If not this, what else?

Recently there have been a lot of people attacking or defending investment banking. I currently side slightly with the ones who dislike investment banking, though as a Junior in college I have never had the job myself.

But I think it's wrong to complain about something if you can't provide an alternative. What are college kids like me supposed to work towards if IB is not the answer? Corporate finance seems kind of interesting but career progression is slow and the pay is significantly lower. Consulting is great but super hard to get into. Tech is something completely outside what I'm doing right now. And is PE that much different from IB in terms of hours and comp?

To me, IB might be the best option short term, but long term I want a very good work-life balance. I'm lucky to know what I want in my future: a New England-style house with a nice family where I am very involved in my family's life, something very similar to the life I was born into. I don't expect a perfect adulthood, but I need to work towards something like that to be satisfied with myself. Right now it seems like banking is not the place to be when I want to have that life, but its a stepping stone I can use to get there.

My question is, what are we supposed to do if i-banking isn't the solution?

Comments (29)

Most Helpful
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 24, 2021 - 8:02pm

Ya that's the catch. Everyone loves to talk about exits but you're always going to be taking a paycut if you go into something with less hours (with very very few exceptions) that's fact. At the end of the day, when you're an employee you can't have your cake and eat it too. System is rigged against you better believe it. I think the only way around this is maybe sticking it to the VP or director level of IB and exiting to a more senior or executive corporate role where the comp drop off may not be as large and responsibility may not be as high because you're seen as "having made it" in a way to the regular corporate world.

This is life at the end of the day and not to go on a tangent but is why I advocate for taking high risk investments and just saying fuck it. You're already going to die on your knees at this rate. Why not take the slight sliver of chance for freedom?

By the way, not to depress you, but that "New-England-style house" lifestyle good luck getting to that at a decent age. Remember no matter what any over 45+ aged individual tells you, they had it way easier than all of us. They'll tell you their bullshit sob story and how they supposedly grinded or had to "work" their way through school. It's all bullshit. They walked into their jobs and were drunk 5/7 days of the week in college. They would be flipping burgers if they had their same behaviors in today's world. No room for error. There's too many qualified people out there and not enough room. So moral of the story is never listen to these people and their advice. Rant is over now.  

Aug 24, 2021 - 9:20pm
SChI999, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It would be in the countryside where the land is cheap. I do not plan on living in a neighborhood.

Edit: That's how my dad did it. He is in real estate too so he found a way to cut a bunch of corners.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 29, 2021 - 9:17am

Why? He's not wrong, most of the old bootstrap-boomers that "made it" now are negligent of the fact that there were multiple wars that either killed or seriously crippled a lot of the working age population meaning society's B-team was able to benefit and start this self-aggrandizing tirade when in reality they could have ended up in a very similar position

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Aug 24, 2021 - 8:20pm

I think you're going about it the wrong way. IB isn't the solution - it's simply a means to an end, with the end goal being a decent salary and WLB that enables you to have a comfortable life. 1-2 years in IB allows you to pay off your student loans and accumulate enough savings to be able to pursue more interesting roles that unfortunately pay less comp due to improved WLB. Not sure if you're close with anyone who graduated yet, but all of my friends who graduated with me and didn't do IB are working for ~$65k-$85k a year with maybe a $10k bonus if they're lucky. As a second year currently recruiting for corporate finance roles, every job I have applied for has offered at least $110k, with bonuses that have ranged from 25% - 150% depending on the industry. That's literally with a year and a half of IB experience. There is no way any company will give you a 6-figure salary if you went to them with a year of experience in a consulting, FP&A or BO role. There's obviously nothing wrong with those jobs, but if you want to make the big bucks without having to pay $250k for an MBA 4 or 5 years down the line, IB is the easiest way to guarantee a comfortable lifestyle.

