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Leaving college for a job/start-up

  1. Aug 5, 2011 #1
    Some background first: I'm a rising sophomore and I recently got an offer to write code and carry out financial research on futures trading for a hedge fund manager, at the starting salary of a college graduate-analyst. We're close friends, so on top of that, we threw around the idea of starting a HFT hedge fund together (there's 2 other of us in this circle, an investment banker who is getting bored of his workplace, and an economics grad student) if we got successful.

    My family situation isn't too bad, I have enough money set aside to see me through college tuition and living expenses, get a car and a decent apartment without debt. But simply put, I don't see myself sustaining this lifestyle out of my own pocket after I graduate with a bachelor's in physics - I feel it's wrong to do 12 hours of research a day at my parents' expense.

    I plan to take a leave of absence either at the end of this semester or this academic year, then move to either Zurich/Frankfurt to start. I explained that I'll need 1-2 semesters to get better with this - I've never done a course on finance - to see if, by then, I feel qualified enough to take his salary offer or have some confidence that I have a chance against a market full of playmakers who have trained/experienced quants. I'm about to publish my first paper - after which I'll quit from this project and take on some financial research for the semester or two.

    1. I'm aware that there's always the risk that I'm on one man's bankroll, not an organization's bankroll, so I'm screwed if the fund that my friend's managing goes bust. Is this fine?

    2. I have 2 choices. The conservative approach is available to me: graduate with decent grades then I have many options, possibly including this. The riskier choice will be to invest the opportunity cost of staying in college for 2 more years into this; and this also mitigates the risk of being too late to jump onto the wagon. I mean, my friends are all exactly at their pivotal moments. If I wait 2 more years, they might have already started on something. I feel there's some naive thinking; but I just feel that not many opportunities like this will come my way, so of course it should entail a greater risk. I'm leaning towards the riskier approach. What do you guys think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2011 #2
    Honestly if this offer is legit - then you should go ahead and take it if you enjoy the work.
  4. Aug 5, 2011 #3
    I would say take it and spend conservatively. Opportunities like this don't come along often, but college is easy to get back into as long as you don't have kids, a house or a car to pay for. At least that's more or less true in the US. YMMV.
  5. Aug 5, 2011 #4


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    Generally, I would say take it, but with a warning. This is very similar to what I did. Problem was I was very soon making more than possible in an academic career, never rally came close to going back (even tho assured all it would take was a letter 6 months before the semester I wanted to resume, even 20 years later). I would say I have minor lifelong regrets of trading success for seriously trying to work on big questions in physics. While I have adequately kept up on a semi-quantitative basis with the field, there is no way to 'do physics' as an amateur with full time adult commitments. So at least consider how you might feel if you never go back.
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