Has finance culture become less “bougie”?

When I was an IB analyst/associate, so much of the talk around the junior bankers was focused on fancy restaurants (per se/le bernadin types), watches (rolex and eventually Pateks/APs), nice bags (for women or men buying for their GFs), Blades to hamptons, generally nice clothing/shoes (oxxford suits or Gucci loafers)

Now it feels like people don't really GAF about that stuff, and would prefer a nice meal at a trendy Chinatown spot or shoes from allbirds instead. I much prefer that change, but I am not sure if that is just me and my friends as we age up and stop caring about appearances, or if generally finance has become less show-y due to WFH, covid, shift from NYC to SF/tech and their values as a center of power. Curious what everyone thinks here! 

Comments (133)

Jan 2, 2022 - 6:28pm
reformed, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Think you're confusing some douchebag's fantasy of what finance is like vs. reality. No analyst is getting helicopters to the Hamptons. 

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  • VP in PE - LBOs
Jan 3, 2022 - 5:55pm

Interesting. OP joined around GFC. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Jan 4, 2022 - 4:29pm

plskystks

a couple kids in my analyst class definitely used uber blade to go to the hamptons on occasion (this is circa 2013-2014 fwiw)

They had Uber blade in 2013?

Jan 2, 2022 - 6:39pm
Arroz con Pollo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm not in banking. I find it interesting how people like fancy restaurants. Haven't been to many but if I'm going out to eat I want a lot of food. I understand fine dining is as much about the experience as the food itself, but personally I'd much rather eat some chicken in my underwear standing in my kitchen than dressing up to eat fancy food.

Also think my perspective is the way it is because I'm from a middle class family in the south. I thought Cheesecake Factory was fancy first time I went. Was amazed at how expensive it was (at least to me who grew up eating Cracker Barrel and Waffle House).

I think it's important to stay true to yourself and not be ashamed if you aren't "prestigious". Seems like common sense but I feel like some younger people may read this forum and get caught up in feeling lesser than those who grew up well-off or make a ton of money and are able to eat at nicer restaurants.

Anyways, i haven't ate anything so far in 2022. Crushed a large stuffed crust papa johns pizza with bacon and 2 pints ice cream last day of 2021.

Jan 2, 2022 - 6:44pm
Destressed Debt, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This. All about priorities and preferences in the end.

Also generally a quantity > quality type of guy as in better tasting, ambience, fancier places provide marginal utility for me, so generally stick with "value" oriented foods, but do have a little bougie man in me who likes to come out once in a while and splurge on a nice, overpriced dinner at a Michelin or equivalent restaurant. 

Get Jiggy With It

  • 2
Jan 2, 2022 - 7:09pm
Arroz con Pollo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yeah there's an old Italian dude near me who makes homemade pasta. Expensive af (imo) as like 8 tortellini was $15 so I'll order 3 orders and splurge when I want. Most I ever spent for myself was around $125 at a beach for an appetizer, entree, and an old fashioned.

Jan 3, 2022 - 7:33pm
dutchduke, what's your opinion? Comment below:

- same guy on every watch thread saying he uses a timex or his phone Which are more accurate and he doesn't see the need.

-If he were in finance he would then say what his MD wears and how MD makes 7 figures but just wears his Apple watch and is down to earth and a good person

OP you are right, the culture has become like every other middle class drone culture which is lame,  the type of culture at corporations where people look at the clothes being worn by someone and scope out who got a new Honda Accord v6 while saying they should be more conservative with their money ... 

Jan 4, 2022 - 2:46pm
hghgg, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Do you actually have a job in IB? This is def not true. While IB does have hire from more diverse background, the idea that people who are financially well off don't go into IB is ridiculous. Most analyst classes are full of kids from top prep schools and really affluent backgrounds

  • 1
Jan 2, 2022 - 8:05pm
calvincoolridge, what's your opinion? Comment below:

people in finance earn less than 10-15 years ago.  its harder to live in nyc as an analyst/associate than it used to be.  not enough money to blow on blades to hamptons and crockett and jones shoes when you are paying off student loans, paying absurdly high rent, and inflation adjusted salaries and BONUSES have not caught up to pre crisis levels.

