What I Learned Working on Wall Street

[Hey guys! Got a great post for y’all today by Mama Fish Saves who tells us what it’s like to work on Wall Street. And spoiler alert: it’s not as glamorous as it sounds ;) When you’re done reading the article make sure to stop by her blog and say hi! She’s a newer blogger on the scene!]


As a lifelong finance nerd, there was nothing more exciting than stepping foot into one of the biggest investment banks in the world as a full-time employee. I was right out of school, as green as they come, and working on Wall Street! What I learned about money and investing over the next several years could fill books. But the lessons that stuck with me most aren’t what you would expect.

A little bit of background

I started my career on Wall Street as an intern in the summer of 2009 working on a trading desk at a major bank. The company was still adjusting from the mass layoffs and walkouts of the global financial crisis. It was an eye opening and scary intro to the world of finance.

The following summer I moved to equity research at a top investment bank and accepted a full-time position for post-graduation.  After graduating from a small liberal arts school with a double major in economics and mathematics, I moved to New York City for my new job.

As an analyst in equity research, I had the opportunity to interact with other analysts, traders, investment bankers, corporate management teams, and portfolio managers from around the world. It was like spending three years trying to drink from a fire hose. Then I moved to a hedge fund in Boston to begin investing actively. In my career, I’ve had amazing mentors, made mistakes, and learned incredible amounts about the market and investing. But I think the most valuable knowledge I’ve gained has been from observing my colleagues.

The expertise needed to win at stock picking is measured in years, not days

Most retail (personal) investors that invest in single stocks say that it isn’t risky if you take the time to understand the company.   While this is probably true, it takes years of experience and expertise to actually understand a company and how that company’s stock trades. (And years to figure out that a company and its stock can be different things.)

Over the past seven years, I’ve spoken to dozens and dozens of investors who have been in the game for decades. But I know only one person who has consistently beat the index trading stocks. He is incredibly intelligent, focuses on his portfolio full time, and his path isn’t easy to follow.

This individual started his career in private equity, became an investment banker focused on mergers and acquisitions, then worked as a proprietary trader for a top bank investing their cash for profit. When I talk to him about a company, he can give me a 20-year history of their management, acquisitions, performance and initiatives.

To this day, when he buys a stock he has read all the regulatory filings, spoken to researchers, met with the management team, and has typically visited at least one of the company’s locations.  He’s spent decades watching market cycles and understanding what moves a stock day to day.  Even if you researched for weeks on a single company, you couldn’t replicate his knowledge.

This man has become one of my closest mentors. I value his insight immensely. But I will never invest like he does. I’m not willing to put in the years and years of time. I won’t commit my life to it.

Income is not the same as wealth

On Wall Street, well over half of your annual income comes in the form of a bonus. And every year at bonus time someone was unhappy. In fact, most years, a lot of people were unhappy. It didn’t matter that most bonuses were in the six-figures. It didn’t matter whether the number went up or down from the year before. In general, people just wanted more.

In my second year, one of my more senior colleagues had his first seven-figure year, and he complained. He was disappointed that more of his bonus wasn’t cash as opposed to stock. I was floored listening to his 1% problems. I knew income and wealth were different things, but I didn’t understand how anyone could lose so much perspective where they are disappointed with a seven-figure income.

Over the years, I have seen many situations like this. I have had more than one colleague that lives paycheck to paycheck. I have had colleagues that can’t afford their mortgages without their annual bonus. Multiple people didn’t contribute enough to their 401k to get our full match! There was even one person who had seven storage units around New York City. Seven storage units were full of expensive crap he couldn’t even fit in his apartment.

These people were amazing investors and well educated, intelligent individuals. But they were also terrible budgeters. Many of them allowed an expensive lifestyle they didn’t even enjoy become a necessity. Their high salary right out of school convinced them they didn’t need to worry about money, so they ignored their spending until they actually did have to worry.

Working in this environment was a real lesson in keeping up with the Joneses. I had the chance to see exactly why more people in the Millionaire Next Door weren’t bankers and lawyers. Bankers, at least, feel the need to live like bankers.

We were exchanging our health for money

In my third year on Wall Street, I was sitting at my desk one morning when I suddenly couldn’t feel my left hand. An hour later, I had lost feeling in my entire arm and the left side of my face. I didn’t want to make a fuss, so I headed down to the company’s clinic. (Yes, we had doctors in the building. It was a bit like Hotel California.) At 23, the doctors thought I might be having a stroke and sent me to the hospital.

