12/12/14

Mod Note (Andy): Each day we'll be posting the top WSO forum posts of 2014. This one was originally posted on 2/23/14 and ranks #26 for the year by total silver banana count. You can see all our top ranked content here.

So everything comes full circle. I've been coming on this website for 7 years now. It was a huge source of information when I was first learning about the industry. I was super eager and literally read every single post from a few of the contributors that I respected (big shout out to Bondarb). Over time, I became more of a contributor, under a few different screen names, and eventually my participation faded out. There seems to be a pretty high correlation between my level of WSO usage and the passion I felt for what I was doing.

More and more, I have been thinking about leaving the buyside. I say the buyside (and the industry) as a whole, because I don't think any of this would get fixed by hopping to another firm. I have had fairly broad exposure with hedge funds so I know the pros and cons of various kinds of gigs. I can objectively say that my current seat is pretty damn good - tons of responsibility, see a path towards becoming a PM, covering a space that I like, PM is a nice guy. So what's the problem?

To start, my lifestyle is awful. I am basically working 7 days a week and I feel like I am always falling behind. I have zero time to myself, even when I am not working, I am thinking about my book. My coverage is broad, and marrying that with an investment style that is very labor intensive, basically makes it impossible to keep up. To make it clear, I know pretty conclusively that this will never change. So there's no light at the end of the tunnel.

Even worse is the constant emotional strain. Call me a pussy, but I think this job makes me feel like shit 90% of the time, because it's "why the fuck did I buy/short that" when I'm losing money, or "why the fuck wasn't I more aggressive" when I'm making money. And I'm constantly beating myself up for missing opportunities that are obvious in hindsight. I don't think this will change - this is how I'm wired. To me, this is perhaps the most compelling justification to leave, because I feel that others are better suited to handle the mental strain, and also because maintaining a positive psychological state is very important to me. I was not some coddled rich kid, I have gone through many struggles in my life, but I just wonder whether all of this is worth it to make a bunch of money.

My seat is good enough that I can make 7 figures going forward assuming solid performance. The thing is, I just don't know if that matters. I have been doing a lot of introspection over the last year, and always feel a little empty because I know I am not contributing anything to society. I don't really care about money - I have some nice things but don't need more of them, my lifestyle overall is fairly frugal, and the only thing that I would really need money for is traveling, which I cannot do right now anyways. I suppose the only thing I need the money for, is to make me feel good about myself. I will be really honest - it is just a way of keeping score. I don't have much of an intrinsic need for money. I also don't really have a need to win just for the sake of winning. I think this is why most hedge funds like to hire athletes, and they are probably right in doing so. I would think of myself as more of the intellectual type, and I enjoy the challenge of finding the answer, but that's about it. It just feels like such a sisyphean grind where I am never building anything. Every day, month, year - I am starting from scratch. Ever since I was young, I wanted to build something, and keeping improving it.

Finally, there are certain aspects of the job that I know I am great at, and others that I know I am not. I won't be too specific here, but the things that I am great at, they could be pretty valuable as an entrepreneur. The things that I am not great at, is likely the reason I feel so much strain, as I am using sheer force of will to keep myself in line.

There are a few things trying to talk me off the ledge. I have a voice in my head that says "don't be a quitter". Indeed I have persevered through a lot in my life, so this would really be the first time I have truly backed away from something that was difficult. I have put so much into this already, and not too long ago, I was so obsessed with the idea of becoming a PM and crushing it. I am afraid of regret - I am basically on the verge of becoming pretty rich in a few years if I just stick it out. I know I have a job that most people would kill for, and so I don't want to give up something of value. Being well seasoned in the hedge fund mindset, I also wonder whether leaving finance to start a company is "the consensus trade" or whether I am "puking a position on its lows".

There have certainly been times when I felt a lot of passion for this job and found it to be exhilarating. But more and more, I find it to be completely exhausting. I haven't seen my friends in months, my health is deteriorating, I now exclusively dream about my positions and sometimes wake up panicked. At the end of the day, my goal is to have an interesting life, not necessarily a wealthy and accomplished one. I have some money saved up so I can live comfortably for a few years and figure things out. So I'd love to get some feedback from you guys (people actually on the buyside or ex-buyside) - am I fucking crazy?

Comments (116)

2/23/14

Nothing to contribute, but I'm glad you're introspective and definitely am interested in hearing CU's responses to this conundrum.

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2/23/14

If you're losing your health, never see your friends, and are always stressed out by work -- how can it be worth still doing it? I think the most important thing for you to figure out is if you can change your mentality and lower your stress level so that you're not beating yourself up about bad trades / not being aggressive enough about good ones. Try seeing a therapist or sports psychologist or something like that. Then also see if you can lower the labor intensity of your investment style...

If you can't do these...do you really want to live your life being miserable?

2/23/14

Sounds like you've come to the right conclusions, but the one other thing you might want to consider is that not every seat/investment philosophy/firm would make you feel the same way. There are plenty of great investors who have solid work-life balance - hint, it helps to be longer term-oriented in your investment approach. Psychologically, you are a price taker and you have to accept that. True, you can never really turn off thinking about your book, but if you love investing that part isn't work. Being in the office on weekends, beating yourself up about price moves, and burning out, on the other hand, just aren't requirements for success in this industry. Especially if you're willing to be flexible in terms of how much money you make. If you like the basic role enough, go find a new seat that's at less of a sweatshop.

2/23/14

If I were in your situation I would take a long vacation and just unplug from everything. I'm talking like a month or longer just sitting on a beach or taking a train across Europe, doesn't really matter. I've been in similar situations before when it feels like no matter what you / how hard you work you can't get ahead and everything is just piling on. It's absolutely suffocating and nearly impossible to get some perspective on the situation. Everyone is different, but totally disconnecting myself helped a lot. And getting away will allow you to hit the 'reset' button per se and come back ready to work or solidify your decision to do something different.

But, I'm not sure why you think entrepreneurship is going to be any different than your current lifestyle. If you talk to any entrepreneur they'll tell you they work non - stop seven days a week and their business is their life. You're going to spend as much time worrying about your business as you do your book right now. And I'm not sure how much (if any) of your capital is invested in your current fund, but as an entrepreneur you're certainly going to have to invest considerably which isn't going to be less stressful for you at all.

You're certainly not crazy for considering making a change given the information you've provided here. Your personal/mental health isn't anything to mess around with / not take seriously. I'd just caution you about making a huge decision without really making an effort to step back and think about it first.

patternfinder:

Of course, I would just buy in scales.

See my WSO Blog | my AMA

2/23/14

This is such a massive generalization on my part because I don't know you personally, but while reading your post, all of the things that you portrayed as negatives were essentially the reasons why I love this job so much. Perhaps the novelty of it was enough for it to be tolerable for a few years but now it's just waned on you and you weren't necessarily wired for that sort of work in the first place? Now given, as an earlier poster said, some investing jobs are very different than others, so it's not like the "buyside" as a whole is going to be just like whatever your current responsibilities are. But if you can't put a finger on where exactly you'd want to go from here within the realm of finance, then maybe it really is time to move on. I'd also warn though that starting up a company from nothing is probably going to be even more stressful mentally and on your social life.

I'm assuming you came from a liberal arts background and not a business one (solely on your use of the word Sisyphean, which I have no clue the meaning of but will again ignorantly assume must be something philosophical) and perhaps that is part of the "not contributing to society" feeling as well. I think most people in the investing sphere find a way to justify their social value before they actually enter the work force, but I know plenty of people who have left for some form of this reason... I think it's just part of the way you're wired, like you'd mentioned about a few other things. Personally I don't understand why my job should need to have value to everyone else so long as it has value to me and my loved ones, but to each their own.

I wouldn't go off the rails and make too quick a decision just in case it's a passing state of mind (we've all had the week or two where we were ready to call it quits, I think) but if it's not, better men than I have done the same, and nobody can blame you - the job can start to suck very quick and it definitely doesn't help that Wall Street is populated with assholes. Keep us updated, best of luck.

I hate victims who respect their executioners

2/23/14

Curious of what kind of strategy you're running. As others have mentioned, lifestyle isn't flat across the board. With your background you could easily find a gig where you're in 8-5, no weekends. If you love investing, then you'll find a way to morph into a role that's more suitable for your risk tolerance/lifestyle.

2/23/14

@"endoftheroad" @"BlackHat" I don't have buy side/hedge fund experience, but I have to ask you two: do you both simply take for granted that hedge funds "don't contribute to society," as OP put it?

Seems to me that HFs are a necessary consequence of free capital markets, and are necessary for the capital markets to function anywhere near the "efficiency" that is assumed in countless influential economic and financial formulas/theories. Can one of you elaborate on why you feel that HFs don't contribute to society, if that is indeed how you feel?

2/24/14

hankyfootball:

@endoftheroad @BlackHat I don't have buy side/hedge fund experience, but I have to ask you two: do you both simply take for granted that hedge funds "don't contribute to society," as OP put it?

