Why do overachievers think that finance is the sole route to success and riches

Before you all come at me, i am currently an intern in finance at a BB. So I am one of these people as well. I go to an Ivy and everyone seems to think that the sole route to get rich is via finance and tech. Why is that? Like I am originally from the south and there are a lot of rich people down here who did not have such a linear route to success. Why do we think that since we didn't get that internship at Goldman or Blackstone, that our lives are over. I mean, for Christ sakes, we go to an Ivy League school or ivy league equivalent. We are bound to get a job. But why is it that we believe finance is the only way when there are people in the south getting rich by selling car loans or owning a fucking car dealership or fucking starting a peanut farm. I know there is no prestige in any of those things but I 100% believe that most people at Ivies especially wharton think that the sole route to success is by finance lol. They literally will murder someone for an internship at goldman

Comments (50)

Jul 1, 2019

different people have different goals/dreams. no one is "bound to get a job".

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Funniest
Jul 3, 2019

The Sole Route To Success And Riches is FLEX SEAL

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Jul 2, 2019

because they don't have a BSD dad who's a MS+JPM+GS client

Jul 3, 2019

I can be your BDSM dad

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Jul 3, 2019

call me daddy and you'll be a bored deprived soccer mom no more

Most Helpful
Jul 2, 2019

People who've done well by playing by the rules are attracted to the safest, most obviously laid out path to success. For Ivies that have OCR from every big firm, finance is that path and is an easy way to rank/compare yourself to your peers.

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Jul 2, 2019

The value of this comment is under appreciated. Those who are good within a bounded system will do better in a field with minimal uncertainty. Analyst -> Associate/PE/HF so on an so forth... its a concrete path. This is even more so prevalent in "higher achieving" universities because those students did well in high school; they did well following rules and doing exceptionally well at what they were told to do. To some extent, it's probably conditioning. I am told to study, I study, I do well on test -> teacher, classmates, and family provides me with positive reinforcement... repeat. How could you not feel comfortable knowing exactly what you'll be making in 3 or 5 years? Break that path of certainty, and many high performing students at highly regarded universities start feeling lost. Fun fact: the most intelligent students in university tend to pursue academia and research, not finance.

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Jul 2, 2019
BANKINGGEENIE:

The value of this comment is under appreciated. Those who are good within a bounded system will do better in a field with minimal uncertainty. Analyst -> Associate/PE/HF so on an so forth... its a concrete path. This is even more so prevalent in "higher achieving" universities because those students did well in high school; they did well following rules and doing exceptionally well at what they were told to do. To some extent, it's probably conditioning. I am told to study, I study, I do well on test -> teacher, classmates, and family provides me with positive reinforcement... repeat. How could you not feel comfortable knowing exactly what you'll be making in 3 or 5 years? Break that path of certainty, and many high performing students at highly regarded universities start feeling lost. Fun fact: the most intelligent students in university tend to pursue academia and research, not finance.

This and what @caeq have said. Couldn't say it any better or more succinctly.

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Jul 2, 2019

I don't know about your "fun fact"; I know of econ/math PhDs that work for hedge funds or do consulting work in finance on the "side".

Ironically, the side job usually pays more than the primary/day job.

Jul 2, 2019

Well, I think that the recruitment culture gives rise to a general pursuit of pathways of prestige as undergrads see those around them heading down well-defined tracks and look to do the same. Most banks and consulting firms make offers between August and December of a student's senior year; imagine being a competitive and slightly insecure senior watching this process unfold around you...

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Jul 2, 2019

Used to work in consulting with a buddy of mine who wasn't as good with "following rules". Questioned (legitimately) the work of an manager but wasn't too subtle about it. Basically asked to resign after a whole bunch of things, he told them to fuck off, got fired.

He now sells BMWs at a dealership and clears $450k per year and laughs so hard at the manager who never made partner and works in some shitty 5-person consulting firm in bumblefuck nowhere. I saw my friend's pay stub and the worst month he's ever had he made $20,000 pre-tax. Now he is an exception because he is amazing at that job (ranked something like Top 5 in the country) but it just goes to show that upper middle class wealth is achievable by anyone with talent, in any industry.

