Why you don't want to be rich?

I've met many people in finance that believe they're successful because they're getting paid more than the average American or even college students that made it in IB or buy-side and believe they're on the path to conquering the world. Their main motivation: Being rich. But I can't stop thinking that they don't want to be rich, they just want to be perceived as they're on the path to riches i.e. building an entire idea around their persona.

How could someone that works or aspires from college to work in a corporate hierarchy where you receive a paycheck, and you're there only to execute standard practices, strives to become rich? That's a paradox. What happened to the idea that wealth is built upon equity, not time - and by equity, I don't mean being a shareholder, instead, I mean a much broader sense: Originating creative/profitable/value-adding ideas, executing them, and getting paid for that.

How can you see yourself as a success (or aspire to) when you're sitting at a desk, elbow to elbow, with other sleep-deprived and sweaty associates, analysts, and vice presidents, instead of sitting somewhere in an office, reading and coming up with ideas on how to expand a business, on where to allocate assets, on where to find more talented people to help you build your plan?

Why don't more people aspire to live a life in which they're paid for originating ideas and executing them, instead of being anxious about office politics or useless details on their fancy Excel model? How can you become more successful than me when you're executing your 52nd DCF and waterfall model meanwhile I'm reading my 25th book this year on investing/entrepreneurship/business biographies, etc., and taking action on that? Each day you show up at your desk to look throughout the data room, each day someone is surpassing you in terms of creativity, intellect, and sharpness, and building a life and an amount of wealth that you'll end up envying.

Justifying the "grind" makes no sense because you won't become the next Kravis, Schwarzman, Dalio, or Griffin, so why would you slave yourself in a corporation? Aren't you smart enough to do more in your life than simply giving away your stamina and time? When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you really tell yourself that you succeeded? That's what success looks like for you? You aren't as far as your Big 4 colleagues in terms of mindset, unfortunately.

I came up with this reflection after reading this: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forum/investment-… 

and I couldn't stop thinking why would you even be proud of that, being proud for being incapable of building and coming up with some ideas outside conventional paths? what's there to be proud of? is that the peak of what your intellect and spirit can strive towards?

what a shame

Comments (29)

NewIndustryHorizon, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I do plan to pursue entrepreneurship one day but not for money reasons. I'm envious of people who have that autonomy. My lifestyle is fairly frugal so I really don't see the need for "F you" type of money. If I somehow achieve that type of wealth, I probably would be fairly stealthy about it and only close family may know I'm "wealthy."

Mr_Agree_to_Disagree, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Because I want to be wealthy instead.

The poster formerly known as theAudiophile. Just turned up to 11, like the stereo.
  • 1
Short Caller, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You don't get wealthy by being an employee

theATL, what's your opinion? Comment below:
Short Caller

You don't get wealthy by being an employee

I disagree with this. Not as easy, but definitely possible. 

trying_my_best, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You know, these sort of reflective threads have been passed around in WSO for years. We were all that weird kid in school who goes into diatribes about our delusions of grandeur lol. It was a phase, maybe it's not, maybe some people are still living it.

Let's just say all of us need some Stoicism, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Christianity, etc. It's a great way to supplement all that raw ambition and occasional spirals of depression as we realize we're not Kravis or Dalio

trying_my_best, what's your opinion? Comment below:

makes me marvel how much WSO thinks alike tho. Many threads and musings here, seem to echo my own thoughts

In fact, 'I beg to differ' by Marks is one of my personal favorites lol and smtg I strive to move towards

  • 2
08, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Some of us in the AM/HF field have that genuine fascination with financial markets. Plus, I like to idealize a future life of retirement in which I can generate enough passive income via active investing (assuming I save up a generous treasure chest of funds) to live a relative modest and comfortable life and explore my own hobbies.

  • 3
IncomingIBDreject, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Simple answer is the risk/reward tradeoff and structure. I know people who find the corporate environment to be structured and hence there is a clear path or direction upward and it's also known to an extent what you have to do or how many years you need to advance (although this ends once you go high enough). The entrepreneur sitting in his business has no such structure or layout for success. He must come up with actionable goals on his own that may or may not be flawed. 