Seems to me that HFs are a necessary consequence of free capital markets, and are necessary for the capital markets to function anywhere near the "efficiency" that is assumed in countless influential economic and financial formulas/theories. Can one of you elaborate on why you feel that HFs don't contribute to society, if that is indeed how you feel?

I don't feel like funds contribute to society in the traditional sense and are not necessary for the capital market. I guess I have a glass half-empty view of our profession and I think anyone who disagree is more likely lying to themselves.

So why do I do it? Because the job is meaningful to me. It maximizes my happiness more than any other job I can imagine and I'm not interested I being a martyr at a job I hate for society's sake.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KarateBoy

2/23/14

Life is too short to go through it unhappy. Take a long vacation, unwind and think about what you really want out of life. Maybe you are just too stressed out and need to find better ways to deal with it. If you do truly want to leave then just do it, don't look back and go build the life you want. No amount of money is worth be miserable.

2/23/14

I'll weigh in briefly on the social value of hedge funds. My boss states that there is unequivocally no social value in the work. He is incredibly philanthropic and a great person, but realizes that generating great returns is not saving the world.

I 95% agree with him, but also feel like if you have a client base that is primarily endowment/pension/charitable foundation based that you are in some minuscule way helping to pay for scholarships, retirement plans, medical research, etc.

2/23/14

Gray Fox:

I'll weigh in briefly on the social value of hedge funds. My boss states that there is unequivocally no social value in the work. He is incredibly philanthropic and a great person, but realizes that generating great returns is not saving the world.

I 95% agree with him, but also feel like if you have a client base that is primarily endowment/pension/charitable foundation based that you are in some minuscule way helping to pay for scholarships, retirement plans, medical research, etc.

I don't understand why it needs to have social value, but plenty of people seem to care, and we've had the same discussion around the lunchroom or wherever. General consensus is something along the lines of needing to give back above and beyond just doing your job. There's an argument to be made that you're helping keep markets more efficient which means the best companies get the better access to capital and all that, but mostly it's just the "rich leading the rich," and everyone likes to say that's a very bad thing.

I hate victims who respect their executioners

2/23/14

BlackHat:

Gray Fox:

I'll weigh in briefly on the social value of hedge funds. My boss states that there is unequivocally no social value in the work. He is incredibly philanthropic and a great person, but realizes that generating great returns is not saving the world.

I 95% agree with him, but also feel like if you have a client base that is primarily endowment/pension/charitable foundation based that you are in some minuscule way helping to pay for scholarships, retirement plans, medical research, etc.

I don't understand why it needs to have social value, but plenty of people seem to care, and we've had the same discussion around the lunchroom or wherever. General consensus is something along the lines of needing to give back above and beyond just doing your job. There's an argument to be made that you're helping keep markets more efficient which means the best companies get the better access to capital and all that, but mostly it's just the "rich leading the rich," and everyone likes to say that's a very bad thing.

Totally agree that it doesn't need to have social value. Saving the gay baby whales and singing kumbaya isn't my style.

2/25/14

Gray Fox:

BlackHat:
Gray Fox:

I'll weigh in briefly on the social value of hedge funds. My boss states that there is unequivocally no social value in the work. He is incredibly philanthropic and a great person, but realizes that generating great returns is not saving the world.

I 95% agree with him, but also feel like if you have a client base that is primarily endowment/pension/charitable foundation based that you are in some minuscule way helping to pay for scholarships, retirement plans, medical research, etc.

I don't understand why it needs to have social value, but plenty of people seem to care, and we've had the same discussion around the lunchroom or wherever. General consensus is something along the lines of needing to give back above and beyond just doing your job. There's an argument to be made that you're helping keep markets more efficient which means the best companies get the better access to capital and all that, but mostly it's just the "rich leading the rich," and everyone likes to say that's a very bad thing.

Totally agree that it doesn't need to have social value. Saving the gay baby whales and singing kumbaya isn't my style.


Haha.

Look, that's not an "explosion"
It's just a rapid unscheduled disassembly

2/28/14

One of the funniest things I have seen on here in a while. Hats off to you, sir.

2/23/14

OP, I hear what you're saying. But I will mention that there are various buyside or "buyside-like" roles that aren't quite as emotionally taxing as the hedge fund one you've described. I don't think being an entrepeneur is going to fix most of the problems you're currently having, except for maybe the social value one (which I personally think is trivial anyway...you can add social value by charitable donation if you are so inclined).

2/23/14

Either you're going through an unfortunate phase or this gig isn't for you. From your description, sounds like it's the latter. It could be that your temperament is just not suited to this type of work and you would just be making things worse if you keep doing it. I have met people who have given up trading and went on to do other things (within or entirely outside finance). There's nothing wrong with that.

As others have suggested, go on vacation, think about stuff and you'll make the right decision, I'm sure. Best of luck to you regardless.

P.S.: The use of "sisyphean" is truly sesquipedalian :)!

2/23/14

Aside from contributing to efficient capital allocation, which is a benefit underrated by society at large in terms of importance, can't funds also help society by protecting and increasing the savings of regular people? Surely there is some nobility to helping people save for retirement, pay for their children's educations, and increase their purchasing power rather than have it erode with inflation.

Presumably, short sellers and activist funds also benefit society by serving as an effective check to management incompetence and accounting fraud.

2/23/14

At the end of the day isn't it all about happiness? If you aren't happy and don't see a clear path to happiness, it's time to make a change.

2/24/14

You should quit. You sound pretty miserable. I was in your shoes as a web developer--I wasn't making the money you are and didn't have as prestigious a job, but I was pretty much at the top of my game. I could have interviewed at Google, Facebook and landed an offer just due to sheer experience and senority in my career. I had (and still have) recruiters banging down my door (cellphone) daily trying to lure me in for an interview for their client But I was bored as hell with the work. I subconsciously sabotaged my interviews with good companies because I didn't want to work as a web developer anymore. Right now when I talk to my classmates they're actually envious of me and say they wished they had as much knowledge/experience so they could land a job in the industry as easily. But yeah, even if other people think you've got something good, it won't matter if you don't think it's good.

I think if your heart's not in it every step is just torture and misery. Added to the fact that your health is deteriorating makes this sound like a pretty crappy career. What good is all that money if you are losing your health and have no time to enjoy the money you earn? I found that something that made a difference for me when I got heart palpitations from stress was to take something like a sabbatical. You have so much money, so what if you take off for 6 months and think things over? Jobs will still be there for you when you go back. I went back to school for a master's which has its own kinds of stress, but I no longer have heart palpitations. Try taking a good 6 months or year off to recharge, then think about what you want to do with the rest of your life.

2/23/14

OP -- How have your returns been lately? I assume that could be a factor.

Also, I like the suggestion of a long vacation, assuming you can pull that off without significant interruption.

2/23/14

Awesome post, I'd have to say I'm a bit surprised to see a buy-sider under so much stress. Most of the guys I know have better lifestyles than the sell side, even though the psychological aspects of skin in the market can be tough.
I would have to agree with some other posters, perhaps you could go to a long only shop with greater sector focus and that could help free up your time. I would not leave the buy-side without trying out at least a less aggressive fund strategy.

I'm not sure if you came from the sell-side, but that is a job that fucking blows even though there is better security for some positions (never any real security in any of this obv).

It sounds to me like you've climbed Maslow's/your hierarchy of needs and don't think its worth it anymore. Thing is, other jobs carry other issues. Climbing corp ladder is can be mind numbing, long and slow. Sell-side is obv a step back. PE megafunds are going to work you pretty damn hard too and M&A or LBO diligence sucks ass compared to putting an investment thesis together in my opinion.

Guess what I'm trying to say is, hang in there, look at some other shops but I wouldn't go out cold turkey even though you may be reaching pain threshold at this time.

2/23/14

I appreciate all the thoughtful responses. Definitely gives me a lot to think about.

Taking a vacation would be a non-starter - if you guys have the latitude to take months off at a time, would love to know where you work. I've been at a few different shops with varying time horizons and they were all the same. Basically, if I want time to think about things, I'd have to quit. Certainly tempting to sit on a beach for 6 months and then figure things out afterwards, but it would be fairly irresponsible to jump without at least having some semblance of a plan. The one thing I'll note is that I've been thinking about this on and off for a while. The stress part comes and goes depending on streaks of performance, but the lifestyle and lack of meaning are persistent issues.

2/23/14

I meant long vacation as in two weeks. That could make a big difference.

2/23/14

@"Bondarb"

2/23/14

A lot of people think of buyside as the Holy Grail of careers, which is fine nothing wrong with that, but for others it's just a job. You are just someone who hates his job. No big deal. The fact that it's buyside doesn't mean you are crazy. There are professional athletes that up and quit because they just don't like it anymore. I was with a good PE firm,got paid well, but I found the work a bit mundane so I left. It happens. Just because I found P/E boring doesn't mean I'm crazy. Maybe in the eyes of people who love it but to each his/her own.

Good luck and follow your dreams before they pass you up.

2/24/14

I'm not sure I agree with the sentiment behind the vacation advice at all. In general you shouldn't keep forcing yourself through any situation you are miserable in, regardless of whether a temporary furlough recharges you enough to let you keep doing it a little bit longer before you have the same existential crisis. A vacation is just a band-aid.

