Work to live, not live to work. Low-stress finance jobs...

What are some roles with a combination of:

Lifestyle (9-5)

Decent pay ($125K in high COL region)

Relatively low stress (limited fire drills, limited risk or potential for major mistakes)

Demand (not super niche, potential to work in a relatively wide range of industries and companies)

For those of us with the work to live attitude, what's up?

WSO Elite Modeling Package

  • 6 courses to mastery: Excel, Financial Statement, LBO, M&A, Valuation and DCF
  • Elite instructors from top BB investment banks and private equity megafunds
  • Includes Company DB + Video Library Access (1 year)

Comments (51)

Best Response
Aug 31, 2017 - 11:13am

if a lot of hours gives you stress, you just haven't found the right career. every rewarding job will be stressful at times, but if you have a career you really enjoy, you won't mind the hours. I have friends who are VPs in banking, PE, and HF/AM, working many more hours than I do but they love it. likewise, there are people in PWM who have cushy schedules and abhor it. it's less about the quantity and more the nature of the work that will lead you to enjoy life.

answering the question directly, zero entry level roles have what you're talking about. you will most likely not achieve the lifestyle demands you seek until you're late 20s/early 30s, at which point you're a value add, either in sales, as a senior analyst at a fund with good hours, or something similar that affords you flexibility with your schedule.

Aug 31, 2017 - 11:23am

if a lot of hours gives you stress, you just haven't found the right career. every rewarding job will be stressful at times, but if you have a career you really enjoy, you won't mind the hours. I have friends who are VPs in banking, PE, and HF/AM, working many more hours than I do but they love it. likewise, there are people in PWM who have cushy schedules and abhor it. it's less about the quantity and more the nature of the work that will lead you to enjoy life.

answering the question directly, zero entry level roles have what you're talking about. you will most likely not achieve the lifestyle demands you seek until you're late 20s/early 30s, at which point you're a value add, either in sales, as a senior analyst at a fund with good hours, or something similar that affords you flexibility with your schedule.

I think you're generalizing a bit. Not everyone strikes to be the best or most important cog in the wheel.

Some, like me, care way more about getting paid enough to live comfortably and then heading home to spend time with family.

Work is a means to an end. Not the end all, be all. Again, for some. And this thread is for those that align to this.

Learn More

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

Learn more
Sep 1, 2017 - 9:39am

The parameters outlined in the OP's post are definitely achievable in F500 Corp Fin. Granted, it will take 6-8 years and 3-4 promotions to get there. I work for a global 500 firm in a relatively casual industry, and median salary for our managers is ~130k. The majority of whom are working less than 50 hours a week. Its company specific, but you can certainly carve out a balanced, well-paid lifestyle in Corp Fin as long as you can navigate the politics.

Sep 1, 2017 - 4:04pm

I believe there was a thread about this earlier in the summer (you can search cushy 40-45 hours 125k in the search bar and it might comes up :D)

Generally there are a few ways you can go about it. BB Ops is one. F500 Finance from the data points I have will probably get you to 120K by say 5-6 years or so (at this point you are a very senior analyst or junior manager). A credit rating agency is another option (you work a bit more occasionally but generally a low stress environment with around 120-150k upside at the similar years.) An associate in corporate development/corp strat will make around this amount as well. (YMMV but I'd say that it's about as close to a 9-5 job as you'll find in finance with good upside for more as you progress). I wouldn't worry too much about the figures. the ballpark really is to do good work for 5-7 years in some corporate role and you'll probably hit 120-150 unless you really mess up somewhere.

I do want to echo what others have said above that this would be a good medium term target but not necessarily one you should box yourself into right out of or a few years out of college, just because you may involuntarily limit your upside or as a worst case never approach 120k (unlikely but greater than 0% chance) if you stagnate at a point in time. if you are a few years in I think the most prudent approach is to really grind out 2-4 years of hard work and then enjoy the output of that work. The tradeoff is less free time when you are in your early 20's in exchange for a fairly probable likelihood you hit the number you seek above with pretty comfortable hours/lifestyle, but also with a significant degree of optionality to your opportunities beyond should you choose to seek them.