Another piece is the risk/reward piece. Entrepreneurship comes with a certain degree of risk to it. Not all ventures are successful and often times people go bankrupt a few times before they make it. That's fine if your parents are wealthy or you are single with minimal expenses but it gets harder in life as commitments set in. This is also referred to as the golden handcuffs on this site where people further in life are married, have kids, a house, a second lakehouse , a few nice cars, etc. and to move to entrepreneurship you'd have to risk all of that. People don't want to take the risk.

I think though this is going to change more and more as wages stagnate against the rising COL. When the corporate path no longer prices to be cushy people will try entrepreneurship instead. I myself want to try it at one point. 


  • 4
Kevin25, what's your opinion? Comment below:

ok. so what are you planning to do? what brilliant ideas do you have that people will pay for and make you a billionaire?

employees in high finance will be multi-millionaires in their 30s without taking risks. and you really don't need much more to be happy. you can retire in your 30s from high finance and travel the world and live an awesome life on your savings. what alternative do you propose?

  • 1
johnwall47, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Lol no need to b pejorative

without taking risks

That's the point they're making though. That at least intellectually by submitting to corporate route ur acknowledging personal shortcomings, but purport something else.

There's obv edge cases but I think that's the one sentence summary of what they're trying to get across

rumanddone, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I want to be rich so I don't have to step foot in a Walmart and look at people in cargo shorts and flip flops ever again!

DatesExcelModels, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I hated my two internships in finance, so moved into tech. Started my own company on the side with one co-founder that does 100-150k EBITDA atm.

Starting my own thing made me realize how fucking hard it is to actually build and scale a business. You don't realize it until you do it yourself, and you massively underestimate survivorship bias as well. Finally, I realized that "wealth" to me means not worrying about money and being able to have great WLB - not having $50M in the bank. I actually don't care that much about super crazy houses, cars or restaurants. Instead, I prefer being able to spend much more time with friends, my partner and working out/reading/doing whatever the fuck I want.

Plenty of ultra high net worth "success" entrepreneurs I would never in a million years want to trade lives with. Relationships take a lot of hard work and time investment - good luck doing that well when you work 60+ hours per week.

  • 6
ironman32, what's your opinion? Comment below:

At OP, I think I understand what you're saying, but you seem to be blending multiple ideas. So here's a breakdown of things to address that:

1. I'd say, right now, respectfully, you're kind of like a person in Whole Foods buying organic apples, telling people buying regular apples that regular apples are crap. Essentially, people think they're a huge divide between organic and regular, when really the people buying the ultra processed foods at the discount grocer are the real people to worry about. Meaning, okay, maybe being Elon Musk is better than being a banker, but  a banker in a lot of ways is a really good  job for people and affords them a good life, better that maybe some other jobs (though it has its negatives). Also, back to the apple idea, I think sometimes people think being an entrepreneur is much different than a corporate job, and while some aspects are different, they both are somewhat close. 

2. You have to think of learning vs doing. For example, the person actually runs marathons and learns as they go is probably better at running marathons than someone who has read ~1,000 books on how to run marathons but hasn't run a single marathon. Meaning, some people can go out on their own at 16 years old, some people want/need to get a job first, some people might never go out on their own. 

3.  In short, some people just want to be see as rich. That's their personality, how they were raised, and how they look at life. And if being an entrepreneur was easier more people would do it. In a way, your career is like investing. Think of how many people do passive investing because it's easy and a little more defined that investing money yourself.

4. Not everyone can be an inventor or do sales. So for some people, a corporate or banking job is the best they can do. Or, they have other reasons for doing it. 

PEarbitrage, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This entire post reeks of someone who works in consulting justifying their life choices to make significantly less money working almost as much.

That and this reminds me of this.  


TheGrind, what's your opinion? Comment below:

We just need to be richer than the guy next to us, not necessarily in absolute terms.  So a job that puts you in the top 2% of earners isn't anything to scoff at, particularly if you came from humble beginnings. 

