In spite of the severe impact the financial crisis had, a slew of eager, bonus-hungry millennials are now working in the industry in hopes of forging successful careers. How are they doing?
Alas, many are a strung-out, rattled mess, Jonathan Alpert, known as “The Wall Street Therapist,” told ThinkAdvisor in an interview. The practitioner counts several young traders, analysts, bankers and financial advisors among his clients.
In an effort to cope with job stress and self-imposed pressure, these Type A’s are working murderous hours while relying on prescription medication and — primarily among the men — street drugs, such as cocaine and crystal meth, to help them focus and reach peak job performance.
In their quest to de-stress, male millennials are also compulsively paying for sex at local massage parlors.
All this follows a pattern of questionable, if not unhealthy, coping behaviors set by the previous generation of Wall Streeters, says Alpert, author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days” (Center Street/Hachette 2012).
Millennials, and others in financial services, typically seek out Alpert when their anxieties reach intolerable levels and they’re plagued with psychosomatic symptoms, such as migraine headaches, digestive problems or insomnia. To optimize job performance and attain a better work-life balance, the therapist shows them healthy alternatives to relying on drugs or alcohol and other bad behaviors.
His approach is a relatively short goal-and-results-oriented program versus a long series of sessions.
In the interview, Alpert, a licensed professional counselor and executive coach with an advanced degree in psychology, discusses how his millennial Wall Street clients, most of whom are employed at the big banks, are dealing with post-meltdown challenges. He also offers comment on how they’re reacting to Donald Trump’s presidency. Here are highlights from our conversation:
What symptoms do your financial services millennial clients complain of when they seek your help?
Stress-related headaches, migraines, backaches, stomachaches, sleep disorders, sexual performance disorders. Some are only 22 years old and working 12 hours a day.
What’s driving them?
Even though people on Wall Street have found that bonuses aren’t what they used to be, [millennials] still hold out high expectations and put in those long hours to prove that they’re worthy. The younger ones got into the industry with such high hopes.
What are they doing to try to get relief from anxiety?
There’s a lot of abuse and dependence on medication to help them focus. They can go to their physician and easily get things like Vyvanse, very popular for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A lot of people find that useful. And Ritalin, of course. But it’s not healthy to rely on medications like those.
How about street drugs?
They also use those. I see this more with the men than the women. Cocaine remains popular. It fits their personality: Type A and thrill-seeking. Cocaine, being a massive stimulant, [jibes with] that. They also use crystal meth, which is a methamphetamine, a stimulant that helps them get their work done. They almost justify drug use as a way to perform and stay on top of their work. It’s become a little more socially acceptable to dabble in those things as long as they’re holding it together and keeping their jobs.
What about marijuana?
Marijuana is popular, and of course, alcohol. Marijuana is becoming increasingly more popular and accepted as a way to relax.
Is insomnia one of their problems?
Yes. Sleep issues are big because of these men and women’s unhealthy lifestyles. A lot of them are highly anxious and not able to settle down at night, or they wake up early because they’re anxious about their day. Sleep issues can have a profound impact on a person’s physical health and ability to focus.
How do you help with that?
I try to pinpoint the cause. Is it, for example, having a lot of caffeine or alcohol late in the day? Or an inability to relax close to bedtime? Or is it too bright in the bedroom? Then I’ll help them try to change things.
Are millennial males frequenting massage parlors for sex, as was some of the older generation of Wall Streeters post-crisis?
That still seems widespread. Again, it’s consistent with their thrill-seeking mindset, and it’s also a way for them to deal with stress.
Do millennials understand that they should not expect traditional big bonuses anytime soon?