Jul 2, 2019

Car sales gets shit on but growing up around it my whole life made me realize how much money is in sales.

Jul 5, 2019

finance is literally sales. What do you think MDs do all day? They are just salesmen.

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Jul 3, 2019

good fucking reminder. Many paths to the top.

Jul 2, 2019

Agree with the general ideas presented above. I think it's a matter of risk, student perception, and lack of experience. I would say the same thing with the large number of "premed" as well - even though becoming a doctor is the ultimate goal, it's not the only thing to do with a STEM/Research background. But, everyone associates a doctor with wealth, success, and one of the only routes. Just like banking, I feel like many students go down the premed route to find that they don't like it - maybe they don't want to go through 5+ additional years of school, and then they swap to something else. But in your early twenties attending an ivy, there's always a perception that going into finance/med is going to make you successful so it's the "easy", defined way out.

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Jul 2, 2019

I agree though I do think medicine has become less of a destination for ivy league grads than it used to be...

Jul 2, 2019

I think instant gratification plays a large role in this. Sure, you can be successful in any field but it (normally) will take much longer to cross 6 figures and up, whereas in finance you get that certainty right out of undergrad.

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Jul 2, 2019

Just because you get there out of undergrad doesn't mean you'll remain there. Finance isn't exactly stable...

Jul 2, 2019

Agreed but while it isn't guaranteed, your odds of being able to stay once you get there are higher than your odds of making it to the same level income-wise in most other fields. Basically, my point is when an undergrad is looking at a $140k job offer that progress to ~$300k within 5 years should you be kept on vs a $60k offer in something that wont get them to that $300k for 10+ years without being a top top performer or incredibly lucky or both, its gonna be hard for them to go with the latter when getting rich is the goal

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Jul 2, 2019

By that same logic, what do overachievers go to the same Ivy League / top schools rather than their state school or something else?

It's a signaling effect as well as a way to mitigate risk. It's the same thing as going into finance / tech.

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Jul 2, 2019

I think it takes a while for younger adults to figure out what "success" means to them... its money for some, family for others and time for another group..

and end of the day - thats cool. i am much more happy when i found what "success" was to me

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Jul 2, 2019

Its a little surprising to me that despite being relatively smart most people don't realize you'll get rich trading time for money - you're the same as any blue collar worker until then.

Jul 3, 2019

Wish I could give more than 1 banana

I think too many people get hung up on having to start a company from scratch, especially some tech unicorn.

Plenty of different routes to owning a piece of a pie.

Jul 3, 2019

plenty are wising up and realizing that tech is the winner today. easier to land a gig at Goldman w a BS in CompSci than at Google w one in Finance. Shit, w a decently high GPA in CS you'd be a top choice for BB anyways. Then (esp) early years you get more money for far less work. ez pz

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Jul 3, 2019

you've just written a whole post full of complete and utter drivel

Jul 3, 2019

I think you have to look at the skill set of overachievers as well. They are book smart, and good at following directions, not necessary thinking outside of the box (thats a generalization, but I think accurate). So if youre in that position at an Ivy league, its probably you're best option.

It's similar to guys at top sports schools, literally its the League for them or bust, because they don't really have other skills.

Maybe these Ivy league guys have the brain power to do a bunch of things, but might not have the temperment to take risks, build a company, chase another field.

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Jul 3, 2019

Dealing with ambiguity is our generation's biggest challenge. Most decisions today are made based on social proof (peers, IG, etc.) and data. If competing against your peers within a set boundary of rules is what you're good at, you're going to continue that game and that's why Ivy Leagues feed into Wall Street training programs. It's an extension of the game.

Why does it seem like people back in the day were all-so-willing to start a random business and suddenly strike it big? Because they didn't have data or the internet to tell them "whoa hey, your idea is unlikely to succeed because trends show x, y, and z. Also your friends are all doing X and seem to be doing great so why not do that instead?"

The fallacy of the thinking above, however, is that placing yourself in limited, unambiguous competitive environments also restricts you from becoming an outlier, both in the sense of completely striking out or becoming a home run.