  • 1
Most Helpful
falconeagle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

OP - respectfully as others have said, I think you're very much overlooking the risk/reward equation here. Yes of course you can earn more starting your own business and it probably would be a lot more satisfying than being a corporate cog in the wheel - if you're successful. And that's the thing - it's a massive if.

For most people on here you might as well be saying "why not become an NBA player or pop star" - yes of course becoming a HF/PE founder worth tens of millions is a lot more realistic for WSO members than playing ball, but nonetheless the % of people who will be worth $50m one day even on here is very very small. And it involves a lot of risk and a lot of luck too. Most people either wouldn't feel comfortable taking that level of risk or it simply isn't worth it for them - if you already have a comfortable upper middle-class life and a family, why shoot for the stars and risk losing it all? So you can drive a Ferrari instead of a BMW, or fly privately instead of in business class? Of course some people will have that drive + tolerance of risk, but in reality they're not most people (and they probably can never be tbh, we can't all be billionaires after all).

Nassim Taleb in one of his books had a great chapter on how being a dentist is by far the most lucrative profession on a risk adjusted basis. I.e. you won't ever make millions but once you finish your training you're basically guaranteed to make a healthy six-figure income for 30+ yrs, short of malpractice etc. Yes you're stuck looking at people's teeth for decades (the dentist equivalent of having to deal with corporate bs politics I guess!) but you also have a great income (by most people's standards) that's almost guaranteed for your working life. Working in finance or a corporate job isn't quite as good as that (certainly a bit riskier) but it's not far off - aside from downturns in the economy, if you work hard and can put up with navigating office politics you should hopefully be earning a great salary by most people's standards for a long time.

And that's ultimately enough for most people. As on my final point, it's worth noting that unlike school/college where there is clearly defined success & failure (getting the best exam results, best internships/jobs etc), "real life" after college isn't really like that. Yes you course a business founder worth $50m is much more financially successful than a corporate drone earning $150k, but everything comes at a trade-off unless you're really lucky - for instance did that business founder spend much time with his family while he was building up his empire? Does he even have kids and a wife or has he not had time yet with all his focus on work? And maybe the corporate guy wouldn't have been able to focus on quality time with his family if he'd been subject to the stress of striking out on his own? So saying who is more "successful" overall isn't really a quantitative formula that can be solved easily, it's very subjective. I'm not saying I have the answer - it purely depends on the person. Life is about more than work and money (and I say this as a guy in PE) - yes they're very important things (at least for people on WSO) but they're certainly not the only things that make a great life.

i.can.make.it, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I have so much disdain for people like OP who constantly talk down on people trying to just have a good life and they come up with these honestly stupid scenarios as to why people are grinding. Not having money is tough and outside of selling drugs IB is a surefire way to get to $1m a year for most people. 

As someone who's actually been poor before, I actually do want to be rich and means to get there doesn't matter. I've had morons tell me "its the journey that matters not actually being successful", fuck the journey its excruciating to not have enough money to buy food or go on a date. 

Its like OP is saying "if you don't do XYZ to build your wealth then you might as well not have climbed out of poverty since its not that big of a deal, just stop working so hard"

I've repeatedly said it on here before, people who talk like OP are more often than not privileged people who have no idea what being rich is and why so many people do hard jobs to get there. 

He's the type to watch Fight Club and fantasize about going to a place where he could get beaten to a pulp because his life has been so cushy and rosy that he can't even fathom being in pain and when someone who's actually been punched in the face a couple times tells him that having a broken face is not something to be desired they talk down on them about how they just don't get it.

  • 3
bawstin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

To be an entrepreneur you need money. If you have a family that has money, then go with your idea. But there are some people who don't have much to start with. IB provides a way to accumulate wealth, invest it, then start your entrepreneurial ambitions. Or even better, use that money to help your children start a business and grow your family dynasty.

monkey_nuts, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Classic entrepreneur douchebag. You're a carbon copy of the hundreds of thousands of "entrepreneurs" who all think they have the next best idea that will get them rich. Go develop your stupid app then for the love of god get a real job pussy

  • 2
sand491, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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trying_my_best, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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