2/24/14

Going Concern:

I'm not sure I agree with the sentiment behind the vacation advice at all. In general you shouldn't keep forcing yourself through any situation you are miserable in, regardless of whether a temporary furlough recharges you enough to let you keep doing it a little bit longer before you have the same existential crisis. A vacation is just a band-aid.

Yes, but it does let you get out of the grind and try to figure out what's important. You sometimes need to step back to see what you actually care about.
2/24/14

DickFuld:

Going Concern:

I'm not sure I agree with the sentiment behind the vacation advice at all. In general you shouldn't keep forcing yourself through any situation you are miserable in, regardless of whether a temporary furlough recharges you enough to let you keep doing it a little bit longer before you have the same existential crisis. A vacation is just a band-aid.

Yes, but it does let you get out of the grind and try to figure out what's important. You sometimes need to step back to see what you actually care about.

That's true...I guess it depends on the mindset. If you go on a vacation and simply enjoy it without doing any thinking then it isn't really helping your situation. If you spend at least some of the time with introspection then it could be good.

Best Response
2/24/14

I'll share my experience. I quit a partner track alts gig that would make many of the kids on this forum drool. I quit to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities within finance/the buy side. I was both burnt out and had the same existential issues with the job that you do. I figured I could build something my way, using the skills I already had, and get a fantastic return on my time, with uncapped upside if things worked out.

Well, it didn't work out for a couple of years, and I can tell you definitively that it was a lot harder to be constantly poor as an entrepreneur, than it was to be cashing checks as an existentially challenged but well paid employee. Also, while it was briefly refreshing to go from constantly busy and in contact with smart people to making my own schedule and dealing primarily with myself, that effect wore off and became mentally challenging and almost depressing. There will be days, if you quit, where you will look very fondly at your current level of activity through nostalgic, rose-colored glasses... That intellectual stimulation is very difficult to replicate outside of a high performing institution. There were (and frankly still are) days when I feel like a shark swimming too slow to get water in my gills, which is unnerving.

Meanwhile, life tends to become more complicated and more expensive as you go along. Spouses happen. Children happen. Illness happens. If these things happen to you while you're a new entrepreneur at the bottom of the j-curve, it's going to knock decades off your life expectancy. My experience has been, to paraphrase the old maxim, that money, like sex, is only something you care about when you don't have enough of it. So don't discount money.

I did cross positive on the j-curve (vs. the partner track gig) about a year and a half ago, and continue to be in a strong updraft. If I keep doing what I'm doing, I will achieve financial independence (which, NUGGET OF WISDOM, is when your investable assets are at a level where the sustainable returns on those assets exceed the sum of inflation and your cost of living) at a relatively young age. And yet I'm not sure, in retrospect, that the cost of this path was really worth it, given one fact that you seem to have in common: I could have achieved financial independence with much less risk, as an employee, by simply showing up to the office for a few more years.

Take that for what you will.

and re: the utility of alts investments -- If you exclude alts managers from the group you are calling "society," then alts are in fact massively net negative from a social utility standpoint. Making money for one group of investors is zero sum vs. other investors, so creating wealth for your clients does not equate to increasing society's overall pie. And the friction costs of alt fees are f'ing massive, and are often paid over and over by the same LPs to different managers trading the same assets.

2/24/14

Good post...when you talk about financial independence, are you assuming your cost of living is relatively fixed/sticky? People's lifestyles usually adjust upwards with increasing wealth and assets, though not necessarily linearly.

2/24/14

So many nuggets of wisdom in here. I'd throw more SBs if I could.

RLC1:

Meanwhile, life tends to become more complicated and more expensive as you go along. Spouses happen. Children happen. Illness happens. If these things happen to you while you're a new entrepreneur at the bottom of the j-curve, it's going to knock decades off your life expectancy. My experience has been, to paraphrase the old maxim, that money, like sex, is only something you care about when you don't have enough of it. So don't discount money.

I did cross positive on the j-curve (vs. the partner track gig) about a year and a half ago, and continue to be in a strong updraft. If I keep doing what I'm doing, I will achieve financial independence (which, NUGGET OF WISDOM, is when your investable assets are at a level where the sustainable returns on those assets exceed the sum of inflation and your cost of living) at a relatively young age. And yet I'm not sure, in retrospect, that the cost of this path was really worth it, given one fact that you seem to have in common: I could have achieved financial independence with much less risk, as an employee, by simply showing up to the office for a few more years.

.

2/24/14

RLC1:

I'll share my experience. I quit a partner track alts gig that would make many of the kids on this forum drool. I quit to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities within finance/the buy side. I was both burnt out and had the same existential issues with the job that you do. I figured I could build something my way, using the skills I already had, and get a fantastic return on my time, with uncapped upside if things worked out.

Well, it didn't work out for a couple of years, and I can tell you definitively that it was a lot harder to be constantly poor as an entrepreneur, than it was to be cashing checks as an existentially challenged but well paid employee. Also, while it was briefly refreshing to go from constantly busy and in contact with smart people to making my own schedule and dealing primarily with myself, that effect wore off and became mentally challenging and almost depressing. There will be days, if you quit, where you will look very fondly at your current level of activity through nostalgic, rose-colored glasses... That intellectual stimulation is very difficult to replicate outside of a high performing institution. There were (and frankly still are) days when I feel like a shark swimming too slow to get water in my gills, which is unnerving.

Meanwhile, life tends to become more complicated and more expensive as you go along. Spouses happen. Children happen. Illness happens. If these things happen to you while you're a new entrepreneur at the bottom of the j-curve, it's going to knock decades off your life expectancy. My experience has been, to paraphrase the old maxim, that money, like sex, is only something you care about when you don't have enough of it. So don't discount money.

I did cross positive on the j-curve (vs. the partner track gig) about a year and a half ago, and continue to be in a strong updraft. If I keep doing what I'm doing, I will achieve financial independence (which, NUGGET OF WISDOM, is when your investable assets are at a level where the sustainable returns on those assets exceed the sum of inflation and your cost of living) at a relatively young age. And yet I'm not sure, in retrospect, that the cost of this path was really worth it, given one fact that you seem to have in common: I could have achieved financial independence with much less risk, as an employee, by simply showing up to the office for a few more years.

Take that for what you will.

and re: the utility of alts investments -- If you exclude alts managers from the group you are calling "society," then alts are in fact massively net negative from a social utility standpoint. Making money for one group of investors is zero sum vs. other investors, so creating wealth for your clients does not equate to increasing society's overall pie. And the friction costs of alt fees are f'ing massive, and are often paid over and over by the same LPs to different managers trading the same assets.

Nice take - just a thought - what if OP doesn't want to go to the exact opposite end of the spectrum? He can still move to a different industry/firm with better hours/decent pay

speed boost blaze

2/24/14

How about working for a university/hospital endowment fund? Making money to cover the cost of surgery for disadvantaged children would be a meaningful thing to do.

2/24/14

Why not switch over to a less-demanding firm that still lets you use your skill set while also starting something on the side? I am in the middle of doing the same thing (I'm the briefcase / wallet guy, haha) and find having a gig that pays decently well while giving you time and freedom to work on your own thing is enjoyable.

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2/24/14

Side note - if you could legitimately clear like $500K or more this year, just aim for that and then take some time off and do whatever you want.

2/24/14

Thank you for the insight, RLC1. Congrats on making it happen.

My main fear, of course, is regret. But I honestly wonder whether I would last regardless - my returns have been strong thus far but there are reasons for me to believe that the investment style I am operating within is not fully congruent with my strengths or internal philosophy. I think it would be a matter of time until I fell apart. At the same time, while jumping ship may make things easier, I do view a different path as being highly exciting in a way that staying in finance wouldn't be. Ever since I was young, I had always wanted to be part of something that I really believed in. I know it's cheesy, but I think of quotes like those below from Steve Jobs, and think about what choice I would regret less on my deathbed. I'll note that I am very unconventional in my attitudes and values, which makes it strange that I fell into finance in the first place. Worst comes to worst, my thinking is that I could crawl back to finance and get some kind of job that would support me - basically I would be exchanging a long position on a high quality stock for the combination of a low strike put option (so some downside protection but would still take a big hit) and way out of the money call option on a high beta stock.

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

"I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next."

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

"The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again -- less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."

2/24/14

You said you aren't driven by the need to win for the sake of winning like most athletes who are hired, but you sound like a smart guy - don't you feel at all compelled to test your wits against the market and outsmart all the other proles?

2/24/14

In all seriousness, why do you need to outright drop everything to pursue something on your own? It doesn't need to be a zero-sum game. Start something on the side, find something you can work on in your spare time, and then take it from there.

Seriously, why not find something a bit more chill where you can focus your free time on creative endeavors? Going full-blown tabula rasa might sound appealing, but if you've got no real ideas (or no real ideas that have any traction), you may quickly feel a very different sense of dread.

2/25/14

TheKing:
Going full-blown tabula rasa might sound appealing, but if you've got no real ideas (or no real ideas that have any traction), you may quickly feel a very different sense of dread.

