becomes more than just a job, a source of income. It becomes a calling, a sense of fulfillment that defines you and gives meaning to your life. Furthermore, once you retire and give up on your vocation that then you are left with a big void. That is why many people age very quickly after leaving their career. The boredom and void literally kill them until they find something else to keep themselves occupied. Just look at Bill Clinton 2 months after leaving the WH compared to what he looked like before.

    A billionaire hedge fund manager once said that he never worked a single day in his life. And he is right. if you are doing something you enjoy and working for yourself, then it feels like not working at all.

    Too late for second-guessing Too late to go back to sleep.

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