For those in their 30s+, where in your career are you vs. where you thought you would be in your 20s?

Hey all, so the question is relatively straightforward. Specifically for monkeys in their 30s/40s, where are you in your career right now vs. where you thought you would be in your 20s?

This can include job function (ex. moving from IB VP to CD or PE), career growth (ex. associate to director), etc. Whatever thoughts you have on this that you'd like to share, whether that's the importance of politics, lessons you've learned, or most important things you wished you'd known would be welcomed. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Comments (123)

Jan 23, 2019

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Jan 23, 2019

Thanks for the response. Glad to hear of the success, but sorry to hear about your unhappiness. Is there a reason why you didn't think about making the switch to the HF/PE world? Just curious as I've heard of quite a few Associates/VPs moving over to one of these roles, so it's never too late. In my brief banking stint, I also knew a director who even moved over to become a CFO in a company he'd worked with in the past. Would you consider any of these possibilities now?

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Jan 23, 2019

I'm 31 and a Development Manager. Not entirely sure if it ties to where I thought I would be in my 20's, because my 20's were pretty volatile when it comes to future goals, as I'm sure many peoples' are.

In college (so early 20's) I was pre-law, took the LSAT and everything, and was going to be an attorney. I decided against that, thank god, but it still counts. When I was in real estate brokerage, in my early/mid 20's, I realized I wanted to be on the ownership side, but I didn't know in what capacity. For a while in my mid-20's I flirted with chasing preftige and aiming for a Wall Street career, but I decided against that too. Ultimately I settled on development, went to school for development, got a job in development, and then progressed within development. Since realizing that development is both where my passion and aptitude is best applied, I'm pretty much exactly where I wanted to be.

I guess my advice would be to make shorter term goals. In my case, for instance, I want to run my own shop someday, and while that's a useful goal to have, it's far more relevant for me to be looking at people like @Ricky Rosay who are a few years ahead of me in my current path. Having a strategy on how to get to VP/Director level is more productive and immediately attainable than it is to be looking at Jeff Blau or Jeffrey Hines and thinking about how to get to CEO level. My goal was to be a DM. Attained. Now on to the next one.

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Jan 23, 2019

I had a similar career path. Was in banking right out of college, hated it and took the LSAT and all that to go to law school, and realized I didn't really want to do that as I was filling out applications. Went into development instead and could not be happier about that choice. When I see the lives my lawyer friends are living... damn, was that a good choice.

Jan 24, 2019
Ozymandia:

I had a similar career path. Was in banking right out of college, hated it and took the LSAT and all that to go to law school, and realized I didn't really want to do that as I was filling out applications. Went into development instead and could not be happier about that choice. When I see the lives my lawyer friends are living... damn, was that a good choice.

the best thing about RE is the entrepreneurial nature of the industry and the hours. I work in a large, national development shop and my entire office is empty at 1 pm on a Friday be it the partners or analysts. The rock stars and peasants have similar hours.

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Jan 23, 2019

@CRE

This was a great response. If you were to give yourself advice in your twenties to skip some of the steps you took (LSAT,Property management, brokerage) to get to where you wanted what would it be?

I understand that all of those ended up helping you end up at your end goal which is development, but if you could skip any or all of those steps would you?

Jan 23, 2019
press107:

I understand that all of those ended up helping you end up at your end goal which is development, but if you could skip any or all of those steps would you?

Oh lord. I don't spend much time thinking back on these things because it's not all that productive and there are too many variables, but in general:

I would have looked into what an attorney's actual day to day work is before wanting to be an attorney by default because I was an upper middle class kid with professional parents who was good at humanities.

Along those same lines, I would have studied finance in undergrad. It took me a while before I had actual hard skills, which is unfortunate, because finance is hardly rocket science. I never took a class on it though - econometrics was about as close as I got as a Poli Sci/Econ major. I could have read up on how to model real estate deals and studied it on my own, but I barely knew what modeling a deal was at first - I was smiling, dialing, and touring folks through office space.

After my first year of brokerage, when I realized I loved the industry but hated my role, I should have immediately went to graduate school when I couldn't network my way into a buy side role. Instead I floundered for a couple years, only to end up right there in graduate school where I would have been only a few years later.

I love my graduate program, but if I were to do it again I would go to somewhere like Georgetown (I was accepted there too...) in a major city and take classes part time. My graduate loans are double what they should have been because of living expenses and that's two years of missed income/experience as well.

I'm not particularly regretful or anything and like I said, I accomplished my goals in getting to where I am right now, I just could have done all of it sooner. DM at 26 instead of 30 - that sort of thing.

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Jan 23, 2019

Not 30 but along those lines, I think staying flexible enough to jump on and capitalize on any opportunity that pops up is crucial. Keep cash saved up for the these opportunities because it sucks watching them fly by without the means to jump on board.

Jan 23, 2019

Financially I'm about where I was hoping I'd be. But it's proven damn hard to break through the middle management filter, and I don't have the risk tolerance to start my own thing. I've about run out of ambitions at this point and made peace w/ the fact that C-level is prob out of the question. I'm good w/ a comfyish lifestyle, some travel, and a nice nest egg/retirement savings. I also appreciate that I get to bounce around jobs every couple of years-i've worked on some really cool stuff, up until it stopped being cool.

Feb 16, 2019

This is excellent. I am in a very similar spot. I'm still quite ambitious, but have made the decision to focus that ambition directly into doing my job with the highest degree of excellence.

