by Brian DeChesare Comments (38)

How to Position Yourself for Investment Banking as a 1st or 2nd Year University Student or High School Student: Be a Line, Not a Dot

What to Do as a 1st/2nd Year University Student or High School Student to Get Into Investment BankingWhen do you start?

Your first year of university?

High school?

Middle school?

Elementary school?

Pre-school?

Your mother’s womb?

No one knows, but it seems like you need to start “preparing” for your future career earlier and earlier each year.

One day, parents might start modifying their unborn babies’ DNA to give them an advantage in the recruiting process… 20 years in advance.

In the absence of time travel or genetic modifications to boost your accounting proficiency, though, you need another way to prepare long in advance of the recruiting process.

Especially if you just entered university, you’re still in high school, or (gasp) you’re even younger and just realized you want to break into finance in the future.

Wait, What? DO People Actually Start Preparing When They’re 5 Years Old?

Not exactly, but standards have definitely increased over time.

Here are a few examples:

  • Internships: In the 2000-2005 time period, plenty of people “stumbled into” investment banking internships and even full-time jobs. I was one of them! Today (10-15+ years later), that doesn’t happen – you need previous work experience.
  • Expected Level of Technical Knowledge: Many interviewees 10-15 years ago got into IB without being able to walk through simple changes on the financial statements – good luck with that today.
  • The Hiring Process: More and more interviewees are getting case studies, modeling tests, and other extended exercises – yes, even in the US, and yes, even for internship roles.

So even though the emails and questions from high school and middle school students frighten me, they’re right to be concerned.

But there’s a straightforward solution:

Be a Line, Not a Dot

I’m stealing this analogy from Mark Suster’s excellent article on how he, as a venture capitalist, “invests in lines, not dots“:

“The first time I meet you, you are a single data point.  A dot.  I have no reference point from which to judge whether you were higher on the y-axis 3 months ago or lower.

Because I have no observation points from the past, I have no sense for where you will be in the future.  Thus, it is very hard to make a commitment to fund you.”

Even though he’s using the analogy to explain his investing process, the same logic applies to careers and the recruiting process.

After all, any company that hires you is effectively acting as an “early-stage investor”: they know you won’t be useful right away, but they’re happy to pay for you to learn the ropes and eventually contribute to the company.

Why Most Students Present Themselves Like Dots

Here are the top two recruiting mistakes I’ve seen from university students:

  • Interview / Networking Pitch: “Hi, I’m here because I want to do investment banking… because I will learn a lot, and it’s exciting, and I want to work on deals!” (And… um, what have you done in the past to demonstrate interest/commitment?)
  • Resume / CV: No prior academic, student group, or internship experience that indicates any interest in finance.

In some cases, it’s an issue of presentation and not telling your story effectively; in other cases, it’s because you actually don’t have a track record to point to.

You can avoid both these mistakes if you start early enough.

Remember the structure of the “story” we recommend using in interviews:

  • The Beginning: Your original interest, family background, etc.
  • Finance “Spark”: What specific event made you interested in IB / other finance roles?
  • Growing Interest: How have you developed this interest over time with clubs, activities, and internships?
  • Why You’re Here Today / The Future: Your future plans to advise/invest in companies.

To become a “line” rather than a “dot,” you need to spend the first 2 years of university doing activities and internships that will develop those first 3 points of your story.

If you’re much younger than that (i.e., just entering high school), there isn’t much you can do to prepare besides reading about the industry, learning more about the stock market, and asking family members about their jobs.

If you’re approaching high school graduation, you have more options: you might be able to get a (legal) internship somewhere if you have family connections, and you should focus 100% on getting into a top university that banks actually recruit at.

One Small Note: In the UK, there are “insight” programs or “Finance Insight Days” you can apply to even in high school – so those are definitely worth doing, solely for the connections.

Getting Specific: Timing and Tactics to Make Yourself Into a Line

You might understand this concept, but then stumble when it comes to the specific timing and tactics to use.

So here is exactly what to do in each time period:

Step 1: The Beginning of Your 1st Year in University (Or 2nd Year If You’re Starting Late)

Before you begin making a detailed 3-4 year plan, you should answer a simple question first:

Do you actually want to go into the finance industry? Do you find the work interesting, or does it bore you to tears?

