I have several friends from college working as I-banking analysts in NYC banks. Despite their 6-figure salary, not one of them seem to be genuinely happy with their job. Actually, one of my friends just quit his job with nothing lined up. He told me he just hated his job so much and couldn't take it anymore, grinding out 90-100 hours a week, doing mindless data-entry work on excel spreadsheets.
The most common complaints I hear regarding banking are: 1) intense workload, 2) unpredictable work schedule, 3) mind-numbingly boring work, 4) retarded hierarchy culture.
Now, I don't work in banking so I can't confirm any of the above, but I give my friends benefit of the doubt, anyhow.
On the other side of the fence, I have 2 other friends from college. Both were math majors at HYP. They passed actuarial exams, and took analyst jobs at large insurance firms in NYC, as actuaries.
Their starting comp was 140-150k/ year, and they only work 45-50 hours a week. My friends tell me they love their job, as they can truly achieve work-life balance and the fact that their job is intellectually stimulating. They say that, having been math majors back in college, they appreciate the fact that they can use the math/stats/skills they honed in college directly at their job.
I am not a banker nor actuary. But, it sure as hell sounds like, if I can choose either career path, I would go for becoming actuary. For some odd reason, I will say that the profession of actuary is somewhat under the radar, as many people, myself included, didn't hear much about the profession during college years, while most were exposed to the constant I-banking/ consulting recruitment propaganda in college.
I think that I should've been a math major back in college...