Why work the best years of our lives away?

I was on a Zoom with a bunch of friends from school who all work a typical 9am - 5pm job. I thought I'd share a convo we had to see everyone's thoughts on this forum as I found it to be quite eye-opening for me and has now made me start considering a career switch.

It's my 27th birthday coming up and they asked me what I'm doing for it, I said 'not much, work is quite busy atm and I have my end of year review coming up so want to make sure I get promoted to associate'. They replied with 'honestly man why are you working the most valuable and enjoyable part of your life away? Life is short and you don't know how long you have left do you really want to spend it working non stop?'

My response was 'It's a sacrifice now but I'm thinking long term about where I want to be when I'm older' 

They then said 'You don't know how long you have left, what happens if you died tomorrow you would have done nothing apart from work your entire life, are you really willing to give up your 20s and early 30s so you can retire early at the age of 50 when the best part of your life is over?'

I honestly had no response to this.

They then asked what I've accomplished, I said I was going to be an associate soon and they responded saying how meaningless that was, they said how they've all traveled the world, slept with so many girls they lost count, learned from past relationships and mistakes, found new hobbies, met new friends and lived a stress-free life in their twenties and said how they never needed a high paid job to do so.. then made a joke 'all whilst you were creating a pitchbook'.

This made me think, I have a good job yeah, but I'm almost 30, I'm single, I haven't slept with a girl since I started IB three years ago, I haven't traveled the world, and I've not done anything meaningful with my life.

The fact that someone who does a 9am-5pm earning a basic salary is literally able to live a fulfilling and happy life that sounds far better than mine made me really think, what is the point of us working our best years away? I studied my life away as a student, then joined IB straight out of university and have worked 80+ hour weeks for the past 3 years and now I'm turning 27 with nothing to show for it.

What is the point of high finance careers such as IB/PE when we literally have to give up our best years?


Because at any point you can leave that life. Take a year long vacation then jump into a less stressful job if you wanted with three times as much saved as your friends.

Plus your doing important work that has meaning

PS your friends all sound jealous


I mean I guess meaningful work was not the best term to use...

More like "not in a dead end job" 

You can exit to a lower commitment job, to another IB firm, to a good MBA, keep going up the IB ladder at your firm or try for another "high finance" role (assuming hell get the offer sometime soon) 

You cant do that in almost every other industry so at least the work hes doing is meaningful to his future and career. 


Have to put things in perspective. They all have valid points but have to keep in mind those are simply their views on life. Majority of ppl not in the industry will not understand the grind - have to think about your “why” of what you’re doing and if it aligns correctly, don’t feel bad about what your friends have / have not done.


I mean it is a sacrifice. But just because its, their best years doesn't mean it's yours. I personally couldn't handle the IB lifestyle, but in your 30s you can have a great life after IB. It's not like life is over after 29.

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There's legitimate arguments for better work/life balance while still saving some money, experiencing things, etc. I also think it heavily depends on your personality and the type for IB is definitely in the minority in that regard. However, I hate the "what if you die tomorrow" argument. I won't be regretting anything while I am dead, but I will regret being alive at 50 with no money having to work out of necessity for the foreseeable future just to survive. 


Give me a break, the grass is always greener. Do whatever the hell you want and don't pay attention to age. With still being in school (which contrary to popular belief isn't "care-free" and can be quite stressful) having little to no money, little to no real world experience, please tell me why people think you're supposed to conquer the world in your 20s and even 30s.

By the way, I had friends who didn't want to "piss away their 20s"...and now they're just pissed. While I'm about to buy my own place, some of them are moving back in with family in their 30s. 


Great points. Also note that they're not thinking hard enough about their own viewpoint, "What if you die tomorrow". As a religious person, I hope that if I die tomorrow that I didn't waste yesterday drinking, doing drugs, and banging whores.

If they really thought about their statement on a deeper level, they would figure out that they need to be doing more in their 20s than just partying and enjoying hobbies.


So glad someone posted a comment from this perspective. I was considering posting something similar myself. Also a man of faith here, and know that if I die tomorrow, I die knowing that I was doing something meaningful with my life. I used the talents I was blessed with to work towards a goal and purpose in life, and if my life is cut short in that pursuit, I certainly wouldn't consider it to have gone to waste. In the end, I will stand accountable before God for what I did with the blessings and limited time I had on this Earth. Several comments here about OP's friends saying that OP is "pissing away" his 20s, but I think it's OP's friends who are "pissing away" their 20s.


Have a zoom call with your friends in 10 years and then another in 20.

Maybe you won’t be in IB but you will probably still be hard working and goal oriented while they will probably still be laissez faire about everything and trying to drag you down with them so that they don’t feel bad about their lazy and directionless ways. People don’t change. 

See how many of them will beat around the bush to either ask you for a networking intro for which they are wholly unqualified or maybe even to borrow some money. See how many of them go full revisionist history and deem you “lucky” and “privileged” to be at where you are in your career. 

Don’t listen to the people in the peanut gallery, listen to people that you actually respect. Turn to them for advice on vacations and bars, not your career. 



There's legitimate arguments for better work/life balance while still saving some money, experiencing things, etc. I also think it heavily depends on your personality and the type for IB is definitely in the minority in that regard. However, I hate the "what if you die tomorrow" argument. I won't be regretting anything while I am dead, but I will regret being alive at 50 with no money having to work out of necessity for the foreseeable future just to survive. 

That's quite a polarized view. There's A LOT of space between being a minimum wage worker, and being a upper-middle class banker. 