To answer this, do something very simple and join a student finance/investment club or case competition.

To find them, do Google searches for banks’ names and “competition,” or look within your school network and ask officers at clubs.

If you like it and you do well on your first stock pitch or case study presentation, great: now you’ve answered that question and you have the first segment of your “line.”

If not, try other student groups and competitions in other fields until you find what interests you.

Do NOT even bother applying to internships or rotational programs or anything like that until you’ve done this  “trial run” first – otherwise, you’ll have less to write about on your resume/CV, less to speak to in interviews, and less certainty over whether or not it’s for you.

Step 2: The Rest of Your 1st Year Into Your 2nd Year

Now you add more segments to your line, and make them bigger!

Step 1 above corresponded to your “Spark,” but Step 2 corresponds to the “Growing Interest” part of your story.

You need to “level up” that first experience and show your increased interest and commitment over time:

  • If you’ve been participating in a student club, go for a leadership position there.
  • If you’ve done one or more case competitions, host your own competition and invite student clubs to join.
  • If you’ve done a spring week in the UK, apply to more spring weeks and/or part-time roles at boutique firms.

And yes, you should also start thinking about internships.

In your first or second year, you don’t need an official investment banking internship to have a shot at winning IB / PE / HF roles later on – almost anything could work:

  • The famed private wealth management internship that everyone does.
  • A rotational internship at a bank.
  • A business development or accounting or other internship at a local company.

An internship in your second year matters a lot more than it does in your first, because interviewers focus on more recent experience during recruiting season for 3rd year internships.

School-year internships also help, but you will definitely need something for summer break.

Step 3: How to Get the All-Important 2nd Year Internship

Start with these 3 methods if you’re a 1st or 2nd year university student:

  1. Ask the officers of your clubs if they host alumni events, or if they can refer you to alumni from the group.
  2. Go through your alumni directory and contact anyone you can find in a finance-related role, using our tips on informational interviews. Bonus points for attending information sessions (yes, worth it even if you’re younger).
  3. Use LinkedIn to find companies in your area – search by geography, find anyone you’re connected to, and send short messages to them asking about roles (yes, you will need a decent LinkedIn profile – see our article on LinkedIn for investment banking).

If you’re going for summer internships, you need to start at least a few months in advance to make this work.

If you don’t get a summer internship in your 2nd year, it’s not the end of the world but you’ll need to scramble for a school-year internship early the next year.

Have You Become a Line Yet?

By the end of your 2nd year and into your 3rd year, your trajectory should look like this:

  1. “Spark”: The club you joined, the case competition you completed, or whatever else you did to test the waters.
  2. Growing Interest: And then you took a leadership role in the club or otherwise “leveled up”… and then you leveled up again by completing an internship over the summer in [Insert Industry Here.]

Your 3rd year and onward will be all about fleshing out that “Growing Interest” section and coming up with something credible for your future plans.

Step 4: Your 3rd Year and Beyond

This is where you need to get that internship.

Technically, you can still win full-time roles in the industry without it, but it is difficult and will require a lot of networking / cold-emailing / cold-calling.

This stage of the process is covered in our series on how to make a 6-month game plan before recruiting season starts, but to summarize:

  • Summer Between Your 2nd and 3rd Year: Start networking with alumni and setting up calls.
  • 3rd Year, August/September-November: Spend these months continuing to network, ideally take a trip to NYC / London / another financial center, and edit your resume/CV for maximum spin potential. Apply to all the internships you can find. If you have no background in accounting or finance, start learning the concepts via interview guides / online courses / YouTube tutorials; if you already know the ropes, don’t do anything yet.
  • One Month Before Recruiting Begins: Assuming you have the accounting / finance background, save your technical / interview question preparation until the month before recruiting, or you’ll forget too much and waste time re-learning material.

And you get the idea from there – for more, take a look at our detailed timeline before interviews and during and after interviews.

Then, you win an internship, turn it into a full-time role, or at least leverage it to win full-time roles elsewhere.

And a Few More Things…

Your major really does not matter much as long as you can maintain a decent GPA while completing it. If your major makes it impossible to network or participate in activities / internships, drop it and switch to something easier.

