Moving from extreme poverty to wealth via IB

I was wondering how many of you have made the transition from extreme poverty (ghettos, 3rd world countries, homelessness) to a reasonably wealthy life via a good job in finance whether its Asset Management, IB, PE or a Hedge Fund. 

I specify extreme poverty because I have a lot of friends that say they came from poverty because they didn't have an overseas trip every summer like others in their boarding school. 

My Background

My background is, I was born in NY but very quickly taken back to Africa after I was born before moving to South Africa as a young child. There, things for me were as bad as you see in those help Africa commercials literally all my life. It wasn't the kind of poverty where you didn't know you were poor because others were like you, here it was so bad that I very much understood we were in a living hell. I don't want to get into it but imagine the worst life you can apart from being tortured in North Korea. 

When I was 19, I moved to Nigeria, where I am from originally to go to University, here I kinda became "refined". If you don't know West Africans are very westernized even the ones who do not have money and are very in tune with pop culture, fashion and other trends despite being poor, we would huddle around and watch the Oscars, the VMAs and discuss the Met Gala for example. Side note: I think this is why a lot of big scammers come from there, they know how to talk the talk and look the look despite their background. It's very hard to discern a Nigerian who grew up poor from one who grew up rich by conversation. 

I spent a few years wondering around Nigeria after university working in very shitty back office jobs that meant i still had to sleep on the floor with others then 2020 happened and everything moved online, through this I got a job at a large balance sheet bank in NYC via remote interviews by literally applying online. 

Still in Shock

I am still kinda in shock due to my rapid upgrade in lifestyle and I feel loyal to my bank even though I know i shouldn't. 

In a round about way, I feel like I am as rich as Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, I live in a luxury building even by NYC standards, I can literally do what I want, travel to wherever I want and buy what I want for the most part. Sometimes when I am at a nice hotel or bar by myself I reminisce on the past and wonder if there are any others like me that grew up completely F**ed up and now make low 6 figures and above. I know for some of us thats nothing but to me thats way more than I'll ever need. 

Comments (36)

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Cov
Feb 7, 2022 - 5:19pm

"Elation" thats the right word. I have met other africans who work in banking but they all grew up well off so don't see the big deal. And homelessness really sucks, even though my life was bad, i always had a "home" and community of some sort, I think homelessness is a whole other beast entirely that I have never and hopefully will never fight. 

I fully get your point of exclusively staying in 5 star hotels, I feel like that too. "After all i've been through i deserve to have a FUCKING versace robe when I check in!", i frequently joke to myself in that tone whenever i am buying something ridiculously luxurious. 

Glad to hear you're doing well

Most Helpful
Feb 7, 2022 - 1:54pm
gufmo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Congrats on making it. You're what makes this country great.

You won't really find anyone in your shoes here. These forums are mostly filled with sexually frustrated trust fund kids these days. 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Feb 7, 2022 - 2:32pm

True statement. I'm on WSO every day and I am sexually frustrated and I have a trust fund

Feb 7, 2022 - 6:10pm
BlueCollarWorker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Madly Respect and also envy that you have the privilege to have the right to work in America

I was born in Hong Kong but with a strangely poor family (my Father has a gambling addiction, and both parents didn't even finish their primary school education).

I grew up poorly (sometimes I won't even have enough money for proper food, life is hard to live in a world-class city). I was also not doing that great in school (I was in the low-key street gang because that's the only place I was not feeling small).

Fast forward, I was caught by the police in 17 for some stupid thing that changed me. Since then, I have worked a few jobs simultaneously for a few years to save a load of money to study in the Netherlands, was also working part-time to pay my rent & tuition while doing a full-time internship (they only pay 600 Euro per month for FT intern).

This year, I've graduated and luckily got an offer from LevFin… nevertheless, the payment is still not that good (I work for a leading regional bank, and my salary is about 50k before tax), I'm not able to get into investment banking as I don't speak the local language. Life still sucks for me cause I've to repay the money I've borrowed during my study, and the rent level is crazy.

Feb 7, 2022 - 7:30pm
Angus Macgyver, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I remember when I first moved to NYC, for a job with a Big 4 firm. I was able to afford rent on my own shitty little Midtown studio. Drove to it with my new IKEA furniture in the back of my rental car.

