Banking vs. Consulting Lifestyle?

From people you know in fields of BB IBD and MBB Management Consulting, which group anecdotally seems the most satisfied (or the least stressed out) over their lifestyle? I don't want to go into a discussion on pay, prestige or whatever. I just want to know which camp overall seems to have more of a life.

I am in a long-term relationship and both career options are open to me. I want to know which will take the least load on my social life and relationships. I know both are demanding careers but I want to know of any marginal differences, if any.

I am talking specifically about the first 3 years on the job - at the Analyst/BA/AC level. Hopefully after that I can find something easily more palatable to my downtime needs.

Consultant Lifestyle

Generally speaking, you can expect to have a greater work-life balance at a consulting firm. The hours are not as intense as banking but they are not too far separate either. You can expect to work anywhere from sixty to seventy hours per week. Some firms make their employees work up to seventy-five hours per week.

skdude - Private Equity Associate:

MBB hands down. You will likely travel M-TH 50-75% of your tenure, but Fridays are chill and weekend work is uncommon. Also if you are hard in an office with local work, no reason you can't be around for dinners during week. ~60 hour / weeks in MBB vs ~75/weeks in IBD (from what I hear..)

Travelling will be very demanding during the week but usually, you can feel safe about your weekends. User @Dingdong08, a private equity managing director, shared a quick note on relationships.

Dingdong08 - Private Equity Managing Director:

Completely anecdotally (and I'm older than a lot of people on WSO so these people are all closer to 40 or greater), for some reason I have a bunch of friends who are ex-McKinsey guys and obviously know and work with a ton of ex-bankers. A fair % of the consulting guys are actually married (still, 20 years later) to their college girlfriends whereas I can't think of one IB guy who kept or even had a relationship in their early banking years.

Key Points

  • Expect to work up 75 hours a week
  • A great deal of traveling
  • Safe weekends

Investment Banking Life Style

Hours in banking in banking are going to slightly worse especially during the first few years. However, the "hundred hour work week "is overused most analysts do not work that much but there are some exceptions of course. Generally speaking, you can expect to work 75 to 90 hours a week.

mtnmmnn - Private Equity Vice President:

People in Investment Banking tend to inflate their hours a bit, and no one is working 100+ hours a week consistently. A good portion of my analyst class (including me) would keep track of their hours in a spreadsheet, and we would often compare. And over the first two years, average was about 75 hours a week for people in coverage groups and Lev Fin and about 85 for people in M&A.

Key Points

  • Expect to work up 75 to 90 hours a week
  • Weekends are unprotected

As you can see the hundred hour work week us a fallacy but the hours are still not easy. However, the consultant will still work fewer hours regardless. Consequently, the consultant has a better lifestyle.

Want to Learn More About Consulting?

Interested in which consulting firm has the best work-life balance? Take a look at the 2017 Wall Street Oasis Consulting Industry Report. This report includes hours worked, compensation, employee satisfaction and much more. Click the link below to get started.

Take a look at the 2017 Wall Street Oasis Consulting Industry Report. This report includes hours worked, compensation, employee satisfaction and much more. Click the link below to get started.

2017 Consulting Industry Report

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Comments (34)

May 1, 2015

Is your relationship honestly a factor in your job choice at the undergrad level? Are you engaged?

May 2, 2015

Yes, yes it is. I guess everyone has a different experience with relationships so people on this board might think its silly. We've been together since high school, and I'm now in the same college as her.

Best Response
May 1, 2015

If you want to maintain the relationship without pulling miracles, go into MBB. The travel and hours Monday-Thursday might be rough, but for the most part, you'll get to spend Friday at home with the weekends off except for the occasional 1-2 hours of work to prepare things for the next week.

Also, it's a plus when you can use your points to travel with your significant other or if you're in a cool location, you can fly him/her to you. As a plus, MBB office hold retreats and events that you can go as couples. Plenty of consultants I've worked with were in long-term relationships. Very few analysts in IBD were in one.

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May 2, 2015

Thanks for your input! I was thinking that was the case but I wanted someone working to verify it for me.

Consulting it is :)

May 2, 2015

MBB hands down. You will likely travel M-TH 50-75% of your tenure, but Fridays are chill and weekend work is uncommon. Also if you are hard in an office with local work, no reason you can't be around for dinners during week. ~60 hour / weeks in MBB vs ~75/weeks in IBD (from what I hear..)

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May 2, 2015

As someone that did consulting pre-MBA (not MBB but a good firm) and bulge banking afterwards, both lifestyles are challenges and your girlfriend needs to understand that beforehand, and if she doesn't either the job or the relationship won't work.

Bain is probably best for lifestyle since they do a regional staffing model and you may be local, but for the most part M-Th your hours will be similar to banking but you will be on the road, so even if you do get done early it doesn't mater if you are in Tulsa and your girl friend is in New York. On the other hand, in banking while you may not be able to make plans during the week, grabbing dinner with a gf and returning to work, or meeting up on an unexpected light day isn't out of the question. I think at the post-analst level, the banking lifestyle may be slightly better because of that, if longevity is an concern.

In consulting you will have less weekend work, although your Sunday's will be more low key due to early flights on Monday. In banking you'll have to work during the day most days (at least Saturday or Sunday) but unless you are cranking on a live deal you typically can do stuff at night.

Hate to be blunt, but if lifestyle is your number one priority, I wouldn't do banking or consulting.

May 2, 2015

This is all true.