You should devote time to maintaining acceptable grades while doing everything above (I don’t even want to give a range, just check the FAQ), but you should NOT focus exclusively on school.

If your major or classes prevent you from serving in at least 1 student leadership position and completing at least 1 major internship, change your major and/or classes.

Finally, I recommend hedging yourself with a few non-finance-related classes, short non-finance internships, or a minor in another area. Engineering / computer science is a great bet.

You could easily graduate into a recession or financial crisis or other market calamity, in which case you do NOT want exclusively finance-related skills and work experience.

Take Me to the Examples, Please

Here are two examples of sequences that readers have previously followed to win internships and full-time offers:

From Non-Target School and No Finance Experience to 2 Bulge Bracket Offers

  • 1st Year: Started out in engineering, but didn’t like it. Did a random “family business” internship after Year 1.
  • 2nd Year, Fall: Joined a student-run investment portfolio, a business consulting group, and a trading group, and learned valuation skills.
  • 2nd Year, Spring: No internship lined up, so he began cold-calling wealth management firms and won an internship at a boutique.
  • 3rd Year: Networked extensively, but could not win an offer at a large bank so he went to the LevFin group at an independent lender instead.
  • 4th Year: Didn’t get a return offer due to the economy, so he got referrals from his bosses and from alumni (it was a non-target, but also a very large school), and used those referrals to win interviews and multiple offers.

Read the full story here.

The Career-Changing Engineer

  • High School: New immigrant from Asia; focused on learning English.
  • 1st and 2nd Years in School: No finance internships – just engineering / technical ones.
  • 3rd Year, Fall: Joined a finance group at school and used that to win a school-year internship at a hedge fund.
  • 3rd Year, Winter: Didn’t tell his story well enough in interviews, so he won no internships offers.
  • 3rd Year, Spring: Cold-called 120 banks and succeeded in creating his own internship at a boutique in the summer, which he later leveraged to join a bigger bank full-time.

Read his full story right here.

Notice how neither reader really started at the “last minute.”

Yes, they had to find internships very quickly, but they started preparing anywhere from 9 months to 1-2 years in advance.

What Next?

So if you’re in high school or you just started university and you’re wondering what you can do to “get ahead of the game,” read the examples above and follow what they did.

If you have no finance experience whatsoever, join a student group or case competition and use that for your “spark.”

Then, level up your skills by assuming a leadership role in a group and then winning internships – even if they’re not official IB/PE/HF internships.

And in the 6 months before 3rd year internship recruiting, ramp up your networking and interview prep.

None of this will guarantee you an internship or full-time role.

But it will significantly boost your chances – as long as you present yourself as a line, and not a dot.

For Further Reading:

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. Hi Brian,

    I’m in my first year of university and I’ve been reading a lot of your articles for the past six months, which seem very useful in helping me enter investment banking. However, I’m at a disadvantage as I go to a low grade university in the UK – it’s probably ranked at 60 out of the one hundred universities that are listed on the rankings table. I study Finance and Investment as a degree which is useful and I have joined a couple societies, one of which is a business community society where I gain some work experience. But my high school grades weren’t great either, I got a CCC for my A Levels. I know I can gain more experience in the next few years and improve my education as well. But I just want to know, what is the best path for me to break into investment banking?

    My university has partnered up with companies from JPMorgan to Rolls Royce (the other half of the partnerships are with unknown or really low ranked companies), and they help offer one year placements in between the second and third years of the degree. This would help, however, I’m aiming to work in NYC (or at least somewhere in America hopefully) – I am British-American, so there would be no visa issues involved. And as far as I’m aware, in the US, penultimate year summer internships are the way to go. However, it seems that only Oxbridge, LSE or Ivy League students get one of those. Now, these one year placements offered by my university aren’t IBD related, but they are finance related. What scares me, is that I go to one of the lowest ranked universities with low grades. So that’s why I was thinking to ditch the one year placement and go for a masters at a prestigious university which won’t care about my high school grades but will hopefully be impressed by my work experience and university grades. This will hopefully make me more employable.