Of course the above is not the best for everyone at all. I'm of the opinion that you should never be in a job where you feel miserable getting up to go to the office. Life's far too short to dread this in each case ;P

There's a closer meaning to my user name. Try reading it quickly. Perhaps you will then understand ;P
  • 7
Sep 3, 2017 - 12:41am

OP - I'm surprised no one mentioned this yet, but Treasury and/or Tax are cushy and extremely secure jobs at corporations, and I think they fit the criteria you seek. However, do note that these fields are extremely (extremely!) specialized and folks stay for their entire careers, so don't expect much as to exit opportunities into other business areas. The tax folks at my company have been at the company for over 20+ years and they helped create and develop our extremely complicated tax structure and strategy, which spans multi-countries/jurisdictions (i.e. thank you Ireland). As such, their institutional knowledge and deep understanding are what creates the job security.

I recall this one time, when I first started, I needed guidance on what tax rates to use for revenue from Spain, France, etc. for modeling purposes, so I decided to pop my head into our M&A tax lead's office. What I thought would be a quick 5-10 minute discussion morphed into 1 hour lecture of him talking about the various legal entities we have in Europe and how we can minimize the tax impact by flowing our cash through A, but not B and/or C, then to Z....etc. etc.

Now I just ask via email and he tells me "oh, just use XX%".

Sep 5, 2017 - 3:12pm

Avoid tax, it seems like an awful division.

26 Broadway where's your sense of humor?
Sep 15, 2017 - 12:39pm

I did treasury for a bit pre-MBA. $130k, 40-55 hrs/wk. Look for a company with a small group so you can manage different areas vs. getting pigeon-holed. Also, pick a company that will give you the opportunity to work on deals with some frequency. The monthly reporting duties of treasury can get pretty boring, so the chance to work on a refinancing or acquisition financing breaks up the monotony. Also, it would be helpful if the company has a centralized ERP system. Having to get forecast info from multiple divisions (some with multiple ERPs) is brutal and involves a lot of mind-numbing reformattting.

Sep 14, 2017 - 1:10am

Look into commercial banking, much faster pay progression than F500 finance, and similar hours. Transaction driven environment. I'm no longer at a BB and not leading as many deals. When I am not working on a deal, hours are easily 9-5. I'm actually not a fan of this and more of a hard hitting type A personality so trying to switch out.

Second that, I only have a little over 4 yrs of full time experience and will easily exceed the $125K figure all-in, while working 9-6 most days; in high COL NYC.

Sep 4, 2017 - 3:55am

One observation/experience I'd add is that many people I know you now have "cushy" jobs used to work in a more fast-paced position earlier on in their career (e.g. IB, consulting, etc.). For instance, lots of corp dev and corp start roles will have good pay, reasonable hours, and ability to live in a low COL area, but you often need previous experience in the specific area to be considered. Essentially, you have to pay your dues upfront.

Note: this is not to say you can't work your way up on the corporate side, but odds are that a "name brand" experience on your resume will help you get there faster and with more likelihood.

Sep 6, 2017 - 9:51am

This is my job exactly and I dislike it.

Most people would think I am crazy to say this but I prefer a challenge and way more risk and the sense of a true accomplishment like closing a deal. I get none of that from my current job especially as of late.

I get to interact with the front office and know how to create software they like. But the rewards don't really go beyond the money unless you are working somewhere more challenging like Citadel or Two Sigma.

Sep 6, 2017 - 10:22am

Stress isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it may add to your job satisfaction. No jobs come without some stress, and if there are, those jobs will probably be automated soon...

Life is too short to be on WSO. But here I am.
Sep 6, 2017 - 9:41pm

The government, especially at the federal level can provide a stress-free yet fulfilling lifestyle that you're yearning for. Don't discount it before you look at what is available especially at places like the Fed or the SEC.

i feel like those jobs are **impossible **to get. legit. the usajobs site is one of the worst i've ever used.

Sep 12, 2017 - 9:46am

Disagree. At my university, they wouldn't even come around because they understood that we were all going private sector. They had to recruit at backwoods public colleges to find people willing to go that route. Even at my firm there are people whose game plan is crush it in private for a few years and then transfer down to govt and coast til retirement.

However, nail on the head about the federal jobs websites. What do you expect from something the fed govt built? Over price, over budget, still giving bonuses

Sep 15, 2017 - 10:27pm

I'll second this comment on the government. Especially the financial regulators. They pay better than most other agencies, so you can easily be making over $125k within a few years.

I work for one of those regulators. We do have fire drills, but they're rare. I've been there for 2 years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to stay past 8pm. Some of my co-workers have occasionally had to stay until 2am, or come in on the weekend, but it happens less than once a year.