I'm not where I'd like to be financially, but frankly that's probably true no matter what. I'm content with my long term trajectory on that front and my goal is to grow my income, grow my nest egg, and hang it up while I'm still healthy enough to enjoy it.

Jan 23, 2019

Nearing 30 and not at all where I was hoping I would be lol. I did embark on a very late start getting into the industry, so I'm still willing to bide my time but always aware of looking like a fossil among more junior staff.

Jan 23, 2019

In my early 20s and in college and after taking my first position in management consulting, I was quite sure that I wanted to be a Fortune 500 CEO. I even said this in performance reviews for a couple years in a F500 company.

Now, just looking to build up a few small companies, have some fun, help with family, build up my art inventory/volume, and train for triathlons and Muay Thai. I need massive amounts of flexibility in my schedule. If I ever was to lead a large company, it wouldn't be from a desk.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Jan 23, 2019
Isaiah_53_5:

Muay Thai.

Very nice :D

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Jan 23, 2019
Isaiah_53_5:

If I ever was to lead a large company, it wouldn't be from a desk.

Hear Necker Island isn't bad

Jan 23, 2019
Isaiah_53_5:

In my early 20s and in college and after taking my first position in management consulting, I was quite sure that I wanted to be a Fortune 500 CEO. I even said this in performance reviews for a couple years in a F500 company.

Now, just looking to build up a few small companies, have some fun, help with family, build up my art inventory/volume, and train for triathlons and Muay Thai. I need massive amounts of flexibility in my schedule. If I ever was to lead a large company, it wouldn't be from a desk.

In other words, I feel like as (most) people grow older, they realize killing your self chasing $$ isn't worth it if you can have a job that still pays well, comes with mild/low stress levels, you can use all your vacation days, and has plenty of flexibility.

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Jan 23, 2019
BBDreamin:
Isaiah_53_5:

In my early 20s and in college and after taking my first position in management consulting, I was quite sure that I wanted to be a Fortune 500 CEO. I even said this in performance reviews for a couple years in a F500 company.

Now, just looking to build up a few small companies, have some fun, help with family, build up my art inventory/volume, and train for triathlons and Muay Thai. I need massive amounts of flexibility in my schedule. If I ever was to lead a large company, it wouldn't be from a desk.

In other words, I feel like as (most) people grow older, they realize killing your self chasing $$ isn't worth it if you can have a job that still pays well, comes with mild/low stress levels, you can use all your vacation days, and has plenty of flexibility.

a) I will kill myself to chase profit when the opportunity suits my needs and schedule.

b) I want at least 365 vacation days per year.

c) Fuck stress levels. Chase all profitable opportunities worth pursuing.

Work hard / play hard.

I ain't no slouch. Didn't you hear?

Everyday I'm hustlin'

:P

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Funniest
Jan 23, 2019

You sound like one of those Instagram "influencers"

    • 14
Jan 23, 2019

Yup

    • 1
Jan 23, 2019
BBDreamin:
Isaiah_53_5:

In my early 20s and in college and after taking my first position in management consulting, I was quite sure that I wanted to be a Fortune 500 CEO. I even said this in performance reviews for a couple years in a F500 company.

Now, just looking to build up a few small companies, have some fun, help with family, build up my art inventory/volume, and train for triathlons and Muay Thai. I need massive amounts of flexibility in my schedule. If I ever was to lead a large company, it wouldn't be from a desk.

In other words, I feel like as (most) people grow older, they realize killing your self chasing $$ isn't worth it if you can have a job that still pays well, comes with mild/low stress levels, you can use all your vacation days, and has plenty of flexibility.

Seriously though - this thought is a thought of what 'optimal life' would be like to have a chill spot in the rat race. Fuck the rat race.

Clearly, I don't want to be in any regular office type job and mediocrity just doesn't jive with my mojo. I want full exposure to reap all of my rewards. I want all the risk.

To be in a 'decent' and cushy job has hardly any value for me and if I am not challenged greatly, I just get bored and don't have fun.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Jan 23, 2019

Approaching 30 and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Jan 23, 2019

Second, quickly approaching 30. In my career I am where I thought I wanted to be when I was 22, but I still have no clue what I want to do.

I grew up in a family of small business owners so I think it is in my blood to hate having to report to someone. At this point, I have a good gig and want to do a good job and progress, but ultimately I think I will jump out of the race at some point to go do something on my own. I don't know if that means trying to grow something that I can sell one day for 10s of millions or just run to make a few $100k and kick it somewhere warm and sunny in the Southeast.

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Jan 23, 2019

Why southeast?

Boca Raton?

Jan 24, 2019

Visit St. Petersburg if you like warm and sunny. I got to drive all over Florida in my old job and I absolutely love that place.

Jan 23, 2019

Not quite 30 yet but I make six figures and could work fully remote if I want (probably will if I have a good Q1) and usually work 35 real hours a week.

Probably end up as a director or VP of sales working remote. I met a guy a few months ago that makes a couple hundred k managing a few large corporate accounts. Have a phone call with him Friday to see how I can get there hopefully before or around 30.

Jan 24, 2019

Arn't you in an AE type role?

Trying to break in soon without having to be and SDR again for another year at a new company.

Jan 23, 2019

Yep. Just apply to ae roles until one takes you. Hopefully a big company with a good territory and a lot of inbounds. If that's the case you're set.

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Jan 25, 2019

What's AE and SDR?

