Sharing beds and other unglamorous living conditions for Wall Street interns

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Intern acommodation NYC

You just landed an internship at a prestigious Wall Street bank. You are the envy of your class. You know the hours will be brutal but you’ll be living the life in New York, making a salary that’s two to three times that of other students with more typical summer jobs or lesser internships outside of the financial capital. Unfortunately, that money won’t get you anywhere near the high life in New York. In fact, you’ll have to be creative just to scrape by.

Depending on the firm and position, Wall Street summer interns can make a salary of between $60k and $80k if annualized. If you take the median – $70k – that works out to around $1,346 per week. Not bad! Except that New York has one of the highest marginalized income tax rates of any state, plus there’s an additional New York City tax if you work in the five boroughs. After taxes, take-home pay drops to around $924 a week, depending on a few different factors. Compare that to what you’ll have to pay in rent and reality will check itself in.

The average rent in New York City was $3,375 per month in March of 2018, according to Rent Jungle. The two neighborhoods closest to most Manhattan banks – Midtown and the Financial District – each boast an average rent of over $3,800, or every penny you’d take home after taxes.

Suddenly, intern life seems a lot less salubrious.

“You can’t afford diddly squat,” said a former Goldman Sachs intern who spent two summers in New York. His first summer, he and a friend shared a bedroom in a two-bedroom Soho apartment with a random person they found on Craigslist. They paid $1,800 a month between them for two twin beds in a cramped bedroom. And this was back in 2011, when rents were much lower.

The following year, the two shared not only a bedroom, but also a bed, in a three-bedroom apartment. They paid $2,200 combined to live in a “truly ghetto” apartment building in the Lower East Side, said the former Goldman intern, who made annualized salaries of around $60k to $70k during his two summers. “Three bedrooms, four dudes. Times were tough,” he said with a laugh.

These days, with an ever-escalating cost of living, many Wall Street interns have given up their ideal apartment dreams and have settled for cheaper options. One J.P. Morgan intern told us that they took a position in Jersey City so they could live at home. Another former intern from Goldman Sachs said she lived for free at a family friend’s apartment in Brooklyn who had a spare bedroom. Interns in London are doing similar things to afford the experience.

Those who don’t have families and friends nearby may need to be more creative and embrace a dorm-room lifestyle. There are housing providers like NYCIntern, which rents furnished apartments to incoming interns for the duration of their internship, usually 10 weeks. The benefits are there. You have access to a furnished apartment in a young communal building in an ideal location with lease terms that mirror internship windows, cutting down on wasted rent. But you better get used to close, intimate quarters.

The options available at the company’s western Financial District location include a triple studio – three people sleeping and living in one room, along with a kitchen and bathroom – and the slightly more expensive triple one-bedroom, where three interns share a sleeping area and a separate living room. The options cost $3,550 and $3,750 per person per 10-week term, respectively, plus a non-refundable application and maintenance fee of $175 with a required 50% deposit, according to the site. There is also a quad one-bedroom – four people sharing a living area and a 14x10 bedroom – for $3,500 per person for the duration. Every housing option for the upcoming summer season is already sold out at the company’s Manhattan locations.

At their Brooklyn building, you can get your own bedroom in a shared two-bedroom apartment but the cost increases to $5,500 per person per term, or around 68% of average take-home pay for the 10 weeks. No alcohol is allowed on the premises of any of their buildings and no opposite-sex guests are allowed, according to the site. (Shaving cream fights are also prohibited, fwiw). Affordable for New York and certainly turnkey but not exactly the high-life.

Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Google, among others, are listed as partners on NYCIntern’s website. The company didn’t immediate return a request for clarification on what partnership status entails.

One potential silver lining: the more hours you work, the less time you’ll be spending in your four-person bedroom.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: btuttle@efinancialcareers.com

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