It took a week of CT scans, ultrasounds, blood tests, and MRIs to get an answer. My now-husband and I had only been dating a few months, and he was more than a little freaked out. I’ll never forget sitting across from a neurologist and being told that my symptoms were stress induced. The doctor even had a cute name for it, “stockbroker’s syndrome.” I wasn’t the first he had seen with my symptoms, and I probably won’t be the last.

The cause of “stockbroker’s syndrome”

Before I moved to my current job, where things are a bit less crazy, I worked 15 hour days six, sometimes seven, days a week. My colleagues and I got yelled at by clients and managers. As a second-year analyst, the head of the department spent 15 minutes screaming at me in front of a room of VPs. For no real reason. When you made a bad trade, you weren’t just losing the money of the ultra-wealthy. You were impacting returns of pension and retirement funds.

I knew three people in my department of maybe 65 that were in their forties and diagnosed with rare forms of cancer. One of my peers collapsed at their desk at 8 pm on a Friday night. We sat on an open floor plan and listened to colleagues fight with their spouses about not being home for dinner again. One of my desk mates missed Halloween with his kids six years in a row.

The stress was real and had a very real impact on my life, and the life of my colleagues. But we weren’t curing cancer or saving lives. We were making money into more money, for ourselves and our clients. Seeing what that took, the money wasn’t worth it for me.

How my experience changed how I think about money

Today I take comfort in the fact that long-term I can’t beat the market trading stocks. It means one less thing to manage actively, more time with my family, and a whole lot less stress. I automate my family’s investments into low-cost index funds and forget about it. Less stress means better health and that is the best I can hope for.

No matter how my compensation changes, I focus on living well within my base salary and keeping my bonus a bonus. I never want to be dependent on something I can’t control. My husband and I do our best to keep perspective and appreciate what we have. Each year at bonus time, we first discuss what charities we want to donate to. I remind myself that money can’t buy happiness.

Most importantly, I am in full speed pursuit of FIRE. Sitting in a New York City hospital room with no feeling in half my body was a terrifying experience and not one I want to face again. It taught me to place joy ahead of money and learn to chase the life I want. “Stockbroker’s syndrome” can kiss my ass.

Chelsea is a mother, wife, investment professional, and personal finance nerd. She founded Mama Fish Saves, a personal finance blog for families to provide simple answers to all the money questions we didn’t get answered in school. She hopes to help parents feel empowered about their finances so they can achieve their dreams and raise financially smart kids! Sign up to her blog and follow along here.

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  1. Financial Samurai April 28, 2017 at 5:54 AM

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I too worked on Wall Street and actually lived on Wall Street my first two years in Manhattan. The hours were so brutal getting in by 5:30 AM and leaving past 7:30 PM every day.

    I thought I wouldn’t make it past five years, but then I moved to San Francisco were the lifestyle is much better and survived for 13 years until I left in 2012.

    One question I have for you, which was not clear in the post, is: if you know you can’t beat the stock market long term picking stocks, would it be best to move on from your career picking stocks? Or is the key to running a successful hedge fund, marketing the potential to outperform so that assets can continue to be gathered?

    I think running a hedge fund and a VC fund for some of the best jobs ever. So lucrative!



    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:20 AM

      Thanks so much for reading Sam! I love your blog, it was where I learned about early retirement. :)

      It’s great you found a good fit in SF. I’ve heard it can be even harder there waking up for the NY open and somehow still working until 6-7. When I first read you lasted 12 years it sounded so long, but if I achieve my FIRE goals I’ll be at 11 years. And I know with how lucrative this industry is that one-more-year syndrome will be nipping at my heels.

      What I should have made clear in the post was that I’m not in equities anymore. I work at a high yield and distressed debt hedge fund. Since the assets are less liquid and you usually have more information, I think it’s more realistic to find an edge. I wouldn’t have been comfortable trading equities, particuraly in my industry focus which is very cyclical. But maybe I’m just too risk averse…

      I’ve had a few friends start funds and constantly fundraising and talking to LPs doesn’t sound like a ton of fun. But running an established fund when you can come and go as you please? Definitely sounds like a dream.

      Thanks again for reading!

