What would it take for you to leave?

plow's picture
Rank: Baboon | banana points 101

Mod Note (Andy): Make sure to check out the comment inside by DingDong

A common thing I've heard across multiple sectors is "I'll leave when the time is right". It seems people are either waiting for the next best thing or some kind of sign - perhaps being passed for promotion or a day in which they fucking hate their work. I know some people reach a point where they're too afraid to leave.

I had a colleague that used to carry his pre-filled retirement forms in his pocket.

I'm curious to know what would it take for you to leave it all right now? What would you do next?

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Comments (24)

Nov 11, 2015

The reason people never leave, even after reaching their "this is what I need to leave" goal, is because once you get to a certain point, the money is just too good. Once you hit the MD point where you would have enough money to retire early, the prospect of earnings another few million for working "just one more year" is just too good to pass up.

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Nov 22, 2015

Do you think in a way that's sort of betraying yourself? Is whether to leave then simply a weighing of economic opportunity costs? You had a target number in mind and once you reached it you would leave, but now money is too good so you'll keep pushing your original aspirations back - unless banking was your dream.

I'm sure everybody has a target number, or does that number become obsolete? What would it take for you to leave right now? Doesn't have to be a specific number.

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Best Response
Nov 11, 2015
undefined:

The reason people never leave, even after reaching their "this is what I need to leave" goal, is because once you get to a certain point, the money is just too good. Once you hit the MD point where you would have enough money to retire early, the prospect of earnings another few million for working "just one more year" is just too good to pass up.

This and if you make it to the point that you're able to retire very early and not really worry about money, you're almost certainly good at what you do and you like it. And unless you've always had a dream of doing something specific (from going the non-profit route and saving the world to opening a bar or a bait shop, whatever) you have a lot of years left in your life without much to do. 40 may seem old to a 22 year old, but when you hit 40 you realize, or at least hope, that you have 30-50 years left. When I was younger I thought that $X at 40 or so and I would retire then I realized that I have no idea what I'd do for that many years. If you're someone who's made it to the upper levels of finance by that age you're most likely someone who's really motivated and used to working long and hard. Unless you make hundreds of millions (which just doesn't happen unless you sell a company or maybe if you're the outlier HF guy) and have fuck you money where you could sail the world or fly in your G5 to your multiple houses around the world, that's a long time for retirement. I have a good friend who did exactly that-HF guy, made that type of money and retired in his late 30's. It stuck for a little while but after a few years he's getting back into working because he just got bored.

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Nov 11, 2015

Great post.

Nov 22, 2015
undefined:

undefined:The reason people never leave, even after reaching their "this is what I need to leave" goal, is because once you get to a certain point, the money is just too good. Once you hit the MD point where you would have enough money to retire early, the prospect of earnings another few million for working "just one more year" is just too good to pass up.

This and if you make it to the point that you're able to retire very early and not really worry about money, you're almost certainly good at what you do and you like it. And unless you've always had a dream of doing something specific (from going the non-profit route and saving the world to opening a bar or a bait shop, whatever) you have a lot of years left in your life without much to do. 40 may seem old to a 22 year old, but when you hit 40 you realize, or at least hope, that you have 30-50 years left. When I was younger I thought that $X at 40 or so and I would retire then I realized that I have no idea what I'd do for that many years. If you're someone who's made it to the upper levels of finance by that age you're most likely someone who's really motivated and used to working long and hard. Unless you make hundreds of millions (which just doesn't happen unless you sell a company or maybe if you're the outlier HF guy) and have fuck you money where you could sail the world or fly in your G5 to your multiple houses around the world, that's a long time for retirement. I have a good friend who did exactly that-HF guy, made that type of money and retired in his late 30's. It stuck for a little while but after a few years he's getting back into working because he just got bored.

+SB, great post and thanks for the insight.

you said when you were younger you thought at $X at 40 you would retire. over the years has the changed from being $X to something else - say instead of $X, a sense of accomplishment, promotions, or responsibilities.

instead of leaving when you have $X, maybe leaving when you've made XXX impact.

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Nov 11, 2015

I don't think I'll ever retire; my grandpa has always said that was his worst mistake, but he doesn't have many hobbies. Investment research could be a part-time hobby for me that I'd consider a job (after all, it makes [or loses] you money).

I already hate investment banking; I'm just waiting to either have enough money to start something better on my own (nothing, in my opinion, beats the feeling of being a successful entrepreneur) or to find a smaller-office asset manager ($100-500mm AUM) with a similar investing style. Research is fun, in my opinion, and the smaller offices have very relaxed atmospheres.

