Is it possible not to get sucked into the finance lifestyle?

Let's say my goal is to put in my years in finance, and (truly) cash out and leave by the time I'm 40, to live a normal, middle class family life with ironclad financial security. This means I'll have to keep my costs low and live like a normal person during this time. This means I marry someone with the same lifestyle expectations that I have. This means we live in a normal house in Jersey. This means my wife and I share a Honda instead of having our own Audis. This means our kids go to public school. This means we might take occasional vacations to the Jersey shore instead of a yearly ski trip in Switzerland. This means eating out is a rare treat.

I see a lot of threads mentioning how MDs in their 50s are shackled to a job they hate because of the cost of their lifestyle, and I'm wondering why they had to end up there in the first place. If I dig the simple life, does it have to hold me back professionally? Would it make me an automatic black sheep in finance? I know that part of success in the workplace is getting along with your peers and fitting in with the "culture". So how much pressure is there to live a certain lifestyle when you and everyone you work with is rich?

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Comments (49)

Best Response
Jan 9, 2018 - 7:39pm

The real question is whats worse - being tied to your high paying job that you dont like very much when you're 50 or "living" frugally as you mentioned when you're in your 20s and 30s... Id take the former, at least you would enjoy your prime years that way. Dont trade off your youth. Also not sure if you're in banking but if thats where you are heading, you'll soon realize after putting in a couple of years that grinding that hard and nickel and diming on everything just makes your life that much more miserable. Coming home to a nice apartment, having solid weekends out with your mates, and taking that occasional vacation to somewhere new is what makes it all worth it. Trust me you will lose your mind otherwise.

Jan 9, 2018 - 9:08pm

I know a guy that held out for 4 years. Just went and bought a european sports car, hired a stylist, started travelling when he could and started dating for the first time since college. He's looking for a swanky new apartment now.

He was especially hard to be around during those years, but he's much happier now.

Working crazy hours, working with crazy people AND living in a shit place, driving a shit car or not owning one at all, no vacations, no nice clothes. That's not a life man. At least not one I want to have. You can try but it'll only last so long. My best advice for you is to take a middle road, you don't have to do one or the other. Try to live off your salary, taking advantage of reimbursed late night dinner/travel, and save or invest your bonus.

Jan 9, 2018 - 9:45pm

I take your point, and I must say I've heard similar sentiments before.

To illustrate a counterpoint, I'll offer you the example of my cousin, who's a dermatologist. She and her husband (a cardiologist) spent their 20s slaving through pre-med, med school, residency, and fellowships. High pressure environment/stupid long hours. Both were lucky enough to have parents who paid their way through college/med school, so they were never chained to debt. In their 30s they both worked full time making close to $1 million/year between them, all the while living the same lifestyle they did while in residency making $50k/year each. They didn't do much in their 20s because of school and training, but they were able to enjoy their 30s by traveling cheaply (for example, they pulled off a 2 week SE Asia trip for less than $700 excluding flights) and having family and friends in close proximity.

They had 2 kids at the end of their 30s. Now, in their early-mid 40s, they both work part time in private practice and have plenty of time to spend with their kids. They could fully retire now and live a pretty normal middle class life, but they like their jobs enough that they both put in part time hours to keep their minds occupied.

I asked her the same question, and she basically said "No, I'm good at my job, and I've gotten all the respect I need at work because of it. No one ever cared what we did with our money." I wouldn't say she or her husband have lost their minds. Their closest friends and family have similar lifestyles, they don't really compare themselves to people they went to school with, and they always knew what their end goal was. They're happy, their kids are happy, and that's all they want.

I know it's possible to pull this off and exit with your mental health intact, at least in medicine. To answer your question, yes I'm in early-career banking, but I probably won't be in IB permanently. My question to those who have more experience with finance culture than I do is this: would I hit a career wall at some point because I'm too aggressively breaking the mold of the banking guy, lifestyle wise?

Jan 11, 2018 - 5:18pm

Why not find a career your passionate about and slave away doing that?

Have a work life balance. Have some fun with money you earn. Be good at your job so when your 40+ you love it and are making bank. If you don't think you would enjoy banking at 50 then why do it in you 20 and 30. I've heard of corporate jobs paying 400k now. Go find one you like. The world has a serious dearth of talent should be something you can find that pays well that you don't have to slave away for twenty years hating it.