And for what it is worth - show me one banker that successfully retired at 40, and I'll show you ten that are still enslaved to work due to high cost lifestyles .Lifestyle creep is super real, and you don't even need to live like a baller to fall prey for it. Too many kids, too many marriages, too expensive properties, it all adds up  


I account for the middle grounds in the first sentence which I agree is a legitimate claim that most people would probably be better suited for, and I make the dichotomous point you highlighted only in reference to the "what if I die tomorrow point," which I would argue is just as dichotomous of a view so its deserving of an extreme counterexample. 

The median net worth at age 30 is like $10,000. A banker may not be able to retire at that age with a baller lifestyle which for some reason seems to be the definition of doing financially well on here, but even with bad financial habits should be to save multiples of that each year. 


Im sorry to break it to you but my former MD (mentor) put it best when we went out for coffee once.

All the analysts / juniors in IB are sacrificing for a risk-adjusted set of rewards, call it exits, call it comp, call it whatever. A vast majority of them end up realizing it's a shitty career / lifestyle they cant handle forever and get swept up once it hits VP level. I've seen it happen a bunch.

What was different for my MD was he was lucky. Met the right people, was in the right group, was on the right deals at the right time in the right environment. It's like that for most of the rock stars. It's not a merit based industry (the world isn't in general). He's 38, he'll pul 3+ mil this year but again he's not everyone.

It's a sad sheep life. I'll get MS no doubt, but prolly from the same kids that'll get swept under the rug


I write about this at length in this detailed thread here: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/burnout-life-choices

I wrote it soon after a two-month sabbatical around the world between IB and PE.  It got randomly combined with other threads towards the bottom, but my own post generated a ton of valuable discussion.

I'm not sure what the right answer is.  I know for sure hooking up with 0 girls sounds like a nightmare.


I think they have their numbers wrong. You do sacrifice your 20s but it's not necessarily for retirement at 50. By your mid-30s, you should be doing really good.  That's where I'm at now and work a 9 - 5 making 3x of the friends who were having such a good time in their 20s.

Side note: Should not be a big surprise that the same group who dicked around the past 15 years is the first to complain about income inequality etc now that we're in our 30s....wonder why


Its all relative and its all perspective. What you think is the best years of your life may or may not be the best, and whether your best days are ahead of you are largely up to you. 

There's two sides to this. On one side, seeing as they're probably not as driven, they're compensating for the fact that they have been doing all those things but also don't have anything in the bank and probably won't be home owners. On the other side, they've had a fun time in their 20s and maybe that's worth it to them, the only person that can decide that is them. 

All I know is that 40% of americans cannot cover a $400 emergency expense without going into debt. A lot of your friends are probably living paycheck to paycheck or close to it and there's nothing wrong with that, people have different preferences. Maybe they're not. But the only thing that matters is what you think about your own life and what you want to do in the future. You're seeing the highlights of their life, you're not seeing or hearing about the struggles, low points, etc. Don't judge your life against other peoples based on how they say their life is or what their instagram says. 


I think its also worth noting that if all your friends are single and have no dependents or major expenses (other than normal things like rent) most people don't need a high salary to do whatever they want. Things obviously get much more complicated and expensive once you decide to get married and have kids. Therefore, depending on their career/salary trajectory they could be struggling to get by once they decide to settle down. Especially if they are the only ones working, which granted, is less common now but still a popular choice for many couples. Having little to know savings by 30-35 can also be an issue since its hard to save if you are providing for more people whereas if you stick it out in high finance till age ~30, you could fairly easily have $1mm saved, which is more than enough for a down payment on a decent house and a great base for retirement 20 years down the road. As mentioned earlier, at that point there will be plenty of opportunities available to you to still earn several hundred thousand dollars a year and work 40-50 hours a week.


I'll tell you flat out that the best years of your life are not your 20s, anyone who thinks that is probably still in their 20s or became complacent in their 30s and didn't do much thereafter. I guarantee your friends will be telling you how lucky you are when you are comfortable in your 30s able to support yourself and potential family as well while they are trying to figure out how they are going to afford baby number 2, buy a bigger house and get a new car to fit the family. Hopefully you're a smart lad and have a few bucks tucked away, if in a few years you come to the conclusion that banking isn't working out you can fuck-off for a year to travel and do whatever you want before settling into that comfy 9-5. Your friends are short sighted and don't see the bigger picture, at the end of the day do what makes you happy but don't let other people try to tell you what should make you happy.


I think people who over-index in one stage of their life are often ill-prepared for the next stage. I had plenty of acquaintances in college who bought into the idea that college is 'the best four years of your life', so they went all-in on partying and didn't put any effort towards GPA or doing internships. Now that I’m a few years out of college, it’s obvious to me that the people who sacrificed some of the fun and set themselves up to land good jobs after school were the smart ones, and they're now having much better post-grad experiences.

I’m not old enough to know, but I suspect a similar process occurs in your 20s. If you go all-in on ‘fun’, don't save any money, or don't put effort towards a career, you'll be in a worse position once it's time to pay for a wedding, have kids, or buy a house in your 30s (obviously not everyone pursues these milestones, but most do).

The solution, as with most things, is to find the right balance between the two extremes. Don't completely discard career aspirations to max out on fun, and don't become a miserable workaholic with no hobbies or fun time either.


Stick to it man, I was told by everyone in my life not to do IB and now I’m starting out of college at a 9-5 making $93K all-in while my friends in banking are making $130K+. I am terrified that I won’t be able to support my family when I’m in my 30s and will never be able to give my children the privileges you will absolutely be able to. You sacrifice the present for the future; you’re doing it right keep at it