Love, Sex & Money: A Revealing Class Portrait of The Lives of Harvard MBAs

Harvard Business School’s iconic Baker Library

  • One in four own 25 or more pairs of shoes (58% of the women and 15% of the men).
  • One in five (20%) have skydived, while one in three (32%) completed a marathon.
  • About 21% met their spouses at their undergraduate schools, while 14% found their spouses at Harvard Business School (12% in the same Class of 1986 and 4% in the same HBS section). Another 12% met at work.
  • The Class of 1986 apparently wasn’t into the bar scene. Only 3% of the class met their spouses at bars. Some 6% said they met at a party, and 4% met randomly on a plane or in a taxi.
  • Some 14% of the class is divorced, with another 1% separated. About 5% divorced and remarried.
  • Some 18% dated someone they met online, but only 3% of the class married the person they met on the Internet or by some “other commercial means.”

The survey addressed most of the obvious questions any applicant would want to know, including what contribution did a Harvard degree make toward a successful life, how much money does an HBS graduate make 25 years after graduation, and how much personal wealth can a Harvard MBA accumulate in a quarter of a century. The answers are all here as well and they are eye-opening.

MEDIAN NET INCOME: $350,000   MEDIAN NET WORTH: $6 MILLION

For a group that has lived through three recessions, including the worst since the Great Depression, the Class of 1986 is doing pretty well, thank you. The median annual income of a ‘86er last year was $350,000. Slightly more than one in four class members reported annual income of $1 million or more, while 8% of the class said they earned more than $5 million last year.

The median personal net worth for the class was a heady $6 million. But that number only tells a small part of the story. Some 19% of the class reported net worth between $20 million and $100 million. About 4% of the class said their personal net worth exceeded $100 million.

As for other material toys:

  • Nearly eight in ten (77%) owned a second car.
  • Four in ten (42%) owned a vacation home.
  • One in four (25%) owned a boat.
  • One in ten (10%) owned a full or fractional share of a private airplane.

What about the hard luck cases? About 8% said their personal net worth was below $1 million, with 3% in the under $400,000 bracket. Some 5% said they were making $100,000 or less last year. Asked if the post-2008 recession caused them to “consciously economize or otherwise had a tangible impact on your lifestyle,” only 18% of the class said “yes, meaningfully.” Some 41% answered “yes, somewhat,” while the 40% said “no.”

36% FOUNDED A COMPANY THAT EMPLOYED 25 OR MORE PEOPLE

Very few members of the class are traveling on the rocky ground, to paraphrase a recent Bruce Springsteen song. About 36% of the class founded a company that eventually employed 25 or more people, and an extraordinary 14% have been climbed into the C-suite at a Fortune 1000 company with the title of chief executive, chief financial officer, or another C-position.

How did their lives, 25 years later, match up with their expectations of what would happen? When asked how similar or different has life been from what you expected, only 17% said it was pretty much what they expected. Some 24% said it was “different,” 12% said “extremely different,” and nearly one in ten (9%) checked the box with the statement “What the hell just happened the last 25 years?” The largest single group of the class, 38%, said life has been “reasonably similar with a couple of curve balls.”

PERSONAL LIFE HARDER THAN EXPECTED AT GRADUATION FOR ONE IN FOUR

When asked if life had been harder or easier than expected, only one in ten (10%) of the class said their professional lives have been easier, while 16% thought their personal lives have been easier. A surprising number of Harvard alums believe their lives have been more difficult than they ever imagined. Some 38% said their personal life was harder than expected, while 30% said their professional careers have been harder. (Some 46% said their personal life has so far turned out as expected, along with 59% for their professional life.)

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