Let Samuel Polk be a lesson to all investment bank employees obsessed with earning seven figure pay-packets. As Polk noted in this weekend’s New York Times, making extreme amounts of money is an addictive business. After leaving Wall Street and a hedge fund , Polk says he suffered withdrawal symptoms and found himself ‘waking up at nights panicked about running out of money, scouring the headlines to see which of my old co-workers had gotten promoted. Over time it got easier — I started to realize that I had enough money, and if I needed to make more, I could.’
As we noted last week, careers counselors say people find themselves trapped in banking jobs – even after cutting back on spending as much as possible – finance professionals still find that they need an income of £250k ($411k) to live on. And where are you going to walk into that outside banking?
Polk’s financial withdrawal was facilitated by a therapist who’d already helped him work through his alcohol addiction. However, we also suspect that it was also facilitated by his wife Kirsten Polk (pictured with Sam here), a psychiatrist with whom he started his new Groceryships business offering nutritional help to families on low incomes. “I’m married to the most unbelievable woman. She challenges me and loves me, and it’s easily the most rewarding part of my life,” he says here.
Having a spouse who validates your non-banking, non-high-earning self is a huge plus when it comes to escaping financial services. Polk intimates that at some points during his career he had more of a trophy girlfriend, ‘a pretty blonde’, whom he started dating whilst renting an apartment costing $6k. Had he stayed with her, we suspect it would have been far harder for Polk to walk away from a Wall Street lifestyle – it’s one thing to quit a job, but another to quit a job and a wife who expects you to keep at it.
It’s also worth noting that Polk’s new venture may not have been possible had he not spent time in the greed-pit. The board of directors at Groceryships is dotted with financial services professionals, including Michael Meyer, the former Global head of Investment Grade Trading and Sales for Bank of America. It’s not clear whether Meyer and others have donated to Groceryships, but their support may have helped to get the venture off the ground.