Vacation Time in the World of Finance
“Vacation time? People come and work at this firm for one reason: to become filthy rich. That’s it. We’re not here to make friends. We’re not savin’ the bleepin’ manatees here, guys. You want vacation time? Go teach third grade, public school.”
-Jim Young, Boiler Room
They exist, even for bankers – what else are you gonna spend all your cash money on?
Beyond the usual “Are the hours really that bad?!!!” questions (yes, they are), this is another one I get all the time.
Can you actually take a vacation as an analyst? Do you ever get any time off?
Can you go home for the holidays?
Will you spend Christmas in front of your tree, or in front of Excel?
The Shocking Truth
All analysts get some amount of time off, even if it’s limited to a week after bonuses are awarded and your second year begins.
Some banks actually encourage you to take time off between your first year and second year, although not everyone can take vacations at the same time.
Another popular time to take a vacation is August, because the finance industry itself takes a vacation then and lots of senior executives and Partners are gone (the same applies abroad in places like Dubai as well).
Whether or not you’ll get to go home for the holidays is a more complicated question, and there’s no “right” answer because it depends on your bank, your group, and how busy you are.
Paying Your Dues?
For your first 6 months it’s hard to take any time off because you need to “prove yourself” first – sort of like rushing a fraternity, only you’re now at an investment bank, which is marginally different from a frat house.
You can take scattered days and weekends off here and there for weddings or major family events, but it’s unusual to get an entire week off in your first few months.
Into your second year, it gets more acceptable to take vacations and once you have interns and first years working under you and a private equity job lined up, you stop caring about pleasing the higher-ups.
If you’re an associate or higher-up, you have more flexibility with vacations – but remember that 1st year associates are treated the same as 1st year analysts.
Usually you get a week off, and sometimes slightly more if you phrase it the right way (hint: “10 days” sounds much shorter than “2 weeks”).
The only reason to avoid a vacation is if you don’t have solid deal experience and would compromise that by taking time off – otherwise, no one “gives you points” for killing yourself.
They care about whether or not work gets done, not how many hours you’re putting in to get it done.
If you can pull it off, I recommend vacations that last longer than a week because bankers will forget that you work there – “temporary transfers” to other analysts will become permanent, and even after you get back it will take them awhile to remember you.
I pulled off a 2 week vacation as several of my deals were closing, and after I got back everyone forgot that I was working there for the next 4 months (that’s how I had time to start this site).
How to Get Permission
It comes down to:
- Timing – Are you busy with live deals? Have your deals recently closed? Can someone else take over your work?
- Likability – Do the senior bankers know, like, and trust you? Do they think you’ve been toiling away without a break all year?
As you work on deals, you’ll see that work comes in waves: make your vacation coincide with the trough of the wave rather than the crest.
When you ask for the vacation, come in with specific dates and phrase it correctly by saying, “I was planning to use my vacation days on [Start Date] to [End Date] and wanted to make sure we have proper coverage while I’m gone.” If you say, “Um, can I take a vacation?” you make yourself look weak and uncertain and reduce the chances of getting one.
Normally it’s better to go through senior bankers, but for something like vacations you could ask HR or your staffer: an MD might not even want to think about such issues.
In the US, it is assumed that you will not show up on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day unless you have a huge deal going on and you absolutely need to be there.
Internationally that varies depending on the most important holidays in your country – you should ask the 2nd year analysts or associates above you to see what the policy is and which holidays are true holidays vs. which ones people still show up for.
The week from Christmas through New Year’s is also considered a vacation of sorts, but you need to get permission to be absent and make sure enough analysts/associates are in the office in case anything comes up.
If you’re on a deal that must close by year end, you could get pulled into the office anyway – but that is not terribly common.
Vacation in Other Fields of Finance
Private equity is similar to banking: you can take time off when possible, but very little qualifies as a true “holiday” where you’re not expected to show up at all. The key difference in PE is that you have a lot more control over your schedule, so unless you’re closing a big deal you’ll almost certainly be gone on major holidays.
For hedge funds, sales & trading, and other markets-based groups you will never go into work when the markets are closed – so weekends and any market holidays are free (that doesn’t always apply, primarily at large hedge funds that work a ridiculous amount all the time).
Corporate finance/development and anything else at large companies will have a more laid-back attitude about vacations than anything above – so getting more than 2 weeks per year off along with weekends that are always free is quite common.
Sure… as long as you’re staring at the tree in your living room with your family, and not Excel.
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