How can you take it?

I've found finance to be completely unbearable.

The pay and career development is excellent but the level of work, expectations, and lack of control over your life is not worth any amount of pay.

Senior employees have no guts or real business skills, or they would have gotten the hell out years ago. What you have is plenty of bushy tailed and bright-eyed high achievers thrown into the field, and those with any sense get out after 2 years. Those that remain for promotion are those who have transformed themselves into the ultimate bitch boys for the MD's, terrified of any wrong move. Any person with an once of self-respect will be in and out.

The ideal state for a finance professional is being in constant terror, afraid that you've made a mistake, afraid that your superior will bitch at you, afraid of taking a risk.

I have excellent exit opportunities into private equity, but would never even given it a consideration. It's just another hellhole. This is my last stop.

My worry is that this is what its like elsewhere. All other jobs as you move up, the bar raises and so do the expectations until you're filled with nothing but fear, worry, and expectations of perfection. Is this all there is to the work life?

Am I the only sane one, that doesn't want to live a life of chronic anxiety?

Some are giving the "look on the brightside" argument, which I think is fair. I acknowledge that I have it better than most from a monetary standpoint, but that's not saying very much. If you look around, people across the country generally have it pretty bad. My parents worked their whole lives at a menial job, and in the first year I make more than both of them combined. From my point of view, I don't have it good, they just had it very bad. That is 95% of the US Population.

And when you look up the ladder that you're on, you see that you're superiors don't have it much better. They've slaved their way up and spent well until their 40's become reasonably rich, but sacrificed a good 15-20 years of their life (including the last remaining years of their parents lives), beautiful friendships, and the courage to explore living a life how they'd like to live it. To me, these are the things that matter in life, and if I look around at others, this is an area where I am severely deficient, despite having all the money that a 23 y/o could need. I don't find that money / development compensates me for all the love, comradarie, and community that I missing out.

I will say that the development you receive in finance, is second to none, and is one of the reasons I've stayed so far. But when I start looking at what I'm trading, one-year of freedom to live my truest life for one torturous year of development and great pay, the trade stops looking so favorable to me, the more years that I've got to give up. The scarier thing is, that after working for several years, the pay keeps getting better. It becomes harder, and takes more courage to reject the money and say that this is not the life I want to live at all.

Some people - most of my seniors - never try the other path. They didn't have the courage in the second or third year to leave, and the environment they live in is one of submission. They are trained and rewarded to submit. The courage that they had to leave in their second and third years will be the most courage they have for the rest of their lives. The rest of it will be managed out of them, until all they can do it deliver what someone else asks of them.

I asked if I am the only one that feels this way because I look at my superiors and see mountains of men with enormous talent, all squandered on something that is meaningless. They don't have the courage to leave, it has left them long ago. I wish that it returned.

I ask this question because I don't think this is the way life is supposed to be lived. Not for me, and not for anyone. There's something fundamentally wrong with the way we live that requires a complete rethink. We're optimizing for dollars and productivity and its destroying all of our lives.

And to create what?

Comments (62)

Dec 17, 2018 - 3:37pm

Yes - increasing expectations and being accountable for your product / service as you progress in your career is pretty much a hallmark of capitalism. Regardless of industry.

If you're afraid of that, Walmart always needs greeters.

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Dec 17, 2018 - 4:50pm

Assuming you're in your first two/three years of IB, I think you're in a pretty natural / understandable place. You're going through what's a pretty rough part of your career, and some of what you say, while perhaps a bit jaded / influenced by being a junior at what is likely a large financial institution, isn't entirely wrong. There are people that fit the description you mentioned.

I would disagree with your comment about people having no guts or real business skills at the senior level. As to the guts piece, most of the senior guys you work for have probably ridden out some tough times in a pretty volatile industry and passed up on fairly cushy job opportunities, not all of them have just stayed for fear of taking a paycut. It's also easy to criticize someone's perceived lack of appetite for risk when you're young (no wife, kids, aging partents to support). I'd say it likely took some guts to ride out the financial crisis as a mid-senior level banker with a family to support.