They won't pay you overtime, but they'll comp you the hours, so you can go home earlier some other day.

I will echo what others have said, though: There a 0% chance you can get one of these jobs right out of college. I don't know about other agencies, but we don't even look at recent grads. To even be considered, you either need a PhD, or a masters or JD and several years of experience.

And the hiring process is long and tedious. You have to clear the USAjobs hurdles before a hiring manager can even see your resume, and then it was three rounds of interviews.

It is a lot of fun, though. Lots of really cool projects. Flexible hours and low stress (usually). The work is interesting and enjoyable. Pay is good, and the DC area is nice to live in.

  • 2
Sep 6, 2017 - 3:27pm

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned middle office risk. 9-6, good pay, decent career opportunities all around. Though this might just be the places I've worked at so YMMV.

in it 2 win it
Sep 6, 2017 - 9:42pm

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned middle office risk. 9-6, good pay, decent career opportunities all around. Though this might just be the places I've worked at so YMMV.

well...give us more details if you don't mind. what's a day-to-day like?

Sep 6, 2017 - 10:39pm

Something like exchange rate risk or liquidity risk on the corporate finance side. That's probably the main factor here, that whatever role you take is on the organizational finance side, not the moneymaking side of the business. Look for quantitatively-oriented roles that support the corporate decision-making body of your company. At my last firm, we had what was called a "corporate planning" team, which was basically the budget forecasting / reporting / investor relations group all rolled into one. Working for them sucked, but supporting them on the risk side was an absolute piece of cake, and still looked good. It's important that the role have some "edge" however, or else you're just an accountant/IT guy/Excel monkey and won't get paid very well (the edge with risk roles is that they should be quantitative in nature).

Also, I just want to note that compensation is hugely dependent on locale. Don't expect $150k for a reporting role at a F500 in Portland, OR, and don't expect $150k and an easy lifestyle working finance at a tech company in Palo Alto. The key to the "cushy" job, I think, is to "ride the wave". Any risk professional in NYC can easily earn $150k in under 5 years, the same way any data engineer can nab $150k in Silicon Valley. Go where the wind blows.

Edit: forgot to answer your question lol.

Day to day at my old risk gig was 9-6 ~70% of the time, 9-8 ~25% of the time, and I'd say 5% of the time I had to stay later than 8PM. That "9-6" estimate is also probably comprised mainly of 9-5 days. My boss went on vacation once and I worked from home for 2 weeks, then felt like an alien when I got back to the office. Light maths involved, maybe a regression analysis here and there. Some monthly reports, some usual deliverables, and a few "big" presentations throughout the year to prep for. Overall a dream of a job for someone not looking to stress themselves. Comp progression was something like 70-85 for analyst (1-3 years), 85-110 for manager (3-6 years), 125-160 for director. There are interim roles included there (senior analyst, junior manager, senior manager, etc) but the years estimate is pretty accurate. This was at a F500 financial services company that owned bank subsidiaries.

in it 2 win it
  • 2
Sep 8, 2017 - 6:13am

Exactly. I know of a few cool risk/FLDP type programs that pay high 70s starting and then pretty close to 100 after 2 years of experience (they promote you to sfa/associate), Not to mention most can then peak out at vp/manager and likely make around 170-250k in a cheap city like Charlotte, Houston, Dallas, etc.

Sep 6, 2017 - 9:44pm

I'm a Senior FP&A guy making 100k in SF. Work from home twice a week and almost never more than 8 hours. I'd imagine if I got promoted to manager, I would be able to hit that range, so it's definitely doable. But like others said, it takes a while...I'm in year 6 of working.

wow. 6 years in SF to make $100K. sorry, $100K is good, no doubt. and that lifestyle is as well. but it's a grind to get there.

the two days remote work is amazing - how did you manage to get that?

Sep 7, 2017 - 12:08pm

100k isn't a lot in SF. Livable, but I'm definitely not living lavishly. :)

I'm been doing two days a week remote for the past 3 years or so. I've been lucky to have bosses accommodate and trust that I will get my work done. I live in SF but my office is actually in the South Bay so it's a 1-1/2 hour commute each way most days.

In this day and age, working in FP&A remote is easy...everything is stored in the cloud.

Sep 6, 2017 - 7:51pm

I'm in FP&A and didn't leave the office until just before midnight last night. My boss (Associate Director) worked through the entire night. Granted we are preparing a Management Review presentation for the SLT, but the hours are consistently long and will only get worse once we start the Budget cycle.