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Jan 4, 2022 - 7:41pm
WS_Jerry, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is spot on. Plus banks now just don't just recruit or look at candidates from top schools. Allows for more socioeconomic diversity. I don't have a huge drive to be boujee because I wasn't raised around it. My grandparents are the only people I know who have Rolexes and they've had them since the 50s. I just want to see a big number in my accounts and maybe buy myself one nice thing per bonus and save it all away.

I think I did this right

Jan 4, 2022 - 11:34am
smallmanbigapple, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Could not agree more. The biggest hunchos at my firm wear Apple Watches, Jeans, and Sneakers because that is actually what improves their productivity. It's usually the first year analysts and associates who haven't ever seen 5 figures in a checking account before who blow it all on a Rolex Sub for 3k over list. 

Jan 4, 2022 - 11:42am
GoingToBeAnMD, what's your opinion? Comment below:

3k over list? Where??? That would be considered a decent deal in today's crazy Rolex market!

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  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jan 2, 2022 - 9:46pm

Yes. Inflation is real despite what the CP lie and your prized "expert" economists like Paul Krugman would tell you. Salaries have not even been close to keeping track with inflation, so of course everyone's real salaries have declined significantly over the last 10-20 years. The 2% inflation rate that we supposedly had over the last 10 years is pure doctored fantasy. Government has many reasons to understate and rig the inflation rates. It's all tRaNsItOrY though if you listen to JPow. Buckle up everybody. It's gonna be a bumpy ride. Do not have significant amounts of cash

Jan 3, 2022 - 3:44am
112343321, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is the truth, there is a huge gap between billionaire fund manager and the average analyst, and this gap is growing wider within society as a whole. Just look at Ray Dalio and other billionaires who write at length about jumping ship to China. They are betting on China, are international citizens above all else, and have been pushing the narrative that the USA is a sinking ship for years now. There is a financial incentive for this.

I'm no ultranationalist or anything, but I do believe the USA is a very young nation that is undergoing growing pains. I believe there is a financial incentive from the international class of billionaires to disparage the strength of the US economy, just as there is a political incentive by financial bureaucrats in Washington to present the opposite. Maybe this narrative is being used to beat the drums of international war, to teach us to fear the rise of China and justify a military conflict.

So yes, the salaried Wall Street worker is not as wealthy as they once were. However, the Wall Street big business owner is richer than ever, and their wealth increases along with other institutions of old money. Maybe this extends to managing directors and c-suite employees, I cannot say. As wealth concentrates to the top, the road to becoming a "Wall Street baller" becomes narrower and more competitive.

tl;dr The rich get richer, everyone else suffers for it. Nothing is new under the sun.

Jan 6, 2022 - 12:48pm
SafariJoe, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Prospect in IB-M&A

Could this be a sign that we've gotten poorer?

More like change in priorities, plus people still do these things just more quiet about it since the Government thinks all wealthy people are evil.

SafariJoe, wins again!
  • Analyst 1 in PE - Other
Jan 2, 2022 - 9:50pm

Personally have found that a lot of the wealthiest friends I have work in early - mid-stage startups or tech sales roles 

Those places/teams (some, not all) have a surprisingly more 'bougie' culture accordingly 

  • PM in HF - Other
Jan 2, 2022 - 11:46pm

Think the finance folk of today are far too focused on "exit culture" few see this as a career and like to work hard/play hard majority of people on this site just want to escape and do something else it seems. You all need to learn to live a bit.