I'd also disagree with the "no real business skills" for senior bankers. I've worked with some guys I didn't respect, but I also worked with a lot of bankers on the sell side who were incredibly smart and capable, and would function well in other business environments outside of advisory. On the buyside, experience can differ, but I feel like after several years here, my skill set has massively expanded on the ops side of things. That goes for the guys I work for, several of whom have had to step in and take short term senior/operating roles at portcos. You can learn a ton.

And I'd say it's pretty similar in industry as well, or in entrepreneurship. The hardest workers generally reap the greatest rewards (of course there are plenty of exceptions). Go read the essay from the WSJ this weekend about the rise and fall of GE - it focuses heavily on the execs personal experiences. Business is a grind. Sure oyu can have some cush jobs out there, but once you start getting to serious money, no one is going to pay you $250k a year to sit on your ass (until you're 60+ after a successful career and get to take awesome advisory roles). Certainly no one is going to pay you $1mm a year to just hang out.

Dec 26, 2018 - 3:55pm


I'd say it likely took some guts to ride out the financial crisis as a mid-senior level banker with a family to support.

Coming in late to this, but... what? What you are describing is the opposite of guts. Sticking with your great-paying job during a crisis is, well, not gutless, but certainly not brave or courageous.

Striking out on your own in 2009 would have taken guts. Continuing to take your six figure salary and maybe not get a bonus takes no spine at all. And to the OPs point... what exactly do former mid-level bankers do? Not much except continue to climb that ladder...

Jan 8, 2019 - 12:03am

I think you're approaching this from the wrong angle. Being an Associate/VP in the recession and seeing half of your peers get laid off, which actually pretty much happened, and deciding to keep your eggs in the banking basket instead of looking for a more stable exit opp definitely took guts...

What if you jump too late and no one is hiring, you get fired next and end up unemployed for months with mouths to feed, etc, etc. - Not to mention how taxing it would be to working banking hours, and do your job well, with no assurance you'll be needed after the next quarter.

Dec 19, 2018 - 4:06pm


I so relate. I interviewed at an auction house once, where the job would involve research the auction pieces and writing the descriptions/history/provenance of the piece in the auction brochure. I got the opportunity to hold [whilst wearing archival gloves] a letter written by Queen Isabella of Spain.

I would have been surrounded by actual history all day, a helluva dream job, but the salary was truly abysmal. Perhaps when I start my semi-retirement in 5-7 years, I may revisit this sort of research and writing position, as I'll have other monies coming in.

Dec 19, 2018 - 4:10pm

suicide xxxtentacion

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

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Dec 22, 2018 - 11:55am

I had similar feeling as OP, and flipped the switch to move to FAANG sales.

Now in Corp Start there; making about 70% of IB M&A money doing work I love, with people I like and lots of autonomy.

Protected evenings past 6 and free weekends + holidays as well.

If you want to talk about this OP, send me a dm.

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Most Helpful
Dec 22, 2018 - 2:54pm

What's up with all of the softy posts nowadays from kids that are 22/23, blubbering about their terrible lives making multiples of the median annual salary straight out of college while developing a strong rolodex and useful business skills?

And before some smart ass comes out accusing me of being a hardo, check thyself - investment banking isn't rocket science and it's not really all that grueling for those naturally inclined towards working hard. Contrary to the griping I see on WSO all the time as of late, it's not impossible to get a day off, or work from home when needed if you have the esteem of your peers.

There are so many people in the world who will work harder, less rewarding jobs than banking for their entire lives who would love to be white collar professionals, and they will never get the chance because of the way our world works.

Maybe instead of whimpering ad nauseum on the internet about how abused you are, you should put your money where your mouth is and march into your MD's office/resign? If not, I suggest you shut the fuck up about it and embrace the opportunity you've got rather than pining for the others you've forgone. Nobody likes a whiner.

