Characters like Jordan Belfort (the DiCaprio-depiction) and Gordon Gekko fill the big screen and young minds with dreams of Wall Street grandeur and luxury. And maybe once-upon-a-time working for a big bank was full of such excess, but today, says Kevin Roose, it’s less about a spoil of riches and more about long hours and thankless work.
Roose followed eight young Wall Street hopefuls over the course of three years for his book "Young Money." What he found was that the job wasn’t quite what they expected it to be. “It wasn’t anything like The Wolf of Wall Street,” he says.
“It was like a dystopian nightmare. They got there and were immediately thrust into these jobs where they were working sometimes 100 to 110 hours a week. There’s a thing called the bankers 9-to-5…where you show up for work at 9am and you don’t leave until the next day at 5am.”
The young bankers also found that a certain shame came with holding their job titles in a post-Occupy world. “When you add that to the stigma with working in the financial industry after the crash and the fact that they weren’t getting paid as much as they used to, it made for a very unhappy experience,” says Roose.
That’s not to say those starting their careers in finance aren’t making a very good salary. “These people are still making between $90,000 and $130,000 a year for their first year out of college which is a tremendous amount,” says Roose. “But I think what I didn’t realize is that the money didn’t cheer them up. It wasn’t making their lives any better.”
Structural changes on Wall Street aren't as vast as some want them to be, but the culture has changed tremendously since 2008, says Roose. “These young bankers are often embarrassed to say they work on Wall Street."
One of the bankers Roose followed would tell people that he worked as a consultant instead. “That would never have happened in 2007 or earlier. I think what you’re seeing is the industry has lost its shine and that rubs off on the people who work there.”
Wall Street is similar to a religion says Roose, and learning to think like a banker often changed the way the young people he followed thought about life.
“They [the banks] want to reshape your worldview and so these people came in as college students…two years later they come out and they’re bankers, they’ve been turned into professionals. And that effects everything in their lives from the way they view dating to the way they view their own finances to the way they view global politics and the economy,” he says. "It creates a transactionalized worldview that can be very destructive."
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