Working on Wall Street is a common ambition among MBAs. Why then, as Kevin Roose asks in The Atlantic this week, are young bankers often so miserable? Despite a sizable starting pay—which, including bonuses, averages between $90K and $140K for first-year bankers straight out of college—the gilded career path of high finance is not without certain emotional and psychological strain. Following several Wall Street careerists over the course of three years, Roose observes that “hardly an interview went by without a young banker confessing his or her struggles with depression and health problems, expressing a desire to quit, or simply complaining about how working in finance was ruining the pleasures of normal life.”
Roose suggests that three factors contribute to the apparent morale problem facing fresh-faced Wall Street bankers: hours, money and purpose. Working long hours usually means not only staying at the office late, but also being constantly on call, and this results in “a state of perpetual anxiety” in which “advance planning becomes impossible.” In addition, the payoff for such hard work, while still significantly higher than that seen in most other industries, is less secure for junior bankers than it was before the financial crisis, now that staff layoffs have become more common.
Finally, Roose suggests that meaningful creative work is lacking in the investment banking culture and argues that for these “young Wall Streeters in the post-crash era, the promise of a six-figure paycheck alone just doesn’t cut it anymore.” So, although Wall Street may present an attractive and lucrative career option for many college graduates and MBAs, that option is increasingly being weighed against quality of life.