Dreaming of Money
My mom posted an article about a DC teen who is now sought after by five of the Ivy League schools (unfortunately, this guy who was accepted into all Ivies overshadowed him [I will also note here that I have one friend who was accepted into all Ivies years ago who is now highly upset that there is a news article about this event]). I congratulate this guy for all of his accomplishments and his successes — and hope that he has continued success, but there was a part of the article that saddened me:
The local Fox affiliate recently asked this remarkable young man what he wants to do next.
“I guess probably the CEO of an investment (or management consulting) firm. I guess pretty much overseeing acquisitions or transactions between large companies. Hopefully, Fortune 500 companies,” he said.
I posted that this quote, and my sadness, on Facebook, and one of my friends responded:
Why does this make you sad? Some kid is stating a dream.
What does it mean when people dream of investing or consulting?
As a tax accountant, I am aware that to many people, my career doesn’t rank highly in the list of Careers That Actually Help People. And try as I might to argue that tax accounting improves businesses, which allows those businesses to continue improving the world through their products and services — even I have to admit that a lot of the services that tax accountants provides has a tenuous (at best) link to helping people rather than just helping people get (and stay) rich.
And I feel the same is assuredly true of private equity, investment banking, and management consulting.
This isn’t a post to try to defend tax accounting and bash the others. Even though I like much of my job (the parts I don’t like are not really related to the work itself, but to the way the industry works — I think taxes are fascinating, but think the working environment of public accounting is pretty crazy), I’ll concede that tax probably fits in the same category as I’m going to put the other business careers listed above in: these are not the careers of dreams.
The “before” part of that video (especially the extended version) is something that goes around my office pretty regularly, because it is so spot on (in a cry-yourself-to-sleep sort of way). But pay attention to that “after’ part — what makes the “after” part a miss when the “before” part is such a hit is precisely the reality that kids really wouldn’t be saying those things. They wouldn’t be dreaming about those things. (I mean, yes, having work life balance and having a normal life is a given, but that’s not really a dream.)
For the most part, these are careers for people who are looking for money. I’ll caveat here (here I go, rationalizing my own career out of the way of the brunt of the attack) by saying that tax accounting is simply in a different category from the others as far as compensation goes, but in a broader sense, one becomes a tax accountant because it’s a well-paying, stable option.
One becomes an investment banker because the profits are insane and the pay is insane. (When I first heard about the “carried interest” treatment from in my tax class, I wondered whether we were learning something that was borderline illegal, like some sort of tax shelter.)
And yet my friend says: some kid is stating a dream.
I like accounting and tax, and can see that the theoretical and legal frameworks of these fields could make it possible for me to pursue my “passion” of social science research in these fields. So, I can buy that maybe, one could see something similar in investment or consulting.
However, it seems to me that if a kid is building robots (and has the capability to do that), then instead of investing in the companies that build robots (which is supposedly the societal benefit of investment companies — they invest in the companies that Help People), then why can’t the kid aspire to build robots?
Oh, I got it. Building robots isn’t necessarily as lucrative as investing.
Financial innovators of Wall Street: 1
Helping Society Directly and Concretely: 0.
…on second thought…I will say that I can understand. Why was I ultimately driven to the stable, safe, well-paying career? Quite simply, it is a reality that the economy that students face in these times is precarious — you can be in an industry that’s safe, or risk your well-being throughout your adulthood. Maybe finance and accounting and management consulting are the “it” fields because the risk-to-return is much more favorable?