    I’m basically facing a dilemma right now, one year finance-related placement vs summer internship vs masters at prestigious university. What do you think is the best for me?

    1. Additional:

      Or as I was just recently thinking, should I do all three? That would extend my time in education (inc. placement) to two years over, meaning I would get a job in 2021. In between my time at university I was also thinking of getting a entry-level part time finance relevant job during the first year of the summer to boost my CV.

      1. I think you should read this article and follow the advice, and strongly consider transferring to a better school or MSF program:

        http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-internship-to-investment-banking-networking/

  2. Hi Brian/Nicole,

    First of all, thank you for including so much useful free content on this website, it’s been a wealth of resources. I’m now entering the 3rd year of my business program (majoring in finance) at a target in my country. Unfortunately, I was not on the ball for recruiting for internships between 2nd and 3rd year. So I settled for a summer job as an operations supervisor for well-known manufacturing company. Objectively, the experience was useful, but not very related to finance. Aside from that, the only finance specific experience I have is an investment club membership. I have my heart set on investment banking, is there anything I can do to boost my chances of landing an internship next year? Aside from “bankifing” my resume and lots of networking. Or have I missed my shot?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Perhaps you can join an investment club and highlight your finance experience from school if possible. This maybe another way to make your resume look a bit more appealing.

      1. Hi Nicole,

        Thanks for the quick response. I also have experience projecting financial statements for business plan competitions, but the competition wasn’t solely focused on the financials. Is that viewed as “worse” than pure financial case competitions? Assuming I highlight these competitions and my banking relevant experience in operations, do I stand a chance for applying to bulge brackets? Or should focus more on boutiques? Will operations experience be looked down on?Thanks for all the help so far.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Such experience can potentially help. However if you have had previous IB experience at bulge brackets this may increase your chance quite significantly. Otherwise, yes I may focus on boutiques first. The key is to gain relevant IB experience, otherwise it can be quite challenging, albeit possible, to break in.

  3. Hi B, my son is in the 12 th grade and has a good GPA. His dream is to get into Wharton, business school .at present, he is doing an intership in a bank . Any tips on how to make his dreams come true!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      We are not specialised in college admissions but I’d say have solid extra curricular activities and SAT scores.

  4. Hi Brian,
    I am a long time reader and I’d like to thank you for your fantastic articles! To give you a quick overview of my background: I just finished my freshman year at a top Hong Kong target school majoring in a bachelor of social science in China studies focused on economics and development. I’d like to ask you a few questions:
    1. Would I be at a disadvantage compared to other students because my major isn’t as technical as traditional economics or finance degrees? If so, how could I improve my chances?
    2. I speak 5 languages including Mandarin Chinese at an intermediate to almost fluent level but I hope to be fluent by the time I graduate (3 years time). I am also currently learning Spanish and can understand German because I speak dutch. I have lived all over the world attending private schools. Do you think my linguistic abilities and international perspective will overshadow my less technical degree and give me an advantage over other candidates in interviews?
    3. During my freshman year I worked management for a restaurant, I am also about to begin my internship at the central bank of a west african country. Furthermore, I have a term time internship lined up at the sales department of a technology company for my sophomore year. Do you think my personal qualities combined with my CV will be enough to secure a summer internship at a boutique investment bank even though I would only be a sophomore then? Is it worth applying to bulge bracket banks as well?

    Thank you!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      1) Perhaps, by having relevant experience in the industry
      2) Not necessarily because technical experience is very important in finance.
      3) I’d say you have a 50/50 chance. Yes, I think it is worthwhile to apply to bulge brackets as well though your chances maybe higher at middle market/boutique banks.

  5. I am living in India. Presently in 12th,
    I am confused about whether I should do B.com honors, or BBA?
    Should I give an entrance for BMS (business management studies)
    Then opt for MBA
    And go to some school for a short course of 9 weeks?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I am not 100% sure but perhaps an MBA at a target school after your bachelors will help you break into the industry, if you don’t do your bachelors at a target school.

