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96-Year-Old Secretary Quietly Amasses Fortune, Then Donates $8.2M (nytimes.com)
402 points by dsr12 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 319 comments



Stoics believe that this is more impressive than the lifestyles of rich people. José Mujica was once the president of Uruguay gave 90% of his presidential salary to the charity and driving a very old car. Stuffs like this is more impressive because not everyone can do that.

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Mujica


"He concluded his talk by adding: 'I see that there are many young people here; as an old man, a little advice... Life can set us a lot of snares, a lot of bumps, we can fail a thousand times, in life, in love, in the social struggle, but if we search for it we'll have the strength to get up again and start over. The most beautiful thing about the day is that it dawns. There is always a dawn after the night has passed. Don't forget it, kids. The only losers are the ones who stop fighting.'"


Only problem is that you do not see the new dawn.

You need to sell yourself a broken bit of goods(that you will see that dawn) every real morning.

We are quite good at local min-max because there is no global one.


Its very important to look at life as phases. I think almost every one will go through at least one cycle of fail, struggle, rise, plateau. Sometimes there could be only one of such cycle all life, sometime they could be several.

Despite your best efforts you will fail, falter and struggle. And sometimes, without doing anything at all you will win a lot.

The best case scenario for people would be to have the failure stages early in life and success later so that one can have the maturity to handle things, save up and retire with new acquired wisdom from failure. The worst would be to have early success then failure all life.

Regardless you just have to keep trying.


I like what you have to say about having the failure stage young, with one caveat: too many heartbreaks and setbacks can kill the spirit. It's good to be tempered, rather than shattered.


There might be a global min-max.


I live in Uruguay. Not trying to take away from the fact that he does truly live a very ascetic lifestyle and he definitely didn't go into politics for economical gains, what most people don't know is that Mujica's wife is a rich heiress (turned rebel terrorist, an interesting story as well), and Mujica himself owns some prime real estate (he was offered millions for it and declined). Also, his "old car" is an expensive collector's item and he owns hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm equipment.

So it's like if one of the Kennedys decided to eschew fancy living and live as an ascetic/hermit on a shack in Martha's Vineyard, is he poor?

Also, Mujica might not be interested in wealth but he's VERY power-hungry... And he left a huge mess after his presidency, and didn't address the issues I was hoping he would address (for instance, homeless people quadrupled). Misguided people with lofty goals can sometimes do more harm than good :(


Obama was known to donate 70% of his salary towards charity.


Is he donating 70% of his $65 million book advance?


Over time, I'd expect so. Doing it in chunks probably has tax benefits, and folks like Obama tend to build up a foundation.

For example, about a year ago: http://thehill.com/homenews/news/331788-obamas-donating-2m-t...


Trump also donated/is donating his salary.


And making it back from the Secret Service/etc in fees and then some.

It is clearly a scam where he donates $X then quietly steals a multiple of it.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/12/news/secret-service-mar-a-la...

I too wish I could set my travel plans then charge the government.

Oh and:

https://www.google.com/amp/thehill.com/homenews/administrati...

That right there covers his salary "donations" for 8 years.


Serious question, do you have a citation for that? He's pulled so much shit with money I'd not be surprised to discover it's the re-elect Trump campaign charity.


Here is an article that details the donations.[0] So far it has been 100K checks given to a different federal agency quarterly. He has donated to the National Parks Service, Department of Education, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Transportation.

[0] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018...


How much has the trump administration reduced the budget for these agencies?


Reducing the budget and donating are two very different things and not even cross purpose. You may believe that we have to reign in spending -- we do spend more than we take in. It may make sense to cut programs you like to fund ones that are important, and then donate money to the one you just cut -- because you like it.

Now... I don't believe this is what's happening.


There is some nuance that needs to be discussed before I answer your question.

The executive branch does not have the power of appropriation, that duty is handled by congress. The president does submit a budget request to congress, and signs or vetoes each distinct appropriation bill that congress passes.

Increases or decreases of a department's budget can not be unilaterally seen as good or bad. What taxpayers should be most concerned about is the impact that the spending is having not the dollar amount spent. (Plato taught Socrates on a rock) You need to look at trends over time and the specifics of the budget to see if increases or decreases in spending are justified. For example the department of education's budget was 73.3 billion dollars in 2010. In 2014 that figure was 40.8 billion. In 2018 it will be 66.9 billion. At the surface those swings seem quite surprising. You have to dig deeper to understand what really happened instead of taking them at face value.

The Washington post has an article exploring Trump's proposed 2019 budget. You can view that article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/politics/trump-...


Thanks for the link, but I note that it reports on what the White House says is being donated. Is there any available verification of actual numbers? Given past history I wouldn't trust Trump's self reporting of charitable or similar donations until the check cleared with independent verification from the recipients - and unless it was a money order I'd probably want a month or two extra before believing it had really cleared.

Edit: for anyone who feels this is unjustified, I would love to see links to charitable organizations confirming receipt of donations from the president or the Trump Organization. Direct from the charity, confirmation to reputable news organizations, responses in interviews, anything like that - I don't want things excluded on technicalities.


I mean there are press conferences where his press secretary is literally handing over a check to the head of the respective agency.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZkLEmJvDjQ

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr8li6hpC2s

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ftt_y__EP7w

[3]: https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4714620/trump-donates-4thq-sa...



Perhaps so, but I'll agree with pg_bot - there actually are times when he's followed through on donations. I'm not sure what percentage of his promised donations they are, but he has donated at least some of the money he's pledged to.


I wonder how comes that a comment about Obama has positive kharma, while exactly the same comment about Trump has negative kharma. On this forum, where people seem to appreciate objectivity and correct thinking more than anything. And where it takes 500 kharma to be able to downvote something.


The difference, I'll wager, is that Trump has a long history of faking/exaggerating/lying about his charitable donations.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-boasts-of-his-...

> It was, in large part, a facade. A months-long investigation by The Washington Post has not been able to verify many of Trump’s boasts about his philanthropy.

> Instead, throughout his life in the spotlight, whether as a businessman, television star or presidential candidate, The Post found that Trump had sought credit for charity he had not given — or had claimed other people’s giving as his own.

https://www.npr.org/2017/10/18/558352411/a-trump-golf-course...

> Seventeen organizations listed on the Trump National website said that they could not find any record of a donation from the golf club.


“home come”

I said “home comes” for way too long.

Politics is a minefield. In general, people are narrow-minded assholes. HN is no different.

“Politics is the art of marshalling hatred” Charlie Munger


That’s so sadly cynical & pessimistic. I’m glad there are politicians who don’t feel this way, and have optimism and energy to try to build a better future. If everyone gave up, things would be awful compared to what we have now.

Politics is very difficult because people are different and myopic and concerned for themselves, that is true. But that doesn’t mean people are assholes or full of hate, we just have different points of view. We’re physically incapable of not being self-centered, we don’t have a shared consciousness, so that will never change. Politics is the art of navigating many many legitimate and different and opposing points of view. If that turns into meting out hatred, then please please get out of politics.

BTW, here’s one actual study suggesting that people in general prefer optimism in politics. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/08/0...


Optimism is a good outlook to maintain in life, but lets not kid ourselves as to the real purpose served by politicking.

"Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage." - Ambrose Bierce (The Devil's Dictionary, 1911)

No need to look further than the $50m of political spending in 2017 by FAAG [0] for regulations that would serve their interests like tax reforms, with Google leading the pack with $18m.

[0] https://www.recode.net/2018/1/23/16919424/apple-amazon-faceb...


> lets not kid ourselves as to the real purpose served by politicking.

The “real” purpose served by politicking? There’s no government at all without politics. Do you want no government, no shared values or resources, no services, no infrastructure, no community? What’s your ideal, and why is your ideal good for anyone other than you? (BTW, any answer to that question is political.)

“Politics is a multifaceted word. It has a set of fairly specific meanings that are descriptive and nonjudgmental (such as "the art or science of government" and "political principles"), but often does carry a connotation of dishonest malpractice.” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics

I have no doubt you can cherry pick some examples of bad politics. That’s irrelevant and uninteresting. I have no doubt you can find more examples of rich or famous people saying pessimistic things. Also uninteresting. There are plenty of optimistic quotes as well, and plenty of examples of expenditure on things that help people and generally do good. We spend a lot more than $50m on hospitals and roads and libraries and schools, just to name a few.

“We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong.” - Barack Obama

“When you get together in a group, it becomes like a family, with the different personalities and the politics that comes with being in a band. It’s different than bringing something in by yourself.” - Albert Hammond Jr.

“Man is by nature a political animal” - Aristotle

“One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is you end up being governed by your inferiors” - Plato

“To err is human. To blame someone else is politics” - Hubert Humphrey

“I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is me building bridges between people, between races, between cultures, between politics, trying to find common ground.” - T. D. Jakes


> There’s no government at all without politics.

That's a pretty loaded statement that I disagree with because it presupposes that man has only being organizing his affairs for centuries when we both know that mankind has existed for thousands of years.

Anyway, there's a real risk of talking past each other, so I'll be upfront by saying that government can be totally independent of politics -- politics is merely a means to an end and that end is governance.

How did mankind manage its affairs prior to politicking and modern-day electoral contests (democracy)?

Monarchies [0]. What I believe you are arguing for via politicking is representative leadership [1], which only became a thing in the 17th century.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_history_of_the_world

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representative_democracy


> That's a pretty loaded statement that I disagree with because it presupposes that man has only being organizing his affairs for centuries when we both know that mankind has existed for thousands of years.

