Wall Street thinks the 'wife bonus' thing is just a joke, and the New York Times didn't get it

A lot of folks are buzzing about a fascinating piece anthropologist Wednesday Martin wrotein the New York Times SundayReview sectionabout how “mum bonuses.”

According to Martin, some of New York City’s Upper East Side mums, or what she refers to as “Glam SAHMs” (“glamorous stay-at-home-mums”), get a performance-based year-end bonus that’s determined by their investment banker/hedge-fund manager husbands.

We did a quick fly around the finance community for some reaction. No one is really buying it.

  • “Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a mum bonus… Typically an employer offers a bonus to incentive their employees. I guess to some marriage is no different. But honestly when I first read the article I had to double check to make sure it wasn’t published by the Onion,” a former hedge fund portfolio manager said.
  • “If capitalism is a crime I’m guilty!” one trader told us. “However, even though money is a motivator I am surprised these guys have to [incentivise] their wives to do this. I would hazard a guess that anyone paying their wife a mum bonus is also paying mum for sex as that seems a natural offshoot of this logic. ”
  • “I’m sceptical that they exist,” one former banker said. “I worked in banking for a long time. Do bankers buy their wives stuff — and also give them money — when they get their bonuses? Absolutely. Do the girls joke about it when they’re drinking wine with their friends and call it a ‘wife bonus’? I’m sure they do. But is the ‘wife bonus’ a real tangible thing? I seriously doubt it.”
  • Another person from the buy side didn’t think the story was really a trend. “…maybe a handful, but not widespread,” he said.
  • The article was the perfect material for some jokes, too. “There is no such thing as a fixed-price contract,” one hedge funder said.
  • “Are wife bonuses subject to clawback provisions? cc: @SenWarren,” anonymous Twitter trader @IvanTheK Tweeted. “Are wife bonuses taxed at capital gains rates?”
  • “If ever a day goes by where I regret moving my family out of the Upper East Side seven years ago, I’ll just return to this article and remember what kind of rat race I could be suffering through just to keep up with people I don’t even like,” one Wall Street exec said.

It’s a world most of us will never know or understand.

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