Jesus Christ, someone should've given you guys less trophies in little league.


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Dec 22, 2018 - 3:10pm

I'm sick of it, and you can always tell which of the analysts are going home and making these silly posts on WSO. It's like they think the pinnacle of challenge in life is graduating from private
high school, going to a great college, and maintaining their GPA while literally learning all day - and that after getting their analyst offer, it's time for blowjobs and bottles of dom all day long.

There's masses of people living in depression because their life consists of meaningless drudgery all day long behind the counter at the pizza joint, behind the handlebars of a delivery bike, in the fulfillment center at Amazon - living silent lives of desperation and wishing they could break out, but being unable to because of the need to eat day to day.

What they wouldn't give to be well educated and gainfully employed - for the challenges they face at the office to be rewarded with a bonus (even a "measly" one of several tens of thousands of dollars) rather than with declining pension benefits and an eventual pink slip from the private equity fund that acquired the factory they used to work at.


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Dec 25, 2018 - 2:11am

this mentality is why high fun-nance will always be trash and full of stupid hardos. yes it's a privileged position to be in to be making bank for contributing literally nothing to society but it's not wrong to be dissatisfied. if you're openly complaining at work that's one thing, but on a forum sharing thoughts that every half-sane finance professional more than 6 months out of college has had shouldn't be looked down upon

Dec 30, 2018 - 10:12pm

People do not appreciate a desk job until you've carried 70+ lbs of equipment going through narrow holes onto a military ship, then climb back upwards with the very same equipment after a grueling 10-12+ hour shift of hard, back-breaking labor.

Banking is not some cruel position, either. It teaches you how money works and how the business world operates. These skills are all transferable to other corporations, institutions.

Fugue - I worked at the Amazon facilities for awhile. It is hard, fast-paced labor filled with constant lifting at the worse hours. All these people ever dream about is getting a desk job, or a full time job where they are not working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet.

No one is forcing anyone to be here, as this goes for everyone on WSO as well. Either quit to pursue some BS passion or go make that bread and butter, the world doesn't care.

No pain no game.

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Jan 10, 2019 - 9:22pm

I just got back on WSO after a long time... I can't believe this is what posts have come to. Is this like a high level shitpost or trolling? Or is the OP serious?

Think that life in finance sucks? Trying working a minimum wage job. Try working a minimum wage job in a 3rd world country.

"Be the Disruptor, not the Disrupted" - Clayton Christensen
Dec 23, 2018 - 1:18am

donnyboy101 Yes donny, you're the only sane human in the industry. Oh please, won't you come down off Mount Sinai with your tablets of wisdom and shed a ray of light into the benighted lives of the little bitch boys so eagerly rowing the oar you're all shackled to? Not very Christian of you to hoard your knowledge in the season of giving.

In particular, I'm sure your senior managers (the ones with no guts or real business skills) would love to hear the wisdom flowing from your babe-ish mouth. They should promote you to partner immediately so you can right their sinking ship.

Here's my advice to you - recognize that you are in fact the little bitch boy, and your words reek of it. Understand that people generally don't get paid six figure salaries by their firms (and by extension, their clients) over the long-term for "not getting worried" about the outcome of the projects they're structuring and executing. You sound like you have a trust fund, and like you've never really been afraid of anything of consequence in your life. Maybe you're just not cut out to hack it in the world of suits and ties, and that's okay.

Now, go get a shrink to write you a prescription for some xans and pop a couple when you start getting anxious that your Gen Z safe space feels a little infringed upon by mean old boss man. Then, get back to turning those CIM comments!


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Dec 23, 2018 - 9:30am

Overall, I'm enjoying the posts by Fugue and agree with his thoughts. But I also think that maybe donnyboy101 maybe just lacks a little seasoning in the real world.

I think OP should take the advice being given, show some stones, and resign. Then take some of your savings and travel to a series of third world countries. You do have savings, don't you? Something that most Americans can't claim because they don't make anywhere near the salary you do.

