Not really sure what i want to do in life....afraid to make a bad choice

I graduated college in 2010 with a BS in mathematics and minors in Economics and Spanish. It took me about a year to find a job, but since june of 2011, I’m working at a big bank in NYC. I work more on the technology side than finance, but it’s pretty even down the middle. My job is basically a business analyst so I’ll write up business documents, test new developments, develop my own applications, and create my own models used for reporting to senior management. With the exception of some application development, my job is pretty routine and boring. I only just started learning how to program (VBA) this year and only 2 other people on my floor know how to do that, haha. But I do feel like I have more tangible skills than our operations groups, who rely more on routine processes rather than pulling any analytical skills. The main reason I’m posting this is that I feel I’m underpaid. I make low 40K a year and I feel like I have the lowest pay grade compared to what everyone else makes that just got hired. I even got a raise after a few months, but only 2%, which is the most you can get as far as annual raises go. I’m very good at my job based on feedback of others, but let’s say I keep getting 2% raises each year. It will still take over 5 years to just break 45K - and that’s pretty bad for working in NYC. Not to sound whiney, but something just seems off. I come in early to get a headstart on my projects, work through lunch, and usually stay a bit later than others. I ultimately feel like I’m stuck in the finance field, but unfortunately, I really have no idea what I want to do in life. I just want a job with a comfortable salary and good work/life balance. I don’t have to be a big manager or anything…I’ve considered a few options that I think may improve my income in the future: 1. CFA - let’s face it, I’m a terrible test taker and I don’t really have the drive or motive to take all 3 levels. The material here just doesn’t interest me that much anyway. You’ve probably seen my other thread about this. I bet the CFA designation is great for those who know it, but I know lots of people who have completed all 3 exams and can’t get the official title because their previous experience won’t qualify or they simply can’t find work in the relative field. I feel like with the CFA, you’re sacrificing a lot of breath for depth. 2. MBA Finance - I’m convinced I can get into NYU Stern, which would be among the top 10 or pretty damn close schools for this type of thing. My company pays for it all, but what if this isn’t the right field for me? The one good thing about MBAs is that they are very general and good schools are recognized everywhere (i made the mistake of going to an awesome undergraduate school that wasn’t well known by most at the end). 3. Masters in Quantitative Analysis - honestly, people have said my background would fit this best and I love the idea of modelling (that’s my favorite part of my current job), but i HATE programming. Well, I don’t HATE it, but it’s frustrating when learning it and messing up, and you don’t understand why. The only issue is, this too, may be too specific of a field. Plus I have no professional exposure to it - just some relevant coursework from school. At the end of the day, I don’t REALLY wanna do any of this, but it’s more of a question of which path would be best for me based on what gives the most income, work/life balance, and general interest. Is this a normal feeling for you guys? It’s just that my job can be so boring and unrewarding, plus it takes me 90 minutes to get there each day (3 hours of commuting a day!), so I feel like I have to do SOMETHING on the downtime. The only question is, what? I don’t want to make the wrong decision and end up wasting my time. What about the GRE’s…would it be useful to take those in between? I would at least need it for grad school…

Well first, congratulations on being sincere about something most people are actually too afraid to admit. The world is full of choices and it is often not very realistic to diversify your career options to avert the risk of a bad choice - it just takes too much time and effort and employers might see you as “unfocused” (justified or not).

Even to the extent that you can diversify your career options, you will usually find yourself comparing yourself to someone who made a different career choice and made a ton of money and wondering if you did something wrong. Remember that only 1% of the population gets to be in the 1%, so that’s an atypical sample. Some of the 1% are there because of family money. Some are there because of luck. Some are there because of skill, but usually that’s skill + some luck. If Bill Gates were born 10 years later, he could have the same skills he has today and be a frustrated middle-management guy. Same with Steve Jobs, although he’d at least have the consolation prize of still being alive (ok, Steve Jobs may still have done well, given that he also did Pixar and has a track record of making insanely great things time after time, but very likely he couldn’t have done NeXT and Pixar without the capital he made off of Apple’s IPO).

Probably a good MBA program is what’s best for you. You’ll get a broader skill set than CFA that can be used in many fields. I said it’s hard to diversify career options, but MBA from a good school is most likely to do that, and plug you in to a good network of business associates willing to talk to you.

CFA might be useful if you are interested in managing money and investments. You didn’t show a lot of interest in that, so if that’s not what you really really want to do, then skip it.