Jan 11, 2018 - 5:51pm

My question to those who have more experience with finance culture than I do is this: would I hit a career wall at some point because I'm too aggressively breaking the mold of the banking guy, lifestyle wise?

No, in fact, it's an advantage because even douche bags, don't like working with other douche bags. Just don't live more frugally in a self-righteous sort of way and rub it in other people's faces and you should be just fine. People will actually like you more for it.

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Jan 11, 2018 - 5:55pm

I think you guys are talking about two extremes which is not the real life choices that you're probably thinking about. It's not a choice between living in the ghetto and eating ramen versus living in a nice apartment and driving a BMW. You can live a pretty good life in your early years driving a Toyota and regularly going out with friends to reasonable restaurants and bars with a half decent apartment to call home. When you're young, you really don't need a lot of material things to have a good time.

On a side note, if you're concerned about trading off your youth, you shouldn't do banking...period....end of discussion. My friends who became waiters and bartenders after college had a blast in their 20s while I was stuck in banking drudgery most days....doesn't mean that their path was a great life decision.

Jan 11, 2018 - 11:36pm

True, and just because you have money doesn't mean you need to spend it everywhere.

My MD dresses like a bum outside of work and drives a shit old volvo. But he loves skiing, and frequently takes trips to the world's best locations and puts his kids through elite private schools. You'll naturally focus your funds to the things that you enjoy and are important to you

Jan 10, 2018 - 4:15am

It's doable, but it's not going to be easy. Also, depending on where you live, you may have to send your kids to private schools anyway, because the local schools are terrible. If you want to have access to good public schools, then you'll have to live in the more expensive areas and the normal house would cost you and cut into your savings.

Jan 10, 2018 - 5:14am

I think whether you don't get sucked in depends on your personality, and everyone is different.

None of my friends outside of work were bankers, my partner is extremely smart but not in the corporate world, and my family were well-off, but never did flashy purchases and stressed the importance of hard work and humility. I found it pretty easy to not fall in, and now I have an OK amount of savings earning me money.

Jan 10, 2018 - 11:26am

Not a banker, but it is very easy to get sucked into what I call the "increasing expenses escalator" as you start "making it" in life. I try to be extremely cautious that every expense I add to the roster is either adding disproportionate value to my life or (preferably) is also an investment i.e. rental properties, marketing campaign for business, etc. Can't be buying shit to impress anybody. I wear the same jeans and shirts I wore 8 years ago. Just walked out of 2 car dealerships this weekend because they couldn't show me a deal I loved at 780 credit and having two cars, especially with no kids, is a luxury. I can keep making it work.


Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.
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Jan 10, 2018 - 3:04pm

Easy. Keep your money as illiquid as possible and you'll have trouble spending it on stupid things.

"Work ethic, work ethic" - Vince Vaughn

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Jan 11, 2018 - 3:13pm

Perhaps paradoxically, I have found it easier to control luxury spending being in finance. Everyone else is (or at least seems) so much wealthier than me, I would not be able to impress anyone in my circle even if I tried. Therefore, I just fly under the radar and max out my savings wherever possible.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
Jan 11, 2018 - 3:51pm

My uncle is an anasthesiologist with his own private practice. He pulled up to my parents house on new years day (we do an annual breakfast) in his 2001-2004 (don't remember exact yr) Nissan Pathfinder. Fuck material possesions bro, all about investing in yourself, your family, and experiences.


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Jan 11, 2018 - 5:24pm

If you're trying to save money/live frugally, you can also train yourself to enjoy things that aren't necessarily really expensive. For example, I have a friend from my first job who was in really great shape, but he'd get especially high anxiety from time to time at work and would cheat from his diet to self medicate. Every time he got through a stressful spell, he would go to McDonald's and get a chocolate shake, a double big mac and large fries. For me, there's this drink at Starbucks that I like that is quite frankly embarrassing for any straight male to order and is probably about 10x the amount of sugar someone in their mid-late twenties should be having - that's what I always get myself when I get through a stressful time or as a treat.

The point is, there are definitely times that I like to go out and spend money as a form of therapy (read: get hammered/go on some trip to de-stress), but you can balance it out with cost effective stuff in 'everyday' life.