This is spot on...speaking vaguely from experience. It's all about baby steps unless you don't mind your emotional entrails being sloshed around.

12/12/14

What spare time?

2/25/14

TheKing - I applaud your endeavors. The things I had in mind were fairly big in scope so would definitely be an all-or-nothing proposition. I don't want to be too specific as that would give away the sector that I cover - would probably narrow me down to a handful of possibilities given what I've already said thus far.

All - Again, I appreciate all the feedback. I will give other buyside roles some thought. To those of you on the long-only side - would love to learn more about your roles. Part of my strain is certainly that of a long-term focused investment philosophy trying to fit itself into a higher-velocity model.

2/25/14

Market efficiency creates social value, and it is the competition among many investment firms which leads to this. Not saying that this justifies your reason to want a career in investments, but to those saying that it doesn't help society or even has a negative net effect, STFU.

2/25/14

Fuck social value, if everyone had to justify how their job made the world a better place we could put the protesting hippies that have no job at the top of the list of social drags.

Now onto the position you find yourself in. I left my job at a HF where I had little to no real responsibility, work wasn't demanding and I had plenty of time outside of work. But to me it just wasn't fulfilling, I didn't want to take that track long term and I didn't need the job.

Starting a company is not for the faint of heart, of people I know who have succeeded at this and the people have failed it rarely comes down to the product or market they chose to enter, although you could easily find yourself out of business selling snow mobiles in the jungle. The biggest factors in success and failure is the people who do it. Those who over plan and are too meticilous tend to fail because they are too busy planning on how to capatalize on an opportunity that it passes them by with out their notice, those who don't plan at all tend to fail as well for obvious reasons. I feel you have to have a few key factors, grit, determination, thick skin, smarts, but mostly you have to have a mind set that if you fail its just a failure not a direct reflection on yourself. You will need to pick yourself up and try again. Failures are our best learning opportunities, successes often make use rest on our laurels and not continue to innovate and push forward.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

2/25/14

You're the fuckin man. Takes a set to even consider what you are considering this day and age. Hats off to you. I hope you make the right choice for yourself in the end.

2/25/14

PS, Can I have your stuff?

2/25/14

I'm on the iPad and accidentally hit the ms and dont even know how. Did not mean to throw that but cant undo and can't seem to award a banana but if someone else will do it then ill cover them for it.... Sorry man.

2/26/14

Haha, all good man. Appreciate the explanation and someone was generous enough to hit me with an SB. No problems

2/25/14

Start a brewing company.

2/25/14

We're all going to miss IP. Happy trails.

2/25/14

Consider a bad (and possibly likely) outcome from this decision:

You end up in a more average job where you make in the 50-150k/year range. You have to deal with a lot more bullshit from people who outrank you in your company but aren't as smart as you. You don't get the same intellectual stimulation from your job. You're sometimes hit with a nagging feeling that you're not reaching your potential. You are in better health. You're less stressed out. You have more time to hang out with friends, develop hobbies, read books, smell the roses. You smile more.

If the trade I described seems like a good one (I think it would be for the vast majority of humans) then you should leave. But you should give careful consideration to the risks and downsides.

2/25/14

I hope everything works out for you man. I'm no where near buy-side, so probably can't contribute much. But I'm sure with your skills and entrepreneurial interests, you can easily make big things happen in Corp Dev/Strategic BizDev. If you want to stay in investing though, I agree with comments on longer-term investing (aka Value Investing - Benjamin Graham/Warren Buffet) philosophies. I have personally met value investing hedge fund managers whose lifestyle and mental strain on trading is not nearly as bad since it's long-term based.

I am glad you decided to write about it and hope all works out!

2/26/14

@"endoftheroad" I lol'd right here: "I now exclusively dream about my positions and sometimes wake up panicked"

I do something very different than you do for a living, and this totally happens to me all the time. It does frustrate me greatly when it happens, but I get over it. I would bet the stresses and uncertainty that @"RLC1" experienced while branching off on his/her own will still yield similar problems in your life.

My opinion - you're almost at the top of your totem pole, so why not get to the top and then take a look around to scratch that 'contribute to society' itch? I promise you all, after 'contributing to society' for so long, it loses it's feel-good value just like doing anything for too long loses its excitement.

Take a vacation like others suggested. Remind yourself that all the commitment you've given, and hard work you've done does have its rewards.

2/26/14

VanillaGorilla:

My opinion - you're almost at the top of your totem pole, so why not get to the top and then take a look around to scratch that 'contribute to society' itch? I promise you all, after 'contributing to society' for so long, it loses it's feel-good value just like doing anything for too long loses its excitement.

Great point. I'm not the type of person that 'volunteers' or 'gives back', but I could imagine that it must be frustrating to work at the homeless shelter (or insert favorite cause here) to find that once you get past the initial excitement of being able to help people and actually get to know all the people you're helping; you just really don't care that much about them or it just becomes a chore like almost anything else you do in life.
2/26/14

If you would really want to do something big for the society, go make the 7 figures and donate them to charity ;-).

2/26/14

You don't have to "feel good" about helping people out, you just have to do it. I volunteer once in a while, and I almost never really enjoy it as there's almost always something 'more fun' you could do. But it doesn't matter, it's important and it's humbling / helps give perspective

2/26/14

To the OP, it's a tough situation. But I think you already have the answer. Once you hit the point you have, I don't think it's easy to come back from it without some drastic change. You're obviously a smart person, so think through a bit strategically how you will exit and what you plan to do after (whether it's a different job or traveling or whatever) and go from there.

2/26/14

Wow, lots of great information / perspective in this thread. Specifically, I agree with a great deal of the posts from @"TheKing", @"Going Concern" and @"RLC1". SBs all around.

First off, I disagree with the suggestions that taking an extended vacation is a viable solution to your situation. It may be a critical element interspersed between your current gig and your next pursuit, but it's difficult for me to imagine that taking time off will prove the existential cure.

I also think you'd be a fool to confine yourself to a job that you so clearly do not enjoy. As it seems you've realized, one has a limited use for money, and above a certain level, it's a luxury rather than a necessity. Once one has reached that income threshold, it's easy to conflate the disuse of marginal income dollars with the platitude "money isn't important". I don't plan to stay in this industry in the long-term, but what time I do spend in it I hope will lead me to the point where the interest on my savings can support my lifestyle regardless of profession.

That financial liberty is valuable beyond whatever psychological burden I lay upon my shoulders by pursuing a profession that doesn't optimize my personal satisfaction. You'll never achieve ultimate satisfaction so long as you have external forces subduing your autonomy. We have plenty of cultural institutions that, for socially beneficial reasons, sanction such lifestyle conscription (if you will): marriage, child rearing, religion, luxury, careerism and the idea of cosmic purpose. I render no judgment against any of these institutions other than to point out that belonging to any of them is the result personal choice rather than compulsion. You are not required to have a spouse or a child, a religious affiliation or career track, a sense of purpose or desire for abstract meaning; and, indeed, each of these is restrictive to your liberty. Yet many people choose to sacrifice autonomy for participation.

I mention this only because I worry that your post contains a discomforting amount of what I would call "cultural rhetoric". Ostensibly, you've invested a lot of self-worth in your occupation, which seems to be the root of your current predicament. I am reminded of the Ivy League graduates working at BBs who report feeling like "failures" when they don't get that offer from a MF or the HF of their choosing or undergrads who feel similarly when they end up at a "lower tier" BB. In both cases, there is most certainly value in what they failed to achieve. Getting a more competitive job and a revered firm confers benefits to the recipient and in my experience, candidates are unlikely to be consoled by cheap catchphrases like "those funds are sweatshops anyways, and the people who pursue such jobs are obsessed with prestige anyways." And to the extent they accept such encouragement, they merely revise history ("I never wanted to work for those firms anyways") and exchange one form of superficiality for another ("I'm not a 'prestige whore', I'd rather to do something more 'meaningful' that gives me a better 'lifestyle'").

The problem with feeling like a "failure" while sitting in a classroom at one of the most competitive institutions in the world is the rigidity of their value framework and the amount of self-worth they have invested in such obverse success. They are measuring the value of their occupation on a continuum that has been culturalized within an Ivy in-group, which has alarmingly distorted their definition of "failure". As well, they have invested so much self-worth in said continuum that, despite their achievements, they experience the same visceral melancholy as wildly less successful peers do.

Units of importance such as "social value" or "prestige" or "compensation" or "purpose" or "significance" or "meaning" are all equally vapid. It seems you reached the point where you've determined that there is little substance to the devil-may-care pursuit of compensation or prestige. Identically, my friends working as doctors or at NGOs have made such determinations about the "social value" and "meaningfulness" units. They are unsatisfied, as you are, because they have invested self-worth in the cosmic importance of their measurement units, only to have revealed their culturalized superficiality.

I am skeptical that you will discover happiness by exchanging your current units for "social value" or "meaning". Did you pursue finance out of the (retrospectively) blind hunger for "prestige" or "compensation" (which is how I read the portion referring to "keeping score"), or did you pursue it because you legitimately enjoyed the profession and valued the financial independence it offered you (which is how I read the first paragraph of WSO nostalgia)?