A perfect example is Steve Job's motivation to enter the computer industry in the first place. If you looked at the competitive environment and available data at the time he entered, every typical financial/strategic analysis would've told you "fuck it, new entrants have no shot and you're fighting corporate giants." Steve didn't care. He just wanted to add value and when you listen to recordings of the few conferences he spoke at, it really shows.

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Jul 3, 2019

such a great post!

Jul 3, 2019

Funny the uncertainty of creating your own path comes from lack of confidence in your ability to create value. No one is telling you what to do. You have to figure it out. If you know you can do it, you just do it. That's how business owners think.

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Jul 7, 2019

"uncertainty of creating your own path comes from lack of confidence in your ability to create value,' is my new favorite quote. Thx and have a great day.

Jul 3, 2019

In finance you are literally creating money.
Now you can go into Tech or something but tbh you will kinda always have a job in finance unless there are absolutely no companies and no financial regulations. Look at audit. It is only a job because the government requires companies to be audited. It is like one of the only industries that can make money after a recession. You can't have a billion doctors. You say rich do you mean like multi millionaire rich or living comfortably without having to worry about bills and necessities. If you aren't gonna start a business the best industries are probably tech, health/medicine, finance, energy. Or become a politician that takes lobbyist money. You also can't have a million car dealerships. Also selling car loans is basically finance.

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Jul 3, 2019

I know a dude with 10 and a crap load of real estate. He has more money than he knows what to do with and he's an absolute moron from Ivy league standards.

Jul 3, 2019

Personally, I just wanted to secure a bag... two years at a BB or EB and there are dozens of exit ops, in the long run two years is nothing and i can lateral any which way after, even out of finance if i want to go to grad school

Jul 3, 2019

Here's something else to note as a devil's advocate: I cannot stress enough how large the unseen iceberg of LOSERS exist the sales/entrepreneurship path. If you've been immersed in the startup world, you'll see a fair amount of wicked smart, well-connected people get blown out of the water and some NEVER EVER recover. Even companies with $100M exits will give founders jack shit because VC's are ahead in the preference stack; you can end up working 100 hour weeks for $100k/yr, worthless common stock, and get acqui-hired into being a corporate drone again.

The worst part of all this? You'll see the true colors behind all the people you associate with. You'll see the judgment, the embarrassment of being associated with you. You'll become that case study for people as to why they should stick with their job. They'll label you as the wannabe who drank the Gary V kool-aid.

This is why finance/tech/consulting is so attractive. If you more or less can grind, you will be in the 1%. You could get blown out from acts of god but there are enough people also on the path that have been blown out that you can follow a playbook to recover. Entrepreneurship doesn't necessarily have that. If you venture on your own without a strong enough network, you might dig your own ditch and end up forced to get a low-paying job just to get yourself out the hole.

Can you deal with pushing on even when everyone thinks you failed? Can you deal with no one empathizing with you? Can you keep resilience when your parents give you "that talk" about being serious with your life? Most people can't and those that do have a bigger vision in mind other than money.

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Jul 4, 2019

In our society right now, the real game is entrepreneurship. If you cant hack it, you cant hack it. But the people running the show in this country, most of the rich people, theyre all entrepreneurs. Finance is a mature industry. If you want to make 200 Million, theres only one way.

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Jul 3, 2019

^This is a fantastic post - the best in this thread!

I can't stress this point enough:

" If you venture on your own without a strong enough network, you might dig your own ditch and force yourself by getting a low-paying job just to get yourself out the hole."

You have to earn the right to take risks and you have to take them wisely. There's a reason why the average age of an entrepreneur is between 37-45

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Jul 3, 2019

Absolutely agree with @ThatOtherGuy too - network, skillset, hands-on experience etc are definitely important for an entrepreneur to be successful, but I think that your point on "earning the right to take risks" is a bit dubious. Assuming that most people get married/have kids in their early 30s, becoming a full-time entrepreneur isn't just risky for yourself - it could derail your entire family. Same issue with golden handcuffs when you're used to a certain lifestyle. Most successful founders advise potential entrepreneurs to take risks when they're relatively young for these reasons.

I suspect that average age statistic includes majority family business-types rather than just startups. Also, enterprise software sales has a bit more of a safety net than other sales jobs (not firsthand knowledge but my impression is that if you put in a decent amount of time and effort you'll have a decently comfortable salary).