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Nov 22, 2015

What do you hate about investment banking? What if your firm offered you more?
what are some strategies you use to make sure you're not tempted to stay?

Nov 11, 2015

You know, I probably wouldn't hate it if the annoying parts were outsourced. For instance, I'm taking a quick break to respond here, but I'll go back to due diligence in a second - not the good kind of due diligence, but the due diligence of making sure we have all of the company's formation docs, financials, legal, etc., stuff on file. There is more than this, obviously.

As Sil said, you have to be passionate about it. I think I could be passionate about other things. For example, my friend's dad has run a pool company for 30+ years; he's wealthy and I think he has enjoyed it all. I don't fully agree with the comment of making good money makes up for things being shitty because there is a line where you have so much money that you don't feel having more would make you even happier.

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Nov 11, 2015
undefined:

You know, I probably wouldn't hate it if the annoying parts were outsourced. For instance, I'm taking a quick break to respond here, but I'll go back to due diligence in a second - not the good kind of due diligence, but the due diligence of making sure we have all of the company's formation docs, financials, legal, etc., stuff on file. There is more than this, obviously.

As Sil said, you have to be passionate about it. I think I could be passionate about other things. For example, my friend's dad has run a pool company for 30+ years; he's wealthy and I think he has enjoyed it all. I don't fully agree with the comment of making good money makes up for things being shitty because there is a line where you have so much money that you don't feel having more would make you even happier.

Totally agree with you here. When I was still in undergrad, I thought $ would make up for me not being 100% engaged with the subject matter. I quickly figured out that - in practice - this was not the way it would work.

I'd like to work (formally) until I feel I have enough money to live a fairly modest life. After that, I'd like to pursue a real passion - something that lives beyond my actual life. For example, I'd really like to eventually receive my black belt in BJJ and teach kids self defense. People would remember you for something like this, where no one would proclaim proudly that their grandfather popped out kickass models in excel.

I get a serious laugh when people put 'passion for finance' on their resume. That's simply not real (at least, I hope for your sake it isn't).

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Nov 11, 2015

Well, I think it depends on what area of finance. I think Warren Buffett truly enjoyed his job for some time if he doesn't still (honestly, it probably becomes more of a job than a hobby to find out how to invest millions of dollars EVERY DAY after awhile). I truly have a passion for investing - it's fun, it's stimulating, it's rewarding, etc. I don't have a passion for all finance though...some finance, including a lot of IB tasks, make me want to live in the mountains or on a deserted island where I can forget about the whole society thing and the requirement of money to live...

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Nov 11, 2015

There's also a gigantic difference between liking what you're doing and your comp when you're an analyst to liking what you're doing as you become more senior even leaving comp outside of the equation, then add back in comp and it becomes far easier to at least like what you're doing and want to stick around for more money, even if you're not absolutely "passionate" or really loving it. If you can show me one analyst who loves what they do, I'll show you one fucked up dude. Slaving over minor tweaks in excel and powerpoint and populating data rooms until the wee hours sucks. Once you get to the point where you're doing deals and you're being highly compensated for it (and comp is overblown on WSO but you're still making more than nearly everyone your age), the equation can change pretty quickly if it's something you like. Not everyone does and that's ok and it's ok that some guys do, but it's a different world compared to that of an analyst or early year associate. I'm not in IB (PE so it's different but not very) but the bankers I know at my level love, or at least like a lot, what they do or they wouldn't have made it there. They're deal guys. They like the money, and they're not high risk takers because even though finance seems risky it's nothing compared to leaving a high paying job and becoming an entrepreneur. PE guys are generally the same we just have an investor mind set and larger paydays take years to realize because your comp becomes heavily dependent on carry.

I remember a conversation a long time ago that I had with a very good friend of mine around his second year as an analyst about how he was planning on leaving IB because he hated it and how he was going to found or join a startup (which is amusing because this was around '98 during the first tech bubble). ~5 years later we had the same conversation (and he moved up very quickly, direct promote then a VP promote pretty quickly after that) and when I asked him when he was leaving IB he said never. He loved doing deals and he was making too much money to leave. Now he heads up tech for a decent MM firm.

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Nov 11, 2015

I am sure that is true. Maybe I am just bitter, but I've also had a taste of the entrepreneurial side and thoroughly enjoyed it. I've also considered going into corporate finance, and I think there is some pride in growing a company that you're passionate about (or if you're passionate about the industry you serve). I have no idea why, but for whatever reason I just don't consider IB a very entrepreneurial experience, even though it is in many ways.