If you answer favoring the former, I question the prudence of changing units. If you answer favoring the latter, I simply ask: 1) have you entirely lost that enjoyment and 2) have you reached the point of financial independence?

Finally, I offer the best piece of advice that has been offered to me: without deferring to sentimentality, do you think you would you feel more regret in 10 years if you've eaten through your savings in your entrepreneurial venture with limited success or if you spent 2 (4?) (8?) additional years in a less satisfying profession to reach your savings goal before exiting finance, wondering what may have been had you left earlier?

Disclaimer: Please take all of my ramblings with less than a grain of salt. I wish you only the best.

"For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible."

2/26/14

I couldn't agree more. Live YOUR life, don't be enchained by conventions and other people beliefs.

2/26/14

Northsider -- This isn't directed at you, you're just the last person to mention it. And I didn't throw MS at you as I enjoyed your comment.

I can't speak for anyone else who mentioned it (if there were others), but I probably could've been clearer in my first comment about a long vacation. My advice was about making sure the OP takes some time to get some perspective on the situation before making a decision rather than necessarily a specific mode and/or time frame for gaining perspective. I also did not mean to imply that taking time off would provide an existential cure or anything near.

As a person in a very similar job function (although not as senior) as the OP I know first hand the stresses and sometimes overwhelming nature of the job. There are times, regardless of performance, in which you feel like you're always behind the proverbial 8-ball and there is no escape. These kind of situations often seriously cloud a person's judgement and facilitate rash decision making. The worst part of all, and this is not exclusive to Analysts, is that it is often nearly impossible to recognize that your judgement is being clouded by external factors. And fwiw, I find it unreasonable to expect a person to recognize this fact while immersed in the situation. Based on the information the OP has provided I definitely cannot fault his reasons for contemplating a career change. However, there are a few things that make me believe that the OP should seriously consider whether he is making the correct decision in walking away.

1) The issues with his current job he lists as primary factors for wanting a change, disregarding social value, are many of the same things he will have to deal with as an entrepreneur. His work schedule will likely be just a hectic leaving him with little time for his family/friends, he's not going to be able to disconnect himself from his business any easier than he is able to disconnect from his book currently, and the emotional strain will likely be the same if not worse. I don't feel comfortable espousing on finding social value in his work or "believing" in what he is working for so I won't.

Also, I do not mean this in a derogatory way, but the timing of making these thoughts "public" gives me pause. Within a week of his decision to post it was announced that a guy who immigrated to the US and taught himself how to code sold his company for $19bb... I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but I imagine there were a lot of smart, hard working guys (like OP) who aren't exactly fulfilled by their current careers or have always had the entrepreneurial bug, but haven't pulled the trigger for some reason or another who were absolutely sick to their stomachs all weekend wondering "why not me?". This may have not even entered the OP's reasoning, but the last thing you want to do is make a life altering decision as a result of an anecdotal entrepreneurial success story in the midst of an emotional trying time.

2) He mentioned that his natural investment philosophy is more long term in nature and he attempts to marry that with a more high velocity model, which i'm (possibly incorrectly) interpreting as shorter holding periods. My guess is that the OP is struggling with satisfying his internal need to do in depth research on a security while still conforming with his fund's higher velocity mandate. Meaning the long hours and stress are at least partially caused by a need to look at a certain number of ideas and his desire to do a base level of DD on those ideas that is likely unrealistic. At the very least it seems that switching to a strategy which more closely aligns with the OP's natural investing philosophy would allow him more time outside of work because the number of ideas required of him would decline. That's all just conjecture, though.

I'm not saying in the least that the OP is necessarily making a bad decision or shouldn't consider making a change. A person's mental health is too important not to take the proper care. There's just enough to give me pause here to recommend that the OP make a concerted effort to ensure that his decisions are free of clouded judgement. And fwiw, knowing what I know right now, if the OP was my coworker and decided to leave to start a business all he would receive from me is a heart felt "good luck" and a sincere offer to help his venture in any way I could.

patternfinder:

Of course, I would just buy in scales.

See my WSO Blog | my AMA

2/27/14

NorthSider:
I am skeptical that you will discover happiness by exchanging your current units for "social value" or "meaning". Did you pursue finance out of the (retrospectively) blind hunger for "prestige" or "compensation" (which is how I read the portion referring to "keeping score"), or did you pursue it because you legitimately enjoyed the profession and valued the financial independence it offered you (which is how I read the first paragraph of WSO nostalgia)?

If you answer favoring the former, I question the prudence of changing units. If you answer favoring the latter, I simply ask: 1) have you entirely lost that enjoyment and 2) have you reached the point of financial independence?

Finally, I offer the best piece of advice that has been offered to me: without deferring to sentimentality, do you think you would you feel more regret in 10 years if you've eaten through your savings in your entrepreneurial venture with limited success or if you spent 2 (4?) (8?) additional years in a less satisfying profession to reach your savings goal before exiting finance, wondering what may have been had you left earlier?

Disclaimer: Please take all of my ramblings with less than a grain of salt. I wish you only the best.

That's a good question. To be honest, I fell into it, step by step. I never cared much about prestige but the compensation was certainly a draw - I used to care about money more when I didn't have any of it. The biggest factor was a vague sense that it would be stimulating and intellectually challenging. When I was a senior in college, I read "Inside the House of Money" by Steven Drobny and thought that being a portfolio manager sounded like the most exciting job ever.

To draw the distinction, I don't necessarily define "something meaningful" as curing cancer or solving world hunger. It's just that I find the hedge fund world to be a grind where nothing is really created. I am basically a professional gambler - I use my mind to gain edge which makes the game fun but nothing is really created out of the total sum of our efforts except for returns on a monthly statement. I also feel like a cog in a big machine. Working for myself, creating something tangible that can provide value to other people, sounds more fulfilling.

I have not yet reached financial independence although in a low interest rate world, the bar is fairly high. I do have enough to bankroll a meaningful entrepreneurial endeavour and support a modest lifestyle for the time being.

2/27/14

NorthSider:

Units of importance such as "social value" or "prestige" or "compensation" or "purpose" or "significance" or "meaning" are all equally vapid. It seems you reached the point where you've determined that there is little substance to the devil-may-care pursuit of compensation or prestige. Identically, my friends working as doctors or at NGOs have made such determinations about the "social value" and "meaningfulness" units. They are unsatisfied, as you are, because they have invested self-worth in the cosmic importance of their measurement units, only to have revealed their culturalized superficiality.

I am skeptical that you will discover happiness by exchanging your current units for "social value" or "meaning". Did you pursue finance out of the (retrospectively) blind hunger for "prestige" or "compensation" (which is how I read the portion referring to "keeping score"), or did you pursue it because you legitimately enjoyed the profession and valued the financial independence it offered you (which is how I read the first paragraph of WSO nostalgia)?

I think it bears noting that religiosity is shown to lead to lower levels of stress, and lower rates of depression and mental illness. While metaphysically speaking nothing matters, your physiology doesn't care. While I'm not personally aware of the exact mechanics of this relationship, I'd wager it's a mix of purpose (and one that is an infinite treadmill), community, spirituality, and certainty.
Mercifully, organised religion is not the only way of finding these things.
2/28/14

Rigabear:

I think it bears noting that religiosity is shown to lead to lower levels of stress, and lower rates of depression and mental illness. While metaphysically speaking nothing matters, your physiology doesn't care. While I'm not personally aware of the exact mechanics of this relationship, I'd wager it's a mix of purpose (and one that is an infinite treadmill), community, spirituality, and certainty.

Mercifully, organised religion is not the only way of finding these things.

+1

I would merely add that the psychic benefits of religion obviously do not vindicate its truth, instead they illustrate the power of communal ideology and its "units of importance". My point above was to suggest such units, insofar as they are cognitive phenomena, are largely commutable. The deist-turned-atheist substitutes "personal happiness" for "divine blessing", the academic-turned-lawyer substitutes "prestige" for "standardized scoring", the financier-turned-entrepreneur substitutes "societal value" for "compensation".

Some of these are more easily quantified (compensation vs. prestige, standardized scoring vs. societal value), but as value judgments they are equivalents. An individual who has the bodhi to discern the artificiality of "prestige" or "compensation" as a means of measuring importance or meaning will surely be the first to identify the same about "societal value" or "building something".

It's all cognitive framing, which is why I'm skeptical of hastening the OP's inevitable move to entrepreneurship. In so doing, he concedes the initial goal of entering finance: permanent financial independence. As a matter of cognition, he can adopt the "societal value" framework at any time; as a matter of accounting, his wealth currently finitely supports his cost of living. If a great entrepreneurial venture were presently beckoning his involvement, it would be a different story; in this case, it does sound as if the OP is jumping ship for the sake of the external satisfaction of "building something". To which I say: forget about obverse success, be rational about your happiness.

"For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible."