I'm not sure what assumptions you're making here. Governance and politics have both existed for many many millennia, roughly as long as language has existed I'd wager.

> I'll be upfront by saying that government can be totally independent of politics

I disagree completely. The definition of the word politics is activities associated with governance. That was my point above. You're choosing to focus on a narrow and negative interpretation, and not the primary meaning of the word.

politics:noun

the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area

the activities of governments concerning the political relations between countries.

the academic study of government and the state.

https://www.google.com/search?q=politics

> How did mankind manage its affairs prior to politicking?

There is no such thing, and there never was. Politicking is the word for persuading others to join together to achieve things not possible as individuals.

I acknowledge that politicking is sometimes also used to mean grift and power grabbing and other things. But using it that way is a choice, and it doesn't represent all possible politics. In my opinion, it also doesn't represent anything close to a majority of politics either. Most politics that occur are necessary and benign or good, and only a minority are the type you're worried about.


What this shows to me is that a life can have a profound impact through long, careful and modest dedication; rhetoric of disruption and youthful riches can be profound too, but we shouldn’t lose sight of other possibilities.


Absolutely. I love this bit:

> Just before she retired, Mr. Hyams said he saw the 96-year-old Ms. Bloom trudging out of the subway and headed to work in the middle of a fierce snowstorm. “I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ and she said, ‘Why, where should I be?’” he recalled.

It reminds me of a favorite bit from "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones":

> Hyakujo, the Chinese Zen master, used to labor with his pupils even at the age of eighty, trimming the gardens, cleaning the grounds, and pruning the trees.

> The pupils felt sorry to see the old teacher working so hard, but they knew he would not listen to their advice to stop, so they hid away his tools.

> That day the master did not eat. The next day he did not eat, nor the next. "He may be angry because we have hidden his tools," the pupils surmised. "We had better put them back."

> The day they did, the teacher worked and ate the same as before. In the evening he instructed them: "No work, no food."


That's a beautiful allegory, and reminds me a lot of a lesson passed down from my father: "doing what you must today makes it easier to do what you want tomorrow".


Quoted without context, this is misleading other commenters.

As wpietri commented: The point is that the teacher refused to be put on a pedestal.

The teacher was referring to his position within the monastic community, not making a general rule of not feeding the hungry unless they work.

On the contrary, Zen (and Buddhism in general) always emphasized unconditional and selfless compassion.


Absolutely. The teacher was clearly speaking in a very particular context. It's, "If I am not allowed to work, I refuse to eat."

Even in the same book, there are plenty of other stories that make different but complimentary points. E.g., "The Stingy Artist": http://www.ashidakim.com/zenkoans/47thestingyartist.html

Or the one about the Zen master and a thief who tries to rob him: http://www.ashidakim.com/zenkoans/44thethiefwhobecameadiscip...


I've never heard of "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" before. Thanks for bringing it up.


Oh wow I don't remember that story from the book. The maxim "no work, no food" totally reminds me of 1 Thessalonians 3:10.


1 Thessalionians 3:10 is Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith

This might not be the one you're looking for?

And if you want to use the bible as a justification for not feeding those who don't work... Matthew 6:36? Matthew 25:35? Isaiah 58:10?

Or let's go with the canoncial James 2:14-18, What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.


You know as well as I do he's referring to a real verse. The fact that he cited it as 1 Thessalonians instead of 2 Thessalonians doesn't change the fact that there's a line in the New Testament that says "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."

There is context for it, and I don't consider it an indictment of Christianity, but pretending it's not in there doesn't help your credibility.


I actually did not know which verse he was referring to, no. So, thank you for pointing me there.

If you know of an interpretation of this including the context you refer to, I'd appreciate a pointer very much.


Yeah I meant 2 Thessalonians. The context is the whole of chapter 3 verses 6 through 15. Basically the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Thessalonica with advice on how to make the communal lifestyle there work. Because if everyone is living together and working together, you're bound to have some issues with some people taking advantage of that. So the Apostle is saying, first of all, set a good example, and secondly, go ahead and exercise some discipline in the community.

Verse 15 hints at how you might want to interpret these verses as compared to the references you cited: "Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers." You see, a Christian has rather different conduct when he is dealing with a believer or a non-believer. If someone is your brother in Christ, it's ok to be a little hard on him. Same way you have the right to be a little harder on your own family members than I would. It's all supposed to be done in love, of course.

Hope that helps.


That does help, thank you. (Not that I'm entirely agreeing with it, but it's helpful in understanding where it comes from :)


No sweat, no sauce.

Awesome old guy on youtube making old school italian pasta sauce.


> ... The day they did, the teacher worked and ate the same as before. In the evening he instructed them: "No work, no food."

Isn't this very contrary to the belief that people shouldn't have to work for their basic necessities?


No. The point is that the teacher refused to be put on a pedestal. He was going to participate in the community as long as he was able, and nobody else could take that away from him.


That's a very controversial belief. Most traditional value systems disagree. "He who does not work, shall not eat".

There is also a long-running train of thought that work is essential to the human character and that without it we decay into aimlessness.


I think activity is essential to the human character. We are not far from a point where we don't have to work for food and other basic necessities (though, as usual, the future is here but it's not evenly distributed).

We can sort of see it with very rich people. They do stuff even though for many of them their activity adds peanuts to their existing fortune. I'm not talking about the hyper-active, super-ambitious types.


Pity they do not do enough of the right things with their influence.

We have enough major world wide problems they could tackle. And I am not just talking about charity - that is just passing the buck at most.


This excerpt is wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing.


It's also a very err, non-socialist allegory in a way - what if the teacher could not work? Would he just want to not be a burden and die?


Not at all. The case is where the teacher can work and wants to work. In the context of the story, his statement expands to, "If I can't work, I won't eat." It's about his right to participate fully in the community.

Zen also has a long tradition of mendicants monks. E.g.: https://tricycle.org/magazine/zen-and-art-begging/

The Buddha himself spent time living as a beggar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha#Renunciation_an...

And of course there's a long tradition of charity and caring in Zen that runs to this day. For example, San Francisco's Zen Hospice: https://www.zenhospice.org/about/our-values


From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs

As he got older and was less able to work his ability would diminish and his need would remain static.

So his pupils would need to work to feed him, but he showed willing to do what little he could, thus fulfilling a social contract / fairness need.


Proper teaching and especially mentoring is hard work. So if they do not work, then they are not a teacher, right?

Remember that Zen likes to confuse people with logic to achieve better understanding.

(It also attacks defining people by their occupation a few times.)



Wow. I remember reading the story about the librarian. Didn’t realize this was how the recipient spent it. Something similar happened to a relative of mine who passed away, and donated much of the inheritance to an organization she thought would spend it in a responsible fashion. I’m more of a skeptic in that I don’t believe those who didn’t earn it have learned to be fiscally responsible or capable.


Let that be a lesson to anyone who would donate money to the University of New Hampshire.


FTFY: Let this be a lesson to anyone who would donate money unrestricted.


Dilemma for those of us considering donating:

1. Donate (50) years from now: our investments will grow substantially on a compounded basis, and we'll give much more in dollars, even after adjusting for inflation

2. Donate now: we'll give much less, but -if donated to the right causes- the beneficiaries will see compounded benefits. E.g. this lady helped educate beneficiaries via college scholarships, and these beneficiaries will benefit from that education throughout their lifetime, from today till (50) years from now, with increased pay. (If a college scholarship seems to necessitate only big donations, and you can't imagine fractional scholarships being useful, imagine smaller donations for buying books for poor kids, etc)

I don't know the answer myself, and sincerely could use debate here.


I think it depends if you take enjoyment from the act of investing and watching your fortune grow. Beyond a certain dollar amount it must have just turned into a hobby for her. Kind of like playing skee-ball all day and collecting up a huge amount of tickets, but then just giving them away to kids on your way out of the arcade.


The real thing you have to consider is will you need the money yourself. If you live long and healthy you will be fine. If you (or your children) are partially disabled by a stroke or car accident you may need $8m just to get by. Or maybe you'll be happy and healthy forever or die quickly at 55. You dont know, its why leaving money in a will is a good way to donate.


The best impact you can personally have on the world is to raise a smart wholesome child in a nuclear that will enjoy life and, perhaps, advance our knowledge a little bit more.

And, considering how expensive that might be, I'm not quite sure you'll have anything left for charity. I know I won't.


I think a nuance here is that #2 will still hold later, say the 50 years from now that you mention in #1. It will just be other beneficiaries.


True. One can make nuanced arguments around #1 as well. What if we were talking about saving kids from preventable fatal diseases by donating vaccines (or donating to research efforts that are developing non-profitable vaccines); those kids won't even be alive in 50 years. Or what if it was something that'd make kids more literate; in 50 years (hopefully!) literacy won't be a problem anymore, and higher education might be massively disrupted by MOOCs, etc.


I also think that, when I think of the beneficiaries of the giving as real people and not abstract "lives improved/saved," then "donate now" seems more compelling.

Certainly I could not tell a potential beneficiary to their face that I'm saving the money for the unlikely possibility that I need it myself, but it's fine because if it is too late for them by the time I donate I will probably be able to help someone else just as much or more at that time.

Along that same line of thinking: if my siblings desperately needed financial help and I could afford to give it to them, I would surely not keep the money out of a desire to have more later that I could give to my nieces and nephews.


Compare and contrast with Jeff Bezos: "The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel."

A stunning failure of imagination.