Most Helpful
Jan 24, 2019

Early 30s. Working in consulting in the Middle East. Would never in a million years thought I'd be living here but I'm having a lot of fun, doing interesting work, and making great money.

I'm further behind than I thought I'd be at this age in that I haven't gone to business school (though it's less necessary than I would have thought). I also won't be making as much money as I am now when I go back to the states. My savings aren't as good as I would have thought due to some underemployment in the past, some family expenses I've been helping with, and some mistakes I've made.

Further ahead than I would have thought in that I have traveled a lot and done some cool shit in my career that I couldn't have imagined.

Some things to keep in mind/advice:

  1. Save: Try to maintain at least 6 months of liquid savings. This will make you feel much more confident in yourself as you know you'll be able to walk if you hate your job. The more confident you are the better off you'll be in every area of life. Plus, shit happens.
  2. Don't worry about being on "track:" Your career is a marathon and not a sprint. I know plenty of people who had elite post college jobs and top MBAs who are now doing more mundane jobs. Probably not living up to their potential in terms of career, but they decided to prioritize work/life balance, family, or they just carved out a unique niche for themselves. Worst attitude I had in my early to mid 20s was that there was a track that I "should" be on and getting off would spell disaster.
  3. Lots of ways to make money: Huge numbers of people went to random schools and worked in random industries and have great lives and make great money. They probably also never would have been able to plan out where they are now. They got there by doing what they're interested in plus good at plus which the market demands. Try to find a niche that checks all those boxes for yourself.
  4. Communicate: There are very few problems at work that can't be resolved by early and often communication.
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Jan 23, 2019

Great to hear. From my understanding, with point 3, I feel the best way to generate a high income (mid 6 figures+) and yet maintain fair hours (<60) is to become an owner in some way. This doesn't have to be with starting and growing a business necessarily (as hours worked can be quite high and risk/reward is murky), but something as simple as getting partnership status and becoming part of a profit sharing agreement. Or owning some real estate and enjoying some passive income. Or maybe even an online business w/ a partner to split a couple hundred thousand between the two of you for 15 hours per week each. These are just some thoughts that have been floating around my head. Any other ways you would consider to make more money while maintaining a good lifestyle?

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Jan 23, 2019

Nah, easiest way is just to be in enterprise sales with a really really good territory.

Jan 24, 2019

Another way is to develop some deep technical/subject matter knowledge and combine that with some other skill(s) and experience. For example I have a strong background in data analysis/quant stuff, but have been more or less a generalist, and haven't really been doing quant stuff 100% of the time. I've started to carve out a reputation as the go-to guy for Excel and lots of other financial/quantitive projects. I want to keep developing that, combine it with more data science/python experience, and marry that to my management consulting experience. I'll never be the hardcore data scientist type but figure I can be the consultant who's really good at that stuff and coordinate/work with both the soft and hard stuff. This isn't something I could have planned, just evolved as I followed my interests before I found this path.

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Feb 2, 2019

Early 30's here and considering a move to Tel Aviv, mind if I PM you?

Jan 24, 2019

Of course, go right ahead.

Jan 24, 2019

First off, live your life and do you best...don't sweat it if you're not on the "path" you expected. Very few people succeed on a linear path.

In my early 20's (college) I wasn't overly ambitious. While I was always smart, I was the first in my family to go to college and was just looking for a "good" job to pay the bills. 3.0 directional state school. Somewhere along the way realized that Big 4 accounting was a good job so I got a Masters in Accounting and got the coveted Big 4 gig (really no future thought beyond that). Hated that job and bounced around a little bit until I landed as a senior analyst at a F200, which is where I realized I could advance if I worked hard. At that point I realized I could make good money if I could just somehow get to DIRECTOR. That was really my end goal.

Fast forward to 37, I've moved to a smaller F500 that had better opportunities and have shot up here. I'm now CFO of a ~$100M+ business. I've blown past any expectation that I had a decade ago. The biggest trade off was a less "prestigious" company/industry, but I'm enjoying it a LOT more.

As for advice - work hard, do good work and always make sure you have a strong reputation. That reputation, along with some internal networking, will open doors for you throughout your career. Also, if you know you're a strong performer with a good reputation, dont be affraid to jump at opportunities. Part of why I was able to take a risk and switch to a new company (and excel here), is because I knew if something went wrong there were 10 people who would hire me in an instant.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Jan 24, 2019
accountingbyday:

As for advice - work hard, do good work and always make sure you have a strong reputation. That reputation, along with some internal networking, will open doors for you throughout your career. Also, if you know you're a strong performer with a good reputation, dont be affraid to jump at opportunities. Part of why I was able to take a risk and switch to a new company (and excel here), is because I knew if something went wrong there were 10 people who would hire me in an instant.

THIS x 1000

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Feb 1, 2019
accountingbyday:

First off, live your life and do you best...don't sweat it if you're not on the "path" you expected. Very few people succeed on a linear path.

In my early 20's (college) I wasn't overly ambitious. While I was always smart, I was the first in my family to go to college and was just looking for a "good" job to pay the bills. 3.0 directional state school. Somewhere along the way realized that Big 4 accounting was a good job so I got a Masters in Accounting and got the coveted Big 4 gig (really no future thought beyond that). Hated that job and bounced around a little bit until I landed as a senior analyst at a F200, which is where I realized I could advance if I worked hard. At that point I realized I could make good money if I could just somehow get to DIRECTOR. That was really my end goal.

