A day in the life of a trader or equity sales can certainly be glamourous in terms of the level of pay, but it is NO walk in the park. I would argue that those on Wall Street who rely heaviest on commissions and general performance have the heaviest burdens to bear in the broader scheme of things, and not just in terms of making a living for themselves or their families.
It is often said that money can't buy happiness, and I certainly do not doubt the validity of this statement when you take a look at what the stress of high-paying Wall Street jobs does to otherwise ordinary and happy people.
By no means am I telling you that you should feel sorry or bad for Wall Street workers more so than any other group - my goal is merely to point out that the picturesque lifestyle of a Wall Street banker comes at a very high cost, that not even they know how to pay. This has a lot to do with why I made the choice to abandon that culture with a purpose of finding my own voice and purpose in life, even if it means going broke.
Last May, shortly after I arrived at my desk at 7:15AM, a read a news headline that stated just a few blocks away a 29-year-old financial analyst jumped 24 stories to their death. This guy was the same age as me at the time, and his father has said that he was under so much stress at work he began using illegal drugs to keep alert. In the end, they did nothing to ease his suffering and so he decided to end it all.
According to the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance, financial services workers are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the national average, and also pointed out that there is evidence to suggest that the finance industry tends to attract more people with depression or anxious tendencies and the work environment ultimately overwhelms people. Most of these workers have been high achievers their whole life and the eat-or-be-eaten attitude just cannot be won by everyone. Additionally, Millennials seek out a more collaborative work culture rather than the decades-old cutthroat work environment of corporations.
At investment banks headquartered in the US, work-related deaths are a very real reality for Millennials as within the last 7 years, there have been multiple bank interns who were found dead either in their homes or at their desks because of pure exhaustion. The banks have since mobilized task forces to prevent this from happening again, yet I find "taking 4 weekend days off per month" as an appealing sell when looking for a job. Although the pay is undoubtedly high, you work for every cent of that money and you pay with every fiber of your health and time.
My first Wall Street job had very reasonable hours and expectations for their employees - you worked from about 8:00AM-4:00PM on a typical day, but this could always change depending on earnings season, conferences, and news analysis. You also had a full, uninterrupted hour of lunch if you chose to take it. All in all, I felt pretty content and pleased that my boss saw workers as real people with real lives.
My second Wall Street job was a nightmare...yet was very typical for industry, except for the pay which was FAR below average. I was required to work from 7:00AM-5:00PM with no designated break in between and if I took longer than 20 minutes to get lunch there was hell to pay. My world was confided to a desk in a noisy room with 2 computer screens, and your 110% effort was rewarded with "you're not putting in enough effort." In addition, I was only allotted 10 vacation days per year, 3 days for appointments, and 5 sick days. In all of my professional life - school or any job I've held - I can count on one hand the number of sick days I had used, until I got to this job. Every once in a while I felt so unbelievably exhausted in the morning that I just could not physically get up the strength to go to work, so I had to call in sick. And even then, I still worked remotely from my couch.
There's a high cost to being a Wall Street worker. It is not for the faint of heart. However, given how the attitudes of Millennials are constantly shifting, it would not surprise me that they would also alter one of the world's most stressful work environments as well.
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