In 2007, I jumped into the “real” world. I was 23. It was literally a financial bubble. Everything was crazy.
During my first month, I participated in a one-month new hire training program in NYC. When I left my office to go to the airport, my boss gave me a thick envelope, saying “go for a drink with your colleagues.” I went down to the carriage porch, and found a senior driver standing by a black fancy car. He politely introduced himself, and gave me a cold drink and that day’s Financial Times. On the way to the airport, I opened the envelope. It contained a thousand dollars in cash. I had no idea where to go for a drink with it.
After finishing training, armed with a thin veneer of knowledge in corporate finance, I returned to my home office. What awaited me was an incredible volume of work. I was thrown into various deals, and worked day and night at a dizzying pace. No joke – in the morning, I settled at my desk, broke some bread into small pieces, set them on the corner of my desk, and ate a piece whenever I had a moment during the day.
My only pleasure came at dinnertime. The company reimbursed our dinner up to $40 and I spent the full $40 every day, gaining 9 pounds in the first three months. My bosses also often took me out to dine. They always went to the most upscale restaurants, and spent money like water. Ordering wine, they didn’t even bother with the menu, but just said “the most expensive one.”
The first year passed quickly, and we had our yearend performance reviews. It was also the day we were informed of our annual performance bonus. At investment banks, the performance bonus fluctuates greatly year-by-year, dependent on the economy and the company’s performance. Since it was my first year, I had no idea how much to expect. During the performance feedback, my mind was somewhere else. When the division head gave me a piece of paper at the end of the meeting, I finally came to my senses. At the bottom of the sheet of paper, I found my performance bonus for the year. The number was greater than my annual base salary.
What in the world had I come to? Is this sustainable? I was feasting on the rewards of the financial bubble, and losing my sense of the value of money in the process.
However, it didn’t last long…
(To be continued)