I'm five years into a career on an electronic trading desk at a European bank and I'm about to get my bonus for last year. I'm hoping that it won't be that bad: compensation is apparently being skewed towards juniors; I just about fall into that category.
So, what will I do when I get paid? Will I upgrade my car? Buy an Audemars Piguet? Book first class tickets to the Maldives (political crisis or not) for myself and my partner?
None of the above. I will continue to very, very slowly save up to buy my first property - probably a one or two bedroom studio somewhere not too far from work.
This is the downside of doing my job. I have to be in the office very day by 7am at the latest and so I don't have the luxury of living in zone three or four. I need to live in central London. And central London costs dearly.
I know a guy who's tried to deny this logistical reality. His life is a nightmare: he's up at 4.30am every day to drive to the station and then take a taxi to the office. He does the same at 6.30pm each evening. You can see that it's getting to him: he doesn't look healthy. I want some sleep. I want a life. I need to live near work.
People think that if you work in banking you're rich. This might have been the case once, but bonuses aren't what people think they are. If you're part of the elite you might get a fair amount, but if you're not you get the leftovers. My leftovers go straight into a savings account where I'm trying to scrape together a deposit so that I can get a mortgage in central London. This has been the case for the past five years. Every time I think I'm close, something comes up - whether it's rising house prices or the threat of redundancy. I just want to get a mortgage while I can, and that means saving as much as possible.
It's not like this for everyone. Some of my colleagues have a more hedonistic attitude to life. They care more about going to Burning Man or clubbing in Mykonos than saving for a deposit. Then again, a lot of those colleagues seem able to borrow money interest free from their parents. For people like me, a bonus serves one purpose: it's a means to try scraping together a deposit for a house. In an industry like this, you need to plan carefully for your future: you'll probably be out of work by the time you're 45 and in the meantime you squander your bonuses at your peril.
Sam Brand is a pseudonym. He works as a junior sales trader at a European bank.
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