      1. Financial Samurai April 28, 2017 at 11:53 AM

        Hola Chelsea,

        Ah, gotcha. That makes more sense now! High yield and distressed debt sounds much more fancy :) I finally built a decent sized municipal bond portfolio after the Trump election and now I’m just waiting to see if the 10-year yield goes back over 2.6% again. It’s kinda exciting to be able to have a lower mortgage interest rate than what you can almost guarantee to earn in a low risk municipal bond don’t you think?

        Will your partner continue to work after you FIRE? It’s a nice way to try before you by and then both y’all can leave for good.


        1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 2:49 PM

          Municipal portfolio sounds like a good idea, especially if you can lock in a rate above your mortgages! I’m completely restricted from buying any single stocks or bonds (three cheers for compliance) so I’ll have to decide if I want to re-evaluate my index fund strategy at all to add some passive income down the road.

          It is a really interesting rate environment today. Rates should go up but there is so much cash in the system yields on the corporate side are insanely low, for companies that are increasingly highly levered. Just have to watch your convexity!

          My husband is actually already “retired” – he’s a stay-at-home dad! He loves it, but can’t wait until I’m home so we can travel/visit family more.

          – Chelsea

    2. Wall Street Playboys May 2, 2017 at 6:25 PM

      Lots of issues going on in this article

      Trading health for money at 23? 99% of time just means unable to control the work flow. If someone is a top performer they are usually allowed a lot more slack. They earned it because they’re delivering more value on a like for like basis relative to their peers.

      Do they have egregious spending habits? A lot do yes. Do all of them? Of course not. The game of being a top-performer *and* not getting sucked into the life style inflation constantly is not easy but is 100% doable.

      Index funds are great however being your own pm makes more sense. How is an index fund going to work forever. Most don’t understand how they work so lets make a simple example.

      Index fun 100 companies weight 1% each

      We all buy index fund for $1,000 each

      It goes up by $100,000 *in equal proportion*.

      Is the market really efficient if everyone buys the exact same stocks in equal weight? Of course not! Now you all know why warren buffet preeches this. He knows over the next 20 years he will create incorrect allocaiton by *definition*. In addition, when everyone sells they will sell incorrectly as well (ETFs managed by emotional people).

      There are trillions of dollars at stake and anyone who believes he’s doing this to be a “nice guy” has gone crazy.

      All that said the general frame work of the lifstyle at age 23 is correct… Just remember it gets significantly easier in stair step functions every 3 years if you’re good!

      1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves May 2, 2017 at 6:56 PM

        Thanks for your comments, Wall Street Playboys.

        The lifestyle definitely gets easier the longer you are in. My schedule now is much, much easier than it was when I started. It was a matter of experience and moving to the buy side. However, I think the measure of how easy it gets depends on where you are in finance world, who your managers are and what firm you’re at. I was top of my class each year I was at my Wall Street firm and to my senior manager that meant he should be harder on me and expect more from me. Underperformers were more likely to be ignored since he knew they would be out the door at the end of their analyst contracts anyway.

        Of course not everyone has the spending habits I mentioned in this piece. Some of my closest friends I met while working in that first job out of school and many people were great mentors and teachers. But the loudest and most in your face people are totally the egregious spenders. Overall, it wasn’t a lifestyle that was appropriate for me.

        On investing, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I don’t think Warren Buffett is out to be the “nice guy,” he’s out to make money like everyone else. But I also think years of data show us that very, very few retail investors can beat the market over the long term. ETFs have their own management issues, particuraly for bond ETFs, but if you are investing for the long-term you’ll ride through the emotional trades.

        Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing about how I started my career. I learned a ton, made some great friends, and am in a much more fun, balanced job today. I got to learn my priorities, and the life I wanted to pursue. The salary also didn’t hurt ;)

        1. Wall Street Playboys May 2, 2017 at 8:08 PM

          Sure agree you’ll make money if you dollar cost for 20-40 years straight.

          All that needs to be said is “we’ll see”

          Easy to stay emotionally stable when the market is up every year. When it’s down 50%, they miss dividends and have to dip into principal to pay bills… we’ll see if the vast majority do not hit sell.

          We’ll take a friendly wager and say next recession 50%+ of personal finance advisors saying “just dollar cost” will lose their minds and draw down.

          There were guys in their 50s-60s who dca’d for 30+ years in 2008… they ended up selling.