Donating $130B to Henry Street Settlement would probably destroy them. When you have that much money, you don't care about deploying it efficiently, you just want to deploy it. You often can't deploy it efficiently without distorting markets. Rather than more stuff getting done, everything just gets done less efficiently, with everyone along the value chain becoming a highly-paid consultant of dubious value.

It really is a lot easier to deploy $10M in capital than $100B. $10M means that organizations that do good work and otherwise couldn't exist now can exist. $100B just means that everyone working in an area tangentially related to the benefactor's interests takes home fat salaries.

(My wife manages about $180M for a foundation, which is just about the sweet spot: enough to fund several organizations that wouldn't otherwise exist, but not enough to distort markets or incentivize people towards bureaucracy.)


> A stunning failure of imagination.

I think the OP meant that $130B could be given to a lot of good causes in small chunks rather than all 130B to one small org.


It can't, really, without creating the bureaucracy that leads to all that waste in the first place.

$130B is 13,000 $10M chunks. No single person can find, vet, decide upon, and measure progress for 13,000 small organizations. That means you have to hire a staff to manage and give away the money. A staff means that a.) it's not your imagination that matters b.) money is allocated via horse-trading among the people who have been hired to manage the money and c.) suddenly you have a strong incentive for potential recipients to game the system and focus on making things look good for donors rather than providing the services to the ultimate beneficiaries. Organizations that previously were all about the mission become focused on the money, because there's a lot of it available and they're competing with lots of other organizations for it.


It's equally impossible to create a space program without a lot of middle managers and dubious allocations of funds.

As others have pointed out, Bezos has already got one organization which distributes money to relatively poor and needy people called Amazon, just one which happens to be known for its lack of generosity in doing so. It's also a demonstration that a sufficiently motivated Jeff Bezos is very, very good at devising ways to allocate resources amongst huge numbers of competing needs...


If he wants to deploy it efficiently, without needing to build a bureaucracy around it, he could do what Buffett is doing: donate it to the Gates Foundation. It's not great if you want vanity projects, but if he really wants to do good then it's hard to think of a better way.


Having worked in a mission financed by the Gates foundation I can tell you that a LOT of money leaves between the moment it's donated and the moment it's used in the field.


The Gates Foundation is also a bureaucracy facing the same problems described by GP.

Moreover I guess that economies of scale are not so significant after a certain point. I would prefer five different 100B foundations, rather than a 500B one, to encourage diversity in the donation strategy and goals.


Yes, and any organisation of that scale will have bureaucracy. My point is that he could avoid needing to build another one by using a fund that already exists and has a proven track record.


I agree with you on that. My counterpoint is that marginal economies of scale are small, if not negative, at the size of Gates Foundation, and that having some diversity among foundations may be itself an advantage.


The Pineapple fund seems intent on trying this (although it is easier at $86M rather than $130B. Good problems...)


Bezos isn't giving all of his wealth to space. He has been clear about that, stating over and over again in interviews that he plans to also donate to social causes in the US where he can have a near-term impact.

He's 54 years old and has gained $104 billion in new paper wealth in the last three years. I'd rather he get his philanthropy right - assuming the wealth sticks around at all, given Amazon's valuation - instead of hurrying and dumping billions into poor decisions that accomplish little. If he perhaps has 30 years to give tens of billions to social charity efforts, then patience and prudence is called for.


I don't really believe in the "donating all of your tens of billions of dollars" either. However, he is right that Bezos lacks imagination if that is all that he can think of doing with his money.

First off, how about not maximizing the profit from Amazon for himself and for speculative shareholders and increasing worker salaries instead?

Second, how about keeping prices as low as possible for consumers? They made record profits, and multiple X of what Amazon made like a couple of years ago, and yet they still increased Prime subscription prices, for instance.

But Bezos could also lower his company's commissions and increase commissions for affiliates (which I think were also lowered like a year ago), as another example.

There are so many more ways in which Bezos could "do good", without "having" to make billions of profits himself and his shareholders. So either he really lacks the imagination to do stuff like that, or he's just using that reason as an excuse to seem like there's no other option than for him to make so much money, because in reality he loves making all of that money for himself. But he likes to pretend he doesn't and that he would "do more" if he could.

I really don't believe in this whole thing of "pleasing shareholders at all costs, and bottom-feeding on the poor (both regular workers and consumers) as much as possible to do that." Also, Bezos himself used to believe that pleasing shareholders didn't have to be the company's #1 priority for a decade and a half, even if his reason then wasn't "to do good" but "grow as much as possible first".

I'm not sure what is happening lately, but there is a clear trend of corporations bottomfeeding more and more and squeezing all the money from the bottom up. My guess is it's a combination of increased corruption in Congress and of "buying of politicians" (it has become much easier to do it), a failure of anti-trust laws and enforcement, allowing big companies to grow ever larger and have less competition, as well as increased corruption/greed at the top of these companies (their boards being more and more willing to compensate themselves and the top-level execs more and more every year, to the detriment of workers and consumers).


To be fair, Bezos isn't rich because Amazon makes loads of money and has fat margins. Amazon was loss-making for most of its existence, and probably only became profitable thanks to AWS. He's insanely rich because shareholders don't care about Amazon's current profits, but just like its growth.


You mean he could make less money by running his company inefficiently and that would be good for people? Why single out Amazon workers and affiliates though? What if he gave cash to, I don't know, all optometrists, or something? Eventually, it's just giving away money to someone. Space travel is different - it's creating value on its own.


> You mean he could make less money by running his company inefficiently and that would be good for people?

It would definitely be good for the warehouse workers who are being exploited at the moment. Do you think efficiency goes above all else?

> Why single out Amazon workers and affiliates though?

Because Amazon warehouse workers are being exploited by Amazon?

> What if he gave cash to, I don't know, all optometrists, or something?

Why do you bring up this straw man? Is there any relation between optometrists and Amazon?

> Eventually, it's just giving away money to someone.

No it isn't. He has built his fortune on the hard work of his employees. He could at least address the problems with their working conditions.


Exploit is the wrong word. It's America and they're free to quit. Nothing's keeping there except their own desire for money. They won't starve without that job so it's not wage slavery. They simply choose to do it.

And why affiliates? The GP proposed giving money to internet advertisers. They are surely not the most deserving group of people on Earth.


> They won't starve without that job so it's not wage slavery. They simply choose to do it.

Aren't those people paid close to minimum wage? People on minimum wage don't live in an utopia where they have all the freedom in the world to move around as they wish, unlike Silicon Valley employees being paid 200k per year.


Dude, Henry Ford came up with this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fordism in 1910. And Ford was not famous for being very nice.

I'd say Bezos has a lot of work to do on the "taking better care of his employees" front.

And regarding space travel at this point it's just an intellectual fetish based on reading/watching SF (and I'm a big fan of SF...). Except for the "single point of failure" thing, which hasn't truly been an issue for the last 65 million years, we should be fine on Earth for the next decades, at least.


We seem to have avoided catastrophe as a species a few times cutting it real close. And those haven't been really big incidents either.

Anyway, Musk's strategy in making space travel cheaper is a right one. Throwing more money at it directly is likely to result in inefficient solutions. It requires time and work add much as some money.

Setting up a Bezos space university would be a good start. And figuring out education without (much) bureaucracy and sinecures.

Space travel (especially long range) is interesting in that tackling it rewrites solving a whole lot of ancillary problems. Social, political, educational, biological, agricultural, physical etc.


Another option is to give it directly to poor people, no strings attached as mentioned in a recent HN article as being an effective way to use funds to help people get out of poverty.


Giving directly works if the primary impediment to development is a lack of capital. That's been the case in places like rural Kenya or Bangladesh, which is why organizations like GiveDirectly.org or the Grameen Bank have seen success.

This is not the case in many areas of the world, and particularly not in poor pockets within developed nations. There, the barriers to development often include things like: poor educational attainment; fucked-up incentive structures; lack of physical safety & security, unenforceable property rights (leading to fucked-up incentive structures); non-existent infrastructure.

Throw money at a bunch of people who know what they need to do better their lives and have the skills to do so, and you get economic development. Throw money at a bunch of people who have either no idea or no incentive to spend the money wisely, and the money trickles right back out again.

(This, BTW, mirrors the startup scene pretty well. Throw a few hundred million at Google, Slack, or GitHub and you get tools that help millions of people. Throw a few hundred million at Juicero, Klinkle, or Theranos and you get a clusterfuck.)


I have been thinking from time to time how people like that can use their money for good.

On the one hand I'd say they could create lots of jobs; things that do good but whose intent are not to optimize for profit. Bringing back mom & pop local stores for example.

For his own company, increase wages and working conditions. Of course, in that case it's not up to him, it's up to the shareholders and they do optimize for profit.

Charity wise, it'd have to be very carefully done. I think Bill Gates is on the right path, but he's still one of the richest people in the world so I don't think he's spending much of his personal fortune in charity - yet. Not in such a way that it impacts his personal fortune, in any case.

There's some charities that are bottomless pits though, e.g. aid to Africa as another commenter mentioned. That stuff will only work if you spend so much money, you'd basically buy a country and - forcefully - take over the government. For one, that would cost more money than the richest people in the world have - government scale money, which is still much higher than corporation scale money. Second, that's a pretty dystopian idea, where corporations own countries and armies and such.


I would contend that it's our failure of imagination to think that philanthropy is the only way to help humankind. I wrote about this a while back. [1] While charity sounds great in theory, donating a billion dollars more isn't going to help poor kids in Africa a whole lot, simply because they aren't suffering due to lack of money. It's rather due to corruption, instability of government, and lack of proper law enforcement that can allow them to grow. African nations have cumulatively received $1T in aid till now, how much of it did get translated into actual development?