And it felt fucking amazing. I really, truly, felt like I had made it. I was in the big leagues now.

Never let that feeling go. No matter how bad things get, you'll always be miles ahead of where you were a year or two or ten years ago. Don't ever forget that, and be grateful for what you have.

  • Analyst 1 in CorpDev
Feb 18, 2022 - 1:47pm

Calm tf down, dont be a cunt, and dont shit on people's experiences. For ppl who come from shit, that's a feat. 

  • 4
  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Cov
Feb 7, 2022 - 10:07pm

Bro!!!!!!!!!!!!! when I got furniture in my apartment (also from IKEA) and looked out the window I literally felt like I had conquered New York, you can't buy that experience.

I felt like I had truly landed. I don't think I will let the feeling go. I know a few african bankers and other finance professionals and even though some grew up wealthy others didn't and they all told me it never leaves and they've been here for 10+ years. Till today I can't believe I stay in my apartment alone. Like wtf i can literally get drunk and sleep on the floor and no one will kick me out, still feels like it isn't really mine.

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Gen
Feb 7, 2022 - 8:24pm

My parents are immigrants and I'm a first gen student. One of my parents dropped out of high school to come work full time in the US. When I was born, I was sent back to our home country where I grew up with no electricity or plumbing. I came back to the US to start elementary school, but my parents were still living in a pretty poor apartment. We would commonly run out of hot water and had to boil water to shower at times. A few years later, my parents' business started doing well and they finally purchased their first home. They had achieved the American Dream. I did well enough in school to get into a US News top 25 ranked school and have an IB SA lined up for the summer. Truly blessed and grateful for the opportunities the US has provided my family. Also, I'm an Asian male (non diversity) so I believe that with hard work, anyone can make it here.

  • Analyst 1 in CorpDev
Feb 18, 2022 - 2:21pm

I feel that. Both parents are immigrants, one's a high school grad, both parents worked 2 (blue collar) jobs, put me through private schools my whole life, and dad lost his job when I was in college. We couldn't afford shit, had 1 able car between the whole family, I got internships, worked part time on the side, and took 3 different buses to make it to uni. Landed an M&A gig now out earning both of my parents combined. Hard work's just the beginning. When you grow up with that, the hunger doesn't leave. Cheers to everyone that landed solid careers and had to eat shit for it. 

Feb 7, 2022 - 8:29pm
UpsideDown_MMC, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First off, congrats! I bet your family is proud of what you are achieving.

Secondly, while I wouldn't say I came from extreme poverty, I did grow up in a poor/struggling household (immigrants parents without even a HS degree). Hell, at one point we were even homeless. So I totally understand the feeling you are having and as much as I struggle with the job sometimes, I am always grateful for what it has allowed me to do for my family.

And yes, I do consider my low 6 figure salary to be "wealthy". I mean, even in my first year in the field, I was making more than my entire family ever did combined in a single year (parents + older siblings who also didn't had the opportunity to get a higher education). 

On the loyalty point, I get it, you feel like you owe the bank everything. However, always look out for what is best for you, because the bank will not blink twice if they need to let you go if it benefits them. Not saying you shouldn't work hard, but don't feel like you owe it to the bank to stick around if things are no longer optimal for you in a few years.

Aside from that, enjoy the feeling, be proud of yourself and good luck!

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Feb 7, 2022 - 9:21pm

Really awesome story man. I had a very priviledged childhood but can still relate to the feeling of "having made it". IB truly opened up another world for me that I had no idea existed, despite coming from an objectively well off background. A strong indicator is that family and friends have absolutely no idea what my job consist off and what I do, so some progress has definitely been made. I can only imagine what it must be like for you. And remember to stay hungry, this is just the beginning!

  • VP in RE - Comm
Feb 8, 2022 - 9:46am

Love this. Glad to see you're enjoying the ride. Many of us finance folks are constantly chasing the next 0 in that paycheck and never take the time to appreciate the presence and our accomplishment. Keep it up!

Feb 8, 2022 - 9:35pm
TheBuellerBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Fantastic to read this. Congratulations on your success.

I didn't come from nearly the same kind of background as you but basically had my personal financial life hit a hard 180 when I started working in IB.

