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