Considering this, an investment in a promising technology sounds like a better deal.

[1]: https://shubhamjain.co/2016/10/02/fallacy-of-hating-the-rich...


Bill Gates would disagree with that assessment. Infant mortality in Africa is much lower now than it was in the 1990s:

https://qz.com/468017/child-mortality-rates-across-sub-sahar...

Well targeted evidence-based philanthropy does really work. In addition to the challenges that you mentioned, there is also the hubris of imagining what people need rather than asking and working with them directly.


Failure? Space travel will be the salvation of mankind.


Maybe. Or we could, you know, try to take better care of what we have already?


You know, in a sense we're already taking better care of what we have already. There's less poverty than ever before, as an example. I think the major concern right now for humanity is that of global warming. We're definitely not taking care of our planet right now, and long term it's probably the most important challenge we've ever encountered.

Being multi-planetary is linked to that - not as a plan B but imagine how much it will boost scientific research. Any kind of outside earth research may benefit Earth in the end.

Fighting poverty and hunger is of course noble efforts too (and they have worked). They can perfectly co-exist with space exploration.


Yes, research into space travel and what not might benefit Earth but not nearly as much as dumping all the money into researching Earth as a primary goal.


Most of the current space industry is focused on things useful on Earth.


I got the sense that the comment I was responding to was saying that we might accidentally discover or invent useful things as a byproduct of space travel research.

For example, I believe memory foam was originally invented by NASA (or at least by researchers funded by NASA). Memory foam has improved the quality of life of many people including myself (I'm sitting on it right now!) but I don't believe that this is a good justification for researching space travel. Our money would be better spent by cutting out the middle man and directly researching things that will solve problems we know about on Earth.

That research will also have unforeseen applications much like research into space travel so we will still get those seemingly random benefits like Viagra being used for erectile dysfunction instead of whatever it was originally invented for.

I am simply not a believer that we should be investing money into things like putting humans on other planets. I don't believe that we need to spread out into the universe in case some kind of cosmic event destroys the Earth. I am perfectly okay with humanity going extinct in that case.

Sending rovers, satellites, and probes seems like a much better usage of money because they're a lot cheaper than trying to keep a human alive on Mars or any other planet. I am also okay with things like asteroid mining to get more resources to be used on Earth. That has a clear benefit.


I disagree with that point of view, on the basis that it seems humans don't seem to work that way. Historically, we tend to shy away from hard problems unless we have a compelling motivation to go there. So, for instance, your memory foam would probably never be discovered if the only research allowed was "how to make office chairs and beds more comfortable". There's plenty of options good enough for the market to lock down on them, and nobody would bother with spending lots of money on advanced materials science in vague hope it'll eventually result in a mattress good enough to compete on the market. So it turned out that NASA needed to go there for other reasons, and then the tech was there. Technology transfer is cheaper.

The argument boils down to the observation that you want to invest things that tend to generate lots of transferable technology. In the history of mankind, the usual "technology generator" was war. But we want to avoid that. Space exploration seems to be a very nice alternative (incidentally, itself spawned by war).

But in my comment, I was trying to argue for two other benefits of space. One is, a lot of money in space sector goes towards "directly researching things that will solve problems we know about on Earth". Satellites are vital tool improving our daily lives at all scales - from GNSS systems like GPS, through emergency response (beacons, satellite phones), to weather prediction, farmland management, climate monitoring, etc. Even the missions looking at other celestial bodies are important for Earth. We got our first concept of global warming problems through studying Venus. Monitoring space weather is important for communications down on Earth. Etc.

The second thing though, is the long-term potential space opens up once we cross the threshold of establishing a functioning economy outside of Earth's atmosphere. More resources, cleaner manufacturing letting us fix up the environmental damage down here. Opening up to practically unlimited livable space. Yes, it's far off, but you can't get from here to there without going through the current space tech phase.


I'm afraid, given recent climate change reports (melting north pole, permafrost, broken jet stream, etc) it's already too late. Well I do think humanity would survive, it'd just be shitty and a lot of people will die because they're not able to move to more hospitable areas and/or can't afford to import food.


There are essentially infinite resources just in our solar system. Infinite power, infinite raw materials. The way to preserve the Earth is to use those resources rather than the life-dependent ones on Earth.

Instead of Yellowstone being a tiny patch of the Earth, expanding into the solar system will enable most of the Earth to be a nature preserve, while humans can be what we want to be.


> There are essentially infinite resources just in our solar system.

There aren't even essentially infinite resources in the Universe. In less than 9000 years, at humanity's current growth rate of 1.1%, human bodies will contain all of the particles in the Universe. https://youtu.be/lpj0E0a0mlU?t=397

We absolutely will have to face the trade-off between population and resources at some point in our near (geologically instantaneous) future, whether on Earth, or in the Solar System, or in the Universe.

(Long before that, the speed of light will put a fundamental limit on population growth. Any positive exponential growth rate will cause an increase in the volume of human-occupied space to grow at a rate such that the growth of the diameter of our occupied space would have to grow faster than C. Usually, I was met with skepticism or blank stares.)


We'll never have a chance to address that problem if we do not expand into the solar system.


> We'll never have a chance to address that problem if we do not expand into the solar system.

Do you mean that we won't face the problem of completely occupying the Universe with our bodies in 9k years? Or the problem of facing a trade-off between reproduction and resources? If it's the latter, we most definitely will, and already are. I mean, the tautological answer that is actually informative is that we are already in the Solar System. We're already playing the reproduction/resource game and demonstrating our competency at it as a species. It's not looking too good, so far.

I don't understand what your comment is meant to accomplish? Is it to say that we shouldn't fix global warming? Is it to say that we should only consider leaving the planet?

If there's pithiness in your brevity, I've missed it.


> Do you mean that we won't face the problem of completely occupying the Universe with our bodies in 9k years?

Obviously, I mean we'll go extinct long before 9k years if we don't move out into the solar system.

> we are already in the Solar System

Do you want a productive discussion or not?


I'm not sure that anything about staying on Earth 9000 years obviously or necessarily implies extinction, so I definitely prefer your actual explanation to your original remark. Thank you for it. However, it must be admitted that there is some time before 9k years where a 1.1% population growth rate becomes a problem, not to mention the fact that the 9k-year result is not about a sustainable population, but rather about the point where every particle in the Universe would be a constituent part of a human body. A great many doublings (multiples of ~65 years) before that, we've exhausted the local resources of this star system and have to put growth "on hold" to reach another one. We don't seem to be able, right now, to put either our growth or industry on hold long enough to save the planet we're on.

Furthermore, it's not at all demonstrable that we can move a significant fraction of 8 billion people off of the planet in a timely manner, even if we could get them all to volunteer. Using conventional rockets, it's going to be like 10 tons of CO2 per person per trip in fuel, and that's just to lift the passenger's weight, to say nothing of the fraction of the weight of the spacecraft per passenger. And that's just to LEO. A low estimate is handily 4 or 5 years of current CO2 emissions just to move half the population. (Launch guns and the like could possibly reduce this, but there's certainly going to be a CO2 cost to building them if they are possible.) The remaining 4 billion would, presently, need to learn the lessons that neither the 9k-year discussion nor this discussion seem to have landed for you: growth, per se, is unsustainable; and we will have to manage both growth (into territory that oscillates about 0) and efficiency to survive. In reality, we're just boxed in on Earth, waiting for a miracle like fusion.

Whether this discussion turns out to be productive or not, the fact that steady positive exponential growth always overtakes resource availability for any finite set of actually finite resources is germane. In other words, there is no real difference between "in the Solar System" and "on Earth" as far as our ability to live within foreseeable constraints is concerned. If we "move out into the solar system" now and behave as we do now, we will just die a few hundred years later (subject to even being able to meaningfully get there). Sci-fi futures don't arrive just because you're on a rocket. You still have to learn the lessons and build the systems with the political will you can muster. That's the point. Just because you can't or don't want to take in the implications of growth at a rate proportional to the amount present doesn't mean that I'm not making productive points.

I would, however, appreciate more precision from you in the future, please, just by way of striving toward being productive.


If his space travel project works out it won't be a such bad thing for humanity. Some like to give it to charity, others like to do stuff that couldn't otherwise.

What makes you think that x charity would create more value than its space program?

Personally, to live a humble life is not very inspiring or interesting to me. I would spare a part of my fortune for something like the Nobel prize though.


> Personally, to live a humble life is not very inspiring or interesting to me.

Personally, Blue Origin has not done work that inspires me. Specifically Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft seems to be reaching for the wrong benchmarks. They claim to enter space, and they do, but going straight up and down isn't nearly as valuable as orbital rockets. Blue Origin's timeline for entering orbit puts them years after Nasa's SLS, meaning they will be third to market for US based orbital launches, while competing with a large number of international competitors. New Shepard, Blue Origin's best success story, has less thrust than a North Korean ICBM.

Many charities are doing more impressive and inspiring work than Blue Origin.


They are probably investing in employees, facilities, software infrastructure, and knowledge. It is smarter to start with a feasible project and start improving from there, then building something too big which you might not be able to launch successfully.


While this is true in general, I haven't seen plans that make me confident in Blue Origins long term vision.

It's perfectly okay for a rocket company to blow up a few rockets. I cannot think of a single space program that has a perfect record.


>Blue Origin's timeline for entering orbit puts them years after Nasa's SLS, meaning they will be third to market for US based orbital launches

Discounting Orbital ATK and ULA?


