The next question is if you are trying to maximize late career earnings, or NPV of total career earnings, or if you prioritize a higher starting salary.

Making a lot of money while maintaining a strong WLB likely requires you to be smart, driven, well spoken, clean cut (where you "look corporate"). Even then there is a luck component. 

If it's late career earnings with a great WLB, depending on your temperament, wealth management is a great field. It's a grind to build your book, but once you get there your WLB is great, the income can be incredible, and meaningful portions of the "work" side of things turn into golfing with clients. Some of life's luxuries (being part of a country club, owning a boat, etc) turn into a part of the job.

Another is Corporate Finance. This is the path I've taken. The work can be dry and your coworkers less driven, but those things can give you a chance to shine. If you keep moving around to make sure you stay on schedule for promotions and to find a company that rewards young talent, you can advance relatively quickly. My worst week has been around 60 hours. Have grown my comp from 60k to 200k in 8 years in LCOL areas. I'll hit director soon (~300k), and once I'm a young director, hitting VP is more or less inevitable (500k+). At that point I'll have as best a chance for c-level as I could hope for.

Higher starting salary (and high NPV of total career earnings) plus WLB would probably mean software engineering, frankly. High starting salaries, but a lower ceiling. This one is ripe for disruption, though, considering its more about churning code than the human side of things. I could see AI getting rid of a meaningful portion of these jobs.

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In the short term, the AI that we know now is just large language models. They are great at all things language- statistically predicting what words come next, summarizing, etc, but they are shit with numbers. They also have trouble with understanding timeframes, when certain numbers are no longer relevant, etc. I've tried using it to analyze earnings releases and such and it cannot pick out what is important and what is not.

One year ago, though, none of these existed.. so who knows where we'll be in 6 months.

Longer term, I actually think a lot of entry level finance/accounting jobs will be alright. My entry-level finance jobs could be described as "organizing data"- our enterprise resource management tool had all kinds of fields and data, but you needed someone who knew how various datapoints were related in order to make sense of it all. AI will only be as good as the data it is working with, so you will always need the front line people who are inputting, organizing, and validating data.

Slide making will be extremely easy. No more having to trick powerpoint into doing what you want. No more needing a PhD in computer science to make one change to one graph without messing the whole thing up. Look at what AI can do with images. You'll just be able to tell powerpoint to add one logo, make all the logos slightly bigger, change certain colors throughout, change from a bar graph to a pie, add a second axis, etc. You just tell it, like an MD commenting on a slide.

I think wealth management will be safe. I've had some friends ask for wealth management advice, and I'm always stunned by how little the common man knows. I think for years we've had the technology to automate away financial advisors- questionnaires, target date funds, low-cost ETFs, etc. But it has not happened because people really just want someone to listen to them, they want someone to tell them they're doing the right thing and aren't taking some crazy risk, to reassure them about the markets, etc. I don't think AI can significantly improve on what already exists since automation has not really taken hold anyway.

I'm starting to ramble, but the bottom line is to think of how someone would react to the release of excel when they've been maintaining paper accounts on literal ledgers. A retiring coworker of mine spoke about how they would always keep a calculator and a ruler with them as they went through the ledgers in cost accounting. Excel would seem apocalyptic- you'd only need a few analysts for the whole company! But in reality, each analyst could cover more ground, the company could now take on more projects, you could analyze much smaller accounts, etc.

Same will be with AI. One IB team will be able to churn out so many more pitch decks, so instead of cutting half the team, the team will just pitch more often. At a corporation, the analysis that used to be seen as a waste of time will now be doable with the help of AI, so you'll have someone do it. In consulting, maybe prices will be lowered so smaller companies can afford engagements, and the consulting team could churn out these engagements so much faster while working the same hours and making the same money.

People are losing their heads thinking that everyone except plumbers and electricians will lose their jobs- if that happens, who will these companies sell things to? Who will buy new homes? Who will buy the products that are advertised on tech platforms? If that becomes the reality, I think AI will get regulated away. And if it doesn't get regulated away, we'll have a revolution on our hands if the american dream is not achievable. 

AI will be a tool like excel or the internet. It will just mean humans will be able to do more things well, rather than ignoring the things that take too much time to do. Make sure to take time to play with AI and stay abreast of it so you don't get left behind, like the old geezer who refused to learn newfangled computers. We'll all be fine.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

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