Fast forward to 37, I've moved to a smaller F500 that had better opportunities and have shot up here. I'm now CFO of a ~$100M+ business. I've blown past any expectation that I had a decade ago. The biggest trade off was a less "prestigious" company/industry, but I'm enjoying it a LOT more.

As for advice - work hard, do good work and always make sure you have a strong reputation. That reputation, along with some internal networking, will open doors for you throughout your career. Also, if you know you're a strong performer with a good reputation, dont be affraid to jump at opportunities. Part of why I was able to take a risk and switch to a new company (and excel here), is because I knew if something went wrong there were 10 people who would hire me in an instant.

This. The more I progress through my career, the more I realize how important reputation is, not just results.

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Jan 24, 2019

Yep.

I just got off a call with a recruiter seeking me out for a ~$1B CFO job. I am NOT qualified or the best candidate they can get for this job, but there's an exec at the parent company who I used to work with that asked him to include me in a search (haven't talked to the guy in 18 months).

Certainly you need results to have a stellar reputation, but it's not enough to do great and not build out a network of people who realize it.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

Feb 6, 2019

Going to shoot you a PM - would love to learn more about how you made the move to CFO

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Jan 24, 2019

My 20's were... multidirectional. I'm 33, currently in a Private Banking/WM type role with an F500 firm; I ended up here almost entirely by accident. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up after college, so I decided to (gulp) join the Army for a few years and figure it out. Got out at 26 with no prospects other than a vague idea of going into something financial. Found out most IB firms aren't super interested in a state school grad with a couple of regional boutique internships, 5 years removed from uni. Got a job in retail banking (cringe) to make ends meet, thinking I'd keep applying to firms until I landed a FT analyst gig. In the meantime, I decided to hustle as hard at that job as I would doing what I thought I wanted. Managed to impress the right people, climbed the ladder up out of retail and into relationship management, and as a result I'm now making a more than comfortable wage to glad hand with rich people and make them feel confident in my knowledge.

I don't recommend doing it the way I did, but the motivator would be the same if I could go back. The big takeaway is to stay hungry; at 4 different points that I can think of, I landed positions with the firm that some people spend the rest of their life in. As is stands, I'm still hungry, still looking for the next opportunity. Some people get the luxury of ending up where they want to be by 30. Personally? I don't think I'll ever be "where I thought I'd be" at any point, if only because the bar keeps moving with each successive step up the ladder.

Basically, if you're thrown in the deep, keep swimming, or drown.

Jan 24, 2019
gijoey762:

Some people get the luxury of ending up where they want to be by 30. Personally? I don't think I'll ever be "where I thought I'd be" at any point, if only because the bar keeps moving with each successive step up the ladder.

I generally agree with this statement, but I'm personally struggling with this at the moment. Things are going well for me right now and they're asking me what else I'd want in a few years and I just dont know. I work ~40 hours most week, live 5 minutes from work in a nice house, make good enough $ (not millions, but enough for wife to not work, vacations, nearly debt free, etc), generally low stress. I'm not sure if it's worth a few more $ to move the family and give up what I have going right now.

Moral of the story, I think having a wife and, especially, kids changes the career desires. I still want to continue to grow and don't see myself in this role for 20 years, but I really think I've found a sweet spot for us.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Jan 23, 2019

I think I might be the "anti-you".

Single and childless, make good $, paid off my last couple credit cards last year, live in a low COL area, take multiple vacations, and generally have lots of flexibility/freedom to take risks. I would describe my lifestyle as comfortable-I often joke that it's the "other" American Dream they don't tell you about (mid-level, high income, low COL w/ no family-related constraints)-and i'm able to set aside quite a bit despite allowing myself several luxuries.

I got great salary bumps from lateral job switches, and every 2 years I'll reassess, kick some tires around the market, and hop over somewhere else. In fact, my last couple interviewers expressed concerns about me being a flight risk (which I admittedly am).

That's got me thinking recently about finding a landing spot to actually build a career for a few years and assume responsibilities (and the stress that comes with) above my current level. On the other hand I just got back from the trip of a lifetime, and have never been motivated by job titles. My fear is that the party would definitely be over at that point. Your (awesome) situation maybe tells me otherwise.

Hopefully this illustrates the futility in trying to plot out life and a career "the right way" and hitting certain milestones at a given age. Because what happens if you do hit a sweet spot that works well for you? Most of the posters here have done well for themselves taking unconventional paths.

Jan 24, 2019

I think having a wife and, especially, kids changes the career desires

You're not wrong, man. I became a dad while I was still in the retail grind (albeit towards the end), and it definitely rerouted me. It may be delusional, I still had bulge bracket aspirations until that happened. Once it did, I realized I needed to reassess what I was looking to achieve professionally, 'cause I wanted my kids to know who their dad was more than I wanted the prestige of working for a high end IBD.

When it comes to what you want next, don't rush your decision. That commute sounds like a dream, and your overall QoL is pretty good. That said, if you're not happy with it, the struggling is only going to get worse, sweet spot or not. Identify specifics: "I won't move my family for $xx.xxx dollars more a year, but I would for $yy.yyy." "I wouldn't mind working in X department, but Y department just isn't my thing." "Field X is super competitive, but Field Y is more manageable."

Get intentional. Get granular. The more you can put on paper, the more you'll be able to grasp the concept of a plan and decide if you need to pursue more, or if you're happy for the near future. Lather, rinse, repeat as needed every couple of years.