>> Personally, Blue Origin has not done work that inspires me.

Perhaps you should give it some time. Knowing that a private citizen can start a space programs is exciting enough for me. More exciting than donating my wealth before I die.

Good people get employed there for good salaries so if they want to donate to charity they can do so. It looks like a good distribution of wealth regardless if the space program works out or not.

Simply donating to a charity doesn't guarantee good results either. If would be up to me I would invest in biotech but I don't see space tech a waste of money either.


> Knowing that a private citizen can start a space programs is exciting enough for me.

While I agree with the feeling, I should point out that "private citizen" Jeff Bezos is worth more than 130 out of 190 or so countries out there. You and I are not in the same league as Bezos or his kind.

Actually, are you also a billionaire? :)


> Knowing that a private citizen can start a space programs is exciting enough for me.

I interpret SpaceX and Blue Origin as signs that nation states are decreasing in power relative to corporations. Many executives in very large cooperations probably hold more power than the average congressman.


There have been at least 5 major extinction events on this planet. Whilst I believe that taking care of Earth should be our number one priority, is it so wrong if a billionnaire decides to focus on improving our ability to travel into space?

Not to belittle the invaluable work ESA or NASA do but the incredible progress SpaceX has made in just the past 15 years speaks to how little development governmental space agencies have made in the field of rocketry over the past 50 years.

Doing anything in Space is insanely expensive - I for one am extremely glad we have two lunatics (in Musk and Bezos) willing to lose their shirt over it.


> There have been at least 5 major extinction events on this planet.

The odds are that number six will be a) caused by humans and b) due to the same economic and industrial systems that concentrate wealth among a few individuals.

I never said Bezos was wrong to focus on space travel, just that he lacks imagination for ways he could allocate his capital. Perhaps we should be restructuring our systems to prioritise our planet above the ability of individuals to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.


How much of the money this woman tirelessly scrimped and saved for is going to end up in the hands of BigEd and its ever growing armies of deanlets, deanlings, and other assorted non-instructional staff?


Nothing wrong with supporting space travel if that's what you're passionate about.

Better that than not giving away a penny until you're 75, and then handing it all off to Gates when you're eventually dead.

If you have to wait to help people out with your money until you're dead, you're doing something fundamentally wrong in my view. Why not try and make a meaningful social impact during your lifetime? But hey, to each their own.


To be fair, Gates is applying economies of scale to donations. He is using theanthropy at industrial scales to solve HUGE problems. They have goals like eliminating WHOLE diseases from parts of the world... and it seems like they're getting results.

If you have a large fortune, you could build the organization to try and invest it for benefits. Many do, and if you have a rare cause... there's good value in it. But the alternative is you could give it to gates, and be pretty well assured it will be leveraged for amazing results.


> Better that than not giving away a penny until you're 75, and then handing it all off to Gates when you're eventually dead.

Doesn't that depends on your rate of return? Imagine two options: (a) give away $1 million now; (b) invest the money and wait until you are 75, then give away $1 billion. Is option (a) necessarily better?


What would you do with that much money then? Pepole like Jeff Bezos and Elon musk probably find charity ognizaiton's efficiency not to their liking. If you can change the world once? why not twice.

I personally feel like educating young leaders a good choice.


Better batteries and better solar panels would be nice... not sure how much it would cost though... Tesla improved the form factor of solar panels, but maybe not so much the efficiency or cost.


There are places in the world that don't have clean drinking water. Space is cool, i'm glad we're looking into it... but there are things of true value that amount of wealth can bring to the current world we live in that will help bring some struggling people from zero to one.


Anyone inspired by this should look into the Giving what we can idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giving_What_We_Can

It's far from easy but they propose to give 10% of earnings. A lot of people who intend to give 'once they're rich' end up with lifestyle creep and never end up giving much and ultimately find it very difficult to make large cuts in their spending. Whereas those who grow up with it and only consider 90% of the extra earnings from promotions of their own, do much better.


They have a calculator on their website [0] to compare your wealth ranking in the world with and without donating 10%. I believe for many people in IT it barely makes a difference (whereas for the recipients it's oftentimes life-changing).

[0] https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/#how-rich-am-i


And if you cannot donate money, you might be able to donate time and work if you have spare.


This is fabulous:

After retiring, Ms. Bloom agreed to move to a senior residence mainly because “she wanted to find a good bridge game,” said Ms. Bornstein, a retired social worker.

To scout them out, and finally to move into one on the Upper West Side, she insisted on taking the subway, Ms. Bornstein said.


Sounds like she knows her priorities and adamantly avoids wasting money and chasing things for reputation's sake. I aspire to be like that.


It's because she lived through the Depression.


Just goes to show the effect of putting away money every year, and placing it in assets where the returns will compound over a long period.


Especially over a 67 year period! If she saved about $10k (2018 dollars) annually for the first ten years of her working career, got ~4% after inflation, and never saved another penny that would account for ~$1.2 million of the sum by itself.

Buy and hold long term; reinvest dividends folks :-).


my parents have always been frugal and wise with their money. My dad lost his job at age 51 and couldn't find another job so he retired. His last salary, in 1981, was 30K a year. But he's good at the stock market. My mom says they've never touched the principal.

In addition, tax laws are written to benefit those who earn without working. The first $75k in qualified dividends is tax free. In 2017 he grossed about $120k, $80k in qualified dividends. With deductions, etc... his federal tax bill was $2k. And no social security. With their expenses about $50k, it compounds rather quickly. He's now 86.


I must talk to your dad... Please!


4% after inflation is not easy


A S&P 500 index fund will get you that.


At fees of 4/100ths of a percent. Vanguard has created a simply enormous consumer surplus. Thank you Bogle.


s/will get you that/has been known to get you that in the past/

Who knows what the future holds.


Starting in what year?


Pretty much any year.

http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2016/05/deconstructing-30-ye...

> The worst 30 year return — using rolling monthly performance — occurred at the height of the market just before the Great Depression and stocks still returned almost 8% per year over the ensuing three decades.

(This number is not adjusted for inflation, but still.)

https://www.thebalance.com/rolling-index-returns-1973-mid-20...

> The S&P 500 Index, shown in bright red, delivered its worst twenty-year return of 6.4% a year over the twenty years ending in May 1979.


Starting in any >25 year period since 1903, I think.


I looked it up. There are long periods where it performed just above inflation. http://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/...


Nope. That graph is incredibly misleading. Note that the middle color represents 3-7% inflation-adjusted returns after "fees and taxes" (how are those calculated?) and the light red color represents 0-3% inflation-adjusted returns (again after fees and taxes). 6.2% is the claimed average inflation-adjusted return. A lump sum invested for 67 years at 6.2% is something like a 5500% return on initial investment.

Very few start dates yield poor returns over a 20-year period, and fewer over a 25+ year period. Much less 67 years.

I'm also not sure about the methodology of "including fees and taxes," since the average mutual fund fee has been very high until quite recently, despite Vanguard's start in the 70s, and taxes are highly individual. The article is light on details.


Yep, agreed, especially with current market conditions (high asset prices and low bond yields). Research Affiliates has an awesome tool that shows expected returns by asset class (https://interactive.researchaffiliates.com/asset-allocation....) and European equity / Emerging Markets equity are the only asset classes expected to yield 4%+ real annual returns over the next 10 years.


What if I'm hit by a bus and killed the day before I retire?


You're getting down voted but it's true. My mom was a few years away from retirement. Was cutting trees in the back yard and had a pain in her shoulder. Cancer in her lung. She died 8 months later. My dad and her were about to retire and just travel the world. Now I call my dad every other day because he is slowly starting to lose it.


Same thing for my grandparents. Saved and made grand plans for travel. Then grandpa got lung cancer and grandma got to travel solo instead...

I'm getting my ya-yas out in my youth.


Not sure what your point is here -- A chance of reaching the future means you shouldn't plan for the future at all, even though statistically most people do survive to retirement age?


I think the implication is that if your spend your life toiling for future reward at the expense of present reward, you may lay there on the pavement bleeding out, wishing that you'd taken that vacation you always wanted.

Obviously it's presuming that you're neglecting reasonable gratification in the present, and it's all a spectrum of choices and rewards. But often people talk about financial investment without balancing it with "personal investment". Personal enrichment can pay interest of a sort, too.


I think you're maybe being too charitable with djrobstep's comment. It's an inane response to the comment it replies to. Here's the full context:

> > Especially over a 67 year period! If she saved about $10k (2018 dollars) annually for the first ten years of her working career, got ~4% after inflation, and never saved another penny that would account for ~$1.2 million of the sum by itself.

> > Buy and hold long term; reinvest dividends folks :-).

> What if I'm hit by a bus and killed the day before I retire?

It's just not responsive to the original comment and doesn't really bring up anything novel. It might be slightly more reasonable if included your elaborations, but it doesn't, and even then it's totally silly. Saving $10k/yr is not a hardship for most tech workers and does not preclude gratification in the present! $90-100k annually is still several standard deviations above median income.


What you, and most people championing the virtues of the slow and steady save, fail to consider is the time value of money (ie why those investments compound so much interest). Money today is worth more than money tomorrow is worth a truck load more than money in 67 years. Combined with the fact that, at least in my opinion, money when I'm young and healthy is also worth multiplicatively more than money post retirement.

I think most young people would rather be, and far better off with, saving that 10k annually you suggest to amassing a down payment on city property or equivalent investment in current quality of life rather than prepping for a lonely future.


> What you, and most people championing the virtues of the slow and steady save, fail to consider is the time value of money (ie why those investments compound so much interest).

