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Saturday, January 17, 2009

What do MBAs in high finance do all day?

Just to show you all that I move in high circles, here I am in The Wall Street Journal! I posted my questions in response to a post by a laid-off MBA, age 40, who was a senior vp for Lehman Brothers. The responses ranged from helpful advice (network!) and pep talks (you'll get another job!)to sneering comments about overpaid MBAs. My response was a series of questions and, much to my surprise, I got an answer. Both are below. Honestly, I still don't know what those people do all day (the title of a Richard Scarry book much loved by children) and why they make so much. Nevertheless, for what it's worth:

I am a teacher and so naive about the high finance world. Here are 3 questions:
1. What exactly did all these vice-presidents DO?
2. What exactly does the MBA qualify you for? Why didn’t these hyper-educated people see problems brewing?
3. The RUDE question: how much money (salary PLUS bonus) did these vice-presidents earn?
OKAY, 4 questions: Did these people save any money? How are they living now?

I lost a big hunk of my retirement savings and I’m not too far away, so I am curious about the all of the above.
Comment by frugalscholar - January 17, 2009 at 8:42 am

To Frugal Scholar:

1. VPs tell their analysts what to do
2. An MBA qualifies you for many things — though not having an MBA doesn’t disqualify you either. As for the trouble, who’s to say these hyper-educated people DIDN’T see problems brewing? I’m sure many did.
3. VPs earn at least 120-130K. Senior VPs are about double that. That’s not including bonus either. Bonus? Well…let’s just say an Analyst’s bonus can be well towards 6 figures.
Comment by Gold Teef - January 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm


The Fabric Bolt said...

Your question #4 was most compelling and that one didn't get answered :(

There were some more good articles in the Wall Street Journal Today. One stands about about running a "fire drill" - if you were to lose your job what would your immediate actions be to cope? I often think about the expenses we have living today, which we did not have 10-15 years ago; internet, cell phones, satellite/cable television, property tax (we weren't home owners) etc., and so much of this - except the property tax - is straddling the fence of luxury vs. necessity. What would a person cut? When you hit the grocery story, how much in that basket is luxury? I ran in for some eggs and juice today and I looked over the aisle to a lady checking out and she was loaded down with fruit roll-ups, sliced packaged fancy cheese, cereal bar snacks, etc.

We often ask ourselves what these people do all day....and certainly what do the politicians do all day? Don't even get me started on the costly inauguration debacle.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Fabric: Loved the fire-drill essay--thanks! I did something similar every year till I got a job, and then till I got tenure. It really helps minimize the panic.

Thanks for noticing the lack of answer to #4. I think the people who are profiled DID save (or have high-earning spouses). So I suppose they have no idea what large numbers of people are going through. Hence the sense of entitlement that comes through in all these stories...