Jul 6, 2019

I disagree with waiting on the age side. IMO if you're and entrepreneur you're an entrepreneur and you can't work for other people.

My business partner was fired from every job he had. Super successful too - 7 figure nw by early 20s, CEO of a 3 letter domain co, etc

I've never been able to stay motivated for long working for others either and the majority of people I've met in EO/YPO are the same.

Jul 3, 2019

I personally wouldn't mind owning a relatively small business and then building it up and adding value but as others have said I don't want to dig myself into a hole and be screwed forever. By initially going down the finance path you're able to give yourself a base which you can leverage later and which you can exit in two years (for IB) to other more lucrative opportunities and then later on you can try your hand at entrepreneurship or something else.

Jul 4, 2019

I'd wager that the finance route is one of the true and tested methods of maximizing your chances to get rich. It's a well-trodden path with clear milestones along the way, and it's much less risky than other paths - to put it short: If you're hard-working and risk-averse, then finance may be the best way.

If you think about it, the way from undergrad to analyst to business school and to post-MBA roles is very clearly defined - there are hundreds that do this, and thousands that have done this, and they have all ended up with nice compensations. It's after that things become a bit more murky, and you can't rely on just working hard 100% to reach the next step. Suddenly office politics start to play a huge role, and there's more chance.

Most overachievers, in my experience, love to go with the path where just working hard enough guarantees some sort of payout. They excel at sports because they put in the hours that others won't bother to, and they have a very competitive mindset with clear goals. They also excel at school for the same reason. They naturally also excel at jobs where you're rewarded by the amount of work you put in.

There are obviously many types of overachievers, some being more daring than others. Lots of entrepreneurs are natural overachievers and extremely competitive people, but without any guaranteed payoff at the end - but still, they may be very different from the overachievers you see in banking, that have carefully planned every step ahead, to maximize their returns. I think it boils down to risk-aversion.

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Jul 4, 2019

People make very poor decisions when faced by the prospects of prestige. I know tons of ivy graduates with 6 figure debt. My friend whose an elevator mechanic is 31 with no debt, a solid apartment, and nice car, with great job security. As far as getting rich goes, I would recommend most people do something on a very very small scale before going big. I know a lot of entrepreneurs esp real estate and tech people that were once millions of dollars in debt. If you catch the bad end of the market and get bad credit, the IRS will come down hard on you. Bottom line your better at casually investing into an IRA with the goal of reaching the limit every year, avoiding vacations and expensive items. than your maybe 45-50 with a solid net worth, Why not take some chances with some big investments? Warren Buffet acquired 90% of his overall net worth after the age of 50. Becoming wealthy takes time and discipline.

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Jul 5, 2019

I will echo some sentiment that has already been shared.

When you're at an Ivy, your grounds for comparison are limited. Most students are smart, driven, and well-connected. To differentiate themselves, they attempt to land internships at prestigious firms. This creates a hierarchy to determine who is "doing better."

Why do more people not pursue entrepreneurship? Well, it deals with the uncertainty surrounding the range of outcomes. Corporate paths have been walked by many, so one can be reasonably certain about salary expectations, and a higher floor exists. Starting a new company forces one to foray into the unknown. There is a limited sample of outcomes to draw earnings expectations from and in some cases no sample.

To counter some sentiment shared in this thread about entrepreneurship, I'd assert that if you treat your startup ideas like trading, you can greatly increase your probability of success. If you get negative feedback, cut your losses and move on. If you get positive feedback, ride the winners. You'll fold some winning distributions if you get unlucky in the short term, but eventually, you'll stumble your way onto an opportunity set with favorable outcomes.

Jul 6, 2019

I very much agree that a startup is like taking a very concentrated, well thought out and long term investment/bet on something.

Jul 6, 2019

Curious how you apply this mindset in the real world without destroying your professional track record.

Work on an idea for 6-8 months, decide its not worth it, end up needing cash, you're back on the job hunting circuit.

Jul 6, 2019

That's a good point. I also guess it's what you're optimizing for. Think having an entrepreneurial mindset fits some other people better.

Jul 6, 2019

that's how the media portrays it. truth is... there are other areas that could help you get rich...

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Jul 6, 2019
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