Jan 24, 2019

Nearing 32 and can't really answer this question since I didn't have any sort of plan at 21. I spent my college years fucking around, graduated into the teeth of the recession and through some luck, networking and being at a target school got a job at a lower-tier consulting firm. I had no interest in consulting - I just needed a job of some sort. After spending 4 years there building useful skills I went to get my MBA so I could figure out what I actually wanted to do.

While doing my MBA I spent a lot of time doing the "planning" that the OP implicitly referenced above. Ended up getting my target job, performed very well and mostly enjoyed what I was doing. About a year ago, I started getting impatient with the slow promotion/comp pace of my company (F500) and lack of reward for performance. Four months ago I left for a radically different job (same function, different industry/company culture) that offered a "leap forward" in responsibility, level & comp. It also has come with way more stress and much longer hours, and I'm still deciding if it's worth it. I viewed it as a test - is accelerating my "plan" and career goal worth the stress & hours? On that, the jury is still out.

So TL; DR - I didn't have a real career goal or plan until I graduated bschool at 28 - so far I'm probably a bit ahead of where I thought I'd be, but that acceleration has come at a cost to me personally that I'm not sure I want to bear long-term.

Jan 24, 2019

I'm 31 now and am pretty much where I expected to be. The most important lessons I've learned centered around being humble, staying curious, and having a personality outside of the office.

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Jan 24, 2019

Yea brah's I'm leading that drop ship lifestyle.

You can too for a mere $999 a month - take my coaching course at www.givemeyourmoneydumbass.com.

Jan 24, 2019

obviously the website is a joke, but with a name like OnlineMoneyMan and 519 bananas you didn't just create that today. Is the name a joke as well or is the name somehow relevant to what you do?

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

Jan 24, 2019

its what I do but also do accounting by day like you. But my real money is made online

Jan 25, 2019

29 and happier than I have ever been career wise.

I came out of a total non-target working at a BB in strategy and moved into the same bank's M&A group in my mid-twenties during an intensely busy time because I was obsessed with the "prestige" of it. I busted my ass to get there for all the wrong reasons. Got involved with some very high-profile and very demanding mega-transactions and basically thought because I didn't have the pedigree I'd be stuck doing M&A forever and basically would kill myself by the time I was 35. I ruined a lot of personal relationships during this time and my personal life turned to complete and utter shit.

Left after two years to do MM PE at a total sweat shop and also figured I was just resigned to living a nightmare career. Again, I did this because that was the "prestigious" thing to do.

Left PE after a year and now back in strategy at my original BB. Just made Director, getting compensated in the mid $200K range, take my fully allotted vacations every year, ski every weekend, work from home at least a day per week, and generally don't work any more than 40 hours a week.

M&A and PE was a means to an end for me and I am glad my life didn't turn out the way I thought it would in my mid-twenties. Part of what I've had to learn is what is "enough". I've reached the conclusion that where I am right now at 29 is enough from a compensation and life fulfillment perspective, so anything I achieve after now is just gravy, and that's a great feeling.

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Jan 28, 2019

Thanks for sharing. I feel like I'm definitely not cut out for PE and didn't go through recruiting as a first year analyst. You mentioned there was that period where you busted ass, but lost a lot on the personal side. Did you regret it a little? Do you wish you did it a little differently?

Jan 25, 2019

I wrote up a response saying I didn't regret my time in PE and M&A but I deleted it.

I regret it. M&A is a nightmare and it wreaked havoc on my personal life. I wouldn't be making as much as I do now but I also wouldn't have lost 3 years of the prime of my life. I think those 3 years are valuable.

Jan 25, 2019

I'm 31, thought I'd be in a S&T or IB role.

I'm doing Strat for the bank at VP level, pretty boring. Don't really use my brain.

Would probably have been where I want to be if I had:

  • Tried harder in my Undergrad (linked with doing a course I hated)
  • Chosen the right MBA program (I got a good GMAT and spurned a US school as I didn't want Debt again)
  • Started my CFA journey 5+ years ago

Lessons learned:

Do your research, in particular around which Bus school you want to go to.

Get your CFA level 1 ASAP - it will open doors, especially in your 20s.

Jan 24, 2019

I passed the CFA L1 right out of college and am convinced that it helped me get my second post college job. I haven't followed through with the program and am not sure if I will, but I do like knowing I can go back to the CFA later and combine it with my other experiences if I want to change career tracks.

Jan 26, 2019

Certainly way behind where I should be. I got comfortable at a company where I didnt move up a ton for quite a few years and now I am trying to make up for lost time.

Jan 26, 2019

So you designed this question to make me sad.

Mission accomplished you bastard.

Jan 26, 2019

Great thread. The tone of responses here (probably due to age of respondents) feels authentic, in terms of goals set out in the early 20s, changes of priorities in late 20s/early 30s, and comfort with the results achieved.

Many people either don't know what they want to do in their 20s or believe they will eventually become a massive success. By the time you hit your mid-30s, you probably have kids/family and you realize that maybe you are happy spending time with them, rather than endlessly swinging for the fences. The responses here seem to be more in-line with that line of thinking, whereas most of the other threads on this website seem to be focused on "how do I make the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time?"