I'm not talking about doing some yoga retreat in a "sanitized for your protection" resort in Thailand. Travel to some nations where there's real poverty and suffering and open your eyes to how the world lives and then reflect on how you are not special, you simply won the genetic lottery. Maybe you'll come back from that and beg for your job in finance again, maybe you won't. But it might just help change your perspective on so much complaining.

Dec 23, 2018 - 2:44pm

Solid advice from GoingToBeAnMD (though recognize you may never find your way back into the industy - probably can after pounding on enough doors, though).

You're absolutely right that donnyboy101 just needs some seasoning. I'm not here to hold myself up as someone that's never been a little bitch, as I certainly have. I'm just offering some tough love for donny as well as all the others on this board who may feel they are not up to the challenge, but very well may be after all.


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Dec 24, 2018 - 11:13am


I've found finance to be completely unbearable.

The pay and career development is excellent but the level of work, expectations, and lack of control over your life is not worth any amount of pay.

I don't know what more you were expecting from a job after 1-2 years in the industry. If the level of work in IB is not satisfactory to your standards I dare you to try a "normal" job in other parts of the service industry.

I don't know... Yeah. Almost definitely yes.

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Dec 24, 2018 - 4:39pm


Hi there,

1) You are 23 years old. Too early to panic about being in the wrong place but a GREAT time to look at who you are and what you want to do.
2) Take the Highlands Aptitude Battery. You will get reliable information about what you are good at.
3) Consider doing 360 Reach to get anonymous feedback on how people see you versus how you view yourself.
4) Consider getting a career coach
5) Without #2 you may be shooting in the dark

If you have natural, innate abilities that will make you really good at IB or the ability to learn the needed technical skills quickly - think about staying for a while. If you have the ability to excel even though it is not fun, you will go up the scale and will likely become more bearable or even interesting. Then you can keep your costs low, save up some $ and move on to the next thing when you would like with some $ in your pocket.

If you find out that you should definitely be doing something else because your natural baked in talents will not make you a really good investment banker, figure what you would like to do -- and be really good at -- and do it.

Doing something you enjoy, if it is in business or is monetizable wil mean you will earn what you need or more. A friend of mind just met a guy who produces doll houses and makes furniture for them and sells his stuff globally. He sells a 1 inch doll house desk for $50,000. Some of the furniture he makes are made from gold. Wealthy people in China, the Middle East, northern Europe and elsewhere buy his stuff. I have friend who left business development at a big global company. She spent a lot of time reacquainting herself with the piano. That looked like a real waste of time. Then she started a jewelry company and is making beautiful stuff, some of which is worn by stars in Hollywood. Jonathan Adler was a ceramics major in college and graduated with no clue. Eventually he started an eponymous pottery and home goods retail store chain. I'm sure he is worth millions.

So to recap, you are 23 years old. Keep your job for just a little longer. Use the time and money to get a really solid sense of who you are, what you are interested in, AND what you are innately good at as well as the skills you have learned. Take some long walks or whatever you need to do to marinate on whatever you find out. Then decide to stay or go. And make a plan for whichever you choose. You are 23 so the following may seen alien to you but it is true: 30 years goes by in a flash. Use your time well.

Jan 8, 2019 - 2:43pm

How much does the HAB cost?

"I did it for me...I liked it...I was good at it. And I was really... I was alive."
Dec 24, 2018 - 4:54pm

Separately, when I see some of the responses posted here and how harsh they are, I can see why finance is not so much fun. I started out in investment banking. Many of the people were myotic and harsh.

Dec 24, 2018 - 5:04pm


The ideal state for a finance professional is being in constant terror, afraid that you've made a mistake, afraid that your superior will bitch at you, afraid of taking a risk.

Am I the only sane one, that doesn't want to live a life of** chronic anxiety**?

No OP, it sounds like you are the one that's living in chronic anxiety and afraid of taking risks. Some of use are not terrified of our bosses, or freak out when we get angry emails. Some of us have developed the self confidence and tact to challenge our bosses when required and know when to push back.