          The good news is, buy the dip and buy small cap ETFs!

          1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves May 2, 2017 at 8:34 PM

            50%+ is low. There is a reason mutual fund investor returns are dramatically lower than the returns of the actual funds! But whether those people are being their own PMs or investing in index funds, their panic is likely still going to get the best of them.

            “Be greedy when other are fearful and fearful when others are greedy” is easy to say and tough to do.

            Hopefully, everyone that was just out of school in 2008 and got to see the crash and the following recovery will be smarter at sticking to DCA as investors. Though, as you said, all we can do is wait and see!

            1. Wall Street Playboys May 2, 2017 at 8:39 PM

              Ha perfect so you already see the issue

              The guys recommending dollar cost averaging won’t even be able to listen to their own advice! More than half of them will sell creating a massive dislocation again.

              Will be fun to watch the next one. Small caps for everyone!

  2. The Tepid Tamale April 28, 2017 at 5:59 AM

    Wow! I will admit when I was younger, the movies had me thinking Wall Street was something to strive for.

    I am glad that the conclusion is: “place joy ahead of money and learn to chase the life I want”. Further, I am guessing that few, if any, people really want to live like this. The great river of the rat race is powerful and sweeps us away, so thanks J. Money and Chelsea for the posts and the blogs. The alternative needs to be communicated!

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:27 AM

      The rat race definitely sweeps people away! With any job, it would be great if the FIRE message was spread wider so that people were working for careers and lives they actually want.

      Thanks for reading my story!

    2. Financial Samurai April 28, 2017 at 12:04 PM

      It’s totally not like the movies! But, the trading floor I worked on was pretty exciting sometimes. You can just feel the energy pulsing through the room.

      To be frank, the folks from Boiler Room and Wolf Of Wall Street are the folks who couldn’t actually get a job at a major Wall Street firm. If they did they wouldn’t be trying to call individual retail investors, because the pay structure and future income upside is so much larger working with institutional clients, if you can survive.

      1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:08 PM

        THIS. Those movies aren’t about the bulge bracket banks. The culture/atmosphere (and obviously, pay) at the major firms is so different than small shops.

  3. Mustard Seed Money April 28, 2017 at 6:29 AM

    Thanks for sharing Chelsea!!! I secretly wanted to work on Wall Street but never had the guts to actually try to make it. While it sounds amazing to have a six figure bonus or even seven figure bonus, I don’t think I could have survived the hours. Thanks for providing a peak behind the Wall Street curtain :)

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:31 AM

      Haha, the pay is the hush money for the hours! Wall Street, particularly investment banking, is facing a new generation that doesn’t want to work the crazy hours but also doesn’t want to see their pay cut. Will be interesting to see how the Street squares that circle over the next several years.

      Thanks for checking out my post!

  4. Tara April 28, 2017 at 7:11 AM

    It’s not just stock brokers that get that syndrome. My brother is a finance lawyer (deals with contracts and never litigates) and working for a big NYC firm, he works crazy hours, but most firms have waves of work so you have down time too. One firm he was at never had down time and he started having stress induced vision problems. Doctor told him he had to take it easy, so he reached out to recruiters and changed to a new firm he has been happy with since (and his eye problem went away luckily).

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:59 AM

      It definitely isn’t just stockbrokers! That neurologist just happened to see a lot of my peers. Stress in any form does incredible things to our bodies. We aren’t meant to sit at desks all day and only get 5 hours of sleep. Glad to hear your brother is doing better and found a firm that works for him!

  5. Band of Savers April 28, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    Great story, thanks for sharing some insight into the reality of the industry. And it good to know that I’m investing the right way.

    As a related aside, I was listening to the results of a study yesterday that found a direct correlation between the size differences in the index and ring finger of a male stock broker and how much money they make. Apparently if you’re a ring finger is longer than your index finger you will be expected to make more money. But the study was only on men so I’m not sure if it applied to women.

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 11:50 AM

      What an odd and interesting study. My ring fingers are longer than my index fingers, so hopefully that correlation applies to women too!

  6. FullTimeFinance April 28, 2017 at 8:38 AM

    Interesting story. Thanks for sharing MFS. i don’t think I’ve ever wanted to work on Wall Street. However living in Delaware those big banks are everywhere. All of their off street support staff for many of their businesses appear to be here (JP Morgans data center for example is down the road, all the credit card stuff for BArclays and Cap one is also near by). While I know working at these places wouldn’t be as bad as the street for hours I’m always held back on applying there. They have a reputation here of paying the local staffing poorly but expecting he same types of hours as Wall Street.

