by Brian DeChesare Comments (141)

Investment Banker Salaries Vs. McDonald’s: Hourly Pay

“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.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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. 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?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      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. I work in tech, more specifically fintech, I’m not a programmer, I’m an analyst. 25 yrs old. My base is $90000, I have stock and cash bonus (but too small a proportion of salary compared to IB that I’ll just leave it out here, also leaving out stock b/c we’re not public). We have 2 weeks off in Christmas, I took 4 weeks from unlimited vacation, and I typically work 7 hours a day (9-5 excluding lunch). So 90000/(46*5*7)=56/hour. Seems better than best case of an IB analyst even if I don’t have bonus and my stock is worth nothing. And I’m not a programmer in SF, nor NY. Programmers make more than me, and SF, NY pays more apparently.

      1. M&I - Nicole

        Thanks for your input!

  4. I have a question my intention is to work 10years iB, im going to do the MBA next year. I am currently doing actuarial science and i was wondering which has a more rewarding outcome, furthermore i have a fiancee. But i dont blow money i spend like it an accountant. So saving wont be an issue.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Well, I’d presume IB may be more rewarding monetarily though I wouldn’t count on working in the industry if you want job stability. 10 years in IB – that’s a pretty long time, especially in this environment. What I think would really help you? Network with bankers, really understand what the industry is about, and think about whether it is something you want to do for the long term. I don’t think you can plan your career in banking.

  5. What about the tax rate restatement. Here in london it’s around 40% for an analyst. Maybe 20% for a Mcdonald employee.

  6. Hi, quick off topic question. How does one get into IB/sales and trading. I am a college senior and I wanted an analyst job at an IB after graduation. im not sure if i have to get into Investment banking or sales n trading. pliz enlighten me on the advantgz and disadvantagz of each

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