Oct 7, 2008

Why GRE scores?

I got this comment today and thought I would address it with the story of me.  Thrilling.  I know.

Its been fun reading your blog, but as an outsider, I feel like I'm missing half the story for not knowing you. Your new title bar says you have career plans... What is your plan for the GRE scores? What kinds of programs are you applying to? 
I graduated from SMU in May 2006 and started working for Robert W. Baird as an equity analyst covering Communications Services.  I covered stocks ranging from AT&T (T), Sprint (S), to Neustar (NSR) and Amdox (DOX) and loved what I did. (We covered 18 stocks in all but I didn't want to bore you with a laundry list.  If you would like the whole list e-mail me and I will be happy to share it with you.)  It was incredible to delve that deeply into the inner workings of different companies.  Every day I was on the phone with upper management of these companies, updating and tweaking models, visiting cell phone stores to get a feel for trends in the industry, talking to investors about the industry, and writing industry reports and company specific analysis.  It was wonderful.  People read what I wrote and cared about it.  They read it closely enough that they would call and ask questions and discuss.  They cared enough that these hedge fund and mutual fund managers would invest millions.  All because I (and my senior obviously) decided to rank the stock Outperform. Or raised our target price.  Can we say power rush.  Try writing a report giving a stock a new target price and talking about how people should buy it.  Then watch the next day after the report is published as people really buy the stock - and so the price goes up.  I loved my job.

What I didn't love were the hours.  I had a meeting at 6:30 AM every morning.  In order to prepare for said meeting I couldn't be at the office any later than 6:15 AM.  Most mornings I was there closer to 5:30 or 5:45 AM.  Getting there early doesn't mean you leave any earlier.  I never left before 6:30 PM.  Normally  it was closer to 7:30 PM.  Except during earnings season - the roughly 5 weeks when companies report each quarter.  Then I never left before 9:00 PM.  And frequently stayed as late as midnight.  I worked every weekend.  Thankfully I was able to work from home so it didn't seem quite so bad - but I still worked.  Every Saturday.  And every Sunday.  I worked 100-120 hours every week during earnings.  I worked 70-80 hours a week the rest of the year.  There are 168 hours in the week.  Most people sleep at least 42 of them (that's 6 hours a night).  So if I worked 120 hours and slept 42 - that left all of 6 hours to spend with my husband and friends and family.  Not so good for the marriage.  We had people who picked up and delivered our dry cleaning for goodness sakes - that's how little time I had!  I couldn't find time in my week to go to the dry cleaner - let alone dream of doing laundry (we paid someone to do that as well).  There is a reason investment banking pays well.  It's because even with the ridiculously high salary on a per hour basis you could make more at McDonald's.

We got to the point where we felt like we were no longer living our own lives.  I was working so many hours - and making all sorts of money we couldn't spend.  And it had to end.  

We were incredibly fortunate and my husband had a very nice well paying job and so when I worked, we lived solely off of his salary and mine went into savings.  When I stopped working we made some adjustments to our lifestyle (as in now I do laundry and take the dry cleaning in) but we didn't have to change much.  It has been fantastic for our marriage and we are so much happier now than we ever were when I worked.

I left my job in time to start a few "leveling classes" in math and economics.  I audited classes in Real Analysis, Linear Algebra, Calculus III, as well as the first year Economics PhD sequence at SMU.  I was fortunate enough to have left school with a great relationship with my professors and they allowed me that experience.  I took the GRE last fall and applied to a number of PhD programs in Finance in different cities.  None in Dallas though.  The plan was that we would be poor for a while and both be full time students. My husband got into the MBA program at Northwestern in Chicago (the #1 ranked program in the country).  I got into the PhD program at the University of Illinois.  We were excited.  

And then logic hit us.  We listened to the arguments from Casey's current employer and faced the facts.  It didn't make sense for him to leave his really great job (picking stocks for a mutual fund) at this point in the market.  If he left he would have to put his CFA aspirations on hold (he has one more level to go!).  He wasn't going back to change careers, he already had his dream job.  If we moved and he went to Northwestern, in August 2011 when he graduated he would have 3 years of experience picking stocks, an MBA, and have be a level-2 CFA candidate.  He could then go back and work for the same company he works for now doing the same job and make a lot more money (as in like $500k a year - we obviously don't have that kind of income now!)  If we stayed and he went part-time, in August 2011 he would have 5 years experience, an MBA, have his CFA, and have a lot less debt!  He'll still be working for the same company and be able to make a lot more money then he makes now.  So over the summer, Casey applied to the MBA program at SMU - and started his PMBA in August.  

I was left with no idea what I was doing. I spent my time finding us a house.  Painting my kitchen.  Shopping for curtains.  Looking at furniture.  You get the idea.  There aren't any well respected PhD programs in Finance in the Dallas metroplex and I had no idea what to do with myself.  Don't get me wrong - I love being a housewife and as a housewife I am shocked how full my days are.  But I allowed myself to give up on my dreams for myself and that isn't okay.  

I learned about a PhD program at The University of Texas at Dallas called Public Policy and Political Economy recently and I'm really interested in it.  It's a pretty small program and they don't take very many people each year - but I made the decision to apply.  And that dear friends is why it is a travesty that I can't find my GRE scores. The idea of taking it again makes my head spin.


  1. Such a great post! Right now I have over 100 hours on my paycheck and sometimes I only say goodnight to Mr.Guru. At this moment in our lives we need this to pay off some stuff and my job will pay for my grad school without making me sign a contract. But in a couple of years I can no longer keep working myself to death. Good luck finding your scores!

  2. Wow, that is a one great post. You know how you read those posts and say. I get it. Well that is one of them. I get this. Wow. Sometimes it is the comments that make you think.

  3. My word!! Even though you were working all those hours and burned out, you're very lucky that you were able to put your earnings into savings. I wish we were in a place where we could do that, but heck, I don't make nearly anything and my husband is still in school. Maybe one day!

    Anyways, thank you for sharing that! That's crazy that you had to have someone pick up your dry cleaning. You are a wonderful housewife! Can't wait to hear more about the PhD program at UTD!

  4. Wow after all those horribly long hours you deserve to be a housewife now!! Thanks for sharing your story :)

  5. This was such a fun post to read. I loved learning more about you, your past and what your future might entail. I hope you can find your GRE scores, keep us updated!

  6. Girl, you are SO speaking my language!!!I'd love to hear more about the life of an equity analyst and what stocks you covered. Did you ever think about doing your CFA before grad school? Just curious. I did the exact same thing you did, escape the finance world for a better work/life balance. My fiance's in the middle of grad school apps, I'd love to have any advice on the MBA apps since Casey jsut went through all of that. My fiance will also be getting a Masters in Foreign Policy, as he works in political risk right now. If you have any questions there, let me know! So happy to meet you in the blogosphere! :)