Couple points:

- Totally get why you feel loyal to your firm for providing you with your earnings but make sure that you're being treated well etc before you let a potentially toxic/terrible culture take over your life just because they're paying your salary. Make sure you keep your mental health a priority is all I'm saying

- Make sure that you're not overextending just because you can. I definitely did this initially and it takes a decent amount of time to come back from being in a financial rut and or hole. Again, not saying you are/will do this but throwing some caution in the wind here

- Continue to feel grateful. One of the things which separates you from people who come into this industry with tons of money is a hunger which is drawn from having come from poverty. Neither one of these is better than one another, but I'm just pointing out something which may keep you feeling driven and limiting entitlement

  • 5
Feb 10, 2022 - 7:00am
PeepeeFinancePoopoo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Congrats on making it bro, I can't say I have a similar background in terms of poverty but I didn't have anything I have now before I entered finance. If you're good, finance is the great equaliser, just keep the fires alight and smash out those hours, who the fuck'll care where you came from when you're racking digits?

Life is a road... and I love creating potholes
Feb 11, 2022 - 8:50pm
xigore2834, what's your opinion? Comment below:

 I can somewhat relate, I'm just fked (poor af) with no job and applying to roles daily.

Feb 11, 2022 - 10:04pm
SherDin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I grew up poor believe it or not in a western European country to immigrant parents. Both my parents had low income jobs (cleaning offices, warehouse jobs) until my mom couldn't work anymore due to a very bad work injury and my dad kind of bailed and never came back knowing that he couldn't support 4 kids. In my culture it doesn't really bode well for a woman to have 4 kids and be divorced, yet my mom absolutely smashed it raising us. She committed all her time making sure we had all the support possible with her. As the eldest brother I quit going to high-school when I turned 18 and had dead-end jobs until I was 24 to help out at home with the bills and making sure my brothers were doing ok at school. At 24 feeling like I could do more I decided to go back into education as my brothers were old enough to earn their own bread. I went to London to my cousin, and for one year I was learning STEM on Khan Academy etc. I applied to do A Levels in 2 years and got A*A*A*, got accepted to University of Cambridge which felt like a dream come true. I did a spring internship at a BB, got a return offer for Summer Internship, did well during Summers, and am now in my second year at work and in my early 30's and I'm loving every.single.second of it.

When I got paid during my summer internship and realised that what I just earned in 2 months was literally comparable to 6 months of full-time salary at my dead end job I felt like I was a millionaire, and when I got my bonus I felt like I won the lottery! I legit used the cash earned during my summer internship and the sign on/relocation bonus to propose to my then girlfriend now wife, and going to honeymoon (she also pitched in her savings lol).

Even now as a junior whenever I see the amount that is deposited in my bank account I feel like I'm dreaming. I know that a lot of people get burned out pretty quickly in their IB journey, but trust me the amount of times I felt like killing myself when working insane shifts in fast food restaurants and retail jobs getting paid peanuts, knowing that if I didn't bring in any money it would destroy us financially, is incomparable. The other thing is that because I spent most of my 20's enjoying time with friends (when not working) and made meaningful life long friendships that had ups and downs, and I guess I did what every 20 year old guy would do, that I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything when working insane hours. It's something I've picked up as being the general sentiment around the juniors here. Anyway, I hope to buy my mom a decent house in the future, something I could only dream of whilst window shopping on real estate websites.

By the way just a tad off-topic. I find it funny how I always was the older brother taking care of the younger brothers, and it's something I feel like I'm doing here at times, being the older brother around trying to calm down the little brothers here lol.

Feb 12, 2022 - 3:38pm
rightdecision, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Very Inspirational. I haven't achieved what you have achieved, but I believe I can be like you. I came from an impoverished town in a small Asian country. The U.S refine me. It took me more steps to be a university student, but I am a third year's now. I day and night dream about the day that I will start working on wall street do what I truly love while making good money to give back and take care of all the people who are in my shoes and especially my family.

I am still financially struggling, but I have the belief and a plan. My God bless me!

  • Managing Director in IB-M&A
Feb 13, 2022 - 1:33pm

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Feb 19, 2022 - 2:02am
StochasticAchilles, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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