No, we (generally) have not failed to consider it. (I'm sure some have and some haven't, but it isn't an argument that holds much water anyway.)

In fact, I think it means more or less the opposite of what you have taken it to mean.

Time value of money calculations implicitly assume return on investment! If your time value of money calculation gives you a higher value for spending some money vs investing it, your valuation of the spending must be above market returns. It's fine if that is the output of your utility function some of the time, and you do have to make a personal decision about how much to spend vs save. But I would assert that most people should value retiring with non-zero savings, and highly paid tech workers have a lot of disposable income that spending provides minimal value.

No one here is suggesting you should eat cat food and live in a cardboard box to save for the future.

> Money today is worth more than money tomorrow is worth a truck load more than money in 67 years.

Time value of money is simply making the inverse of the same slow-and-steady statement: investing the money for 67 years will yield massive returns. Your core assumption is that spending the money today will yield above-market returns. And for your first dollars, I agree! Housing, food, clothing, and (some) entertainment give huge value, far above stock-market gains.

> Combined with the fact that, at least in my opinion, money when I'm young and healthy is also worth multiplicatively more than money post retirement.

"Young and healthy" and "post retirement" are not mutually exclusive, if you save. But they certainly are if you don't — it's hard to be healthy if you can't afford food or housing.

> I think most young people would rather be, and far better off with, saving that 10k annually you suggest

First, let me be clear that the 10k figure was just for illustrative purposes of compounding at average index return rates and is not a suggestion nor rule of thumb. It's a ton for someone making poverty wages and totally insufficient for someone pulling down $500k.

The general guideline is: save at least 15% of your take-home pay for retirement, starting 40 years before you intend to retire. I think this is even a little optimistic about stock market returns and would encourage saving at least a few percent higher than that.

Note that this recommendation still leaves 80-85% of your take home pay for current spending. We're not arguing about the first 30-50% of your spending on necessities (and some luxuries may be necessary to stay sane and happy), but the marginal value of that 85th percentile spending vs saving.

> to amassing a down payment on city property

Property investment is just one kind of investment. A first property certainly has special properties as far as taxes (at least in the US) and long-term expenses, but is not incompatible with "championing the virtues of slow and steady save." I would agree that saving for a down payment on property makes a lot of sense for many people.

> or equivalent investment in current quality of life rather than prepping for a lonely future.

The key word here is "investment." Your comparison is against stock market returns, so the quality of life stuff has to be really valuable to justify the lost income.

Why do you think your future will be lonely? If you really like working, great, but many people only work because they need the current income to fund their necessities. There are other avenues for socializing than work.


No, grandparent is saying "carpe diem". You never know when you're going to drop dead, and being too old makes it difficult to see the world. Also, you never know when evil politicians are going to raid Social Security or change the laws to protect insurance companies that have taken on moral hazards, causing you to lose your coverage/annuity.


The point, in my interpretation, is: don't put all your eggs in the basket of your latter years. Find the balance of long term planning and short term fulfillment.


Nobody's suggesting doing such though (yet the comment seemed to imply someone had). The suggestion was to save a meager $10K/year, which is tiny relative to the salaries of most people on here.


It's 20% of the gross median household income. For the typical family it's probably closer to 25%-30% or more of their gross pay net of taxes. That's a lot of money to save for this kind of household. It's simply not a realistic goal for the majority of households in America.


That is a fairly unlikely outcome. Consult an actuarial table. If it happens, it happens. Not saving for retirement because you might die suddenly is irrational and defies statistics on when and how people die.


> What if I'm hit by a bus and killed the day before I retire?

Isn't that question backwards? What we should be asking is: What are we going to do if we _aren't_ hit by a bus and killed the day before we retire?


That's the crooked part about the US retirement system, as far as I could gather it.

On my side of the pond, your employer deposits an X amount per month / paycheck into your retirement fund. That fund will play with it, invest it to get interest and make sure it keeps its value over time despite inflation.

When you quit your job, that retirement fund will continue to manage your money. When you get a new job, either the fund continues or it's done in another pension fund - you are given the option to either have what's in the old fund paid out, or transferred to your new one.

When you are fired before your retirement, no worries - the retirement fund is yours, not your employer's.

And TBF everyone should fight for that. There's nobody that will hire anyone until they retire anymore. US employment laws are too lax to enforce that. And if your retirement is directly linked to you having a job at age 65 or whatever the age is, you'll get fucked over one way or another.


I can’t tell what part of that you think is different in the US.

The US has three major retirement regimes:

- Defined contribution retirement funds, owned by the employee, managed by employer designated group

- Defined benefit retirement funds, which are going away or nearly gone for non-public-employees, and are causing the bankruptcy of various states because governments thought it was clever to offer public employees most of their compensation in the distant future to deceive present taxpayers about the cost of government

- An income distributing safety net for the elderly which is dressed up to pretend it’s a retirement program

Doesn’t sound so different from most European systems I’m familiar with, except for the much better health care (which dominates costs in old age, of course)


This is, quite literally, an example of survivor bias.

Some people might be able to amass a fortune by the time they are 96 unless you die before / your index funds & co tank / you, or somebody close, need expensive treatments.


Indeed. You can play out scenarios yourself using this investment calculator app that I built for a client recently. It does ask for contact info before launching, but from what I can tell, they never contact you.

https://simulators.gibsoncapital.com/total-simulator/


There's this awesome free tool from Dave Ramsey as well that's good and doesn't take your contact info

https://www.daveramsey.com/smartvestor/investment-calculator


and the irony that no modern day receptionist would have a job long enough to benefit from the exact system that made it possible in this one case.


Really shocking part of the story to me was that she retired at 96 years old?!


I found that quite odd as well, but I mean if someone loves doing what they're doing and are bringing value to the table, why not? For many elderly people it might be better if they keep working on something, instead of losing all connection to reality just sitting at home.


I meant it's crazy impressive. Three of four grandparents I had lived quite long lives, and I witnessed first-person how their once exceptional mental capabilities quickly deteriorated once they've crossed 88-90 years threshold. Being able to still work regularly at that age is just an amazing achievement.


I know it's a story about giving, but I find it kid of sad that she didn't enjoy that money more. I can't believe she enjoyed not spending it so much that would have compared to traveling or building something?

Not that giving is bad, I'm sure it felt good, but man waiting until you are in your 90s to have that big effect seems like such an unnecessary delay.

I'm not trolling, just a gut reaction here. Anyone else feel that way?

Maybe it's because I'm an American consumer and consumerism is all I know.


> ...but I find it kid of sad that she didn't enjoy that money more.

I think she enjoyed that money tremendously. It's such a great feeling to give and to have the heart to give so generously, wow, what an amazing woman.


Alright, fair enough. I can see that too. Thank you.


For me buying stuff is anxiety making and not fun. If the cost is > $100 there is sure to follow a good bout of buyers remorse and often a returned item.


On the other from personal experience and research I have heard of, buying "experiences" is more rewarding. Take trips, go bungie jumping, have a fancy meal, and doing it with friends the better. These things are less prone to buyer's remorse.


There are are a lot of laudable things in this story, but it seems rather odd to attribute so much of the wealth accumulation to just Ms. Bloom. She had a husband who seems to have had three careers, two of which potentially had very generous pension benefits, and a third that often pays quite well.


TFA specifically says the accounts were soleley in her name, she made the investments, and that it's possible he didn't even know about them.


Her husband died over a decade ago - the accounts being in just her name is literally proof of nothing, if they maintained separate finances prior to his death in most cases the assets would all be re-titled in her name.

For all we know her husband inherited $10m before he died, and she blew the difference in Vegas one weekend...

My point is that there is a lot of speculation in this article and not much in the way of facts


I think the point of the comment you responded to is that she was able to do what you say primarily because she and her husband didn't need (most) of her income at all: it was (almost) entirely disposable.


The power of compounding interest. If you're 26 years old right now, then you have 70 years to compound your money.

Assuming an average of 7% annual return:

> x * 1.07 ^ 70 = 8200000

> x = 82000 / 114

> x = 72000

Essentially if you sock away $70k at age 26, that's how much you'll have when you're 96


I'm a 27 yo with $70k to sock away who's confused by your units.


I'm a 21 yo with $70k to sock away who's confused as to getting a solid 7% guaranteed year over year.

But obviously that's not what's stopping us from socking away $70k at 7%.


Nothing's guaranteed but the odds are very, very good. If you invest in a diversified index fund like VTI then 7% is a reasonable average growth estimate.

Investing a lump sum is a risk -- you'd cut your fortune nearly in half if you invested in 2008. This isn't an issue for most folks who save over time.

Frankly, the largest thing stopping folks from investing is financial literacy. The second largest thing is probably lack of disposable income.


You're completely right. Grabbing some Vanguard index ETF and dollar cost averaging is definitely what I (and others) should be doing.

I'd bet 7% YoY over 20 years is conservative.


Typically the 7% number is used for after inflation


> financial literacy

How does one gain it? Everywhere I look, there's so many scam artists and so much confusion that I don't know what's true / reasonable anymore.


Thank you. Every HN thread about the stock market seems to ignore pr downplay risk. If the stock market was really risk-free everyone would be able to retire a millionaire.


At least historically, there is no reason everyone couldn't.

There is no 30 year period in the history of the s&p 500 that returns less than 7% if I remember correctly.