2/28/14

NorthSider:

It's all cognitive framing, which is why I'm skeptical of hastening the OP's inevitable move to entrepreneurship. In so doing, he concedes the initial goal of entering finance: permanent financial independence. As a matter of cognition, he can adopt the "societal value" framework at any time

I'm not saying I necessarily do or do not think this way, but a job could be seen in non-monetary terms as simply a game, and one that is fun to succeed at, like any game that one finds to be worth playing. Unfortunately one isn't necessarily designed to be able to succeed at all games, because each one has different rules and constraints and qualities necessary to succeed, and interest can wane as one comes to that realization.

2/28/14

Going Concern:

I'm not saying I necessarily do or do not think this way, but a job could be seen in non-monetary terms as simply a game, and one that is fun to succeed at, like any game that one finds to be worth playing. Unfortunately one isn't necessarily designed to be able to succeed at all games, because each one has different rules and constraints.

I agree, but submit that the "game" aspect of finance is the cognitive framing. I should have been more specific: when I put "compensation" in quotes as a unit of importance, I am drawing parallels to the OP's statement, "It is just a way of keeping score". Based on the information provided, the OP held a desire to "build something" long before he entered finance; whether or not he enjoys the game, presumably he started playing with a goal that superseded, at least at the time, the psychic pull of "building something".

It sounds to me like the OP no longer attributes the same importance to the obverse "compensation" importance units (in your analogy, he isn't enjoying the game as he once did). I am merely suggesting that he will also someday tire of the obverse "societal value" importance units. Ergo, the more important question is whether he has achieved the objective goal that motivated his initial participation, seeing as we all eventually tire of a game.

"For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible."

7/20/14

Easily one of the best posts I've read on here.

2/26/14

You should read this:
http://www.amazon.com/How-Stop-Worrying-Start-Livi...

Sure it's got a corny title but it's full of incredibly valuable advice.

I cannot recommend it highly enough

2/26/14

You sound very academic. Have you considered becoming a professor? You would be helping kids learn and have a work/life balance. Granted you will not make any money for the next few years but in the long run may be worth while.

2/27/14

md3390:

You sound very academic. Have you considered becoming a professor? You would be helping kids learn and have a work/life balance. Granted you will not make any money for the next few years but in the long run may be worth while.

This is a fairly astute observation. I have thought about that a lot. There is a particular field where I have a high level of personal interest and some interesting ideas for research. However, there are several problems with this route. One is that I would have very little control over where I live. I understand that my hand is fairly weak given that I did not study this field in my university days and have never done experimental research. Thus, for a doctorate program, post-doc, and assistant professorship, I would have to be willing to go to any institution that would take me. For me, living in a random town in the middle of nowhere would be a pretty terrible outcome. Becoming a professor is also drastically more competitive given the increasing number of doctoral students relative to a fixed number of professorships. Finally, there is something terrifying about the thought of being locked into a fairly narrow niche for the rest of your life. I will note that the same thing happens in finance as well - pigeonholing on the buyside is very real.

2/28/14

Yeah, this is the type of thing that would appeal to me in the future I think. I would like to make my living in the private sector but one day down the road hop into the public sector, whether as a professor or in a finance role in government, to scratch that itch. Again, best of luck in your decision and I am interested in seeing what you choose to do. Like I said before, it takes a set this day and age to even think of stepping away from the type of money you are talking about. People have become so caught in the idea of making more money than they do now, or making more money than the next guy that they get stuck in a never ending dick measuring contest and lose sight of themselves and the big picture. What is the money worth if you are just working all day every day and taking your work home with you every night.. it never ends and in the end you wake up one day unsatisfied with life and realize you've been fooled into thinking that more money meant more satisfaction.

Good luck

2/26/14

My only late contribution to this thread, initial thoughts

You never know how close you are to your final goal. If you believe you met your goals, then time to get out.

Frank Sinatra - "Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy."

2/26/14

Obviously take this recomendation with a grain of salt but you sound like you need a break and should quit. My question would be how much money you have saved up? If you have enough leave. I will say that you should leave on good terms and maybe even explain you are burnt out. Then get away. Focus on whatever you like; travel volunter, relax etc. just something to get your mind relaxed and feel no pressure. After a couple of months see where you stand. Judging by what you say I am assuming you would have a pretty good resume and would have no trouble getting back into finance and if you decided to go the entrepuener route the time off will regenerate you and relax you before you enter into the stresses of that

2/26/14

@"endoftheroad" Great post - very thought-provoking!

Suggestion:

If you feel a little empty because you think you know that you are "not contributing anything to society", have you considered giving your career additional meaning by continuing your buyside trajectory with the aim of "earning to give", i.e. trying hard to earn a lot in order to give a chunk to the most effective charities? I was quite surprised to find out what astronomical amounts of good the most effective orgs achieve per dollar donated, which is kinda cool. (I'd guess partly because the charity market is very inefficient.) On this last idea (effective philanthropy), check out "Giving What We Can". The Oxford philosopher Will MacAskill has some interesting thoughts on the former.

I have some friends in finance who are doing this quite successfully (both from the selfish and the altruistic perspective), and am planning on doing this myself, so feel free to pm me if you have any thoughts.

2/27/14

This may of course not apply to you, but perhaps what is taking the toll is the short term uncertainty arising from your current strategy. You describe yourself as academic; being unable anticipate all the noise in the short term (which is impossible) is anathema to the sort of person that seeks certainty. It's all very well knowing; with what you feel is certainty; where the price will be in 3 years, but that makes no difference to the nightmares if you're trading on quarterlies. I know of people who moved from the buy-side to the sell-side (research) for this exact reason.

However, you clearly have an edge (that no doubt extends beyond the particular strategy you've currently settled on) that you'd definitely profit from much more on the buy-side. With this in mind, maybe consider moving to a fund with a longer investment horizon, perhaps even a mutual fund?

As many have stated, entrepreneurship will be as hard work, but it won't feel like gambling to same degree (even if it is).

Alternatively, as so many have pointed out, maybe a higher cause would help. There must be something, some injustice you hold dear, that you would want to commit to. Personally, I went to a terrible high school and saw it methodically dismantle incredible human potential. Because of this, I am committed to getting involved with local educational charities and charter schools, with a view to being able to become fully involved, financially and otherwise.

Similarly, you'd make much more of a difference channelling your gains from doing what you have an edge (and occasionally a passion) for, than doing anything else.

2/27/14

Here's my 2c on your situation -- enough people on this board have suggested you take a longer vacation, which I highly recommend of course. But I suggest you combine this with actually volunteering.

But what you could do on this long term break is perhaps break it up to do:
-- 2 weeks of whatever the hell it is you want to do (i.e. climbing Mt. kilimanjaro or going backpacking across Europe), basically anything that relaxes your mind; and then

-- 1-2 weeks volunteering (it would be good if you could get on one of those Habitat for Humanity trips or trips run by other such organizations).

This will help you not only "destress", but by physically volunteering, also clearly contribute to society in a much more impactful way which imo is much more tangible than trying to justify it with how the money you invest on behalf of your LPs goes towards paying for scholarships etc. Hopefully regardless of what you do, you'll come back from this experience a changed man with a refreshed set of perspectives. All the best!

2/28/14

Lots of great advice in the thread although I did not read everything so sorry for any redundancy. I often hesitate to use my own experience as it was an anomaly from the perspective of work/life balance, compensation, and ultimate monetization at exit. With that said, I would caution against getting off the carousel too early as I have seen quite a few people leave just before years of out-performance and out-sized compensation. This of course is not to say that by staying 2 more years you are guaranteed said gain but you would afford yourself one last opportunity to build significant wealth before walking away. Is there anything that you can personally do to make the situation more tolerable (i.e. go to the gym and just turn everything off, as mentioned just go on a trip and unplug, partially mentally check-out and put your job into perspective, etc.)? What are your passions/hobbies? Who do you value spending time with? I found that once I was able to put my job into perspective I was able to more fully embrace the things that I actually cared about (family, health/fitness, friends, sport, personal investing, reading, traveling, painting, poker, general debauchery, etc.). Even if I was overwhelmed or stressed about a work assignment, I would make time for those things. Best of luck to you.

2/28/14

No, you are not crazy at all, most of Wall St. is crazy. I went through a couple of jobs where I suffered burnout and somewhat serious health issues because of the stress level (there is a reason most people working 16+ hour days are below the age of 30 and why firms don't normally hire past a certain age). After the stress caused me to have to get surgery, my employer decided my med. bills weren't worth it to them and I got let go in a downsizing (thanks to Wall Street) along with most of my dept. about 5 years ago. I couldn't have been happier. I started my own business. You have an entrepreneurial spirit that most people on Wall Street don't have. I know this because I was surrounded by people in business school and at my prior employers in the finance industry who don't think outside the box and who still think I'm "crazy" for having my own business. My recommendation is to take a relaxing vacation, get subscription to Inc. magazine, and go work for a VC firm while you think about starting your own business.

2/28/14

I think your story is an interesting one because it applies to myself. I have always wanted to be a trader but just never had the luck of landing it. I have been working in investment banking for about 2 years and still have the feel that I want to go to that side. Lately with all the automation, etc. I started realizing that I might be in a better situation and that I should probably stay in the banking side because of more directions that I could go into with my current skillset. Just like you a lot of my time is wasted and I never have time for myself, when I do have time I get frustrated that I can't seem to complete anything fast enough.

