Want to quit only 5 months in but can't afford to pay back signing bonus

Feel like these types of threads are popping up more frequently now for some reason. Long story short, I've realized investment banking isn't for me. I love the people I work with, and the culture in my group is fantastic. However, I've realized that I care too much about life outside of work, so I want to pursue a normal 9-5

The problem is that my signing bonus has a clawback provision that lasts two years. I have nowhere near $12k available to give back and would likely have to take out a loan to afford this. Obviously I wouldn't quit without anything lined up, but I doubt a regular corp fin job would agree to cover the signing bonus.

Taking out a personal loan to quit a job as lucrative as IB sounds like the worst possible financial mistake one could make, so I feel very trapped right now. Any advice or similar stories would be extremely helpful. And hope everyone here had an amazing Thanksgiving

Comments (75)

2mo 
Xhamster02, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I would stick it out for at least a year. Get a full bonus and then leave but leaving before 1.5 years first job ever is not a good look down the road (e.g. if the second jobs ends up sucking and you wanna go somewhere else)

  • 6
  • 1
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
2mo 

Wise words from xhamster hahah

Not but seriously thanks for the advice and it's a very common sentiment I hear. Maybe I should've put an edit for clarification but a side gig / hustle I'm working on is starting to gain some traction, and I want to dedicate the free time I'd have after a 9-5 to continue building it.

Versus in IB you're just at the mercy of everyone above you

1mo 
Frieds, what's your opinion? Comment below:

18 months is the general rule of thumb - shows you're stable in a role, and not jumping every year or the like. 

  • 2
  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
2mo 

Just start recruiting while saving as much as possible. I wouldn't be surprised to see a small signing bonus for some tech corp fin roles, which you could use alongside your savings.

  • 1
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
2mo 

Are you coverage or product? Also, what specifically don't you like about it? If you're coverage, highly recommend switching to a product group that has notoriously better hours and (more commonly known) better group dynamics. One thing I would highlight is that many people have been in your shoes on this forum: wanted 9-5, wanted to not be on email over the weekend, and wanted a life outside of work. However, many of these stories end with complaints about comp and no long term upward mobility. Just something to keep in mind as, if you leave now, the road back in 5 years is unnecessarily difficult vs from the spot where you are at now borderline impossible. 5 months is not enough time to scale the learning curve entirely. 

  • 4
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
2mo 

I'm in a product group but not one with great hours. I understand the sentiment but I've realized I'm not just an investment banker. Chose this job to impress my parents and my friends (and most of all just to prove myself that I was good enough to get the job), and now I feel extremely unfulfilled. I'm fine with lower comp and upward mobility.

It'd be a dream to make $200k all-in for the rest of my life with a 9-5 but totally cool if that doesn't come to fruition.

Like I said in an earlier comment, I also have a passion project that's gaining some traction and I feel like if I miss this window to ride the momentum, I'll regret it forever

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
2mo 

Power to you for the goal. If you have a passion project, take that to your limit and even past that. Not many people have those type of projects or even the desire to do it, so hope that ends well. One caveat I would say is the "200k all in". After taxes (and depending on the city), 200k all in is frugal. Add wife/husband and kids to the mix that's crossing into ugly. It sounds great on paper, and a lot of people say "I'll take anything over the hours now" but once you get on that side the problems will be of equal number but of different scale. Wishing you luck if you go this route but be sure you won't ever want to gift your wife a Patek or do that Hamptons summer rental because leaving banking almost seals that dream up. Best of luck man. 

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Most Helpful
2mo 
le_monke, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hahaha I've never wanted to do those things even before I realized I wanted to quit IB. I'm being 100% serious when I say I don't even know where the Hamptons are, and I didn't know what a Patek was until I found this site

Also I want to point out that a dual income household with one person making $200k is actually really good. Median household income in America is only around $80k (which yes I know is poverty level in many cities) and both my parents combined pulled in maybe $200k max before they got divorced.