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:13 PM

      At least the shop I was at did not treat their operations/back office staff in secondary offices very well. It is ridiculous what they expect of those employees for local market pay. Probably a good move avoiding them!

  7. Brian April 28, 2017 at 8:49 AM

    When they have a label for it “Stockbroker’s syndrome” you know it can’t be good. Working in a environment like that might be okay short term if you are smart with your money, but from the sounds of it that wasn’t often the case. Often you don’t realize how bad an environment is until you get out. Glad you survived and got out Chelsea.

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 11:52 AM

      Yes, never a good sign when your industry is associated with massive stress! I am glad to be in a more sensible place in my career now and excited to have even more control over my life in a few years. You are right that I definitely gained a lot of clarity on it after leaving. Especially with the long hours surrounded by people who are all living the same life, it is easy to get sucked into thinking its normal. Thanks for reading, Brian!

  8. Erik @ The Mastermind Within April 28, 2017 at 10:04 AM

    Hey Chelsea, really enjoyed this post and your story. I’m glad you have recovered from your bout with stress and are crushing it today!

    I had a similar bout with stress last year – thought I was having heart problems.

    You have some great content at mamafishsaves.com. Personally, I’d love more posts like this to get into the inner workings of Wall Street but personal finance for family is a great niche as well.

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 8:01 PM

      Thanks for reading, Erik! Sorry to hear about your fight with stress. I hope you are feeling better now. Stress can really take years off our life, it is pretty scary. You seem to be on the track though finding ways to be entrepreneurial and in charge of your own life/schedule.

      Thanks for the kind words on the blog! I enjoy talking about my Wall Street career occasionally, but it isn’t my passion, which is probably why it wasn’t a good fit for me. Education and spreading financial literacy are what I love talking about so I’ll probably stick to that. I do need to introduce the concept of FIRE over there though! A couple of my regulars read this post and emailed to ask what FIRE was – oops!

  9. Dads Dollars Debts April 28, 2017 at 10:09 AM

    I always thought I I would enjoy working on wall street, but I hear the horror stories like the one above and I am glad I did not do it. Training in medicine is similarly butt kicking. The downside is we do not get any bonuses. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 11:54 AM

      Training is medicine is probably worse! I have a friend who is a trauma surgeon and I don’t know how she does it. But at least she loves it and is helping people! There is no denying that the bonuses are awesome though…

  10. Mike Collins April 28, 2017 at 10:28 AM

    Wow. That is not an environment I’d enjoy working in and I can’t imagine how people do it without losing their minds. I do know some people who work on Wall Street and they never seem to be at the kids softball and soccer games with other parents…now I understand why.

    Thanks for sharing you story Chelsea!

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 11:58 AM

      Yeah Mike, unfortunately soccer and softball games aren’t a huge priority. Some of the people were better at trying to make it work, but most just accepted that they were going to miss most things and that is what they “had to do” to provide for their families. I hate even occasionally missing bedtime with my son so it wasn’t a lifestyle that was going to work for me.

      Thanks for reading, Mike!

  11. Miss Mazuma April 28, 2017 at 10:48 AM

    “I knew income and wealth were different things, but I didn’t understand how anyone could lose so much perspective where they are disappointed with a seven-figure income.” This really is what it is all about. People talk about lifestyle inflation – with every bonus or pay raise you spend more – but the shift in perspective is really what changes people. Going from grateful for having a job to entitled because of it. I can’t imagine the amount of pressure a career like that puts on one but when you realize you are selling your time (and mind and body) for your work I can understand where some of that entitlement would come from…how much is your life worth?? I am certain a wake up call like yours wouldn’t be enough to wake up all that it touched…thank goodness you were smart enough to listen. :)

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 12:04 PM

      “How much is your life worth??” is a great question and one that motivates me daily to pursue a life I love. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people today struggle with self-worth and convince themselves the lifestyle is a fair trade off for the income. Some people, no doubt, love the rush and the work but far more seem trapped or complacent.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts and kind words!

  12. Lisa O April 28, 2017 at 11:17 AM

    Thanks for sharing and I am glad that you learned from this situation.

