We all know banking isn't easy, and I am usually all about encouraging young people to work hard in finance since the long-term benefits to your career can be incredible. But it's good to be realistic about the job - many of us tend to act like heroic titans of finance who love the grind, but this tends to be a coping mechanism driven by insecurity. I'm finally comfortable enough with myself to admit that I cried in the office bathroom a couple of times (we're talking one or two tears here, not full on sobbing, but still).
Here's a short list of things banking did to me (a few details changed to protect my identity):
- Constant heart palpitations due to caffeine/energy drinks/stress
- Carpal tunnel / tendinitis
- Lost a lot of hair
- Put on 25 lbs or more (fat, not muscle)
- Stress lowered my immune response to the point that I got a serious infection that landed me in the hospital (it started out small but spread to my veins)
- Became borderline alcoholic (was having 4-5 drinks every day after work, sometimes before work although not that often)
- Stopped caring about consequences and personal relationships; lost my girlfriend and several friends
- Developed blood clots in my legs that required medical intervention
- Became depressed and chronically anxious
In short, I was not very good at dealing with the stress and intensity of banking. My personal life went into a downward spiral and it took me a couple of years to recover. I'm doing better now, but I've learned that taking care of yourself is paramount in this business. I'm convinced I may have done serious permanent damage to myself if I'd stayed in banking past my 3rd year.
My story has a happy ending, as some of you know. I landed a gig in PE that I very much enjoy, and started putting serious effort into diet, fitness, mental health, and my personal relationships. I am now happily married, no longer abuse alcohol (well, sometimes), and am glad I went through a few years of hell to get to where I am now.
I hope opening up and talking about this does not get interpreted as a dick measuring contest. My intent is to be honest about the cost of going into this business - many people deal with it in better ways than I did, but I know others who went through some serious shit because of the job. To all you future monkeys out there, this post is not meant to discourage you. If I had to do it over again, I would. But I would pay attention to my mental and physical health from day 1 (including my relationships) and I would have been much more careful about not letting myself go. If you go into banking, do so with your eyes wide open and realize that the grind can be extremely rewarding, but also dangerous if you do it wrong.
- Exercise (even 20 minutes a day will go a long way)
- Watch what you eat (that dinner expense policy is a killer, don't order the 20 oz. steak with mac n cheese every night just because you can)
- Take care of your mental health through meditation, introspection, and making an effort to keep up your personal relationships
Someone dear to me summed this up like this: "You are constantly doing things that are good for your career, but you also need to do things that are good for your soul. Without that balance, you won't last in your career and in the end you will lose everything."
Mod Note (Andy): top 50 posts of 2017, this one ranks #4 (based on # of silver bananas)