True Life: I Am Addicted to Money

Sam Polk is a former Wall Street Trader who spent his whole life wanting to be rich, but once he got there he just found himself jealous of the people richer than him:

I felt so important. At 25, I could go to any restaurant in Manhattan — Per Se, Le Bernardin — just by picking up the phone and calling one of my brokers, who ingratiate themselves to traders by entertaining with unlimited expense accounts. I could be second row at the Knicks-Lakers game just by hinting to a broker I might be interested in going. The satisfaction wasn’t just about the money. It was about the power. Because of how smart and successful I was, it was someone else’s job to make me happy.

Still, I was nagged by envy. On a trading desk everyone sits together, from interns to managing directors. When the guy next to you makes $10 million, $1 million or $2 million doesn’t look so sweet.

I know, a sadder story has ne’er been told. Nevertheless, not many former Wall Street traders pen first-person essays about how much they love money and are addicted to it the same way they are addicted to drugs and alcohol, so it is a pretty good read.

[My counselor] said I might be using money the same way I’d used drugs and alcohol — to make myself feel powerful — and that maybe it would benefit me to stop focusing on accumulating more and instead focus on healing my inner wound. “Inner wound”? I thought that was going a little far and went to work for a hedge fund.

Now, working elbow to elbow with billionaires, I was a giant fireball of greed. I’d think about how my colleagues could buy Micronesia if they wanted to, or become mayor of New York City. They didn’t just have money; they had power — power beyond getting a table at Le Bernardin. Senators came to their offices. They were royalty.

I wanted a billion dollars. It’s staggering to think that in the course of five years, I’d gone from being thrilled at my first bonus — $40,000 — to being disappointed when, my second year at the hedge fund, I was paid “only” $1.5 million.

In the end, Sam ended up walking away from his hedge fund job, and after a year or so of withdrawal, he’s started a non-profit and is doing a lot better. He does not mention whether he is “still totally rich” but you can draw your own conclusions (while noting that he does not mention a wife, girlfriend, or life partner in his essay’s conclusion and is also on Twitter).

Photo: Amagill


15 Comments / Post A Comment

He does mention that “In the three years since [he] left, [he has] married”- but why the particular emphasis on romantic partners, Meaghan? Are they the wellspring of true riches?

Meaghano (#529)

@Lily Hudson@facebook Ha, well the wellspring of INSTANT riches if you can handle marrying someone like this! Also damn I must have blocked out the line about him being married.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@Meaghano Handle being married to a guy who admitted an addiction and now runs a non-profit? Um, doesn’t seem any harder than being married to alot of other guys/gals.

It does seem that he has used some of his connections to fund his non-profit, so good on him. Especially since it is an important cause he is working on (healthier eating for people who don’t have access to good food).

Bill Fostex (#573)

Money addiction is a lot like alcoholism because after you stop drinking, every bottle you ever sipped turns into solid gold and materializes in a magic vault that keeps you financially stable for the rest of your life.

Meaghano (#529)

@Bill Fostex HAH, exaaactly.

sea ermine (#122)

‘Let’s create a fund, where everyone agrees to put, say, 25 percent of their annual bonuses into it, and we’ll use that to help some of the people who actually need the money that we’ve been so rabidly chasing.Let’s create a fund, where everyone agrees to put, say, 25 percent of their annual bonuses into it, and we’ll use that to help some of the people who actually need the money that we’ve been so rabidly chasing.”

Orrr…you could just pay more taxes?

Laurabean (#3,040)

@sea ermine Yessss.

@sea ermine If you want to direct your funds at specific people who need help, paying more taxes isn’t the way to go. If it were, we wouldn’t need charities.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@sea ermine What if you want your money spent more effectively, immediately, and on causes you care about?

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@Eric18 indeed. As well, taxes hit a lot more than a bonus. Those additional taxes will come out of many people’s regular take-home pay, not their bonus.

sea ermine (#122)

@forget it i quit I have no objection to charities, what I have is an objection to the fact that I probably pay more taxes (as a percentage of my income) than these guys, despite making way way less, but somehow it’s so hard and painful for them to do it?

sea ermine (#122)

@Eric18 Eh, I’ve worked for charities before it’s often not any more effective or immediate than the government. And if US social services weren’t so underfunded we wouldn’t be so dependent on charities to pick up the slack.

sea ermine (#122)

@WayDownSouth If you’re making 2 mil a year it’s not a hit, unless you’re really spoiled/bad at managing your money.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@sea ermine Well, I guess since you have worked for every charity in every state in the U.S., that settles it then!

And throwing money at the government hoping for a better outcome seems foolhardy at best. We spend $30K per pupil in this country. How’s that working out?

Eric18 (#4,486)

@sea ermine No, you will most definitely not pay more in taxes that this guy did when he was a trader. Unless you actually make more than the amount of money he was talking about.

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