This is why when people go for an MBA (if they do) even though they bringing on debt and no income they even spend more (add more debt) cause they know post-mba they have no time to do so.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
Jan 4, 2022 - 6:21pm

Some of the stuff I read on this website from junior-mid level bankers and even ppl on the buy side is frankly pathetic. Living in crappy apartments or undesirable locations to save a few bucks, not eating dinner out, etc etc…I mean to each their own but I read this stuff and think "loser."

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Jan 3, 2022 - 4:21am

Disclaimer: Not a grizzled finance vet lmao

I think this change is real, and a lot of the notes people have touched on here contribute (increasing nontarget population, relatively poorer income, tech culture shifting images of wealth, and not mentioned by anyone but many women increasingly value trendy popups/brunch places over Dorsia's) but really I believe it's a deeper change in how youth are approaching wealth. I think a lot of people have begun to wake up to the ideas that:

1. the life of MD's is fucking depressing - they seem like big bad BSD's but in reality a lot of them are emotionally crippled men addicted to money and caught cold with golden handcuffs. This extends to all the "promised land" jobs. You probably aren't going to make enough money to be somebody but you will end up having traded a significant chunk of your golden years - and for what? A nicer house? Only barely, and probably not relative to what your parents got. "The deal" doesn't seem so sweet and we can all see it, particularly in light of the GFC. These lives of ours are much more fragile than they seem, and our plans to be Ken Moelis aren't certain, even for the best of us. So then what? If the promised land of ultra-high income jobs isn't the way to go, what other option do we have? In the past there really wasn't anything - that was the trick they got you with. You got a taste of the high life, you got hooked, and you kept spending and spending to taste more, all the while lacking any meaningful wealth accumulation - the golden handcuffs are latched on.

2. Now, the perception and awareness has shifted, and "the promised land" isn't the only out. Investing culture is at all time highs among young people, and saving is hot. All these brokerage apps make investing and saving so visible, so preeminent in our daily lives, to a level it really wasn't in the past, particularly for 22-26 year olds. It only took a critical mass to move into saving significant amounts of their money to heavily deteriorate the social momentum that compelled junior bankers to spend their money in dumb, bougie ways. Yeah, we forego eating at bougie restaurants all the time (and for many of us implicitly acknowledge and accept that this will never come) but provide far greater levels of security for ourselves and ensure we're not captured in this life. We can move into far worse paying industries or even retire at an early age and not be caught up in this thing of ours until we're 50.

Once "the deal" promised by high salaries and even higher bonuses began to seem a lot worse than it did in the past, the floodgates were open. Attitudes began to shift and for all but the most psycho hardos, life seems more valuable than grinding out our 20's and 30's. Finance became the means to an end, rather than an end in itself, and from that point frugality and investing seems much more enticing.

Jan 3, 2022 - 1:24pm
AttackSnail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My parents paid $60k for a beachfront house that is now worth over $1.2 million. They did it fresh out of college on a combined salary of $30k/year as a man in construction and an elementary school teacher. They paid for college with part-time jobs, and were able to afford a relatively new car off the bat. To live that same exact lifestyle means I will likely have to make a salary 10x what my parent's combined salary was.

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Jan 3, 2022 - 2:42pm

Similar to you - my parents paid 200k for a house in 2000ish worth about $1m now. But that was only after my parents fucked around for the first 35 years of their lives - not taking school seriously, living in ski towns as a part-time chef and skiing in Park City before it became what it is today, hitch-hiking across the U.S. and picking up random jobs, etc. They were then able to live a higher quality of life in SF working in restaurants (not head chefs or anything) than I'm able to afford as an analyst in SF. Then ofc my dad stumbled into a job he by no means deserved, and was able to easily afford buying said house, raising kids, and subsidizing a stay-at-home mom situation.

I'm working in banking - pretty much as good as you can do coming out of college, and if I don't take a high-income trajectory like PE, instead opting for corp dev or the likes, it'll probably take me until around the same time as they were able to buy a house to get the equivalent place for myself. Hell, that might not even be enough. This is of course, despite not getting to slack off in school and spend the first 10 years of past-education living an amazing life around the country. Imagine this from the perspective of someone going into accounting post graduation, let alone from a banker like myself.