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Aug 26, 2021 - 12:45pm

Hey, this sounds like the path I'd like to go down and the mentality I've had about using IB to jump towards six figures quicker then exit for pay around there but with better work life balance even if pay doesn't continue to scale. Don't mind topping out around 200k which I feel many different finance careers can get to, but didn't want to start at 60-70k in a corporate finance job out of school. Recently started my first year and already knew I wasn't interested in PE or any job with bad work/life for the long term. Thought I'd start applying for Corp Dev roles after a year and see if I could get anything there. Goal would be good work/life balance with lower six figures total comp would be great. I've seen threads all over the place about Corp Dev comp tho for ppl 1-2 years out of IB saying things like 90k to 150k. Your range looks really good, but is this still Corp Dev or something else? Would def take that pay for less hours and would love to hear more about your process and approach towards figuring out your exit op. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Aug 26, 2021 - 3:50pm

Yeah corp dev comp is definitely all over the place depending on where you look. I was looking at typical F500 corp dev roles at first, but a lot of those didn't sound very promising given how large the teams were. Not really much room for advancement either, which is why you see people in corp dev switch from company to company a lot. I have since started looking at corp dev roles at late stage start-ups where I would be involved in both the FP&A and strategic processes, which I feel would lead to a much more fulfilling learning experience and put me on the fast track to becoming a CFO somewhere (hopefully). The teams I'm speaking with are relatively small (anywhere from 3 - 6 people), so they're been able to pay higher bonuses historically since it's not getting split by as many people. 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 24, 2021 - 9:14pm

I think what upsets people about IB is the fact that you can buy all the trappings of the NE family life, but maybe can't necessarily live it due to the demands of work. All the seniors in my group have found a way to be married with children though; they block out hour(s) of the day to tend to their families and figure out ways to get it done. So it's not impossible, it's just really hard and comes after lots of years of investment. I was told by a VP who had been in banking for years, more or less, "I couldn't imagine having a child before reaching VP."  Which I can imagine since AN/ASO years are just building the foundations and involve so much grinding.

Aug 26, 2021 - 12:32pm
PeRmAnEnTiNtErN, what's your opinion? Comment below:

People hate it but if you are good at it you can climb pretty high and manybe even move over to big 4 consulting if you want.  

Aug 26, 2021 - 9:56pm
IncomingIBDreject, what's your opinion? Comment below:

People hate it but if you are good at it you can climb pretty high and manybe even move over to big 4 consulting if you want.  

Doesn't have a great lifestyle (at least NYC office) from what I've heard though


Aug 25, 2021 - 9:59am
thebrofessor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

here's the thing - IB is tough as fuck to get into, but you're immediately on a path to high earnings with very little risk of huge paycuts/volatility until you get to the client facing side or go buyside and are paid on AUM

my job (PWM) has good hours and great pay, but the pay starts out horribly, the hours start out horrible (though not IB horrible) and the attrition rate is very high (over 90% fail rate within 5y)

entrepreneurship is probably the same as PWM in that 90%+ fail but you can get to a pretty good place hours, pay, and autonomy wise

here's the cold hard truth - you won't have the ability to have both great pay and great hours until you have autonomy, a lack of giving a fuck about material possessions (so your relative wealth feels higher), and have achieved some level of scale. that only comes with careers where you're paid based upon the revenue you generate, be it in creating something (software, a business, a book of clients), being a revenue generator in a field full of revenue consumers (PWM, institutional consultants, law/CPA firm you own, private concierge medical, etc.), and so on. you could also look into off the beaten path stuff. I know a guy who's a trader now, got his start being a banana broker (literally, he worked in bananas). know a couple guys who work in shipping logistics, most of the time I get a WFH selfie he's got an aperol spritz in his hand and his laptop is on sleep mode (it ebbs and flows like the ocean). another guy goes to junkyards and used car auctions, finds good cars, gets them repaired and basically provides short term financing for non-major auto groups (90 day loans), he can make 20-40% CAGR just on this alone and was a millionaire in his 30's

that's not to say you can just start off making rain at 22, I had to pay my dues too but I'm glad I did, it hardened me and made me appreciate what I have now. you may be able to find that magical entrepreneurial gig right out of school, but maybe not, and IB/other parts of finance aren't bad places to start off. but there are plenty of ways to make more money than you need and have a great schedule

Aug 27, 2021 - 6:10am
TheBuellerBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Great way to approach the IB rat game. For our edification, how long in PWM did you have to grapple with poor comp before considering yourself to be in a good position?