Anyway, here's my story:

  • Went to a target school for undergrad, thought I knew what I wanted to do. Stayed focused, worked on a trading desk my junior/senior years, graduated early. This was pre-crisis, when finance jobs were plentiful, so I was lucky enough to interview and get a few offers in S&T.
  • My first work experience was in line with what I thought I wanted to do at the time (mostly due to the "prestige" of it, not because I actually enjoyed it). It went south real fast in the crisis; then, it was awful and depressing.
  • At that point, I left to go to b-school, where I saw what high achievement really looks like (some of the people from my class went on to start Warby Parker, Harry's, Allbirds...even this website). I realized that there will always be someone smarter or harder-working out there, out-hustling and out-performing. I wish I had also realized that there is no "race" - we are all just performing to the best of our ability.
  • Graduating b-school around crisis time was tough, so I took the first offer that I received and derailed my career. Ended up doing something completely unrelated to my initial (or subsequent) job for almost 2 years. I met some cool people, but job-wise, I learned that unexpected things can and do happen, no matter how much you plan your career trajectory. On a positive note, I used the time to pursue my CFA.
  • Fast-forward 7 years and I'm now an insurance PM. It's not hedge fund / PE / banking money, but it's decent pay, decent hours, and is not too stressful (at least as compared to typical front-office roles). I am 34, have 2 kids, and I can see them every morning/evening and spend time with them on the weekends.

Could I have hustled more in b-school to get a better job? Could I have accepted a better offer out of undergrad and stuck around at one firm, potentially climbing the ranks? Should I have sucked it up and went into banking, knowing that I would give away the first 5 years of my life for future payoff/carry? Sure, I think about these things from time to time. I look at LinkedIn and see others from my cohort make MD or head a group / fund / whatever and think about what might have been.

But in your mid-30s, I think you become more adept at accepting yourself for the person that you are and become more at peace with your decisions. Priorities shift so much from your 20s to your 30s. Some might say the hunger and the drive declines with age, but perhaps it's that your goals become different. I just don't see the value in making extra X% for the time away from family that it will result in.

When I was just starting out, there used to be this magazine called "Traders" that had an annual ranking of the top 100 traders in the world (by comp). I thought that was the goal. I thought I will have made my first million by 30. Yes, the crisis adjusted a lot of expectations, but so did life. You learn to play the best game you can, given the cards that you are dealt.

One thing I will say, though, based on my personal experience: if you want to start a business or change careers, do it before you have kids. No matter how busy you might think your life is, once you have kids, it becomes near impossible. You will look back on your life pre-children with wonder and amazement at all the time you took for granted (I'm looking at you, Netflix). Not to say your career ends once you have kids - it doesn't - but if you want to radically change your current trajectory, implement at least the seeds of those changes while you have time.

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Jan 29, 2019

Excellent post. It's called evolving and it never (hopefully) stops. Actually, I think it would be quite odd to want the same things at various stages of life. With each decade, you've learned so much more about life, developed different interests, etc. Why should your uninformed 20 yr old aspirations govern your 35 or 45 or 55 yr old self?

Feb 1, 2019

Oh yes I would check that top trader list religiously and was absolutely sure I had so much time and of course I'd make my 1st million by then! Thanks for the post

Jan 28, 2019

I honestly envisioned myself as a documentary film maker at the age of 20, then by 25 I'd focused on being a restaurant GM. So by those standards I have failed. So sad.

Jan 29, 2019

I am all alone in my studio apt eating alphabet soup, being stressed out about how late I am in my career, and wondering where I went wrong. I wake up everyday to a throbbing headache , a pounding heart and what feels like a 135lb barbell on my chest, and it is heavy, very heavy, because I can't even afford to lift. I live to pay the rent, bills, food, insurance, and unexpected expenses, unable to afford hobbies, and browsing WSO on a Saturday night to reflect on missed opportunities and watch the kids talk about their great careers.

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Jan 30, 2019

Just remember, most people post about successes and rarely share about their failures/low points. No matter how happy someone looks about landing a great job, chances are they may hate their job, their personal life may have numerous struggles, etc. With that in mind, making drastic changes to your lifestyle is hard. But find small steps to take (starting a side hustle, etc.) In this day and age, we have access to so many avenues to make money and finding one that you enjoy is key

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Jan 29, 2019

#

Jan 29, 2019

Judging by the quality and wisdom in these posts, I'd suggest Patrick develop an "over-30" certified thread instead of the certified user thread.

One on hand, I'm wildly ahead of where I was on the finance track at 22, hit my financial lifetime goals by my late 20s, and now have a nest egg built up that should allow me to choose opportunities for the rest of my life without compensation being the top criteria.

One the other hand, I've made no progress on the entrepreneurial/non-traditional path which is where I told myself I'd be at 18. Very much on the corporate grind track. Those golden handcuffs hit ya quick.

Jan 23, 2019

Sounds great, what do you think you'll be doing a decade from now, knowing that you're financially independent?

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Jan 29, 2019

My only goal is to decouple my time from my earnings so I can spend more time with family.

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Jan 31, 2019

Mid 30s here and here's the long (apologies) spiel.

Where did I think I'd be by now, when I was in my 20s? Married, some kids, and a job doing "something in business" (whatever that means) in NYC.

What am I actually doing now? I'm unemployed and trying to switch geographies (by the way unless your current employer sponsors you or you are well networked already, it can be very challenging).