Nov 11, 2015

I'm not disagreeing with you and would never discourage entrepreneurial endeavors (I actually did it with partners in PE and have been quite successful in it, I also actively keep a keen eye on personally acquiring a company and running with it, and I've jumped into FT operating roles as an SVP of Corp Fin and separately as the President of a company because I wanted to gain operating chops, and because they were portfolio co's on the road to fubar and needed help), and the IB/PE route isn't for everyone, but it does gets better if you stick with it. @DickFuld is spot on: every entry level job sucks because they're mundane and you're doing bitch work. IB analyst/associate just sucks on steroids. Entry level marketing is probably boring, but it's accomplished in 50 hrs/week with people who are touchy feely types. Entry level corp fin sucks too. Not touchy feely, but overall they're accountants.

I also really like industries that most people on here would consider boring and unsexy businesses like pool cleaning, shit simple service businesses, retail grocery and distribution, specialty construction, etc. The wealthiest people I personally know have been in similar fields. Startups in the way that most people think of them (new tech) can be cool but you're counting on making a new tech/idea work and execution risk. If you start up a pool cleaning service for example, it's all execution risk. I'd gamble on the latter. However don't think it's all fun if you go that route because it's 24/7 like you can't actually comprehend until you do it, and includes stress that's also tough to believe (ever need to make a payroll?), and you still have to do the boring shit. Models suck, but Quickbooks at 2 am sucks. Converting to Oracle absolutely blow and costs you $1MM. Looking for office/industrial space? Sounds cool. Huge time suck. It goes on.

I like the romantic ideal of teaching self defense to kids (and I'd like to caveat this statement with the fact that I've practiced martial arts for 30 years so I truly get that zeal) but in order to do that type of thing you need to work hard, really hard, in a high paying field like IB or law for 15 years, not a few years, because there's not enough money in MA to support yourself, let alone a family. And I know that most younger people on WSO are never going to get married and have kids but most people do. I wasn't going to. I did.

There are many ways to go, just do what you think will make you happy.

    • 5
Nov 12, 2015

Jesus this is such a good post. I know I made fun of your mid-life crisis in the other thread, but is it possible for you to do an AMA for us know-nothings sometime? Paging @AndyLouis

Nov 11, 2015
undefined:

I'm not disagreeing with you and would never discourage entrepreneurial endeavors (I actually did it with partners in PE and have been quite successful in it, I also actively keep a keen eye on personally acquiring a company and running with it, and I've jumped into FT operating roles as an SVP of Corp Fin and separately as the President of a company because I wanted to gain operating chops, and because they were portfolio co's on the road to fubar and needed help), and the IB/PE route isn't for everyone, but it does gets better if you stick with it. @DickFuld is spot on: every entry level job sucks because they're mundane and you're doing bitch work. IB analyst/associate just sucks on steroids. Entry level marketing is probably boring, but it's accomplished in 50 hrs/week with people who are touchy feely types. Entry level corp fin sucks too. Not touchy feely, but overall they're accountants.

I also really like industries that most people on here would consider boring and unsexy businesses like pool cleaning, shit simple service businesses, retail grocery and distribution, specialty construction, etc. The wealthiest people I personally know have been in similar fields. Startups in the way that most people think of them (new tech) can be cool but you're counting on making a new tech/idea work and execution risk. If you start up a pool cleaning service for example, it's all execution risk. I'd gamble on the latter. However don't think it's all fun if you go that route because it's 24/7 like you can't actually comprehend until you do it, and includes stress that's also tough to believe (ever need to make a payroll?), and you still have to do the boring shit. Models suck, but Quickbooks at 2 am sucks. Converting to Oracle absolutely blow and costs you $1MM. Looking for office/industrial space? Sounds cool. Huge time suck. It goes on.

I like the romantic ideal of teaching self defense to kids (and I'd like to caveat this statement with the fact that I've practiced martial arts for 30 years so I truly get that zeal) but in order to do that type of thing you need to work hard, really hard, in a high paying field like IB or law for 15 years, not a few years, because there's not enough money in MA to support yourself, let alone a family. And I know that most younger people on WSO are never going to get married and have kids but most people do. I wasn't going to. I did.

There are many ways to go, just do what you think will make you happy.