Just imagine what you’d have gotten out of investing in the German, Russian, Chinese or Rhodesian stock exchanges in 1900. I don’t know what happened to people who were heavily invested in the French stock exchange in 1939 but I doubt it was good either. I wouldn’t want to be in the South Korean or Japanese stock exchange if North Korea does anything. You may think war is unlikely but so did a lot of people in 1913. The USA may be the safest available what with the oceans to the East and West and the client states to North and South but it’s not like a civil war would be unprecedented.


Most people don't invest in ultra-cheap index trackers though. They pay high fees for funds that can under-perform the market.


To be fair, index funds are a relatively new thing.


Put $70k into VFIAX for 40 years. That will get you $2,061,991.75 at retirement @7% interest. Maybe a little more or less but this is inflation adjusted. I’d say if you are planning a normal to frugal retirement that is all you really need to invest.


Stocks. Not an every year guarantee but over 20-50 years you'll be fine... If you want 40% you can apparently get Argentinian bonds at the moment ... [EDIT: This last bit is a joke, if it's not clear]


Of course Japan's Nikkei index is still well below its peak in 1989. It isn't smart to assume that 7% will continue forever, particularly since developed economies' growth rates have all slowed, and without massive immigration slowed demographic growth makes it unlikely the rates will increase again.

In any case, if you believe your charitable donations are better off invested in the stock market than being put to charitable work today, then why bother donating? That means you don't believe in the charity. It would be better to find a more effective charity!


Japan now appears to be a special case (also what about dividends reinvested?)... But by all means, diversify. I admit to not having a crystal ball.

As to putting money to charity today I agree that might be a better idea.

[EDIT: Even with dividends this particular time period in Japan yielded terrible returns. Investing in the stock market for long periods doesn't guarantee returns, nothing does, but it's a pretty good probability.]


> Not an every year guarantee but over 20-50 years you'll be fine

only in the aggregate. You might hit a particularly bad spell , or some black swan event happens just as you need to liquidate the holdings.

Stock needs management of some kind (even if it's index, you'd still need to decide when to liquidate, and seize the earnings while high rather than keep betting until you require the funds).


The whole idea of passive investment is no management and no timing. That's proven to outperform most active management. Yes, you could get unlucky, the world can collapse into chaos, humanity could get destroyed, or various other risks. Definitely owning the US stock market over the last 70 years would have had a pretty good return.


So we just need another world war with the associated period of rebuilding and massive economic growth due to the development of integrated circuits and women joining the workforce.


You don't think the developing world continuing to develop will have a version of that effect?


Maybe. Maybe climate change wrecks the economy. Who knows? Past performance is not a great indicator of future performance.


Future value = present value * (1 + interest rate) ^ time

FV = PV * (1 + i) ^ t

FV and PV are in dollars, i is a percent, and t is number of years.

We know FV, i and t and can solve for PV.

8,200,000 = PV * (1 + 0.07) ^ 70

PV = 8,200,000 / 1.07 ^ 70

So 72,000 compounded over 70 years at an interest rate of 7% has a future value of 8,200,000.


He worked backward to see what X would need to be for X to grow to 8200k in 70 years and got 72k. Under an assumption of 7% returns per year on average, which is a fair number to use for the stock market over a long period of time (over a short period of time it's usually a lot lower or a lot higher than that).


> x = 82000 / 114

You’re missing a few zeros, there. Makes the whole thread really confusing, I thought people were talking about this idea that 720 == 72,000, which I found surprising.


Is it common for secretaries to be working until they are in their 90's?

Because 96 is really old. I am amazed that she didn't quit earlier. In an era where the retirement age is around 60-65 and most tech workers plan to retire by their 40's. It is truly astounding to see someone work well into their mid 90's.

Props to the lady for that!


At a previous job, the book-keeper for a local office (a large accounting firm) was 97, and still working hard. And she was hilarious! She started with the company in the typing pool when she was 16.. she tried to retire twice, but got bored. They threw her a good party for her 80th work anniversary...


Wow. 80 years with the same company? That's absolutely insane.


Some people like working. My dad retired a few years back, but recently started working again as a tax preparer. He's always liked doing things with numbers, and he likes talking to people. My uncle (his brother, a few years older) is the same way. He even became state-level comptroller or something for the organization he was working in; just for fun.


"most tech workers plan to retire by their 40's"

Most tech workers who plan to retire by their 40s will be working into their 50s.


I worked with a developer who was 75 because he didn't know what else to do with his time. Sharp as a whip. He's still coding for a living and will turn 80 soon.


Does he have a blog or an interview somewhere? I would love to read that!


It really depends on what you mean by "plan" and how realistic your expectations are. And "most," I guess.

Check out the reddit sub FinancialIndependence if you want to discuss or learn.

If your income is high enough (tech workers are commonly several standard deviations above median income) and your cost of living / lifestyle expenses low enough (SFBA makes this harder, but may come with more income), it is definitely possible to retire in your 40s.


Saying something is possible is a far cry from saying it is something "most" are planning.


I didn't say that. I agree that most tech workers are not (realistically, anyway) planning to retire in their 40s. Most in their 20s probably do not have concrete retirement plans.

The claim I was responding to is andrewprock's statement:

> Most tech workers who plan to retire by their 40s will be working into their 50s.

Which makes a specific claim about the specific subset of tech workers who are planning to retire in their 40s.


Plan to retire by their 40s? Where on earth are you hearing that?


When you see how much people in the tech industry are earning in their 20's, or that there are some people that become millionaires / billionaires before their 30's, you start thinking differently about your future. Why wait until you're a senior citizen to do what you've always wanted? Working your ass off for 10-15 years and still able to do it, then retiring for the rest of your life to do the fun things sounds like an idea.

Okay, it's not for me either, but I wouldn't mind the ability to choose to work, instead of depend on it. Take some time off from time to time to work on private projects, take long vacations, that kinda thing.


All the people seeking financial independence ?


Retirement is boring. I plan to work until they carry me out in a box.


> an era where the retirement age is around 60-65 and most tech workers plan to retire by their 40's.

Those of us in our 40’s—who haven’t yet hit the startup lottery—only wish this was a possibility.


To pull it off, you have to take high-paying jobs (i.e., not startups) in your 20s, be somewhat frugal, and save a large portion of your salary. The compounding is really significant, but early retirement does not give you a lot of working years for compounding to happen. As they say, the best time to invest is 20 years ago.

If you're interested in discussing or learning more about this topic, the subreddit FinancialIndependence focuses on it.


Most of it is just lucky timing. There are a lot of people who do the exact same things but have very different results based on where exactly they fell on the economic cycle. Unless you’re in the very lucky cohort who would have been rich in any case, being set by your 40s requires things like timing the housing and stock markets pretty carefully to get the necessary returns.


I don't think it's accurate to say "most" of it is lucky market timing. That's certainly a component and if it goes wrong, it can throw off the retirement date by a couple years, but failing to keep your savings to income ratio high enough can throw off your retirement by four decades. For early retirement in particular, the compounding effect is smaller and the main factor (IMO) is savings rate.

Sorting people into two cohorts — "would have been rich in any case" and "other" — fails to recognize that people's individual financials fall somewhere on a continuum, and that their actions (i.e., spending) affects how much wealth they can accumulate by their 40s (or phrased alternatively, affects when they can retire).


> Sorting people into two cohorts — "would have been rich in any case" and "other" — fails to recognize that people's individual financials fall somewhere on a continuum, and that their actions (i.e., spending) affects how much wealth they can accumulate by their 40s (or phrased alternatively, affects when they can retire).

That wasn't a point I intended to make. What I was trying to get at is that most of us should not be comparing our returns to people who start wealthy / connected or the few outliers who were e.g. early employees at a high-return startup. That can be useful as a dream goal but it's better to have more realistic expectations.

For the main point, personal habits definitely make a big factor but your ability to maintain those high savings rates is subject to a number of things which you have little to no control over. As an example, graduating in a recession has historically correlated with lower lifetime earnings because starting salaries influenced subsequent wages and a long period languishing in a mediocre job market really cuts into your interest compounding time if your baseline is not substantially over a reasonable cost of living. Similarly, in many areas the housing market has had huge fluctuations and that's a huge impact on your savings rate since it affects both the cost of rent and your time to acquire a down payment if it's more cost effective long-term to own. You do have the option of living in a smaller/less-desirable place, etc. but that often still means things like a longer commute and the numerous costs that entails.

The other side of the luck equation is that many people have factors which make it hard to optimize for investment returns. If you have health issues, your savings rate is going to be much lower. If you have kids or a relative who needs help that will impact your housing, job, travel, etc. choices and cuts into both your absolute savings rate and especially your ability to make long-term optimizations. If you're married to someone who needs to move for job reasons (e.g. everyone in academia), your ability to time the local housing market is severely hampered. If your particular field is not continuously in strong demand (this can be out of your control: tons of laid-off web developers were competing for the same jobs circa 2001) there's going to be time transitioning, retraining, etc. and likely digging into those savings temporarily.

None of this is to say that living frugally is a bad idea or that you'd regret having done so, only that saying you can retire in 20 years is unrealistic for most people and it makes the pitch sound a bit like a scam/cult.


Yeah, all good points.

> None of this is to say that living frugally is a bad idea or that you'd regret having done so, only that saying you can retire in 20 years is unrealistic for most people and it makes the pitch sound a bit like a scam/cult.

I don't mean to suggest that everyone, or even most people, can retire in 20 years, and I certainly agree that such a claim is not true. Some highly paid tech workers can, and this forum's readership tends to tilt in that direction.


Yeah, I guess I prefer a more positive framing – the person who said that most tech workers plan to retire in their 40s makes it sound like something's wrong if you're not and I prefer a more nuanced message.