I've been doing my master while working in IB and think that IB might be a better place for my health then starting over in the Trading/PM side of things. If I look at the banking path, I could finish and go into corporate development, consulting, PE, etc. so the stress of wanting to build something or making my life purposeful would still be a possibility. The thing is that I still feel that I will never find full happiness until I had the chance to prove myself as a trader.

2/28/14

I know you said that you can make seven figures going forward. But, can you share what comp looks like today. I want to get a sense of at what level does one start feeling the way you are feeling ?

2/28/14

As someone who was once in a very similar position, I say stick it out for a couple more years. Save as much as you can until you are at the point where you almost feel like you can retire. Then go do something valuable with your life like working for a non-profit or start one yourself that benefits a cause you are passionate about. Then you end up with the best of both worlds. You accomplished what you wanted out of the business world and then get to live a meaningful life for the next 40-50 years.

2/28/14

I would suggest figuring out what you want to do next before you leave. So if you know you want to start your own gig, figure out what that is going to be before you leave. If you are going to take a job with less stress, again, figure out what that is going to be before you leave. I know a lot of people who leave and are very stressed when they are not tangibly getting closer to making money. I left banking and have shifted my business plan completely 3 times in 2 years, only because the info I figured out could only be learned by jumping in head first, that cost me 10k plus cost of living for 1.5 years....which isn't too bad. Now it finally looks like I'm going to start making money while my peers are pulling in 180k and I'm in 100k of debt, have personal guarantees on everything, huge unforeseen liabilities (have insurance, but still scary) and yeah....haha. I'm lucky because I chose / built a business that makes enough money to live and grow the business. I've got lots of friends whose start ups (ignoring tech for this example) are making 20-40k....not an ideal situation for everybody.

It's tough because only X % of start ups from ex finance people will "succeed" (emphasized because this is very subjective) so some people will succeed, and some will come crawling back to finance regretting the decision or maybe not regretting the decision and be content with the decision and potentially benefitting from the experience. I took the chance that I will succeed, knowing that if I don't, coming crawling back to finance wouldn't be that bad as I would come back as an advisor at a BD that allows you to be autonomous and hopefully using the experience to my advantage (I've already met a ton of successful people who aren't in finance and thus don't have 10 financial advisors fighting for their business....ie...good prospects, and they trust/like me and currently ask for investment advice). Mind you, I was not in OP position, so I had a lot less to lose, but it works in reverse too, as OP experience is enough to get him a decent job even if he f*cks around for a few years.

I've found money is not the goal. The lifestyle is. Working 7 days a week and a shitload of hours doesn't allow for much of a lifestyle regardless of how much $ you make, but also, one day you will have a wife and kids etc...and making 80k might also not be the lifestyle you want at that point....so there are many decisions. Don't forget though, your kids don't give a f*ck how much you make. I know a lot of finance guys who grew up upper middle class and struggle because they feel compelled to give their kids what they had...but remember material things are not the only or best things you can give them, being a good parent is the best possible thing you could give them.

2/28/14

+1

Lots of great comments here.

"For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible."

2/28/14

Ive been in the same boat for a while - mainly that what I do doesnt inspire me and maybe the people I work with - whom maybe good people at personal level, sometimes hard for me to digest their idiocracy and lack of leadership styles. Anyway - Ive stuck around because my work-life balance is ok but I dont see significant change in things or progress from the level I am already at. Also Im bored of this stuff that I do. I get these investment opps which I find exciting coming onto my table every now and then but most of the time, the reporting, the politics all bs. Plus I want to do my own thing - so Ive been planning, putting away money, investing money in small businesses I have started with family/friends who are operating them full time. at the end of the day even if you dont want money, having enough saved away for a rainy day, or using it to start things by financing your startups with friends managing them gives you head start for when you leave - not gone from cash in flow to only out flow. It does matter. Because you can make wrong decisions, lose money, get sick, or just change your mind. Having good money will always keep the cushion between success and disaster/regret. Just save a couple of $MNs and move on with your life.

2/28/14

It's hard to give any well-grounded opinion, let alone advice, without knowing you better, but consider this.

It looks like fundamental reason for what caused your post is that you got bored, because you've accomplished your biggest goals. Once that happened and the initial momentum wore out, your current frame of reference (from what it looked like in the post) of merely maintaining position or gradual movement forward is just not motivating enough to keep you engaged.

Presumably, getting to where you are now was much harder than staying there. And yet you didn't think about quitting while getting there, i.e. doing a harder thing.

2/28/14

Taking a vacation is only going to a temporary fix! There is a long-term fix which requires a small change. Balance and refocus part of your efforts in helping others in need. Might sound cheesy but it will change your life and provide the balance you need. I'm not just talking about donating to charity! Everyone claims to do that.. Find where there is a true need and seek out to relieve the suffering or need of another. I guarantee you will find light at the end of the tunnel.

3/1/14

It sounds like your short-term investment time horizon and broad coverage are killing you. Instead of leaving the entire industry, seek out a strategy that you believe adds value where either/both your time horizon is longer and/or your coverage is less broad. Some value-oriented funds have 10-20 positions that are held for on average 5 years--that's one good idea every 4 months.

3/3/14

Echoing some of the advice above. Sounds like you generally like your profession, but not this particular job. Why not try a value investing firm with a longer investment time horizon? If that does not work, try a mutual fund or an insurance company. You might find a firm and/or strategy that works with your lifestyle choice.

Planting bananas trees

3/6/14

Inevitably I regret airing all of this out in public, but it was helpful to get a variety of perspectives. Now that some time has passed, I realize that it was certain personal issues that really served as the catalyst that helped me recognize how unhappy I had been. So I am thankful that this ordeal has forced me to think deeply about what I really want from life. I have gone much deeper in planning out exactly what my next endeavour will look like, and that has been a very exciting process. I am tempted to jump in now but the nature of the business is fairly capital intensive so I have resolved to bang out a few more years so I can start out with a fuller bankroll. The opportunity will still be there and I'm sure that having a greater margin for error will help from both an operational and psychological standpoint. There is also more that I can do to gain a deeper understanding of what it would be like to actually be an operator in this industry. I feel much more centered with a tangible goal that I am working towards. I still love investing, but there are so many different things that I want to experience in life. So now it's on me to pursue those experiences.

3/7/14

Gonna finally buy up BlueStar, Bud?

3/20/14

Do it now

3/7/14

I felt like I was reading a post on poker forum (I've played poker online for years, and left mostly for same reasons as you - I felt like I am not building anything, each was a start from scratch and I would all the time think about past decisions, whether I could go more agressive or should I be more passive.

3/8/14

I think you should consider finding an investment strategy that is attuned to your own personality. Maybe that means working at a firm with a longer term investment horizon. Maybe that means working for some sort of sustainable investment firm (e.g. renewable energy, microfinance in Africa, etc...).

Even if you don't care about the "contribution to society" aspect of the job, without an investment strategy attuned to your unique personality, you will never be able to be comfortable managing risk and constantly question yourself over whether you bought/sold the right security or sized the position properly. From reading your posts I'm assuming you work at some type of fundamental equity/credit fund and have probably never read Market Wizards. I highly recommend reading it - having an investment style suited to your own personality is something nearly every one of the 'wizards' stresses in their interviews.

And to those who say the industry "contributes nothing to society," I completely disagree. Outside of principal investing, trading on secondary / futures markets is a zero sum game. If you believe you can consistently make money for your clients and become rich in the process of doing so, and have an altruistic bent to you where you will donate a large part of your winnings, think of it as stealing from the (dumb) rich and giving to the poor. You can be a regular modern Robin Hood.

3/13/14

Happiness comes with self-realization. Nothing else beats that.

Hope I don't offend anyone and I think people who go out to shelters or whatever are of nobler kinds, but the urge to help the society or change the world is another form of masturbation to your self-importance.

You should be careful of what you really want, because a lot of times those will be distorted with your ego, greed or self-importance.

Maybe fly to south america and drink a bowl of ayahuasca? Didn't Steve Jobs also get his "vision" after he did LSD in India? lol

Anyway, best of luck.. didn't mean to take your situation lightly but it helps to take things easy sometimes..

3/19/14

Thanks for sharing

3/20/14

I work on the buyside and have often had similar feelings regarding the value of my job and if its fulfilling. I will say this though, I think your situation is specific to a subset of investment people that I generically call Wall Street guys. For background, I work at a mutual fund not in NY, MA or CA. So what does that mean? That means I dont have nearly the same stresses that you do. I dont trade. I make long term investments based on fundamentals. And believe it or not, that is actually a winning strategy... over the long term. I have to beat a performance metric but its not a quarterly one, its not even an annual one. The biggest weight of my bonus is the 10 year number. I work roughly 50 hours a week and even though I often think about and do work at home, I dont often dream or have nightmares about my position. This is a common side effect of too much stress. I am comfortable with my job because from the early days of college when I decided to pursue an investment career, I decided to do it not because I could be the richest person in the world and be on the cover of every magazine and be "admired" by the industry and press, but because I enjoyed the work intellectually and I knew that investing other people's money will make them and me wealthier. We both win.

