Work-Life Balance in High Finance

Current senior about to go into college.

To those in PE, HF, VC (not IB...I already know the work hours are ridiculous) how are you managing to balance your work life and home life? How are the hours? Do you find flexibility to just enjoy life vs being in a cubicle for 9-10 hours?

Also, if you think about it from a subjective standpoint--do you find your work satiating or at least interesting?

Comments (27)

Best Response
Apr 17, 2017

Good question - definitely something I still think of to this day. My hours are very good compared to others on the buyside (8am to ~6:30pm), but I still feel like a large portion of my time outside of the office is spent on work answering e-mails, working on IC memos, diligence, etc. That being said, my weekends are generally more flexible (as long as a deal isn't closing ASAP).

I think a large amount of people in high finance tend to be type A people who will work hard and do their best in order to succeed so part of the long hours is work related and part is personality related. In my opinion, I find my work enjoyable and it's 100% better than the mindless work I did in IB - the buyside has reiterated the importance of being a creative and diligent thinker. Part of this is a blessing and a curse. I personally believe it's somewhat difficult to keep progressing up the ranks on the buyside just because of how competitive it is, but I also enjoy being challenged everyday to be at the top of my game.

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Apr 17, 2017

what aspects do you find satiating about working in high finance? Are you a "math" person? Technical person?
@808s and Heartbreak

Apr 20, 2017

I think it definitely depends on the firm, but I would argue most buyside places promote creative and analytical thinking. By no means am I a genius, but I do enjoy thinking through an issue/problem constructively and trying to offer a good and sound viewpoint on what I believe.

I would say I enjoy talking and listening to my co-workers the most - some of the topics we broach and random discussions on a potential investment are pretty great. I am constantly humbled by how intelligent people can think through specific issues and what sorts of questions they raise. All of this drives me to continually improve myself and try to think through things at the same level as they do.

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Apr 20, 2017

It is a big stress to maintain a proper balance with work-life especially while working in a finance domain. One should make sure that both never conflict with each other.

Apr 20, 2017

I'd go for the paralegal job unless the university gig will get you free/discounted tuition at a good university.

Apr 20, 2017

You probably know deep down what you want to do already.

"Dont compromise yourself; you're all you've got" - Janis Joplin

Apr 20, 2017

Actually I've been toying with this decision for too long and still don't know what to do. That's why I'm hoping to get some perspective. Any additional input appreciated!

Apr 20, 2017

The university gig is at a top 5 school and I wouldn't be able to take free classes until 2 years from now.

Apr 20, 2017

How long have you been working and do you have any money saved up to show for it?

An MBA from a top five school, assuming it has an MBA program, is worth about $100K. Let's assume you can crank out an MBA in three years once you start in two. That makes the value of this position an extra $20K/year.

Ok, in reality, it's worth less of a bump in the first two years and more in the last three. You have to guage this like an option; what is the probability that it expires in the money? What is the probability that you stick it out three, four, five years and still want to do an MBA and do not get fired in the meantime or get an amazing offer elsewhere.

Apr 20, 2017

observing post...

Apr 20, 2017
IlliniProgrammer:

How long have you been working and do you have any money saved up to show for it?

An MBA from a top five school, assuming it has an MBA program, is worth about $100K. Let's assume you can crank out an MBA in three years once you start in two. That makes the value of this position an extra $20K/year.

Ok, in reality, it's worth less of a bump in the first two years and more in the last three. You have to guage this like an option; what is the probability that it expires in the money? What is the probability that you stick it out three, four, five years and still want to do an MBA and do not get fired in the meantime or get an amazing offer elsewhere.

Yeah, the fact that it's a top 5 changes things. Illini makes some good points - also consider whether or not your position gives you easy entrance into the MBA program, as opposed to a non-employee who would have a hard time qualifying - that could add even more value to the position. I would take the university position and spend the first two years padding your resume with other things since you'll have lots of free time (study for the CFA, start a side business, etc.). Like Illini said, you'll have to think about whether you're going to stick it out for five years, but if it were me, I'd probably take that option.