If you’re looking for good quality of life and a nice paycheck, private wealth management is a good combination. You’ll need good technical skills + excellent socializing/schmoozing skills for that, and it helps to have a network of wealthy friends who trust your judgment. For that, you could do the CFA, although the CFP is more common and less work. CFA qualifies you for some parts of the CFP program already, so both can be done.

40k in NYC is near the poverty line… i really thought the minumum for anyone in operations in NYC was more than that.

do the CFA… honestly (its possible) that you pass lvl in Dec, lvl 2 next June and by July of next year you could bel be a lvl 3 candidate… thats 13 months away.

MBA, if you can get into Stern, definitely…

I’m actually planning on taking the level 1 exam this saturday. There’s no way I’ll pass it, that’s for sure lol . But I can accept this going in. I’d like to actually give it a real shot in December just so I can say that I put the right effort in, but that’s not til a long time…If I fail december, may just focus on grad school because I don’t want to honestly pay another 500 for study material and 300 for qbank questions…will be a new curriculum by then…

Honestly, I’m just looking for a salary that I can live comfortably in in a job that I don’t necessarily enjoy, but am good at. As of now, it’s more of a question of whether I should try to get promoted and see what the new income is…or before I jump ship, milk everything I can from the company I’m at - that includes learning skills and getting a masters.

40K is that close to the poverty line, eh? I guess it doesn’t surprise me. I’m living at home on Long Island right now but if I moved closer to the city, rent could be tough. My saving grace is that I have been saving a lot, but when I do move out, it may be near impossible to save. Even brooklyn apartments have insane rents.

Pehraps I shouldn’t be saying this, but what the hell, no one knows I’m here. As a person in my position who handles reports that highlight our departments efficiences, I know how much everyone makes. A couple of people have my salary…others arbitrarily make a few thousand more…supervisors and VPs all make more than double what the grunts make. The salaries here seem very volatile - you either make a TON or have essentially minimum wage. I guess there’s more to it than that, but I just throw that out there for now. Technically, I am really the only person at my job who does what I do…

Regarding CFA material, what turns me off is all that crap on financial reporting. IFRS, GAAPs, ick…so dry. The stuff on probability, quantititave methods, corporate finance/project analysis, bond/stock valuation is more of my thing. Honestly, if FInancial Reporting was removed from the curriculum, I’d jump right into the charter…

double post

double post…sorry

I would echo the MBA in your case.

End of the day: the entire curriculum of the CFA was built for portfolio management, equity research is the 2nd biggest, but it applies more to buy-side (sell side not as much). One reason you have a lot of people with the CFA charter in other areas of finance, is because there are very few port mgmt job openings, so people start taking jobs on other areas of finance. A lot of people with the CFA charter have little use for much of the curriculum, but get it for the sake of “having it”

I believe all finance professionals should take L1, it’s a great foundation of the world of finance.

L2 gets heavy into detailed valuation and calculations. L3 is practically ALL portfolio management. Most jobs outside PM won’t benefit from L3 that much.

Based on all the things you said and how you feel, I think you will be miserable trying to do the CFA program. It’s quite life draining, because it takes away so much of your time. Since you are not set on this path, I wouldn’t start down it.

MBA is much more versatile, and lets you go any industry, and you’ll meet lots of people in school, and get different ideas on what it is you want to do.

I don’t understand how you can be paid so little. $40k in New York is miserable. How is this even possible?

Anyway, my conclusion, based on your story, is that you should do the MBA if your company pays for it. The NPV of completing this program is far more than you seem to be able to get at your current job. Plus, face it - you need a boost in academic credentials. If your last best offer was the $40k job, your resume probably needs a refresh…

Hmm. I think the missing information here is what your obligation to the company would be if they pay for your MBA.

yeah, my company WILL pay for a master’s. They will NOT sponsor the CFA designation…

MBA seems like your best choice. Not to push anyone away from pursuing CFA, but if you are not into the material and not excited about the career path it leads to, then it will be a long, frustrating use of your time (although I am jealous of all the studying you could get done on your commute). An MBA from NYU will not just open more doors, it will open differnent types of doors… I know someone who received their MBA from Stern thinking they would work in “big business” but now they’re at a non-profit making six figures with unbelievable work-life balance… point is, it’s a highly respected versatile degree that might lead to opportunities which you haven’t previously considered.

If your employeer is paying tuition think of that as a bump in pay you really should take advantage of - that’s an extra $20-$25k right?