  6. Hey Brian,

    Just completed my fall semester of Junior year at a non-target yet very good university in California. I perhaps should have focused a little more on my internship search instead of school, as I am now rushing during the winter break to get off applications to middle market banks, which I have found mainly through research and cold-calling. Have a 3.8+ GPA in Finance yet very few connections with which to set me apart from the thousands of other applicants, and no real IB internship experience. What do you suggest going forward that I can do to improve my standing? I feel as though I have the technical knowledge and “know-how” to weave a good story on why banks should give me an offer, yet I need to figure out how to get my foot in the door first…

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Have you tried contacting your alum? I’d start with such connections first. Then I’d make sure you have a decent LinkedIn profile and start connecting with people there.

  7. It seems like the best way to break into IB is right after undergrad. So, if someone has graduated a long time ago (5+ years), then going back to undergrad to get another bachelors degree would be the best route to break into IB.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’m not sure if that’s the best option, depending on the individual but yes this can potentially be an option

  8. Hi Brian,

    Not entirely relevant to the article but didn’t know where else to ask. I’m a recent graduate and doing a 9 week internship. I’m in my 6th week but found out there’s no scope for hiring this year. Initially when applying they said they were looking to hire for FT, but now things have changed.

    With applications coming up, and working long hours, I don’t feel like I’m in a good position to be applying for FT. I’m in a good team, and received a lot of positive feedback from my manager/rest of the team. But, I feel like a lot of the work is very repetitive and I’m not learning much. After first few weeks of learning a lot, I’m now just repeating the same processes really. I feel like having 3-4 weeks of free time to apply would put me in a much stronger position than I’m in now.

    My only worry is making people angry if I leave and whether it would affect future internships/FT. It’s just that, I have to worry about my own career too, and with 4 weeks to go and knowing there’s no scope for FT, is there much point?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Adam, your situation isn’t unique; banking work can be repetitive which is why some people find it a “grind.” If you have other more exciting plans in mind for the next few weeks (i.e. traveling) etc, and you’re pretty certain you won’t burn bridges by leaving earlier, I may leave. With the above being said, if you want a solid referral for the next round of recruiting, I may stick around for the next 3-4 weeks and finish strong. You may even learn new concepts you’ve not learned before. I may also reach out to the team and see if you can take on new projects so as to keep your learning curve steep.

      1. Nicole, thanks for the reply.

        If I was to stay, what would you recommend to do in the remaining few weeks to utilise the internship as much as possible for recruiting?

        Being in the UK, networking isn’t as important but can definitely help. Aside from my team, should I be trying to talk to as many others in other desks? Only issue is that it’s not difficult to ask someone I’ve worked with for 10 weeks for possible contact hookups, bit different if I talked to someone for an hour.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          I’d network as much as you can internally and externally (different departments and firms). I’d also cultivate a great relationship with your team so you get solid recommendations. Be as helpful as you can and try to take on projects you’ve not done before.

          Yes, talk to other desks; you can meet them in coffee shops, firm wide meetings, etc

  9. Figured I would post this here as I did not see a place to make site suggestions. It would be nice if readers were able to see the date that articles on M&I were written in order to know which articles are current and which may be out of date. Awesome site and thanks for the time you guys put in.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion – we publish dates when dates are relevant. For example, we mention a few reference dates in this article (“10-15 years past 2000-2005”) and in the annual bonus recaps. When dates are not relevant, such as tutorials on writing your resume or pitching yourself or answering a certain interview question, we don’t publish dates because doing so diverts attention away from content that is still useful.

  10. Hi Brian,

    Great Article. I know you always mention major doesn’t matter in recruiting. Does it applies even if I am in a university where its business school is much stronger than other colleges (e.g. USC/NYU/UVA/UT)? I am majoing in business but also thinking of switching to math or econ instead. Will this hurt my chances? Is it okay to major in business (while taking math/econ courses), getting an internship/job offer using the “prestige” of the business school, transfer and graduate with a math degree in my senior year? Will the employer rescind my offer because I did not graduate with the degree I listed on my resume?

    Also, do you have any advice to get a boutique internship?Networking is important, but how can we provide “values” to the employer to secure such internship? I know there are some modelling courses for ib. Is there any similar materials for equity research or asset management as well?

    Many Thanks!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      No I don’t this will hurt your chances, but it is best to major in business and minor in something like Math. No I don’t think your employer will rescind the offer but you have to be clear and state that you switched major and explain why.