Aug 27, 2021 - 6:28am
thebrofessor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The only grappling with low comp I had to do was stop giving a fuck about how others are doing based upon age alone. in other words, when I was making $50k but progressing nicely towards my goals (been growing at 40-60%/yr steadily) versus my friends who were making $100k in bullshit jobs doing more hours and the only upside was 5-20% raises/bonuses if their employer was nice, or if they were IB slaves making 4x what I was making but trading it for health, happiness, a social life, and just covering it up with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, adderall, cocaine, and 24 year old blondes. I was still able to see that the long game is what pays off, I never compromised on my values, which made it easy to eschew happiness by comparison and stay on my path.

i was behind my friends in my 20's, my 30's have been a different story. in terms of timing, probably 7-10 years from graduation, but I had a couple years as a non revenue producer, and I'd say this timeframe is similar for my friends who were entrepreneurial, it just takes time to build a business

Aug 25, 2021 - 10:46am
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's an Internet forum dude, of course opinions are going to veer to the extreme. The well balanced individuals aren't posting on here, so you're going to get ardent supporters or fired up haters.

Here is my take on investment banking and why I chose it as a college kid.

I majored in another subject and when I was a senior I just decided I didn't want to go into that field. As I thought about what I wanted to do with my life, I reflected on the adults around me and who enjoyed work. I came to the conclusion that no matter what I did for work, I would grow to hate it. Even if I was a poker player, eventually you tire of the grind of anything. So I said to myself I might as well do whatever pays the most right away and that was banking. It really was as simple as that for me.

As to the people complaining about hours and work life balance, you know what? No matter what you go into, you're gonna have to work hard if you're gonna be a top performer. Do you know the hours consultants or professional chefs or audit professionals work? It seems all my friends who are high achieving work very hard, and they don't make as much as me in banking. There are very few unicorn jobs where you make a ton and don't have to work hard.

Aug 25, 2021 - 4:38pm
breezy443, what's your opinion? Comment below:

100% this. I was at a Big4 firm for five years before IB, and I quickly saw how hard the top performers grinded to get a top rating. Figured why not work 120% of the hours for  300% of the pay and 200% of the respect, and more interesting work to boot, so I got my MBA and transferred to IB.

Point being, the grass is always greener and you're better off than 99% of the country. It's good to think about what's next, what's the alternative, etc, but doing that too much will depress you.Im order to be at the top of your field, you need to work hard and work a lot, so might as well do what pays you the most money. Save up, start thinking about investments and taking big risks down the road. You're in a good spot.

Aug 26, 2021 - 9:39pm
Deal Team Six, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I went into M&A consulting and don't regret it. Very different than sell-side M&A from an IB lens, but I am pretty happy. No comparison in terms of comp, juniors at top IBs probably make 1.8-2.0x my comp (2 YOE). Different stroke for different folks. Many of my good friends went IB, very few decided to deviate. Happy to share more if you're interested OP.

Aug 27, 2021 - 8:16am
Legion42, what's your opinion? Comment below:

IB is great because you obtain an excellent skill set to value companies which can lead you to hedge funds / asset management / corp finance / PE. You will be making more than 99% of your peers. However, Its a risk return tradeoff, one where you also have to take into account your social life, sleep, mental health, etc. You know best if you can handle it and you could always just do the 2 year stint and see if this is something you like long term.  

Aug 27, 2021 - 12:51pm
AlwaysChasingTail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You have to own shit, that simple. Working for others won't get you to your NE style house with white fences and a golden retriever. Even if you were to someday make it 10, 20 years in, no time to enjoy that shit and your now old as fuck 

I'm from Europe 

  • Associate 1 in IB - Restr
Aug 29, 2021 - 11:21am

You're going to take a haircut on comp, but if you stick it out in banking for 2 years, you won't have any problem finding a job that'll pay you ~$200k on an all-in basis, which is more than enough to live/save on in the short-term.  Also, there is a much higher ceiling in a lot of other careers.  There is no way I would ever be able to grab equity in my bank, and it wouldn't happen for over a decade even if I could.  However, I can get carry in a few years at other places.  I'll happily forego ~$50k+ for a couple of years to be able to get legitimate life changing money sooner in my career and without as much heartburn/bullshit. 

  • Associate 1 in IB - Restr
Aug 29, 2021 - 3:43pm

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Jul 23, 2022 - 6:58pm
TheWallStHunter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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