"Who am I? I'm the guy that does his job. You must be the other guy."
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Dec 21, 2020 - 4:34pm

Even easier then! He can probably go do that at 30, and with compounded growth on early banking savings, live pretty well.ย  Definitely don't need to leave as a 40 year old exec. director/MD

Jan 12, 2018 - 7:24pm

That finance job your thinking of won't exist by the time your 40. Grind it out in your 20's while you have the energy.

Jan 13, 2018 - 2:29am

That finance job your thinking of won't exist by the time your 40. Grind it out in your 20's while you have the energy.


"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 13, 2018 - 11:31am

You'll just start increasing expenses with your increased income to live the lifestyle, most people do this. Except the rare Warren Buffet. Everyone just needs to find the lifestyle they want. Some wouldn't be happy without the house in the Hamptons, etc. I know some people that rent everything, own no assets and get high every night and they are happy.. who am I to question that. I'm happy with my salary that'll never be higher than what a typical IB analyst makes, but I live in a cheap COL city so I have a house and family and a Kia Optima. But I'm okay with the middle class life working 35-40 hours a week of low-stress work. The thought of giving up my life working weekends and nighters like some of you guys is just completely insane to me, but again who am I to question your lifestyle goals. Just be happy fam!

"You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right." -Warren Buffett
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Jan 13, 2018 - 4:46pm

Yup. its called negative lifestyle inflation. people like Robert kiyosaki, Gary vaynerchuk, James altucher talk about this a lot.

some of my friends think they have these good jobs and they're going to be rich in future, but they're just managers at a call centre (cognitive dissonance/confirmation bias of their bosses career path), and they rent the most expensive cars they can get and buy the most expensive house they can find, its crazy, but i'm not going to tell them different.

Jan 14, 2018 - 7:39am

The thing is, if you continue to progress in your career, even with compound interest it hardly matters how much you saved during your early years.
Let's say in your mid 30s you make 1 to 2 million USD per year of which you manage to save >500k USD. It doesn't matter if you spent 2k USD or 4k USD per month on an apartment in your analyst years, because in the end the total cost will be relatively insignificant.

So the real question should be if you would rather live frugally in your 20s and early 30s or work one additional year longer making big dollars before you step down living off your savings (obviously that's not all up to you, but your initial comment implied that you will work in banking until you MD level).

Jan 14, 2018 - 10:59am

1-2M USD in mid thirties? which career?

and where are all the millionaires with their AMA's on WSO?

Jan 14, 2018 - 4:23pm

IBD in 2028 is going to be very different than IBD in 2012 atleastimnotabanker

have never seen an AMA where someone has come to talk about how good their life is or how much money they're making, ever, and can't find one either

Jan 15, 2018 - 10:02am

They wouldn't need to boast, just an AMA to manage expectations, giving back to the community. Plenty of users have been here for 10+ (?) years at this point, I would just like to take a data driven view from verifiable sources.

Feb 23, 2018 - 6:49am

Although not in banking (retail brokerage), I've lived through the cycle. Back in my 20s (30 yrs ago), was making decent money, 100k+, and took a middle of the road path. Lived below our means but wasn't frugal. Felt like it compared to the more flashy types with the Rolex and Beamers. Got to the point where I could do that and didn't because I didn't care about it. Took nice trips though. Got up to the 500k+ world for many yrs and still live a comfortable but reserved life (except paying for private college tuition for two kids which is ridiculous).

I think the key, as already mentioned, is living it up occasionally. If you never celebrate wins, it doesn't feel like winning. I always saved it for special occasions. Taking a really nice family trip without a concern about the cost. Sometimes that 10 days would cost 10k- 15k but it was a blast. Just be controlled about it. 54 and still work but some would consider it part time and still have good cash flow . Saved a lot along the way so I have choices. That's the key.

Feb 23, 2018 - 6:51am

Personally I realized how much I valued my family and friends and since I finished my analyst stint, I have made sure to make the most of the time I have with them. After two years of lonely nights at the office and little time for a social life, you value those things a lot more.

I also know people that had the opposite reaction and became much more cold and unfriendly afterward, where they couldn't really shake the banker mindset. Don't be like those people.

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