I'm not sure if this is the right place for this question, but when I was watching the movie "Margin Call" a while back, the 23-year-old investment analyst boasts about his $250,000 salary. Did investment analysts in the US really make that sort of money only a year or two out of university, prior to the Global Financial Crisis?

I was always under the impression that those sort of grad jobs in the US paid quite poorly, even before the GFC, as there were hundreds of grads clambering for the jobs, which meant the big name firms could pay them peanuts and make them work 100 hours per week for their miserly wage. I realise that it's just a movie, but it did make me wonder what salaries were like in the US just before the GFC hit?


Currently, an entry level analyst would make $50k or so it's unlikely that a 23 year old would have made much more than that in 2008 unless he was uniquely qualified in some way and perhaps fortuitously situated in the volatile profitable sector of that time period (CDOs).

As an example of the latter, in the mid 90's there was a cluster of brokerage firms in Boca Raton, Florida that was dubbed the "Maggot Mile" due to so many of them that peddled penny stocks (see Lev Parnas of current political fame).

During the run up to the Internet Bubble, some small boutique firms also located on the "Maggot Mile" were bringing 'cow patty' firms public via IPOs. One firm had a string of $5 IPOs, most of which opened for trading in the $20 to $40 range. The brokers were wet behind the ears 20-ish years olds, making a six figure salary for a few years, driving Porsches and buying condos not long after they passed their Series 7 exams. I say a few years because after the SEC got through with them, this company folded and their recent IPOs became worthless wall paper (delisted). So sometimes, it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

And behind Box #2 is the possibility that the 23-year-old investment analyst boasting about his $250,000 salary was just full of it :->)

  • Thanks. I think 'Margin Call' was designed to be a bit inflammatory as it came out right as the GFC ended, and repetitiously implies the executive managers are greedy fat cats with no financial background or knowledge while also emphasising the extreme salaries of all employees at all levels. Where I live, the grads typically make $50k-$60k and they're expected to give up their evenings and Saturdays for that salary.
    – Only_me
    Jan 14 '20 at 20:09
  • 1
    'Margin Call" depicts a common investment bank crisis where they have to dump toxic assets in order to save the company (ala BEr Stearns, Merrill, Lehman, etc.). One could make the case that it's specifically about Lehman since Tuld was the name of the movie's CEO and Fuld was the name of Lehman's CEO. Coincidence? It's a fact that the top tier managers of these firms earned exorbitant salaries along with huge golden parachutes. Speaking of which, imagine getting 100's of million dollars when you're fired? Nice work if you can lose it. Jan 14 '20 at 23:08
  • Yes please, I'll take a $100m for getting fired. The scene where Tuld fires Demi Moore's character had some similarities to Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase firing his head of investments (Ina Drew) in 2011. She had performed well in prior years and was part of Jamie's trusted inner circle, but she lied during the subsequent investigation so they only gave her $14m as severance pay. I'd be happy with that.
    – Only_me
    Jan 14 '20 at 23:45

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