    We need to live life with a balance that makes us happy…money is not the only thing to make a rich life :)

  13. Joe April 28, 2017 at 11:40 AM

    Thanks for sharing. I was thinking about encouraging my kid to go into finance, but probably not now. It sounds really stressful.
    Also, great to know that even you don’t think you can beat the market. Now, I can rest easy and stick with my low cost index fund strategy. :)

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 12:10 PM

      Finance can be a great path if he is passionate about it and goes in with eyes wide open. There are so many aspects to finance that can be incredibly intellectually stimulating and firms that have pretty great work-life balance. But at many major banks and funds it isn’t the easiest life.

      And yes, stick with that index fund strategy :) There aren’t many times in life where the laziest, easiest strategy is also the best one! Take advantage of it!

      Thanks so much for checking out my story!

  14. chris April 28, 2017 at 2:14 PM

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

  15. Dividend Growth Investor April 28, 2017 at 2:48 PM


    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your quote “But we weren’t curing cancer or saving lives” really hits it home for me.

    When I was a teen, I also wanted to go and work on Wall Street. I am glad I didn’t, because I would have hated the stress, yelling, intense competition etc. I am sure it is not much fun having to miss seeing your spouse and children, while working 80 hours/week, travelling and possibly being on call all the time.

    However, I ended up in a Fancy CPA Accounting Firm at a point, which was a lot of high stress work, but for less money than Wall Street. That organization taught me how valuable my time was. This lesson I never forget – allocating time is as important factor in success as allocating capital.


    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:20 PM

      Thanks, DGI! It is crazy how a few years of a high-stress job can make you really focus on your priorities. Time is a precious commodity! I was so worried my son was going to walk for the first time while I was at the office or traveling. Luckily, he was a rockstar and walked while my husband and I were both home :)

  16. Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto April 28, 2017 at 3:56 PM

    As a commodity trader, I work with quite a few of the “Big Banks” on Wall Street. I’m thankful every time I leave NYC, and realize the benefits of my less stressful “Corporate Job” in Atlanta. There’s definitely a cost to those high WallSt salaries, and I applaud you in figuring out that sometimes it’s just not worth it. Great post, happy to see you hangin’ with J$!!

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:30 PM

      Thanks, Fritz!! I’ve actually interacted with a lot of commodity traders, corporate and financial, in my career. That isn’t always a low-stress job either. Great that you have found a better stress/compensation balance in Atlanta! My brother was living in Atlanta last year, I love it there. Thanks again for reading my story :)

      Now I’m going to be curious if we know some of the same people… Ah, anonymity!

  17. Liz April 28, 2017 at 4:54 PM

    Great to see you over here Chelsea, and I loved hearing more about your story. I can’t imagine complaining about a seven figure bonus. That would be enough to pay off my mortgage, fully fund my kids college, and pretty much get me set for FIRE. But I’ve seen the same things with my coworkers, just on a smaller scale. They complain about getting bonuses of tens of thousands of dollars! I can remember when I made in a year what I now get in a bonus. I try to think about that a lot so I can remember to be grateful.

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:36 PM

      It is all about perspective and your bubble! It seems like no matter how much money you make, most people are disappointed with their pay! You start to realize that the lack of fulfillment has to be coming from something other than the number on the check.

      Thanks for checking out my post, Liz! It has been a real honor to be here on J$’s site. Haven’t stopped smiling all day :)

  18. Primal Prosperity April 28, 2017 at 7:41 PM

    Wow… stockbroker’s syndrome… that’s awful. I’ve been a construction project manager for most of my career. At the larger, more competitive companies, they will actually have sleeping rooms. Not to take a restful nap in the middle of the day, but to work on bids for days straight and not have to go home. They call these the ‘war rooms’. Not pleasant. Once I had a job interview where the guy told me that every project manager has to be onsite from 6am-6pm, six days a week. He said the only exceptions were if you were having a baby or signing a mortgage. I was like, uh, no way. I have no desire to trade my health (and all my time!) for a salary. Like you said, salary is not wealth. I like the saying: “rich is having money, wealth is having time.”

    1. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves April 28, 2017 at 7:54 PM

      My husband was a construction estimator before he “retired” to stay home with our son. PMs are so completely tied to project deadlines your time isn’t really your own, especially at the big companies. My Wall Street firm had the “nap rooms” too! Of course, you could only book them for 30-minute increments so it was more like a room to sleep off your migraine/jet lag and get back to work. Oof!