      We don’t have modeling courses specially for ER/AM but many people from ER use our courses because what we teach is applicable to the field. We go through accounting concepts, building financial statements and models, and analyzing companies in different sectors (new course) which are all relevant to ER and AM. https://breakingintowallstreet.com/biws/excel-financial-modeling-fundamentals/

      In terms of adding value, it can be difficult unless you can source deals. What you need to prove is how you can save time and cost for the employer.

    2. Yes, agreed that switching majors will not hurt your chances that much… leverage the better-known business school for all it’s worth.

      For proving you can add value, the best option is to create your own stock pitch and model for it, and then send them a copy and say, “Here’s what I can do – as you can see, I can build models and research investment ideas and save you time/money by doing that, and even help you generate new ideas in the process.”

      The current Excel & Fundamentals course covers some of this, but the new one we’re creating right now goes into a lot more detail on everything (more is added each month between now and Dec 2014 and you receive free access to everything once you’ve signed up for the original course).

  11. Hi Brian and his team ! Thanks for your website, it’s full of useful information, motivation and it is fun !

    I’m a last year BS student looking for an IB analyst internship next summer. I’m currently applying at bulge brackets banks and I’m afraid not to be able to answer specific questions on the bank. I’m especially interested in M&A but I can’t find specific information on deals for each bank. I tried dealbook and the other sites but they never provide the name of the banks who were involved in the deals. So my point is, how do I respond to “you said you were interested in m&a, can you walk me through a recent deal of our bank ?”.

    Thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Good point. I’d go to the firm’s website and check out their recent deals. I’d also cross check at WSJ and FT to read about news on that particular deal and bank. I’d jot down the information. I’d then go through other websites to dig up more information on the deal.

      I think this is the best bet to obtain publicly available information on the deal, unless you know the people at the firm very well and they are willing to give you the information.

  12. Hello, I am a soon to be senior majoring in accounting and finance. I’m not sure that I could make the leap right from school into a finance position like IB so my hope was to get into a Big 4 and follow the model you have on your site about making the leap from accounting into finance.

    Is audit really the best way to do it? I had an internship in tax that i liked but is tax good enough to finance recruiters?

    My second question is that my GPA is a bit below the minimum GPA but I have a lot of experience in internships such as Big 4, regional accounting, and PE and plus im involved in numerous clubs including one where i’m the VP this upcoming school year. Now I know that recruiters use GPAs to weed out candidates but because i’m only a little shy of the minimum, i was planning on emailing the recruiter with my resume attached and asking her whether the minimum GPA is a hard requirement or if I would still be eligible to apply given my experience. is that a good way to go about it or is there something else you’d suggest?

    Thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      TAS maybe a better route for you http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/big-4-transaction-services/

      Yes this may work though if the GPA is a standard requirement HR may not be able to do much. A better way to go about it is to send an email to senior bankers, express your interest in working for the firm, and send through your documents to him/her. He/she may still end up forwarding the document to HR but if he/she likes you you have a higher chance because they may make an exception and interview you

    2. Just to add: audit can be OK, but TAS is much better. if you can’t do TAS at first, try audit and then move into TAS after ~1 year.

      I actually would not even bring up your GPA unless they ask about it because doing so just draws their attention to it. As Nicole said, you have a higher chance if they know and like you first and then recommend you.

  13. The thing I am wondering is how can someone in Finance retire in their 50’s?

    The website has numerous articles that states that people in Finance retire in their 50’s. http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-hierarchy/
    Here is a quote from that article: “you rarely find MDs who are past their 50’s, though, so maybe that’s the limit.
    By that time they are either burned out and retired on a beach somewhere in Thailand”

    The average age of retirement is 62 years old in the United States, but most people retire later than that, especially given today’s economy.

    The more money you make typically the more money you will spend, and the more extravagant lifestyle you will live.

    Assuming that you are a male and the breadwinner and you are working 60-90 hours a week. Then the odds are is that your wife is a stay-at-home mom, and your kids will probably attend college and graduate school. And your kids will probably be in college or graduate school when you are in your 50’s.