So I've never grown up with a ton, but we were still able to afford fun vacations and never had to worry about where my next meal would come from or if I'd have a place to sleep or if I could afford to go to college. That might seem like the bare minimum to a lot of people on this site, but that's a dream to many people in this country

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
1mo 

i think you're head is in the right place in that 200k a year for a family (let alone one person) is an great - often even upper middle class - lifestyle especially in the midwest/rockies where i'm from.

I would note though that banking is a nice lil internship for the struggles of life bc it teaches you to have grit in situations where you have 0 motivation/personal interest/equity in your work. at the same time, being happy is the goal, not money, so…

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
1mo 

This really made me laugh. What an insular box people live in while being completely oblivious to it. It's actually like… mildly adorable?

The Hamptons are somewhere you go if you want to see the exact same types of people you see at work every day. For those of us who want to leave the industry, there's nothing that sounds worse than seeing a bunch of IB/PE/HF folk while on vacation.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
2mo 

And to just add another note: would another potential route just be pushing back on late night work when I have to be available for this passion project / side hustle? Like not just logging off every day after 6 pm but basically either staying up extra late to get work done or-let's be honest-just not turning those "urgent" comments that you get on bullshit pitches until the next morning.

I mean if it's such a big deal that I'm not at my computer 24/7 that they fire me… would I hypothetically not have to pay back my signing bonus?

1mo 
teamryan15, what's your opinion? Comment below:

lmaoo these are the type of responses that keep me coming back here. Not because its an insightful or helpful comment but because its so fucking wrong, out of touch and naive that its hilarious to me. 

I guess the only concerning thing is younger folks who dont know any better and take this shit at face value

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
2mo 

FWIW I have never seen the sign-on bonus waived, even leaving without a job... maybe it's just my bank is very strict. especially 5 months into a 2 year clawback.. no way. they don't want you setting a precedent that they will waive it. Not sure how a 1st year analyst could trash a bank when they signed a contract agreeing to it, would look a lot worse on the analyst. If OP cannot afford to pay it, I wouldn't ask the team head unless you have a plan to cover the $ if he say no because that is basically already giving notice.

I have however seen many of these 9-5 "next jobs" provide a signing bonus to cover the clawback. That is very common.

1mo 
stablecashflows, what's your opinion? Comment below:

the firm im at has that clawback but they specifically note that it only applies if you go to a competing firm. is this not standard?

Array

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
2mo 

Just give it a few more months bro. Was in a similar position when I started. I'm sure you've heard this multiple times but it really does get better. Just need to persevere. 

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  • Associate 2 in AM - Other
2mo 

I exited in less than a year, and they waived the clawback... not sure if they forgot, but I never got any mail, did not get passed to a collections agency or take a hit to credit score, and my tax forms all came out fine. They did ask me in my exit interview whether I'm going to another bank or not, so that might have played a factor. Would probably ask someone else who left the same firm early.

2mo 
Dr. Rahma Dikhinmahas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

How'd you live beyond your paycheck? 

Anyways if you're going to any company that could be a client, that'll be the first reason they waive it.

If not that, they might waive it bc you're leaving IB as others have said.  

Lastly, if you really care about the money you can tell them to sue you for it.  They won't.  They might complain to your current employer about it, so you'd want to be ready for that possibility, but even that's a stretch.

2mo 
Jamie_Diamond, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Seriously - working like a pyramid builder will train your body to push limits mentally / physically when you need it for a good reason later in life. Tough it out for a year and if you can't do that, then don't start a 24/7 boba shop in the bay area - it wont be a good fit.

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

  • 1
2mo 
apple red, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Try internal transfer to sales, trading, or strats. That way you get to keep the sign-on bonus and enjoy a slightly better wlb. You may even get extra sign-on bonus if you got a strats role

Also some back office IT groups make 200k-300k for life-long 9-5. But growth is very limited and also heard work is boring. Could be a good fit for you if you value wlb more than money

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
2mo 

Surprised no one has brought up the easiest and most straightforward solutions. Just don't pay. No, I don't care what dumb anecdote someone brings up. No bank is going to track you forever over a measly $12k. Do whatever you want in this life. This forum is a bunch of slaves that don't realize a bunch of "dumb" kids are making your whole salary in a week at home in their pajamas. And no, this as nothing to do with "crypto bros" or whatever strawmen VPs like to come up with to cope. Good luck on whatever you choose. 