Controversial
Jan 3, 2022 - 1:27pm
AttackSnail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Brands like gucci and chanel are not "bougie", it's what people without money think that people with money wear. Those brands are what lower/middle class people buy bc they think that it will make others view them as upper class. Flashy brands are just gaudy and its a quick way for me to immediately tell that someone is a cheeseball. 

The word "bougie" itself is honestly cringe bc the term wasn't even widespread vernacular until recently

Edit: MS from the people who wear gaudy LV belts to their MBA accounting class. If you take issue with this comment you're likely who I'm describing

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Jan 3, 2022 - 7:56pm

It's just a shortening of bourgeois, which has been used forever.

And how tf you gonna say Gucci ain't bougie? Tasteless, sure, but bougie nonetheless. Bougie is a pejorative, particularly in light of that, surely Gucci and (to a lesser extent) Chanel are bougie.

Jan 3, 2022 - 8:29am
Rookie_numbers, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Using that word is enough proof it's not as "bOuGiE".

On a serious note post 2008 comp hits different. Plus many people still visit all these places. The sweaty analyst working 18 hours a day never really did in the first place.

Jan 3, 2022 - 8:29am
Rookie_numbers, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The fact that people use that word is enough proof it's not as "bOuGiE". On a serious note post 2008 comp hits different. Plus many people still visit all these places. The sweaty analyst working 18 hours a day never really did in the first place.

Jan 3, 2022 - 9:00am
GoingToBeAnMD, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think there might be a generational shift and/or difference in views over this. On the one hand, I think there is a lot of merit to the OP and the replies certainly support it. On the other hand, there is the quantitative evidence that the sale of luxury goods - essentially across the board - are at all time highs. It's nearly impossible to get traditionally "bougie" items like a Rolex or a Porsche right now.

Will that change? Who knows? History would say that luxury items have stayed luxury because they have stood the test of time. But that may very well be changing with the current generation and what they value (i.e. experiences over things, etc). 

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Jan 3, 2022 - 9:30am
Legion42, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Good points made above. I think back then in the early 2010s and before that banking was at the top of the hierarchy. Now prestige is being shared more with FANG engineers, fintech, crypto millionaire millenials.  

Jan 3, 2022 - 1:46pm
DipDevour, what's your opinion? Comment below:

People traded their Zegna Suits and Gucci Loafers in for Lulu lemon pants and all bird sneakers. 

A lot of people prefer that I guess. 

It's not so much that people are serious about being a career banker than looking to exit now.

  • Analyst 2 in HF - Macro
Jan 3, 2022 - 3:45pm

Finance is no longer the default career for intelligent and competent young graduates. Banking salaries have barely increased (if at all) compared to inflation since the GFC. HFs are shrinking, competition is fiercer, and comp is lower than it was 10-15 years ago.

In retrospect, big tech (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.), startups, and VC have been where all the real wealth has been generated in the past decade - especially as institutional investors have increasingly moved down the risk curve to illiquid private alternative investments. 

Most of us are riding on a dream that ended 10-12 years ago and haven't realized it yet. I love my job and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, but I'm honest enough to admit that the peak of this industry is well in the rearview mirror.

Jan 3, 2022 - 8:15pm
scottsmithsonian, what's your opinion? Comment below:

the answer is simple: instagram. it's much cooler to post experiences of where you are and what you're doing than to show off nice clothes - especially in wealthier countries / communities in the US. everyone has a high end camera in their pockets. iPhones cost $1000 and there's a million ways to spend money on subscriptions / services that never existed 10 years ago. expenses are up, relative wages are down and experiences > things.. thanks to FB

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Jan 3, 2022 - 8:26pm
scottsmithsonian, what's your opinion? Comment below:

millennials finally upgraded due to the pandemic. bought homes for more space (half of housing sales are finally this demographic), spent on luxury items with excess savings (way less service related spending given lockdowns) + new investment wealth (equities, crypto, housing) etc.