A short bit about me. Target, econ major, OK GPA, got interviews in consulting/banking during recruitment, didn't get any offers. Went to China to study Chinese for a few years, world ended ('08) and I luckily jumped into an investment consulting/FoF firm (think like Cambridge Associates or an FoF - work is remarkably similar) in Asia. Made the move into a multi-strategy hedge fund a few years later (also in Asia) starting at the bottom and built up into a PM. Quit and took some time off (various non PnL reasons) and am looking to get back in, but not be in Asia.

My first gig at the FoF/Consulting Firm was great. I met tons of people such as heads of PE shops, capital raisers (known as Placement Agents), institutional investors etc. I saw a lot and realized that most of what people do isn't magic and as competitive as that game is, a lot of these people are not very good at their jobs. Great 50,000 foot view of the world. I also pretty much worked 9-5, never on weekends, took all 4 weeks of my vacation, could extend business trips into weekends away, and made an amazing personal and professional network around the world. In short I saw a lot and had TIME. The bad: you are never truly a trigger puller, there is a lot of group think, you don't get paid and if you are in a niche geography (I was in Asia), most of the products are terrible and uninspiring and I stopped growing professionally a few years in. In short, I had TIME to do/see/learn a lot and meet a lot of people, but didn't really make any MONEY. There also usually isn't that much career progression in my kind of shop, so its why people often move after a few years unless they are really complacent and don't care (more power to them).

I then went to a multi-strategy hedge fund, which I got into thanks to my own trading ideas and just sheer networking everywhere I went. I started all the way at the bottom as one should. Booking trades, dealing with prime brokers to negotiate financing, doing general monkey work, generating ideas, executing trades etc. The Good: I got to learn the business inside-out, learn a number of different products, see how things traded, manage a portfolio, see the liquid side of markets (as well as old PE portfolio companies that I tracked from my previous gig), view the world from a much more granular lens, understand the financial services industry much better. The Bad: Hours where long (I traded Asia and Europe - so 18 hour days), culture could be cutthroat (colleagues at your firm may not be friendly and you are aware the street may be trying to rip your face off), social life took a dive, didn't sleep so well (no one at my firm seemed to, actually).

So here I am today, and I look around to people I went to college with (of course we only tend to focus on the ones that have more money than us). The ones I (at times) envy have gotten married and made Partner/MD/whatever at insert Bank/HF/PE shop/Law Firm and are clearly making a lot of money and if they are not big spenders or silly, will be set for life. They paid with their TIME and energy and sacrificed a lot to get there.

I look at myself. I'd be maybe mid to upper mid level if I went back to the whole asset allocation PE fund investing in Asia world, maybe a step lower if I moved elsewhere globally. In the hedge fund world I'd still be seen as pretty junior, a backup PM who takes risk but answers to a bigger guy or plays a number 2 (generates ideas, executes, watches the desk etc). There is no way I am set for life or anywhere near that (and I am not a big spender). I'm single, can't afford to buy a house in one of the major cities but am OK financially (I could afford to take a year off so...). I paid with my MONEY (or earnings) to have my simply awesome group of friends around the world. A number of us literally live by the mantra that we are only a flight away if we need each other (a flight could be 18 hours). I speak (at various levels), 5 languages, have been to 50 countries and counting (and not just seeing a city by car in between meetings) and am in the best shape of my life.

Just like some of my very professionally successful college classmates may envy my travel and lifestyle, I envy their professional success and their earnings. But we all made decisions that we (for whatever reason) thought was best for each of us at the time and that's how its gone.

In short - everything has a price. What are you paying or what are you willing to pay? One can't have it all in life and that's totally ok. What you want may or will change and that's totally cool. What's good for me, may not be good for you and vice versa. YOU will have the figure it out. Others can't do it for you. Good Luck.

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Jan 29, 2019

Your post makes me want to quit my job and travel for a month... then I think about recruiters "you quet YoUr jOb to TraVEL wE cANt haVE pEopLE wHO dOnt cARe abOUTf tHeIR jOBS WorKIng hEre. SeRIouS pRoFFeSIonalS oNLy"

Jan 31, 2019
ASC_842:

Your post makes me want to quit my job and travel for a month... then I think about recruiters "you quet YoUr jOb to TraVEL wE cANt haVE pEopLE wHO dOnt cARe abOUTf tHeIR jOBS WorKIng hEre. SeRIouS pRoFFeSIonalS oNLy"

One month is far too short a time. Even three is. Time flies.

Feb 4, 2019

you can do this pretty easily once you get an offer. i've always negotiated over a month off between jobs to travel

Feb 1, 2019

Thought I would be a Senior Software Engineer at a tech company somewhere on the West Coast, having done a PhD in CS.

In reality, I entered this crazy industry (NYC finance) straight out of college and currently a VP in a quant group. Never imagined myself in this position.

I will echo the other person who said reputation is as important as results/experience. I spent 5 years in the back office (IT). During that time, I developed a reputation for consistently delivering results and getting sh*t done - this directly led to my transitioning into a front-office role. No matter how smart or experienced you are, if people don't like you (or know your work) you won't get very far.

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Feb 2, 2019

I am 33 now and not where I thought I'd end up when I was 23. My first job out of business school was an Equity Research Associate role for an investment bank, focusing on the healthcare sector. My goal back then was to get a foot in the door to a hedge fund, manage other people's money, and become insanely rich and powerful.

That research job was an excellent learning experience, but man those hours and expectations were tough. When the Lehman Brothers recession happened, my Wall Street career did not survive. Rather than tough it out in NYC to find a new employer I moved back to the Midwest and pursued a new career path. I also came to the realization how much I hate the inconveniences of urban life.

