When is it enough??

I’m interested in finance and medicine, and in high school right now (matriculating into university this fall). I’ve been accepted into a Canadian semi-target for BB recruiting (think Ivey/Smith/Desautels). Due to the rigid grading in the program I’d attend, I’d be shutting the door to medical school (which, in Canada, requires near-perfect grades and MCAT). Unfortunately, the reality of the situation means I’m essentially deciding between medicine and finance, right now, in high school.


Tearing my hair out during this decision-making process. I’m equally interested/passionate about both subject matters. The million-dollar question, for me, seems to be… how much money is “enough?” Been speaking to a few bankers, and they all cite the willingness to grind as the main reason for the competitive remuneration rather than intellectual horsepower or breadth and depth of training.


Is it “worth it” to work in a better-compensated career with constant grinding and pressure to perform (I hear it’s just as bad/stressful on the buyside) as opposed to a reasonably balanced medicine specialty with immense job security (rad, derm, optho)? From the few finance seniors I’ve been lucky enough to chat with, it seems like they still work hours that many would perceive as non-conducive to a family life.


I’ve heard many statements about how money improves your QOL logarithmically rather than exponentially; law of diminishing returns, etc etc. Is the money that important? Secretly have superficial desires for a life where money isn’t a concern (i.e. kids will one day get to pursue something they love, attend their dream school without having to worry about money, enjoy vacation homes, cars, unique experiences, etc.). I ALSO want to help people, though - I think that it’s a big part of my values and personality.


Medicine gives me a wonderful opportunity to help others and raise a family but is definitely less conducive to a certain lifestyle…but I also love markets and the quantitative/qualitative blend in finance (will probably study for CFA level 1 for fun this summer - nerdy, yes, haha). PE/HF could afford my kids a life where they can pursue their dreams irrespective of $, I can leverage the capital I've made in my career for philanthropy/running for office…


Sorry for the rant - but how much money is enough money??

 
Most Helpful

As someone who went through this decision; do what you’re excited about, judging from how little u talked about medicine in this post, it’s likely finance is the way. Don’t do medicine unless you genuinely find the content interesting and the day to day interesting (it can very easily be just as if not more of a grind than finance). So many kids do medicine just bc they think it’s the path to a high paying stable respectable career but that’s not the way. Many people still contribute to the world in finance, especially in private markets or operating side

 

Also don’t just do finance because you want money, do it because it’s what interests you and is what you find cool (if u like it you’ll be 10x more willing to put in the time)

 

Appreciate the insight a ton. Yes, I am probably slightly more interested in finance if I'm being true to myself. I fear that the day-to-day work, though, is much less interesting than medicine (Excels and PPTs, or cutting-edge research??). I love meeting new people and knowing I genuinely helped them (taught kids how to swim the past few summers and it's been incredibly rewarding beyond the little $ I make from the work). That excites me too.

 

Personally, I think the medicine path is incredibly overrated. Go with finance. Opens up way more doors long-term.

If you have to decide now, go with your gut.

 

Haha gut feeling is so dead on the nose 50/50 that I'm losing sleep over it (hardo alert)...

I see you're in b-school/corp-strat right now. Can I ask you how you're finding that? Biggest fear is I exit out of IB into a lifestyle-friendly exit opp and find myself bored out of my mind wishing I did medicine

 

Medicine can get boring too. Patients absolutely suck too. Used to work on the clinical side / patient-facing. Never again.

 
baystbanker

Haha gut feeling is so dead on the nose 50/50 that I'm losing sleep over it (hardo alert)...

I see you're in b-school/corp-strat right now. Can I ask you how you're finding that? Biggest fear is I exit out of IB into a lifestyle-friendly exit opp and find myself bored out of my mind wishing I did medicine

Seconded. Med is overrated. So is IBD. Finance as an industry? Not overrated. 

I get losing sleep. You have to get practical experience in both industries & then compare.

You could do med & regret not doing finance when the hardships hit you as well. And medicine is boring as well - hell, most jobs are! Seeing the 150th chronic kidney failure as an endocrine specialist - you think you will be “intellectually stimulated”. You say the same things over and over again, provide the same medication over and over again.

Watch this: “https://www.ted.com/talks/ruth_chang_how_to_make_hard_choices?language=…

And in the end trust your intuition and follow your interest

 

Perhaps I can speak to this as I actually applied to and got into medicine and dropped out and am now in banking.

Happy to DM you if you’d like.

 

I decided which way to go a while back. My father was an ER doc, so I always felt a pool to go that way. But when I compared the two, finance and medicine, one just seemed way more appetizing.

The medicine you spend four years undergrad +4 years medical school +3 years residency to come out making 500K+ which obviously the true value depends on what type of doctor. You feel fulfilled at the end of each day, knowing you’ve helped people individually it’s a very honorable profession. On the other hand, you’re dealing with people, different types of people, which can be rough on the long hours and long days associated with that.

The other hand you go through finance, and you hopefully chose IB or PE (something within high-finance) and while your trajectory isn’t initially as high, you were given a seven year Headstart on earnings. We’re dealing with companies and people and there’s just as much strategy within the role as medicine.

Overall, I think it’s a pretty easy decision for each individual, obviously, I am biased. But you can feel fulfilled through finance very easily by finding the right group, industry, role. I think the skill sets are both masterful and very selective/competitive but at the end of the day it comes down to , how much schooling you want to go through, and what you would love to do. I need to have a genuine passion for transactions just like you do for helping people. Don’t choose this job because of the money.

