Why do highly educated people accept 100 hour a week jobs?

I read that bankers working for Goldman work for 80 and even 100 hours a week and that blew my mind.

I live in the Balkans in one of the poorest countries in Europe, where the average salary is about 450 - 500 usd, yet most people here work for 8 hours a day for 5 days and some in saturday as well, very little people work on sunday, usually only the ones that have crappy jobs and have to make as much as they can to survive. Even counting saturdays, that is 8 hours x 6 days - 48 hours a week, if we count in another hour for transport to and from work, that’s 54 hours of the week you spend on work. If you sleep for 8 hours, then you have only about 7 hours of free time, which is sometimes split into two parts, depending on which shift you’re working, so you only have less than 1/3 of your time to spend on what matters the most - your family.

In countries like France, the average work week is just 35 hours, since a work day lasts for 7 hours and over that is considered overtime. I am not sure about it, but I think I read that they have 5 weeks of holiday time per year and by hours a year, they rank among the lowest amount in Europe, Germany also ranks near them.

So following this logic, the higher the living standard and salaries, the more the people can have free time to spend with their families instead of working overtime, right?

Well…in case of bankers I mentioned, for some reason I can’t understand, they are willing to work for 100 hours a week, which is 14 hours a day even if they work on sundays or about 11.5 hours if it’s an 80 hour week with sunday included and 13.5 hours without sunday.

I can understand very poor people who have no option other than to work for 12 and more hours a day, but people in year 1919 in several countries in Europe have striked and protested demanding 8 hour work days, in 1919, that’s more than a hundred years ago, yet there are people more than a hundred years later in the 21.st century who dedicate years to finishing extremely hard universities just in order to work 12+ hour work days and have literally no free time for them and their family.

I can understand the incentive for more money, but if you finished the hardest possible schools and got into world leading financial companies, you should have the best possible work conditions, not the worst ones, no matter how big the salary.

Basically your job is your life. Its what you talk about all day and it determines who you associate with. Its what you have a total passion for and the reason you pursued such a life.

But no one really dedicates 100 hours a week forever, it just sounds good. Except maybe people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos does but they are just always on and thinking of new adventures.

Here is the story for those not familiar with it. The first-year analysts are Goldman Sachs, getting salaries of something like $91,000, reported in an internal survey that they were asked to put in 95 hour workweeks. Why do they do it? Because a job like that is highly desirable, in part because it puts them on a path to great wealth.

Apparently, there’s a compensatory factor for a sizable number of those who work for Goldman and similar firms and put in insane hours.

“…for many “average” Wall Street workers, $25 million in savings accumulated over the course of a career in finance is an “obtainable number,” and can usually be reached by age 45 to 50.”

So there’s hope that you’ll be able to quit before your health and family life are ruined by overwork. But maybe not.

“Let’s face it, though: That might not be enough. After all, it’s pretty tough to squeak by in Manhattan/Greenwich/East Hampton on less than $1 million a year.”

“To be able to retire at age 30 and maintain that $1 million-a-year-in-expenses lifestyle for the rest of your life, you’d have to have around $30 million socked away.”

Hmm, so the expectation is that you’d be dead by 60?

I don’t know how it works in the Balkans, but working a 40-48 hour week for low wages and hoping you can sock enough of it away to retire before you’re old and decrepit doesn’t sound all that appealing.

In the U.S. (and probably in a lot of Western countries), many high-power, high-paying jobs tend to be intense, and come with the expectation that working nights and weekends is the rule, not the exception.

Speaking from my own experience, if you want to be successful in marketing, advertising, or business consulting – particularly if you want to become a senior executive/partner/whatever – your career becomes your life. Saying, “no, sorry, it’s 5pm, I’m out the door” isn’t seen as an acceptable answer.

However, also in my experience, there’s a type of person who craves that level of power and accomplishment, and a lot of them are willing to put in those hours. People in these fields who don’t have that kind of personality either get burned out and change careers, or get side-tracked out of the management/leadership track.

(Also, as was noted on another thread here recently, if you work that kind of job, if you want any kind of family life, you’d better have a spouse who either doesn’t work, or works in a less high-pressure field, and who can run the household and raise the kids. A couple in which both partners are working stupid hours is likely destined to fail.)

Cantor Fitzgerald was a company like this. A huge percentage of the employees who died on 9/11 were in their 20s or 30s, and the CEO was barely 40 years old.

Nothing against you, but you obviously do not. Many people - not all, but a sufficient number - are obsessed with money. For them money is the score in the game of life; the higher the score the better the life. The money also buys them what seems important to status: homes, cars, boats, drugs, trophy wives. Putting in the time now is a down payment on a rich life.

No, the expectation is that you can invest the $30 million and live off the interest and retain the original $30 million forever.

Unless the market went south in a big way, which would be sort of ironic for these people.

Give me $30 million and I’ll take a chance on anything the market might do.

While not high finance on wall street the oil field has a lot of comparable salaries and a lot of similar hour expectations. Most of the oil field guys I know are earning $200k by the time they are 10-15 years into their careers. Most of the guys have something in the stock market outside of their 401ks but plenty of them have started businesses or bought productive property so even in a market crash they are pretty diversified. I would assume that people coming from high finance would know to diversify too. Aside from the rich all being murdered in this country they will pretty much always be better off.

And a lot of them wash out - they do a year or two of the intense high pressure/high reward work, and then discover that they aren’t going to make it. Its a highly competitive environment with a large financial reward if you succeed. And once you get past that initial hump - you generally back off to more reasonable 60 hour work weeks. In some ways the 80+ hour work weeks are part of the weeding process.

First-year associates at top law firms have similarly insane schedules, and they’re the top graduates of top law schools. As with the Goldman Sachs analysts, the long-term rewards can be very lucrative, perhaps earning a partnership in the firm.

Exactly. We’re not talking about salaries. Partnerships, bonuses, stock options move these people into the seven-figure range, and eight or nine if they’re really good.

Not to mention medical residents.

@nearwildheaven What is your belief about medical resident’s salaries?

The 2020 median was $63,400 annually and that is for more than a 40 hour work week.

As I just said in a parallel thread, I don’t think crazy long hours are productive, but if I lived my life again, I’d be willing to go through it for a few years.

Because, I know several people who did this for just a few years and then had the financial freedom to go do whatever they really wanted to do. Yeah they’ll complain about the soul-sucking years spent trading stocks, but not complain about the couple million they managed to stash that enabled them to start a successful business of whatever kind at the age of 27.

Nope. That much money generates a pretty good income stream no matter what the market does. These are finance professionals, remember. Plus they don’t have to sell much if any of their portfolio when the market dips.
Things are way different with lots and lots of money.

I had a job in which I worked 65 hours a week for no good reason. From my experience, a lot of it is social pressure. You don’t want to leave the office before your colleagues do. The boss may call, and if you aren’t there and available you might fall a few positions in the competitive rankings.
Hell, at least these people have a shot at great wealth. I understand video game designers do it and consistently get screwed.

At least now they’re paid a living wage. Not so many years ago, they were given a stipend, or were simply unpaid labor.

As others have said, I don’t feel anyone expects to have a career working these kinds of hours. They accept that working at an insane level for a couple of years is a necessary step for getting into a high-paying job with more reasonable hours.