But I started off saying that your a wall street guy and even worse a hedge fund guy. I have never wanted to be in a hedge fund precisely because of the lifestyle you describe. Maybe early on in my career, but once I figured out what a hedge fund really meant, I said no thanks. To some that might make me a lesser person. But I see it the other way around. People who value money over all else are the lesser people. The problem with wall street guys (and gals) is that they very often go to the same schools, they live in the same towns, they work in the same companies, they know the same people, they make the same trades, they value the same things and worst of all, they share the same mentality. That means they are highly connected and very often act in the same manner. No disrespect to any wall street guy reading this, but I see these guys all over and think to myself how big of douchebags they are. Life is not about money. Its not about beating everyone else to the top, but if you live in NY or SF or LA or Boston, there is some subset of people who think those things are valuable and place a lot of emphasis on them so much so that our society has reached a point where a much larger part of the population thinks they have to value those things too just because these other people who they believe to be successful are. Its herd mentality at its finest.

As a side bar, I interact with CEOs regularly. These are men and sometimes woman who make multimillions of dollars a year, are worth even more multimillions of dollars and considered by most to be "successful". The one thing I often do is look at their ring finger. More often than not, CEOs arent wearing a ring. Most likely they are divorced. Kind of like cops, the divorce rate for CEOs is high because getting to the top leaves a big wake. If you value money and being at the top and dont care if you are divorced and barely see your kids, then being a CEO is a good path to follow. Its much the same with Wall St guys. Its all about your value set.

Another side bar, I have a friend who's a HBS grad from the late 80s. At the time, his entire cohort was going to Wall St because that is just what you did. He worked at several prestigious buyside firms but was recently let go. He told me how he and several of his peers from his grad class would lament about their wall street lives. They all thought they would go to wall street and become very wealthy and by default very happy. Neither came true. The majority worked at similarly prestigious firms and all made very respectable money, but only the few that rose to the top made any significant money. They bulk of them had very mediocre experiences and were questioning the paths they took.

Dont get me wrong. There are a ton of great people in the investment industry even at hedge funds. And there are a ton of people who become wealthy with good values. But at the end of the day, that lifestyle demands a certain level of commitment to those more unsavory values. If you chose to pass on it, no doubt those who stay will call you a pussy or a quitter, but thats because they are too chicken shit to do it themselves. Heres one test I do - walk into work or go to an investor conference and ask yourself how many of these people are actually interesting people and if you just met them in a completely random space, would you want to be friends with them. If the answer is yes, then you're in the right place, if its no, you need to move on and don't look back.

7/19/14

OP Here is some food for thought if you not married or have kids.

Before you make any decisions, "measure 7 times, cut once".
Given your analytical abilities this might be a value challenge in itself.

Here are some questions to answer which I find useful in questionable situations.

If you actually get to measure your situation 7 times, try answering the following:
1) Can you feel happy without experiencing unhappy?
2) Can you get to conclusion that your life is absurd?
3) Can you justify that life is a gamble?

Finally watch Kung Fu Panda (2008)

(Now you should have rough picture of you decision and its consequences)

Take some time off, hang out with friends or strangers Take a lot of pictures. Come back to work in 2 weeks like a boss.

Hope this helps. Thanks for sharing. Wish you all the best!

7/22/14

Life isn't always about money. Once you have x amount of dollars the next x amount doesn't mean anything.

7/26/14

join a value fund thats not so labor intensive

i work at a US$3 billion deep value fund, work 830-7 but only really look at companies trading below book value so that cuts out 90% of the companies out there. investment horizon 5 years, annual turnover 20%, pay is good, life is chill. all of my write ups are not longer than a page

8/7/14

Deleted.

8/3/14

Plenty of funds that offer a cozier lifestyle with similar responsibilities. Of course, the talent of the team and pay wont be the same, but nonetheless, you will still be doing what you (somewhat) enjoy. It sounds like you should look at shops with extremely low turnover names / longer investment horizons / more concentrated positions. There will be less day-to-day type pressure.

8/4/14

I'm late to this topic but will chime in.

I've noticed that the market usually makes the decision of leaving for you. A lot of people have made a lot of money the past couple years and are pondering the same thing as you. Interestingly I haven't seen this much pondering since 2007 and we know what happened back then.

As already mentioned entrepreneurship can be just as grinding (and the anxiety of having other people's livelihoods in your control when things aren't going well is a special kind of stress). But I'm sure you are aware of this and have already done the math on what level of "success" you need to achieve to have a NPV neutral outcome.

Stress is always going to be an issue for high achievers. Put a high achiever in a stress free situation and they get extremely restless and bored. This is why more often than not people return to the buy side after leaving for a year or two due to "burnout".

A bigger priority is finding a way to manage the stress you currently have and bringing more balance to your life. My personal stress was reduced dramatically when I realized I was never going to catch up and made more time for my health and family/friends.

8/5/14

Wonder why I got a -1 for my post above. Way too long in length?

9/28/14

I left finance to start a company. Took a long time and several pivots. 2.5 years later, I have a young business. It has societal value and I'm passionate about the product, but it's not very profitable, with very tight margins.

I've realized a lot of things. Work is work. You trade one bullshit for another, but it's still bullshit. So don't think that being your own boss is glorious or bullshit free, it has so many headaches, I often wonder why I didn't just stay where I was....at least I was getting paid for those headaches. But I do know the regret would have eaten me alive, so I have no regrets now, also I had gotten pretty unhealthy and that depressed me. I would say, first things first, figure out how to get healthier.

Point is, being an entrepreneur isn't necessarily better, it can be very isolating and lonely. Most entrepreneurs I know are poor. Making 70k / year now seems like being rich to me. People always say, "yes, but eventually, you will make a lot more"....and I think "that's a HUGE maybe" and there's a huge chance that everything goes up in flames, or worse, it burns slowly.

I think op should find a role with less stress / less hours, just don't think it's only a choice between your current role and starting a company. Nothing wrong with taking a pay / prestige cut, to get a better lifestyle. 10-15 hours more per week of free time can make a big difference in your life.

12/12/14

great insight, thanks

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My story | My Linkedin

10/5/14

Health > $

12/10/14

I was in the same situation as you are . for starters give yourself a pat on the back for coming forth. A lot of people think coming forth is a pussy shit and that you should suck it up. That's what Asian culture is like. When they die they are extremely unsatisfied. They die living a life of work. First of all you are human. We understand the idea of soldiering on but theres also a breaking point before you go nuts. The post about taking a break to think is not a bad idea. Perhaps you can start a YouTube channel that teaches everything you should know about your job or field of work like khan academy. Take a break but also do something you are passionate about but never had the time to. And go in there with the mindset that there is no income and guarantee of success. And you just might succeed. If you have time (as corny as this maybe) YouTube this guys channel markiplier and watch the video where he talks about his life. I'm not gonna find the link for you because if you are genuinely interested in doing something else that may or may not change your life then you will try to find it yourself.

12/10/14

I was in the same situation as you are . for starters give yourself a pat on the back for coming forth. A lot of people think coming forth is a pussy shit and that you should suck it up. That's what Asian culture is like. When they die they are extremely unsatisfied. They die living a life of work. First of all you are human. We understand the idea of soldiering on but theres also a breaking point before you go nuts. The post about taking a break to think is not a bad idea. Perhaps you can start a YouTube channel that teaches everything you should know about your job or field of work like khan academy. Take a break but also do something you are passionate about but never had the time to. And go in there with the mindset that there is no income and guarantee of success. And you just might succeed. If you have time (as corny as this maybe) YouTube this guys channel markiplier and watch the video where he talks about his life. I'm not gonna find the link for you because if you are genuinely interested in doing something else that may or may not change your life then you will try to find it yourself.

12/10/14

I was in the same situation as you are . for starters give yourself a pat on the back for coming forth. A lot of people think coming forth is a pussy shit and that you should suck it up. That's what Asian culture is like. When they die they are extremely unsatisfied. They die living a life of work. First of all you are human. We understand the idea of soldiering on but theres also a breaking point before you go nuts. The post about taking a break to think is not a bad idea. Perhaps you can start a YouTube channel that teaches everything you should know about your job or field of work like khan academy. Take a break but also do something you are passionate about but never had the time to. And go in there with the mindset that there is no income and guarantee of success. And you just might succeed. If you have time (as corny as this maybe) YouTube this guys channel markiplier and watch the video where he talks about his life. I'm not gonna find the link for you because if you are genuinely interested in doing something else that may or may not change your life then you will try to find it yourself.

12/10/14

If you are unmarried and don't have kids then you are very Very very lucky. Because you can make more choices.

12/10/14

Maybe you will make a lot of opportunities on YouTube. it has happened.

12/12/14

Excellent input in this thread for those of us just starting on the buyside route. OP, what path did you ultimately choose?

P.S. @"NorthSider" you should be a philosophy professor

12/12/14

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