Array
Jan 4, 2022 - 12:06pm
Basil Hayden, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I used to care more about my appearance and nice stuff (still do to some extent) but after WFH for two years the flashy, materialistic items on my wish list as an analyst have all but disappeared. I would much rather wear T-shirts and spend money on loved ones & vacations. The bougie side of me has really been suppressed and I see it across the bullpen and upwards. Interested to see if this sentiment runs across the Street.

Jan 4, 2022 - 3:14pm
CarsnWatches, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I am pretty much on the same page as you. I still like the nice stuff, but starting to realize what is the actual point if you hardly are going to use it. I think the younger generations (myself included) are realizing time is the greatest asset and Experiences > Expensive items. 

Jan 4, 2022 - 1:12pm
DearChairman..., what's your opinion? Comment below:

I am new to the finance industry but from recently reading the popular books (Liars poker, barbarians at the gate, confessions of a street addict, bonfire of the vanities, trillions, when genius failed, the big short, den of thieves) it seems to me that the finance industry has a long history of irreverence and scrappiness even at its highest level. Maybe there was a time when the industry culture was "bougie" like in the movies but nothing I have read seems to indicate that. Everything I have read seems to indicate that the opposite of fancy has been the status quote for a while. 🤔

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Jan 6, 2022 - 12:55am

This is correct

I was reading about the origins of Morgan Stanley and there used to be a competition among the partners/execs to see who could wear the cheapest watch. This was around 1986. It was their way of showing off amidst the "lesser banks" finally taking away market share from them. Old vs. new money. 

Jan 4, 2022 - 2:52pm
Welsh Carrot, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I agree with the above that purchasing power has decreased through inflation, but I think the main reason is that younger generations are less materialistic and status-conscious than boomers.   

Jan 4, 2022 - 3:32pm
johnny-mnemonic, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I hope this isn't a widespread change since I personally love watches and cars. Not from a desire for conspicuous consumption, but an interest in mechanics and horology. A lot of the guys I've worked with have also liked watches, so maybe your coworkers just aren't interested. Even though comp seems to have lagged since the GFC, bankers still make decent money compared to other similar options. If anyone could afford a nice watch in their 20s, it's bankers. Probably not a Rolex given how difficult they are to find now from an AD (another sign pointing to the popularity of luxury goods) but something tasteful like a JLC or Cartier. I could see the influence of the tech industry pushing people toward Apple watches, but that trend has been happening with everyone who never really cared about their watch in the first place. 

Jan 4, 2022 - 6:20pm
iggs99988, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Pretty surprised no one has mentioned the most obvious reason for this yet. Millennials are more focused on FIRE than any other generation and because of this many are self-selecting to be the type to forego luxury goods/lifestyles in order to achieve early financial freedom and independence from an employer

  • Assist. VP in RE - Comm
Jan 6, 2022 - 1:11pm

Love to see it. I learned about FIRE very shortly after joining the workforce (thanks Mr. Money Mustache!) circa 10 years ago, but I think the idea is certainly becoming more widespread. When you realize that beamer is going to cost you an extra year or two (or more) of working, it makes you really think about the value of your time and what you are willing to trade it for... 

  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
Jan 4, 2022 - 6:24pm

I still vacation when I can, live in a nice apartment, buy pretty much whatever I want. Some of you guys need to get a grip and start living your lives. Why tf are you making $300k+ to end up living in Jersey City?

  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Jan 4, 2022 - 6:25pm
Anonymous Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Apartments JC and Hoboken are actually pretty nice.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
Jan 4, 2022 - 6:29pm

It's different than living in NYC. It doesn't matter how nice the apartment is. It's literally a different state and dampens getting laid/your social circle. 