I especially like thinking about the meaning of where your money is going – some people spend money on experiences which they like but a lot of it is keep-up-with-the-Jones stuff where e.g. people are paying crazy amounts for housing zoned for the “right” school when paying less and spending more time with their kids will have a much bigger lifetime impact. Someone in that position probably isn't retiring too early in any case but if they have their spending well planned out they're probably going to say that was an acceptable tradeoff for having kids, while the guy living above even considerable means is having a midlife crisis reconsidering hemorrhaging that kind of cash.


Totally agree.


http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2014/02/worlds-worst-market-...

Even with bad market timing, you still have pretty good odds if you are genuinely dedicated to the task. Keep in mind, to succeed in ~20 years in almost all market conditions you would need to save 50-60% of your before-tax income.


MMM has done a blog post covering the issue of how long it takes to save for early [or not] retirement at a spread of savings rates.

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-si...

Under his assumptions, to retire in 20 years takes a savings rate of around 44%.


His math is a little optimistic when we are talking about "almost all market conditions" and once you start factoring in things that might go wrong, like a couple years of unemployment stretched over a 20 year career.

MMM ignores a ton of statistically common problems (like 4 bouts of unemployment over 20 years).


All models are wrong, but some models are useful.


If it is obvious predictable stuff, like being unemployed that almost everyone experiences eventually it isn't useful.


"[A] couple years of unemployment stretched over a 20 year career" seems to be an extreme outlier for the tech field.

I worked through the 2000 and 2008 crashes and I can't think of anyone I worked with in tech who was involuntarily unemployed for more than a few weeks at a time and certainly not for 10% of the total time. (Voluntarily for personal reasons like they decided to stay home with a kid, sure.)

Yes, years or 10%+ of unemployment would derail retirement savings. A few weeks here and there doesn't.


So now we are going from the general case to the Bay area tech crowd?

I think you live in a bubble, honestly. Get out of it and realize how most people live.


I see it differently. I think we’re in a sub thread on a tech discussion site about tech workers trying to retire in their 40s and what savings rate is required to do that.

You’re the one trying to steer the discussion into a general case.


The luck isn't in the timing--as others point out, even bad timing leads to impressive gains over long time periods if there's a steady stream of periodic investments. The "luck" comes from winning a genetic lottery that allows you to live to 96 with no major bankrupting health crises or other situational losses, and to be well off enough early in that timeframe to have excess to invest.


I’ll check it out, as I’m interested in context around the types of people who have been successful doing this. Single, married? Kids, no kids?


Anyone can do it, it really comes down to what percentage of your income you can save, but it'll be easier for people with less expenses.

Here's a calculator that's been posted on HN before to give you some numbers [0].

Also, it's worth noting that 'retiring' doesn't have to mean not working anymore. To me it means the ability to work on whatever I want without having to worry about income. I'd likely still work on side projects, contribute to open source projects, etc.

[0] https://networthify.com/calculator/earlyretirement?income=70...


These posts almost make me feel like I'm doing the wrong thing by living on a beach making very little money in my late 20s.

Though after some reflection I'm reminded that I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing.

I wonder how rough reintegration into society will be.


Yeah, and don’t even think about having kids. At 46, I could retire now if single and childless, but with a 10 & 12 YO with looming college expenses, no way.

I wouldn’t know what to do with myself anyway. Will work till I keel over.


Lifehack: Look up The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan and then make your kids go straight to work.

(If they're smart and have hustle, it'll be better for them.)


This is untrue in modern tech for most people. Let's attempt to break it down for a person who's single who wants to retire early:

If you're pulling 100k or more, you should be more than capable, if you are living frugally, even after taxes, to save about 30-40% of that (if not way more. Remember that the median single person income is about $35,000, and the median family income, in total, is $75,062 [1]).

The current wisdom is that if you are withdrawing no more than about 3-4% of your savings, you can expect, due to return on investment, your money to last about 30 years with 90% certainty [2].

This means that if you are willing to live on, say, $18,000 (fairly doable in many parts of the country where rentals are 600-900 a month), you only need a nest egg of 600k to begin a 30 year retirement in which you never make another dollar from working.

To make this concrete: let's say after taxes and expenses, 30% of $100,000 is all you can reasonably save, due to the Bay Area being pricey and general life expenses. I personally don't think it's a major sacrifice to stash this much away, but let's run with it as an example. That's $30,000 you can sock away a year.

This means to reach that 600k retirement figure, it should only take someone who starts saving for retirement immediately, 20 years to get there.

And I would argue this is a VERY pessimistic assumption set as well, because the 3% number is meant to be a guarantee to survive HARD economic downturns, and the above analysis assumed you never received a bonus, never got a raise, never were awarded stock, never saved more, and never developed any income streams besides your job, despite being a programmer for over 20 years. Some analyses of doable salary increases programmers regularly get show you could pull this off in 8 years with my 30% estimate [3]. If you can, for example, increase your savings rate in my setup to 50%, you can have the above 600k based retirement within 12 years, in your mid 30s.

Families obviously make this analysis more complicated, because of housing and the possibility of new income streams and drains, but assuming a two income family, I still would assert the fundamentals of the above situation haven't changed.

So, in short, it very much is possible to retire in your 40s. You just have to live your lifestyle in a way that actually allows for that.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-12/u-s-house...

[2] http://time.com/money/4689984/safe-withdrawal-rate-retiremen...

[3] https://danluu.com/startup-tradeoffs/


Yes. That was for me the more fascinating aspect of the story. There are lots of wealthy people. But not too many with that kind of stamina and enthusiasm.


What strikes me most is that there is a need for benefactors to make sure people can get a proper education.

Locking education for people with a disadvantage in life which is not their own doing is baffling for me. Especially in a developed country... Not everyone can win the parent lottery.


Define developed? Properly developed countries such as Norway and Australia have quality public education systems. Sure, parentage always helps with the outcome, but the facilities are there for all children to do well - should they choose to do so.

These countries also have universal health care.

But I guess it's more important that your ultra rich stay ultra rich, to ensure a proper social divide between them and those unfortunate enough to be born to the poor. (Debating whether to use a snark mark here, landing on not).


You could consume the total wealth of the entire Forbes 400 and fund healthcare in the US for eight months. It will cost $45 trillion over the next ten years to fund US healthcare, conservatively - equal to nearly half of all household wealth.

What's your next idea?


Healthcare costs in the US are inflated due to corporate welfare and funny money coming from insurance companies. Similar to the situation with student loans where school prices have risen to match the amount of loan money student are able to borrow.

Also crappy pork-barrel public works projects: roads to nowhere,insane public spending on rural areas, random bets on large public works projects that don't pan out or do anything useful.

Really, it's not that we can't afford to invest in public healthcare. It's that we would have to cut our our politically connected parasites' purse strings, and nobody wants that.


Well, talk about a strawman. In the countries we're talking about, you have actual progressive taxation, and every dollar you take home above approx. $100k gets taxed almost 50%. That's not taxing 400 people, it's taxing the 25 million top earners in the US.


In Australia the marginal tax rate on $100K is more like 35%. You have to be making several hundred thousand a year to approach the maximum 45% marginal rate. Not sure how it works in Norway...


In Norway, the ~45% maximum marginal rate kicks in at $120k. In Denmark, the ~50% rate cuts in at $75k, while in Sweden (which is the most extreme I know of) the ~60% rate cuts in at $80k.

In all these countries, 10-15% of the population pays the top tax rate.


Right. Yeah, with ours you do hit the top bracket (45%) at $180K but the actual percentage of tax across all income (the marginal rate) means that you're still only paying just over 30% at that point ($18,200 free, 19% of $18,200 to $37K, 32.5% of $37K to $87K, and 37% of $87K up to $180K = $54,232, which is about 30.1%). Even by the point you're making a million dollars a year you're still only paying 42% marginal rate, even though you're well into the 45% tax bracket.

I'm generally not super opposed to having a rate as high as 60%, but the point that kicks in with Sweeden's system does seem very low...


A large part of the tax burden in Norway comes from VAT (25% of sales to consumers), and the employer's payroll tax (14.1% non-porgressive).


Well the next idea I'd have, after fixing up education and healthcare, would be to fix up unemployment. Esp. people in risky financial situations simply can't afford to look for a job in America.

On the other hand, should I choose to quit my job and look for a new one, the risk is relatively low that I end up on the street or run out of money, even if I didn't build up a buffer of money in my bank account.

People should, IMO, be free to look for a new job if they loose their current one or quit without having to worry about becoming homeless.


Next idea is to have the government exert more control on the health care providers; their rates are many times higher than that of e.g. Canada, for example. Why is that? Because they get away with it. That's the other problem to tackle.

There's plenty of money to make it happen, it just has to be taken from the 60% of the total budget currently being spent on the military - military which doesn't help the country itself at the moment.


Or the rent controlled apartment lottery. A secretary now in NY in a non-rent control apartment would have $0 to put into any stocks after paying rent.


It's a pretty big town.


She worked at the same company for 67 years!

That's worth an article itself. How many people have managed that?


What a great story! I imagine she must have been profoundly content in life. She had no need to show off her wealth or even to acquire material things beyond what she needed.


The manager (not owner) of a local storage facility lives extremely frugally: eats bananas, oatmeal, an apple and sandwich he brings from home. He has a number of stocks he watches daily after he finishes various tasks. He's the prototypical "millionaire next door."


Let’s not ignore that she was clearly capable of much more than being a secretary, and that she was denied realizing her potential because of her gender.


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