1mo 
taxtofinanceguy22, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've seen it happen with my girlfriend at a consulting firm - they'll send it to collections who will harass you and add it to your credit history impacting your score if you don't repay. Was worth a shot trying to not pay though.

  • 1
2mo 
bottyasscheeksman, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Has anyone ever seen this happen? Analyst leaving early in their stint? Thinking of doing the same and I'm sure there's been precedents but want to know if this is more common than I think

1mo 
GratefulBread69, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Been in a similar situation in the past and didn't pay. Bit of a gamble to see what the outcome would be, but made the decision betting that a big bank would have other things to worry about than $10k

1mo 
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You say you would be happy doing a 9-5 with 200k all in.

I would encourage you to actually do some research on other industries that are so called 9-5.

I think you'll find even 9-5 jobs occasionally have you work late, have toxic superiors and won't have you sniffing 200k until a few years into the job.

Leaving banking doesn't just solve your problems. You just trade them for new ones.

Since you mention you're folks were never super successful, it's not like you can rely on them for help or inheritance. So you'll be trading work life balance problems for money problems, which sounds just sounds more stressful to me.

  • Analyst 1 in PE - Other
1mo 

He hasn't mentioned that his "folks were never super successful", that's on you given that you seem to think that money=success.

  • 3
1mo 
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

He said before his parents marriage failed and they got divorced they never made over 200k combined and while he was never close to homeless, they never provided him with a lot.

you were so eager to "own" me that you never bothered reading his replies lol.

but nice try analyst.

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  • Associate 3 in IB - Cov
1mo 

If you suck at your job, they'll probably lay you off and you get some severance + no clawbacks. Food for thought.

  • VP in RE - Comm
1mo 

Sounds like slaveries that built the stadiums in Qatar yikes

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
1mo 

Is your analyst bonus cycle summer or do you get stubbed now and then full year in December? Either way, any lump sum bonus payment you receive should be able to cover $12k, and I would take that as an opportunity to leave (plus hopefully with some extra change for some level of security).

Until then you can definitely mail it in a bunch. There's actually a lot of fat you can cut from your day-to-day that might be surprisingly useful when you're not in it for the long haul. You don't really have to respond to every email immediately, triple-check those profiles from India, or review that PDF in your drafts 5x before hitting send. Take some time out of every day to go to the gym, make dinner, work on your side hustle. Whatever your office/hybrid policy is right now, you can probably skip a day per week, or show up later and leave earlier.

Idk how formal staffing is for your bank, but for me it was also a bit of a cycle bc staffing was a bit rogue. So the less suck-up, hardo, constantly "will do!" you are, generally you'd dodge an extra staffing here and there.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
1mo 

Which banks are only giving $12k signing bonuses?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
1mo 

OP here. For some reason, this post made its way back on the front page so thought I'd make an update if anyone cared or if any other first years are in a similar boat.

I was in a pretty bad mental state when I made this post and tbh idk how much of it was IB itself vs just the growing pains of graduating college and moving to the real world + other external factors in my life.

I talked to my therapist and am in a much better state now. Some of the other analysts were also able to pick me up, and I think that's a big factor in why I'm going to try to stick it out as long as I can in the analyst program.

My therapist told me that I'm struggling to find my "why", and since I don't have dreams of making boatloads of money, I guess I lost sight of why I'm really here in IB. For those who have found happiness in this industry, regardless of the pay, what is your "why"?

Or is the money you make really that life-changing?

1mo 
normanhelm, what's your opinion? Comment below:
[Comment removed by mod team]
1mo 
IB_strat_ml_quant, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It sounds like you actually like IB. Stick it out. Take 6 months to make life decisions. Cut out other things and it will eventually get better and you can move on.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
1mo 

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  • Managing Director in IB-M&A
1mo 

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
30d 

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