Great post. SB'd. I agree with you in nearly every regard, and maybe it is too idealistic to practice MA for a living and make it a primary source of income. But, it is incredibly difficult to convince myself I am not utterly wasting my time pumping out some of these figures in Excel... the work just feels meaningless (big picture). Sure, it is part of the game that must be played. I think my point was more that this is just a means to an end in order to move on with my life and realign my priorities down the road.

Edit: I'd also encourage you to do an AMA - you seem to have some good perspective.

Nov 13, 2015

SB'd. One of the posters here who consistently delivers on the realtalk.

Nov 12, 2015
undefined:

I don't think I'll ever retire; my grandpa has always said that was his worst mistake, but he doesn't have many hobbies. Investment research could be a part-time hobby for me that I'd consider a job (after all, it makes [or loses] you money).

I already hate investment banking; I'm just waiting to either have enough money to start something better on my own (nothing, in my opinion, beats the feeling of being a successful entrepreneur) or to find a smaller-office asset manager ($100-500mm AUM) with a similar investing style. Research is fun, in my opinion, and the smaller offices have very relaxed atmospheres.

Dude I'm in the exact same boat. The investment office I interned at a couple years ago was awesome, just not a place I would've wanted to start as my first FT career in case I wanted to switch or something.

Nov 11, 2015

Yeah, I probably would've stuck around there if we had similar investment strategies. It's difficult to make recommendations when you don't agree with each other.

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Nov 11, 2015

Newsflash: Entry level jobs suck in every industry.

    • 5
Nov 12, 2015

If nothing else filters from WSO into the outer realms of the interwebz, this needs to. Any job that can be applied for on the internet and won by a 22 year old, will suck (excluding the sons of kings and billionaires here).

Nov 13, 2015

Couple points that may have been covered, but havent had time to read everything above

1) most grads are largely entitled, they think they are above doing repetitive and sometimes mundane work. They think because they made it to XYZ HF that they are the cream of the crop and should be treated as such. Wrong, they still dont know anything and need to learn from experienced people, while they do the stuff noone else wants to do in the meantime. For recent grads, unhappiness with the job is often times attributable to a break between their expectations of what they can do and what they can actually do. A lot of over inflated ego's come out of top universities.

2) Most people dont leave even after they have hit some sort of pre detemrined number simply because their fixed costs scale up with their promotions. Its very hard to get raises and bonuses and not let your lifestyle rise with the tide. I know guys that have gone through mutliple bull markets at great shops and they cant retire because they have 4 kids in private schools etc etc. The best thing you can do as a young guy is keep your fixed costs and lifestyle in check, only then will you truly be able to leave when you want. The saddest thing is when you see a guy that should be able to do whatever he wants, but because he scaled up his lifestyle along the way he is stuck, and needs the great yearly carry that finance provides. In my opinion, when you are 30, you should be able to view the yearly bonus/pay as a great carry that you can collect as long as you are happy to stay with what oyu are doing, but if you see a great opportunity that you want to pursue you have the backing you need to do so. When you get into the territory where you need to make 200k per year just to keep the lights on in your life then you have fcked up.

3) A lot of people dont leave because once you get to a senior level, its very easy for your title to becme your identity. Being and MD defines you, after all the path to where you are took up a lot of your life and you had to sacrifice a lot along the wya. Its not easy to give up when it becomes a part of who you are. As humans we love to identify with something, and its not easy to leave when it becomes a part of who you are. Its the handcuffs not many people talk about, but they are VERY real.

    • 4
Nov 15, 2015

all great points.

i've left WS twice. The first time I resigned from Goldman it took me more than five years to think i through and a few months to leave even after I resigned. the firm showed me around to lots of different jobs and it's hard to leave.

when i left carlyle it was much easier as I knew exactly what I was leaving to do.

in my book i go through the top ten reasons most people will never leave:

i've seen many bankers try to leave but fail, what I call getting stuck at the door. I've seen even more get stuck by the allure of the money, even though objectively they can see they won't make it or it won't set them free. i refer to this as $20 and done which is the illusion that many people on Wall Street have--when they make their $20mil they will ride off into the sunset...it never comes because keep raising the number or they just get too old....

some of them get stuck because of identity. others by being risk averse. but most of the people who stay in jobs that don't inspire them do it because they haven't figured out what does.

the trick to this topic is to focus less on leaving and more on what you are leaving to do. that's the problem with retirement. and it's the problem with leaving.

to do this right you want to begin with the vision for your career and life that is so compelling to you that you just keep moving towards it.

Nov 16, 2015
Nov 22, 2015