Wall Street life is harder than it looks, especially for new employees

This film image released by Paramount Pictures shows Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in a scene from "The Wolf of Wall Street."(AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Mary Cybulski)

WASHINGTON — The movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” shows young people working in the nation’s financial capital driving fancy cars and making a lot of money.

But it’s not like that for the people just starting out in finance.

A new book entitled “Young Money” details the reality of the Wall Street life, and Peter Tanous, a former broker and president of Lynx Investment Advisory in Washington, told WTOP’s Veronica Robinson that it’s an unglamorous way to make a living.

The big nights out depicted in the movie are mostly an illusion.

Tanous says “It’s much more of a grind.”

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is about “a very marginal, but real firm,” Tanous says. In fact, the commercial that starts the movie is a real commercial that firm was running at the time.

And while the young Wall Streeter’s life often involves long hours in the office, as well as hard studying for the Securities and Exchange Commission exam that he’ll have to pass to work as a broker, Tanous says that’s not the hardest part.

“The real problem is that their compensation is going to be based on the revenues they produce. So that’s going to mean some cold-calling and dialing for dollars, and ultimately the ones who succeed have to succeed because they aggressively sought out clients and rang the cash register. … Nobody’s going to pay you for sitting at a desk and looking pretty.”

If it goes well, there are plenty of rewards. The experience can be “a foundation to get into a top-name graduate business school,” Tanous says.

“And from there, they can get a job on Wall Street that doesn’t require necessarily that they have to go out and ring doorbells.”

But until then, it sounds similar to a sales job, he says.

It’s not for everyone, Tanous says.

“Frankly, it’s a very hard life to lead. You’re responsible for generating your own income. Some are good at it, and some find that the lifestyle isn’t for them.”

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