‘Young Money’: the grueling world of Wall Street analysts
“Young Money” by former New York Times reporter Kevin Roose reveals the dismal world of young Wall Street investment analysts in the years after the 2008 financial crash.
The Washington Post
‘Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits’
by Kevin Roose
Grand Central, 320 pp., $27
“Young Money” chronicles the lives of eight ambitious, twenty-something financial analysts as they attempt to climb the career ladder at some of the Financial District’s largest and most prestigious banking institutions. For three years, Kevin Roose, a former New York Times reporter and current New York Magazine columnist, followed these entry-level financiers in the trenches, examining how Wall Street’s culture and attitudes have evolved and continue to do so.
The book begins in the wake of the devastating 2008 financial crisis. Recent college grads entering the workforce were overqualified, rightfully pessimistic and hungry. A couple of well-paid years were appealing to those facing large student-loan debt in a bad economy. The young financiers accepted the harsh reality of grueling work environments and cutthroat practices. Their goals became focused: land a top-tier post, pocket a lavish end-of-year bonus and, most of all, prove they had what it took to make it on Wall Street.
Few of Roose’s revelations are groundbreaking. Yes, analysts work demanding hours, often putting in all-nighters and sometimes 100-hour workweeks. Yes, they habitually elevate pitch preparations and Excel spreadsheets over happy hours, relationships and sleep.
More enlightening — and sometimes startling — were the physical and emotional changes Roose observed. Many of his sources looked pale and sallow from getting too little sleep, and they gained weight because of “a sedentary lifestyle and seven days a week of restaurant meals.” The emotional toll was severe. All of his sources became cynical, developed severe stress and had signs of depression. Some recruits began referring to their workplace as Azkaban, after the prison in the Harry Potter series that robs inmates of their souls. They soon distanced themselves from non-finance friends. “Money goes from being something that is infrequently discussed to being the primary subtext of life,” Roose sums up. “Social relationships start to feel transactional.”
Roose notes that the number of college graduates, particularly Ivy Leaguers, going straight into investment banking is dropping significantly. Introspection and doubts concerning the morality of the work and the integrity of the firms have turned eager minds away from the Street, as have the actions of Occupy Wall Street. Some of the interviewees admitted to being so embarrassed by where they work that they lied about it. “I tell people I’m a consultant, a lawyer, whatever,” confesses one financier. “Anything but a Wall Street guy.”
Creative young financiers are now flocking to Silicon Valley to work for the likes of Google or Facebook, turning to community-service programs such as Teach for America and AmeriCorps, or electing to start their own companies. All these choices offer more flexibility, better hours and higher moral capital than Wall Street jobs.
Roose’s prose is snarky, satirical and antipathetic to Wall Street. At the same time, he evokes sympathy for his informants, five of whom managed to escape Wall Street. A departing Goldman Sachs quoted Martin Luther King: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty. We are free at last.”
Megan McDonough can be reached at email@example.com.