      I LOVE that quote! I hadn’t heard it before but it is perfect. I’m writing it down :) Thanks for sharing!

      1. J. Money May 1, 2017 at 11:11 AM

        Yeahhhh!!! Killer quote!

  19. gfaseed April 29, 2017 at 8:51 AM

    Great post, thanks for sharing.
    Already share it on my twitter and facebook timeline!

    Keep it up!

    1. J. Money May 1, 2017 at 11:13 AM

      Thanks so much for doing that! Glad you enjoyed it!

  20. Dividend Diplomats April 29, 2017 at 9:16 AM

    Great share here.

    Just goes to show that if your health is deteriorating for the sake of making more money for yourself and others, with less time to spend on truly what matters – than it simply isn’t worth it, at all, and there are different ways to get the most out of life. FIRE away.


  21. Master Duke April 29, 2017 at 4:52 PM

    This so insightful to the real world of wall street – thank you so much for sharing.

    I’ve definitely emailed this link to a friend who is on their way to that world. It really reminds me of the mantra of we work to live, not live to work!

    1. J. Money May 1, 2017 at 11:12 AM

      Your friend better buy you a beer if it ends up changing his life ;)

  22. Eliza May 1, 2017 at 8:59 PM

    Hi Chelsea,
    Such a terrific post, thank you for sharing your experience. My husband and I have often discussed picking individual stocks versus index funds. He’d love to invest in individual companies particularly with products that he’s familiar with professionally. I’ve always thought it would be too risky and too much work. Thanks for the insight on what it really takes to ‘know’ a company, it gives me the confidence that we don’t have the skills, desire or time to go this path.

  23. Young and Finance May 3, 2017 at 2:45 PM

    Hi Chelsea. Thanks for letting us know what it was really like working on Wall Street. It had to be scary to go through that at such at young age but I’m glad you got out early. I too invest in low-cost index funds and believe this is the best way to go to avoid the stress of watching each stock you own daily (I’ve done that before as well, lol).

    Again, thanks for sharing such an awesome story!

  24. Dave @ Run The Money May 10, 2017 at 8:17 AM

    Wow, now that’s a post! I should have read this earlier. Kept meaning to come back to it.

    While the movies may stretch the truth, it seems a lot of them are right on par. Not something I would ever want to be a part of.

    I had an auditing job right out of college that required us to be there hours on end during busy season. I knew right away I wanted no part of that life. The income wasn’t even close to what you were making either. Now, I’m fine with a job that allows me to be home every day for dinner with the family and gives me a chance to work on my blog as my side hustle.

    I appreciate you sharing this insight. I often thought I sold myself short by not going for a more glamorous job.

  25. J. Money May 15, 2017 at 10:31 AM

    “Now, I’m fine with a job that allows me to be home every day for dinner with the family and gives me a chance to work on my blog as my side hustle.” – that’s where it’s at, my man :) Though lately I wish there was a way to turn OFF that part of the brain that wants to hustle during free time as unlike 9-5s, blog stuff can be 24/7!

  26. mama fish March 29, 2019 at 9:01 AM

    Hi I am a retired mama fish can you help me find a work experience placement on wall street for my grandson he is a high achiever still at high school with a natural ability in math.
    Thank you,
    Mama Fish x

  27. Buyside Hustle June 29, 2019 at 5:44 PM

    This is a great article. There are so many young folks out there who think working on wall street (either at an investment bank or in private equity/hedge fund) is the best job you can ever get. You may get paid a ton, but you are sacrificing the rest of your life for money.

    After working in banking and at a number of different hedge funds, I can tell you that not every place is the same. You really have to love the work in order to succeed and make a lot of money. The stress, hours and lack of freedom add up over the years and cause many to burnout very quickly.

    Personally, I love the intensity and get to look at many different types of investments to see where I can maximize risk vs. reward. It is not for everyone however.

  28. Wholesome Wallet September 20, 2019 at 2:16 PM

    I like your post. Income isn’t the same as wealth because if you spend all your income, you cannot build wealth. Many people, especially athletes, get it wrong when it comes to income and wealth. That’s why many of them go broke few years after they stop playing

    1. J. Money September 20, 2019 at 5:05 PM