Completely anecdotally (and I'm older than a lot of people on WSO so these people are all closer to 40 or greater), for some reason I have a bunch of friends who are ex-McKinsey guys and obviously know and work with a ton of ex-bankers. A fair % of the consulting guys are actually married (still, 20 years later) to their college girlfriends whereas I can't think of one IB guy who kept or even had a relationship in their early banking years. Like I said, it's just based on people I've seen and nowhere near a scientific sample size, a causation/correlation/causality argument could be made in many ways and it could just the type of person who pursues IB vs consulting but the more predictable nature of consulting seems to jive better with a relationship than the last minuted-ness of IB. You can only cancel on your girlfriend so many times because you got thrown something on your desk at the last minute but it seems to be easier for them to know you're just not going to be there M-Tr but you'll be able to go out Friday night and be there for the weekend. Or be able to go away for the weekend.

Like I said, not scientific. If you've already been with her for >4 years IB may work though if she knows what you're getting into. Especially if you just live together because then you'll at least come home for a few hours in the middle of the night and early morning where she'll see you.

May 2, 2015

Thanks a lot for sharing. Really helped. Hopefully one day I can be like one of those McKinsey guys.

May 2, 2015

Two guys I know who made banking and a college gf work through the analyst years (one a partner at MF and another VP at smaller PE - both were analysts for two years (or 3 maybe for the older guy) before jumping PE)

Partner: Lived with gf who knew and was supportive of what he was doing... He even spoke about calling her late at night when he thought he couldn't take it anymore. They have three kids now and made it work. They lived together so they still saw each other.

VP: Said the best thing was that he was working in one city while his gf was finishing her degree in another. Thus, for that first year as an analyst, it was a long distance relationship - meaning no canceling plans. He said by the time his gf moved in with him, he had gotten used to the work/time management/etc which made it easier he thinks than had they tried it from the beginning.

I'm about to be in the same situation haha... good luck to us both

May 2, 2015

Yes, at MBB that is what you are sacrificing all that money for.

May 2, 2015

Is that a joke?

MBB = 50-80 hours
IBD = 80-100 hours

The money is commensurate. At MBB you make [50 80]/[80 100] times what a banker makes.

PS: really, per hour pay is slightly higher at MBB in my opinion

May 2, 2015

MBB - 50 hours a week? are you kidding me? As an intern at MBB I worked 65-75 with 75 being average if you include travelling.

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May 2, 2015
big unit:

MBB - 50 hours a week? are you kidding me? As an intern at MBB I worked 65-75 with 75 being average if you include travelling.

While at MBB I worked 65 on average (and being on the beach on Fridays isn't that challenging), but it is very office-specific. It may have changed POST-CRISIS, though. Back then, if you were in a Boston office, you could basically leave for a PE firm for double the hours, but triple the money.

Since they don't pay well, they need to let people rest a bit.

And remember, I said 50-80. Not 50-55.

May 2, 2015

i remember it being said that it's very office-specific. some work/travel more than others on average.

"... then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it."

May 2, 2015

True true. I recant that. I interned at MBB and switched to BB S&T for FT, I worked more at MBB. But really, I think the travel was what really weighed down on me (driving a rental car 90 miles at 7 am every Monday = BRUTAL)

May 2, 2015
big unit:

True true. I recant that. I interned at MBB and switched to BB S&T for FT, I worked more at MBB. But really, I think the travel was what really weighed down on me (driving a rental car 90 miles at 7 am every Monday = BRUTAL)

Why did you have to do this?

May 2, 2015
big unit:

But really, I think the travel was what really weighed down on me (driving a rental car 90 miles at 7 am every Monday = BRUTAL)

Yikes. Why no black car? That's precious work time.

May 2, 2015

my hours are more 75-100

it really depends

May 2, 2015

I average 55 per week plus travel. Perhaps I'm just more productive than those above.

May 2, 2015

IBD vs MBB works out similarly in terms of time commitment away from personal life/friends/family. Its just that you will be spending that time in a hotel rooms and airports instead of an office.

The actual amount worked is pretty similar too, from what I hear. Bankers spend way more time in the office (100+ per week) but get a lot of downtime. For the ~70 hours consultants put in, they are actually doing stuff.

Really, both jobs will consume your life, unless your consulting firm only does local projects. I will say that consultants seem to have more predictable schedules.

May 2, 2015

I do ~65 per week including travelling at MBB in my current office. In my previous one it was more like 75-80. I wouldn't be able to handle banking hours which is why I ruled out IBD even though I'm interested in finance.

May 2, 2015

If I'm on a case, it's generally 60-80 including travel. If I'm between cases and helping on short-term work or writing proposals, then it's usually 50-60. I've heard about the beach, but it feels more like a mirage in the desert.

May 2, 2015

MBB in Brazil worked in only one study (local) so far: 65-70 hours a week on average for less than half of what my friends at IBD make. The bright side is that I have my weekends and I don't suffer constant bullying in my office as they do.

May 2, 2015

65-75 normally. But the incremental improvement over IB hours is tangible- I get almost every weekend off to hang out and catch up with friends, and I can also get out Friday nights and sometimes Thursday night when I'm back in town.

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May 2, 2015

The difference between 65 hours and 85 hours a week on average is gigantic though. It's the difference between being able to sleep well, stay in shape and have a social live and being able to do ZERO of those three things because you're always, constantly working. That's 3 more hours PER DAY of leading a life (or an extra hour of sleep every day and 2 hours of leading a life).

May 2, 2015

hello

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May 2, 2015

I do 60-70 hours a week at MBB and it's okay. Not great (I really don't have any time in the evenings on weeknights), but weekends are free and that's not bad at all.

May 2, 2015

One point I also want to add is that in addition to the greater number of hours in IBD, the hours can also be unpredictable. You can get called into the office, assigned some 4 hour task last minute, etc. So not only do you have more hours, but also certainly less control, which is truly what gets to a lot of analysts

May 2, 2015

Depends very much on who's driving.

May 2, 2015
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May 2, 2015
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