WACCguy
 

Really appreciate the insight, thank you. I guess I should have framed my question more along the lines of 'is being a career banker/PE principal/HF PM worth it vs the lifestyle of a medical practitioner' given my interest in both fields

 

As someone who is seriously considering leaving medical school to go to a “target school” and recruit for finance - the coming fall as well - I feel uniquely qualified to answer your question.

First - different people are fulfilled by different things. You must get experience in both fields - shadow a doctor, and try your best to shadow a finance professional (or at least do the virtual simulations on Forage). You might find that you hate the thought of one but love the other.
Second - I personally think that 200k USD/yr is more than enough money to raise & provide for a family comfortably. That’s my number. I’m not materialistic or require luxury - might differ for you. Thereby going by this number both careers meet that criteria. If you want to be a mover/shaker in society you obviously need much more.

Third - one is never equally passionate about both subject matters. I mean, you don’t even know what medical school is like. Anatomy, biochem, physiology, pharmacology. I found it very dry and full of straight up memorisation (which is fair, you are paid as a doctor because of your knowledge & paid as a finance professional because of your ability to sell in the end). The amount of knowledge you need to pass finance (IBD) interviews is about the amount you would need to memorise for a short specialty module in medicine (1-2 months of learning). So the academic rigour is totally different - if you hate studying, go for finance.

Medicine, at least for me, is a profession that is put up on a pedestal. Many people in the business world (corporate jobs) look at me & wonder why I would quit such a “meaningful” career. But at the end of the day you are in a dirty hospital room/ward poking around at sick old people for most of the day. Some of them will be thankful. Others will not - they will abuse you, they will die on you, they might get depressed and not recover. Some of them will be difficult, non-compliant, or sue. And at the end of the day some people are fulfilled by this & are able to take a glass half full view and some are not. I have met some people that genuinely enjoy working in a hospital but I would say it is few & far between. Medical school is not easy either and is generally quite a stressful experience. Like banking, you are “always on” and drinking from a fire hose so you could technically always be studying and still not complete the material.

I first went into medicine to help people, but realised how unfulfilling helping people can be. So now I am looking over the edge and doing my best to explore finance, but once you are in medicine, it is very difficult to convince yourself to leave the stability of the profession. For you - open your mind & consider that you can help people even if you are not in medicine. Some of the kindest people I know - one is a trader and one is an accountant. True, they don’t like their jobs but they have a very helpful heart. 

Finance - it is a pressure cooker of uncertainty and competitiveness. While in medicine, you can do (A), (B), (C), and then graduate and get a job (and bitch about it for the rest of your life, while getting paid) in finance career progression is not guaranteed. You could be fired, you could burn out, you might not have what it takes to go from VP -> Director. You are quite replaceable at the junior level - and even getting into the industry is not guaranteed. And if you slack off you will lose to your competitors. I would say most “business students” will not earn more than a doctor…but if you get into, and choose to stay in IB/PE/AM/Big 4 for 10+ years then you would (not easy at all). The initial analyst work in finance is also quite dry, but it should move into more of a sales role as you go up the ladder

Most people’s priorities change as they get older and they don’t value money/success as much as they start to mature and realise what’s really important in life. Keep that in mind.

Yes - a lot of finance professionals have hours not conducive to family life (I.e. IBD MD) - but a lot of people do. It is a matter of choice & what you value. If you think IBD is too demanding on your time you can hop to CD (corp dev), SWF or LO AM / LMM PE firms. You could start off in LO AM, or do private banking. There are many roles in finance that pay well (not as much as IBD/PE) but are 40-60 hrs at the senior level. 

really the best piece of advice I could give you (and I hope I illustrated) is that both careers are just jobs with upside and downside (efficient markets). Both paths are difficult and both pay well (you will never starve). Beyond that there is no point comparing pros and cons (too exhaustive). The only difference in how happy you will be/how much you enjoy it is interest which is the most important factor. Given that you “love markets” - hopefully you know how to value a stock, give a stock pitch etc. & you will have the motivation to work hard for your dream.

And I would say it is easier to do finance first, and if you really hate it switch to med, than it is the other way around (doing med first, then switching to finance). But as you are in Canada both routes are actually doable b/c you can get an MBA after your MD and to my knowledge that is very valuable in the States.

 
baystbanker

Thank you for the insight. I recently shadowed a surgeon and can definitely see myself in it for the long term - will hopefully try to do some banking courses offered online when school calms down.

P.S. Nice username 

Nice. Honestly if you could see yourself in it for the long term, and you don't have the desire to accumulate extreme wealth/power/legacy, then I would argue medicine is a much more stable, visible, and secure path. You definitely leave work at the hospital and could enjoy a more balanced and secure life. Whereas in finance it is not really like that - you are always 'on' and that leads to insomnia, stress outside of work etc. the anxiety you would feel in this career is real

Just make sure you enjoy studying & consider yourself more of an academic person than a sporty competitive person - this is a profession where you study for a lifetime

 

You are the only person that can answer that question for you.

 

Just to provide you some insight, There is no Canadian school that is a semi-target for BBs in the US. The only BBs who really hire Canadians are BofA but not NYC, GS (Almost exclusively Smith), Barclays/MS rarely sponsor and would only do it for top diverse candidate (MS was a hard no this year). All your options are going to be EBs (EVR/MOE) pretty much. At McGill this is even more restricted with US placements being almost entirely in Houston with an occasional Moelis NYC look

In any given year across Canada there is probably only 30ish total undergrads getting the opportunity to get into the USA, and of those 30ish almost all are on a top finance club at that top school. 

So understand if you pursue finance, your outcome may be Big 5 in Toronto not GS in NYC.

 

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