Sep 7, 2017 - 3:08pm

Sr. Manager of Strategic Finance Role - Corp Dev. / FP&A hybrid - NYC suburbs
10 Years experience - All in comp $130K
8am - 6pm average work day, relatively stress free with the occasional deal/ project crunch.

It takes some time to get up in compensation, but throwing in a couple lateral or upward job moves helps big time.

Sep 7, 2017 - 4:42pm

I'm going to get flamed for saying this but internal audit after 3-5 years would fit the bill. Unless you get into a competitive program which is training future finance leaders (GE CAS, Dell GAT, etc.) the hours will be chill and you have to be an idiot to get fired. Even if you do, no one WANTS to be a SOX auditor and it's pretty easy to get another job as long as you don't drool on yourself in the interview.

Sep 12, 2017 - 11:33am

I think the biggest thing is going to work for a smaller firm (less than 50 headcount), where you will feel more attached to your work and its impact on the company, and have to deal with less bureaucracy/process which leads to burnout. Ideally though you should grind it out in banking (either IBD or a very sophisticated and challenging group within a commercial bank), for a few years in order to cultivate a work ethic and at least learn professional polish and etiquette that is best learned at a large bank.

Career satisfaction is defined more by your attachment to your work, a sense of meaning, and opportunity for natural progression and increased responsibility on a purely meritocratic basis, uninhibited by bureaucratic tiers. It has nothing to do with salary:hours worked--ask any government worker if they like their job.

Some good options include:
- Family office PE/investment management
- Real estate or utility development at a smaller firm
- Working your way quickly to management at a lower middle market company and get equity. I can't tell you how many times I was in a room full of PE sponsor team and bankers, while the guy who made C's in college but worked his way to the top of some random tiny company, now being bought, is cashing out for more money than anyone else in the room.

Sep 12, 2017 - 8:14pm

I just finished my first year at a Boutique IB in Chicago.
9-5:30 PM most of the time. Very limited weekend work and I come to work in jeans almost every day and every so often I just send an email to my partners to let them know I'm working from home for the day.

Pulled in exactly $125K my first year. Lower than street base, but my bonus was way bigger than expected.

I wouldn't say it's stress free though. Although definitely less than the top tier MM bank I interned for, I still stress about getting requests via email.

I would honestly say it feels like I'm living to work right now. I think it has more to do with you personal mentality rather than hours worked in a week. I'm trying to figure how to make my life more enjoyable right now and it's a challenge.

Sep 13, 2017 - 2:10pm

I was just about to say this. I know this is a Finance forum, but if you really want a cushy job that pays well with good security, just get a job in Tech. If you work decently hard in the first few years(50ish hours a week) you'll stand out and get to a middle manager level role easily. At the big tech companies you can pretty easily bring in 200k+ all in for simply being a Senior Engineer, Engineering Manager, Product Manager, etc.

Even finance in tech pays pretty well, tons of guys in Corp Dev, Corp FP&A, Corp Strat can all hit mid 100s to bordering on 200k all in in their late mid to late 20s.

Don't bother with all this Tax/Audit/Risk BS

The only issue is that ~200k in the Bay area, Seattle, or other tech centric high COL cities isn't really that much given housing prices.

Sep 17, 2017 - 12:25pm


Here in So-Cal (SD/LA/Irvine), most engineers starting out at the large companies are running around with $80-130k salaries. Middle and upper managers are given around a salary of $200-350k, directors are provided about $500k+ easily.

However, there's a sharp turnover of Senior engineers leaving (burnout), thus increasing demand.

If you know your stuff you are far better off starting your own company and raking in millions. Make it rain!

Sep 13, 2017 - 1:26pm

i know someone with a BS in something useless working in HR at the Department of Energy making 140K in the midwest.

Fed gov. financial analyst could probably get you there.

Sep 14, 2017 - 3:12pm

Since you are going for the work to live approach, choose where you want to live first. Weather, demographics, COL, recreation are all HUGE for me. Where do you want to be?

Compensation is not commensurate with education.
Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

July 2021 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (9) $911
  • Vice President (36) $363
  • Associates (209) $232
  • 2nd Year Analyst (120) $152
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (28) $146
  • Intern/Summer Associate (101) $144
  • 1st Year Analyst (444) $133
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (357) $82