Jan 5, 2022 - 9:53am
JunkyardDawg, what's your opinion? Comment below:

One likely contributing factor is the following...

Back in the day, pre-GFC, expense policies used to be more lax. No joke - not only did you earn a shit ton in base salary+bonus but also you could use your Amex for things like paying for your dates, "client meetings" at strip clubs, bougie dinners with your analyst mates at Wolfgang's... and you could get away with it, no questions asked.

  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Jan 5, 2022 - 12:03pm
Anonymous Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

At some banks, consulting firms, and other places you still can. It just depends on where you're at. I know in certain sales positions you can. 

Jan 5, 2022 - 10:40am
dank.knight, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Cause we don't get paid enough lol 

Array

  • Associate 2 in IB - Gen
Jan 5, 2022 - 4:21pm

Because the money isn't that good in NYC when the COL is outrageous. And MDs get paid 1/4 of what they used to while the city becomes more expensive. 

  • VP in IB - Gen
Jan 5, 2022 - 5:27pm

Breh - I love my AP and eight pairs of 'Gamos.

In all seriousness though, I think things have toned down a bit through COVID and WFH, as you tend to spend much less time physically in front of clients. There is also a bit of everyone wanting to kill the "rich" so those types of artifacts make you a target in lawless jurisdictions such as NYC and CA.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
Jan 5, 2022 - 5:38pm

Wait you have an AP? Why would you not buy a swatch? It's cheaper! That's more bang for your buck. Ferragamo? You can buy Cole Hann! I hope you don't live in an expensive apartment either…

Here guys, just saved you some time responding on your behalves. 

  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Jan 5, 2022 - 7:02pm
Anonymous Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You seem kind of pressed. Depends on what you get enjoyment out of. The more money you save the looser those golden handcuffs are. It's all about what you prioritize and where you want to be in life. I just no my QOL and the convenience of doing things is better where I'm at. I live literally next to a mall and a transportation hub. We also have multiple bars nearby too. The air also doesn't smell like shit and piss, nor do I have to pay a month's rent for a parking spot. Dude I literally could throw a rock into your building from where I stand on my balcony ( which has a great view of the city btw), stop acting like we live in the bum fuck suburbs. 

Jan 5, 2022 - 11:24pm
NuclearPenguins, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Some other posters discussed this already but it's honestly depressing AF how fucked the housing market is and what it takes to achieve a "good" standard of living. You have to gun for these types of jobs so, so early now, graduate w/ potentially crippling debt. Buying a house alone and the prospect of raising a kid (forget about paying for college) is so effed. 

Don't know who or what is to blame, if it's lack of regulation around college costs (shit's so bloated and at least at my alma mater costs annual all in $ is already like 40% higher than when I graduated 6 years ago), foreign / institutional housing investors (kinda eh on this one personally but it certainly makes headlines and certainly doesn't help housing prices), or what. 

Honestly don't know how anybody survives off of anything that's not a minimum 6 figure salary in any major city and not be depressed AF about the future.

Jan 6, 2022 - 11:45am
bluecollarfinanceguy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is exactly why I decided to pursue a career path outside of a "top" city

I personally felt like I would be grinding away for years on end, with likely nothing or next to nothing to show for my work

The lifestyle I live in my my "tier 3 or 4" city as an A2A is probably comparable to a senior VP or a D in a large city. Am also able to sock away an absurd amount of money every year

Jan 6, 2022 - 7:25pm
NuclearPenguins, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yep I used to work in the Midwest and really wish I had stayed. Followed my fiancée out to the Bay Area, so terrible. Got a big pay bump moving to PE but always felt like I was way, way poorer.

I will take working at a solid MM and killing it in a T3 city than slaving away at a BB scraping by in like NY or SF 10x out of 10.

Jan 7, 2022 - 5:25pm
baddealflow12, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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  • VP in IB - Restr
Jan 16, 2022 - 2:38pm

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