Apr 20, 2017

I've been working for 3 years, going on 3.5 years after college. I'm not sure that being an employee at the uni gives me an easier entrance into the MBA program. Since it's a top program, I doubt it. The only way I'd stick it out here for another 5 years is if I could actually get into that MBA program, otherwise, I don't see myself living in this city for that long.

What if later on I decide not to do an MBA? Would my options still be versatile, or will I be left with a position on my resume that looks really dull aka being perceived as some "data donkey"? I'm interested in corporate finance but not sure. What if I actually decide to goto law school and then regret leaving the legal position?

Apr 20, 2017

Thanks all for the comments. Looking forward to hearing your responses. I need to decide by tonight! eek!

Apr 20, 2017

Here's my take:

Why you should switch:

1.) Good schools with brilliant researchers, just like good law firms with brilliant lawyers, typically don't hire idiots for white collar roles, and the next hiring manager you face will know that.
2.) If you don't want to do an MBA but do want to do another graduate degree (IE: JD, econ masters degree, etc), that will also be free if you can get in.
3.) If you go for a JD and have three years of paralegal experience, graduating debt-free is a heckuvalot better than five or six years of paralegal experience and $200K of school debt. $200K of school debt means you NEED to get an offer from Sidley and Austin.

Why you shouldn't switch:

1.) The free tuition benefit is worthless if you don't stay two years and use it.
2.) Life is always better switching to a slower lower-paying role if you have money saved up. If you haven't saved anything over the past three years, start doing so.
3.) You may be bored.

My Suggestion:

Spend this weekend studying for the GREs or GMATs, and take a practice exam or a real exam on Monday. See how you do and how your score stacks up against the average person who gets in.

Apr 20, 2017

Oops sorry to clarify, my 3 years of experience were in econ consulting, not at a law firm. Ive only been at a law firm for 7 months. Does that change your opinion?

Apr 20, 2017

How did you like econ consulting?

Apr 20, 2017

Illini,
I enjoyed it alot actually. Do you think that if i didnt stick around long enough for the tuition benefits, it would still be worth switching?

Apr 20, 2017

Let me make sure I have all of the facts:

-You have three years of experience in econ consulting.
-You like econ consulting more.
-I am guessing it pays better than academia and probably involves at least as much dollar per hustle as being a paralegal.
-I am guessing that these jobs are not impossible to get for an accomplished person with three years of prior experience.
-I am guessing that most consulting firms will pay or help pay for a part-time MBA.

If those facts are correct, here is my question:

Why is this a debate between working in a job you don't like that pays well vs. working in a job you like that pays poorly but gives you an MBA? If there is a job out there that you LIKE, that pays WELL, and pays for a part-time MBA for FREE, isn't that superior to your current two options?

Apr 20, 2017

IP is correct my friend

When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin in the air. In that brief moment while the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you are hoping for.

Apr 20, 2017

Illini,
Your facts are mostly correct. The econ consulting gig however was only a 3-year contract and i would've stayed longer if it wasn't a terminal gig. Now Im faced with two OK choices. I suppose i better just flip a coin.

Apr 20, 2017

^when the coin is in the air you'll know what you really want

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Apr 20, 2017

You guys keep making this sound like there are only two options on the table. I see a very obvious third option here. Pursue a job in economic consulting instead.

OP seems to be drifting into the role in academia because it happens to be an offer on the table. Sometimes, it is important to not be overly ambitious. But if you another job in the past that you enjoyed doing, if you did that job well, if you are well qualified for similar jobs, and if those jobs are not difficult to get, why are you going into a field you've never been before that pays less?

Dr. Phil voice:
"Letting a sailboat drift with the wind and the current is not a very good recipe for getting it to go where you want it to go.

Right now, chief, with your career, you are pushing the tiller towards the sail, and the sheet is flapping in irons. You're not telling your career where you want it to go, so it's not going anywhere. It's just drifting...

...So how do you feel about that?"

IlliniProgrammer's advice:
Decline the role in academia, go pound some pavement, and get a job as an economic consultant. That's what it sounds like you really want. You got a job as an econ consultant before, these jobs are still out there, you are still qualified for them, it is not a very big stretch to suggest you will get one again.

Apr 20, 2017
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Apr 20, 2017