The true tier 1 alphas and leaders in finance TAKE risk and are not afraid or living lives of chronic anxiety. Sure the miserable and incompetent ones are - but they are not the ones that matter. Do you think David Tepper or Warren Buffet would write something like you just wrote? Hell, Ray Dalio got fired from his first job for punching his manager over a disagreement.

For better or worse, high finance is pure competition. NO ONE will sit down and simply let you rise to the top. It's an all out war to the top and some are fired up by that, some refuse to play by the rules and start their own shops to rise to the top, some are content not being at the top and making decent wages, and some are so jaded they simply leave all together. But the landscape will not change when the money and fees are so high.

Sounds like you need to stop being so neurotic and worrying so much in life. Chill out. Don't be afraid to piss your boss off sometimes.

If you truly hate finance, then simply quit and find another job. You will have lots of great opportunities to try.

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Dec 25, 2018 - 2:26am

lol this is pure comedy. talking about taking risk in finance, good one. finance is the best career path for risk adverse bros who wanna max out paychecks with taking the least risk. the days of tier 1 alpha dawgs and high fees were like what the 90s/2000s? those days are gone and will never come back.

and yeah nobody is going to let you rise to the top but what industry will? o hai, here's a partner position at McK for showing up! lol this post is such nonsense. doing well in finance has nothing to do with being alpha, it has everything to do being able to take shit and holding your own/being opportunistic

Dec 25, 2018 - 5:37pm

Some great advice on here about life and finance. I've found that the early years are the toughest but it really gets easier as you begin to get in more of a strategic position. Being in the weeds as an analyst sucks in the moment but actually isnt that "terrible" when you look back on it if thats any help.

Jan 7, 2019 - 7:17am

The argument that senior bankers are untalented "or they would have gotten out years ago" is one I hear often but really strikes me as unfounded and quite silly. There are very few jobs where guys in their late 30s and 40s make > $1m / year, and for higher performers $1.5-$3.5m and the highest performers $3.5-$10m / year. As an employee, not an owner or c level executive. How are senior bankers getting comp'd at that level idiots?

Jan 7, 2019 - 4:23pm

not experienced in IB in anyway but why not consider graduate school. It might give you an opportunity to step back and gain a skill. All after some reasonable consideration of places/opportunities you might be open to besides Banking. If you attend an institution with a reasonable reputation (you totally could with no sweat) it would open you up to all kinds of opportunities, expand your network and give you a refreshed perspective on your current state.

Jan 7, 2019 - 7:14pm

The higher you go, the more interesting the job becomes and you also make a lot more money. However, you have to grind to get there. There are many people who enjoy the grind and get as much as they can out of it. Others find it mindless bullshit and move onto other things. They often find there is a bunch of mindless bullshit in any job.

Keep the long-term goal in mind and the grind becomes much easier. Many young people have the inability to separate the short-term from the long-term and their myopic view hinders their ability to advance meaningfully.

Don't hop off the gravy train too early.

Jan 8, 2019 - 2:29am

Yes, increasing expectations and being accountable for your product / service as you progress in your career is pretty much a hallmark of capitalism.

Angel Checks provides background screening services for both Individuals and Corporate. We provide Pre – Employment Background Screening, Post Employment Background Screening, Business Screening.
Jan 8, 2019 - 6:46pm

Hi WSO, I have a serious question.

OP says a sentiment I hear a lot: "anyone smart/sensible gets out." To do what? Isn't everywhere like this, no matter what industry? Doesn't this fit every corporate job there is? What role or function isn't like this?

Thanks for any reply.

Jan 18, 2019 - 11:32am

IB can be rough at first, but the learning is worth it and it does get better / more interesting as you progress. You probably had a bad week. Get over it. Shake it off. You can go do something that demands less of your time, but you will likely find it understimulating after having spent time in IB.

"Anything less than the best is a felony"
Jan 31, 2019 - 8:09am
UK Investment Banking - London
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