    Even if a person is making Millions of Dollars a Year like a Managing Director and/or Partner of an Financial Firm, odds are that person has an expensive lifestyle to maintain with the monthly expenses with the houses, cars, school tuition (kid’s college tuition, graduate school tuition, Private Schools), boats, country club memberships, vacations, jewelry, spouse and kids expenses, etc.

    What would you say the average age of retirement is in Finance?

    At what age, do most people retire in Finance?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      As the article has stated, probably before 50. We haven’t kept track of the statistics so I can’t say. And finance is a broad area – working hours in private banking, commercial banking, IBD, PE, HF and S&T are not exactly the same. Pay also varies depending on the individual so it is hard to say

  14. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the reply back.

    One thing that I was wondering as I was looking at this website is that it seems that people in Finance retire in their 50’s. That seems relatively young in today’s economy to be retiring in your 50’s.
    Typically the more money you make, the more lavish lifestyle that you live. And it seems that it will be difficult to retire in your 50’s when you have kid’s college tuitions to pay for, and the lifestyle costs (houses, cars, vacations, clothes, jewelry, country club memberships) to maintain a certain upscale lifestyle.
    Also, you have people dependent on you such as spouse and children. It seems like it would be very difficult for most people in Finance to retire in their 50’s given their daily living expenses.

    Most high-earners in society like doctors, lawyers, even Professional Head Coaches of Major Sports (NFL, NBA, etc.) work well in their 60’s, some even in to their 70’s.
    Most high-earning working professionals retire in their mid to late 60’s in age.
    And Doctor’s probably work as much, if not more hours than people in Finance.
    I personally do not know any Doctor’s who retired in their 50’s.

    Even Warren Buffett, who is one of the richest men in the world is still working, and Warren Buffet is 83 years old.

    Also, how much sleep is the average person in Finance getting a day and a week?

    It seems very hard and very difficult to have ALL 3 simultaneously: work long hours, A Social Life, and sleep 6-8 hours a day.

    I wonder what the long-term happiness of people in Finance is when they are in their deathbed and they look back at their life.

    1. You can’t have it all. There is a popular demotivational poster for school which says pick 2: good grades, enough sleep, and social life.

      Similar rules apply to the working world, but it will be more extreme if you want to standout in a highly competitive professional field – the quality and quantity of both your sleep and social life are going to suffer.

      Sorry kid but those are the breaks.

    2. M&I - Nicole

      Some of the people you stated retire late, or don’t retire, because they don’t want to retire: they love what they do, and yes I’ve seen bankers who are in their 60s and don’t want to leave the industry because they love the kick of doing deals.

      It varies, I’d say 6-7 hours of sleep per day if lucky.

      Yes, if long hours means 16+ hours a day, yes you can barely have a social life.

      Happiness – well it really depends on how you define happiness and what you’re looking to achieve. This is very dependent on the individual and hard to say.

  15. Hi Brian,

    Great Article. I am behind the curve a little bit. I graduated from college over 2 years ago. I am thinking about getting an MBA next year to break into Finance.

    Is there any advising and/or suggestions that you have where I can work long hours in my career/job and do well in my career, while at the same time having a great a social and personal life also?

    Is it possible to reach the TOP of a Business Career and work long hours (60-90 hours a week), while at the same time have a great social life (great friends and active social life and travel the world, and purse my passions, interests, and hobbies, etc.) and have a great personal life (amazing girlfriend/wife, being able to spend time with girlfriend/spouse and children) also?

    It has always been my belief that to reach the top of any career path and any type of profession: it requires hard work, sacrifice, and risk.

    I just turned 24 years old last week. I am a little bit worried that it may be too late for me to get into Finance given how old I am.
    At the same time, I want to make sure that if I pursue a career in Finance that I can sustain and maintain the lifestyle that a career in Finance requires.

    I am assuming that you have to work A LOT in a finance based jobs/careers.

    1. Thanks! It is pretty tough to “have it all,” so no, not really. You can still get into finance, but at this stage you will have to spend a lot of time networking, probably take a role outside of IB to start with, and if that doesn’t work out, consider an MBA program. And if you want to be in the industry, you really can’t expect to have it all – sacrifices must be made.

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