The rest of my 20s was a lot of experimenting and working through a personal existential crisis. Got involved in entrepreneurship and tech startups, and networked with a lot of folks through Meetup groups. I eventually taught myself web development skills because I saw the need for people with that talent. I did engineering work for numerous funded startup companies, and now I work as a consultant in software engineering. The pay is good, but probably not as much as I would make on Wall Street. But it's offset by much less stress, working with a team that respects me, and a lower cost of living where I'm located. Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with how things turned out for me and the direction they are headed.

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Feb 2, 2019

What do you mean by the inconveniences of urban life? As someone who has only lived in a suburban environment (and only visited large cities for fun), having everything that you need around you in a city (entertainment, grocery, job, etc) seem a lot more convenient than in a suburb where you have to drive yourself everywhere.

Feb 2, 2019

I feel like as an adult, you can run into a lot of inconveniences in the city. Sure, your grocery store is a few blocks away, but due to lack of parking you're not going to drive to the store like you would in the suburbs -- you're going to haul your groceries three blocks back to your condo.

You're also constantly surrounded with constant traffic, drunk people shouting through the middle of the night etc.

Growing up in the suburbs is definitely more of an inconvenience however... these inconveniences just start to shift as you get older and have the income and ability to make suburban life more convenient.

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Feb 2, 2019

@allinamd That sewage smell that's everywhere in NYC during the summer. Everything's expensive. You can make a lot of money, but so much of it goes into rent and you are always wishing you can have a more comfortable living space. It's crowded - sometimes you just want to get away from people and noise (no, Central Park doesn't count). Bums and subway rats that confront you. Everything in public areas is filthy. Parking tickets.

You are tightly dependent on the city infrastructure. One Christmas Eve I just wanted to get to the airport. No taxi driver wanted to take me there. Had to take the Subway and it got jammed and I had to be squished in this uncomfortable car packed with people for 45 minutes. ugh....

There are a lot of inconveniences, but to people who have grown up and adapted to it maybe they don't notice. It's a matter of personal tolerance/preference.

Feb 2, 2019

Double post..

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Feb 2, 2019

good advice posted - thanks.

im 22 and think i'm slightly behind what I thought going to a UK target uni would get me. But; got summers and grad jobs lined up so just start and see what happens with apps and will keep an open mind.

I know i'll reach my end goal just not so sure how/when i'll get there...

Feb 2, 2019

I wanted to be a WallStreet executive.....luxury, money, nyc....all that bs.

Never got a Ibanking offer, started directly in PE and moved to Corp Dev/M&A, now doing Business Development.

I don't regret any decision I have made, and I am happy where I am now. Making money for the sake of making money without having freedom sucks. Money is great when you own your life. When you are a wage slave, it doesnt matter how much money you have, its not the same.

Forget about prestige, luxury, etc...thats all bs

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Feb 5, 2019

Target school? Can you give me an idea of what kind of PE shop you started at/what position? Just curious--thanks for sharing.

Feb 2, 2019

Non Target. It was a small local PE fund, minority owned by a large US Fund, (think TPG, Apollo, Advent) so we co invested with them in most of the deals and they co-invested in our smaller growth equity plays that could reach global scale.

Feb 8, 2019

1 year away from the big 30, and I am where I thought I would be but being here now, it's not what i thought it would be. I am in PE in emerging markets, and to be honest I was lucky to be in a setup where i got exposed to a lot of the inner works of firm management, being a small MM firm and all.

I also get to have a say in a lot of the firm's decisions, and i earn well. But as everyone says above at some point the money stops being a driver. I am much more leaning towards being in executive management, shaping something real as opposed to running another sensitivity on a model or helping a portfolio company with some random project.

At a certain point in time i guess one craves to be in control of something, and given the amount of work we put in as finance professionals and the non-existent social life i guess i just want to see something coming out of it to justify what i am missing out on.

I also got married which makes the decision to quit and move harder. I mean I am comfortable in my job, starting to make a name for myself within the industry after working hard for the better part of a decade. So the thought of just jumping ship feels irresponsible.

Also I think a part of my frustration is that fact that reality is starting to sink in, that all those things "i thought i could be" are no longer gonna happen. I knew in reality they were never going to, like I will never move to Europe or pursue a PhD in history (all are things that interest me) but when you approach thirty you just know that the time for that is over.

And to top it all off, I was always a guy with a plan, that's how i got here but now i think i am scared cause i am very unsure about what's next.

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Feb 9, 2019

I'm 21 but I've achieved everything I planned on so far. Working at an EB, getting great grades at one of the most prestigious universities, meeting lots of women... some might say I have it all. If anyone needs advice feel free to PM me. I'm always around to help a young, ambitious person less fortunate than me

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

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Mar 5, 2019

I was a humanities major at a well-known school in the SF Bay Area. Worked in wine out of undergrad, thinking I'd do that for a couple of years and go to law school. Ended up being six years.

Decided wine was a passion but not a career, and at this point had no desire to go to law school. Applied to MBA programs, accepted an offer at one of the two major schools in LA. Focused on finance and commercial real estate.

After a stint at a mid-size value-add apartment investor, I now work in an acquisitions/investment role at a privately-owned CRE asset manager with $10B AUM. I love the career pivot I made and would do it all again 10 times out of 10.

If you had told 20-year-old me this is what I'd be doing I would have laughed at you, but that's life, isn't it?

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