I'm ten years into my career in investment banking, and I don't plan to be doing this forever. By living very carefully and earning money on the side, I intend to be out of finance before my 40th birthday.
A lot of people get stuck in this industry, but the truth is that if you're careful, you can still make retirement money quickly. Last year, there were associates earning $350k. It's a question of investing wisely and not getting bogged down with a huge mortgage or school fees.
It's also a question of making money on the side. My job typically accounts for around 60% of my annual earnings. As you become more senior in banking, you have more free time. This might include face time in M&A where you're not being wholly productive, the quieter periods in trading, or the evenings and weekends outside the office on the markets side.
This is how I leverage my spare time:
1. Invest your own money in crypto and markets
Use your bank's research, and peers in different areas (FX, credit, bonds, commodities, interest rates, equities etc) to get some insights, do your own research and get involved. Your compliance department may restrict you from trading instruments you're directly involved in, and may impose minimum holding periods, but even so the opportunities to make good money here are enormous. A lot of people have been making big money on crypto - look at Aziz McMahon at Goldman Sachs.
2. Poker & sport betting
Especially if you're a (good) trader, your knowledge of risk vs reward could aid some great strategies playing poker or betting on the horses. These sites will likely be restricted at work, so play internet poker in the evenings.
3. Real estate
Making money on property is more challenging than it used to be, but there's a reason funds like KKR are making long term bets on European real estate. You can still buy comparatively cheap properties outside of financial centers for a strong return.
4. Tutor students
There are thousands of middle-class parents who'll pay upwards of $50/hr for some tutoring to help ensure they make the grade. I know people who offer tutoring on weekend afternoons and who make $100 an hour.
5. Provide interview coaching
In a similar vein, you're the ideal person to coach and advise students and graduates trying to break into banking how to do it, providing mock interviews and resume improvement tips.
You probably have a huge network of university friends and peers. There's enormous money to be made (easily thousands for a single big party) taking a cut of everyone's entry fees and drink spends. I know people who are DJs like Goldman Sachs' CEO David Solomon.
7. NFT design
Plenty of people in banking have creative talent. Ovie Faruq, a former Barclays' credit trader is now collecting and designing NFTs for a living. One of his pieces sold last year for $268k. "The worst part of being a trader was probably that it sucked away my life. We were working 7:00 till 5:00, or 7:00 till 6:00 and in the evenings we had to go to networking things, so that ended up being my life for almost 10 years without really being able to do much outside of it," said Ovie last week. Now, he creates and invests in NFTs and his life is much more chill.
8. Angel investing
A lot of people are also angel investors on the side. There are plenty of angel investor meet-ups, and a lot of the entrepreneurs raising money are people who left banking themselves a few years previously.
Given the working hours in banking, some people may say these suggestions are unrealistic. I accept that it's hard to find time in the first few years, but once you're a junior VP, opportunities start to open up. Stick with it, don't get a taste for spending all your income, and banking jobs can still be a good route to financial stability early in life.
Lincoln Hayes is a pseudonym
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