Investment Banker Salaries Vs. McDonald’s: Hourly Pay

139 Comments | Investment Banking - Salaries & Bonuses

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Investment Banker Salaries“I’m talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.”

-Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

Everyone knows you make tons of money in investment banking, right?

That’s common knowledge – but what no one ever thinks about is how much you make per hour.

Yes, making six-figures as a 23-year old is nice – but not if you work 120 hours per week to get there.

So how much do you make on an hourly basis – and is it more than a McDonald’s employee?

The Best of Times…

For entry-level investment banking analysts, the best-case scenario happened way back in 2007.

Base salaries were $60,000 and bonuses for “top-tier” analysts were $90,000, for a grand total of $150,000 in compensation. Not bad for a 23-year old.

On average, investment bankers work around 90-100 hours per week in their first year.

That might be a bit high or a bit low (!) depending on the bank and group, but we’ll go with it for now.

With 52 weeks of work per year (there’s no vacation, thank you very much) and 90 hours per week, you would have earned $32.05 per hour ($150,000/(52*90)) in 2007.

At 100 hours, that drops to $28.85 per hour.

Even if, hypothetically, you worked 140 hours per week every single week and somehow survived for 1 year, you’d still be at $20.60 per hour.

The Worst of Times

Of course, long before 2007 and immediately after 2007, bonus numbers fell substantially.

In 2001-2002, for example, Analysts were lucky to get $10,000 bonuses – and sometimes they just received lumps of coal or IOU notes.

And they still worked like crazy – only they created pitch books constantly rather than working on actual M&A deals.

A $10,000 bonus and $60,000 salary implies $14.96 per hour at 90 hours a week.

So you’d be in administrative assistant range, but still not quite at McDonald’s level.

But what if you did absolutely nothing but create pitch books for 140 hours per week, every week, and got a bonus of $0?

$8.24 per hour.


What Happened After 2007 and Beyond

In the midst of the financial crisis, bonuses dropped quite a bit from 2007 levels – though not quite as much as people expected.

In 2008, the top-tier 1st year analyst bonus was down to $65K, and in 2009 it was down to $45K.

While these numbers do represent a huge drop, you’d still make significantly more than a McDonald’s employee on a per-hour basis.

…Vs. McDonald’s

At the time of this article, the hourly rate of a cashier at McDonald’s is $7.56 per hour according to

So the only way you’d actually make less than you would at McDonald’s is if you earned a $0 bonus and worked at least 153 hours per week.

Which, um, isn’t possible.

Or Could You?

Hypothetically if we had deflation and investment banking base salaries dropped and you simultaneously got a ridiculous workload, and McDonald’s wages rose, then maybe you could make more at McDonald’s.

Here’s a handy sensitivity table showing you all the possibilities:

McDonald’s vs. Steve Schwarzman

And yes, I know Steve Schwarzman makes a lot more than $41. 21 per hour – I just put his picture there because it seemed appropriate.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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139 Comments to “Investment Banker Salaries Vs. McDonald’s: Hourly Pay”


  1. George says

    Whatever anyone says, hourly pay is very important, and not being physically present at your primary workplace doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not investing your time in one source of income or another. So I have wasted way more time than I should have trying to hunt down the necessary data for an estimate of hourly pay in tech versus finance. This comparison is interesting because while average annual pay in finance is higher, tech folks work shorter hours. Any thoughts on this?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Thanks for your input. I’m not 100% sure regarding pay in tech, though yes tech folks may work shorter hours, but then again it depends on the firm and role. I think readers may have better suggestions.

  2. Michael says

    The difference is could you work at McDonald’s for 70, 80, 90+ hours per week? No chance, so you’ll still be getting chump change compared to IB..

  3. says

    The base salary of $60K is adjusted for location and firm. The entry-level analyst assigned to NYC, San Francisco, or London UK will make a lot more because the cost of living in those places is high. Goldman Sachs also pays more because its prestige makes working there more attractive, thus more people compete for positions.


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